The first interesting part of the decision:
We are told by the District that the Second Amendment was written in response to fears that the new federal government would disarm the state militias by preventing men from bearing arms while in actual militia service, or by preventing them from keeping arms at home in preparation for such service. Thus the Amendment should be understood to check federal power to regulate firearms only when federal legislation was directed at the abolition of state militias, because the Amendmentâ€™s exclusive concern was the preservation of those entities. At first blush, it seems passing strange that the able lawyers and statesmen in the First Congress (including James Madison) would have expressed a sole concern for state militias with the language of the Second Amendment. Surely there was a more direct locution, such as â€œCongress shall make no law disarming the state militiasâ€ or â€œStates have a right to a well-regulated militia.â€
The Districtâ€™s argumentâ€”as strained as it seems to us[emphasis mine]â€”is hardly an isolated view.
The next part of interest is:
In determining whether the Second Amendmentâ€™s guarantee is an individual one, or some sort of collective right, the most important word is the one the drafters chose to describe the holders of the rightâ€”â€œthe people.â€ That term is found in the First, Second, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments. It has never been doubted that these provisions were designed to protect the interests of individuals against government intrusion, interference, or usurpation. We also note that the Tenth Amendmentâ€”â€œThe powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the peopleâ€â€”indicates that the authors of the Bill of Rights were perfectly capable of distinguishing between â€œthe people,â€ on the one hand, and â€œthe states,â€ on the other. The natural reading of â€œthe right of the peopleâ€ in the Second Amendment would accord with usage elsewhere in the Bill of Rights.
Here, however, is the key:
The Amendment does not protect â€œthe right of militiamen to keep and bear arms,â€ but rather â€œthe right of the people.â€
However, the New York Times feels free to reinterpret the decision:
The court relied on a constitutional interpretation that has been rejected by nine federal appeals courts around the nation. The decision was the first from a federal appeals court to hold a gun-control law unconstitutional on the ground that the Second Amendment protects the rights of individuals, as opposed to a collective right of state militias.
Obviously the report didn’t read the decision, either relying on the District of Columbia team, or their own interpretation of things. The Times implies that this court is the exception, however, the District Appeals Court is quite specific that less than a majority of the other courts have upheld D.C.’s (and the anti-gun fanatics), and the Court also specifically references the decision of at least one other court that supports the District Court’s opinion. Either the reporter didn’t read the decision, or he hopes that his readers won’t bother to read the opinion.
The opinion is very long (from my legal-layman point of view), but the Court is setting out that the Courts as a whole have been very inconsistent in their decision making process (not a news flash).
Here is my favorite part from the Washington Times article:
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, called the decision “judicial activism at its worst.”
“By disregarding nearly 70 years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent, two federal judges have negated the democratically expressed will of the people of the District of Columbia and deprived this community of a gun law it enacted 30 years ago and still strongly supports,” he said.
My response, “Yeah, and what about the framers intentions and the previous 148 (approximately) years of precedence?”