meaning,'” Scalia writes. "A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges’ assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all. Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope too broad."
In the dissenting opinion written by Justice Stevens, four justices take a strikingly hostile view that the Second Amendment only protects an individual's right to possess a gun in connection with service in the militia. This decision makes this year's presidential election critical to gun owners. The bottom line is that through a single appointment to the Supreme Court, Sen. Barack Obama will be able to shift the balance and strike down an individual's right to bear arms. Sen. McCain has said he will appoint judges like Scalia and Chief Justice Roberts, who both sided with the majority in today's opinion. Sen. Obama has spoken approvingly of Justices Souter, Ginsberg and Breyer, each of whom voted to take away your right to bear arms today. Now, that would be the action of an activist judge. As Scalia put it, it's "the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon."
UPDATE: Sen. Barack Obama is already flip-flopping on his position on handgun bans. Last year, he told the Chicago Tribune he believed the D.C. ordinance, which is similar to a handgun ban in the City of Chicago, was constitutional:
But the campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said that he '...believes that we can recognize and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and the right of local communities to enact common sense laws to combat violence and save lives. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional.'After today's ruling, Obama is changing his position. The so-called constitutional scholar is now saying that his statement last year commenting on the constitutionality of the D.C. ordinance was "inartful." ABC News reports:
[T]he Obama campaign is disavowing what it calls an "inartful" statement to the Chicago Tribune last year in which an unnamed aide characterized Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., as believing that the DC ban was constitutional.
"That statement was obviously an inartful attempt to explain the Senator's consistent position," Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells ABC News.
The statement which Burton describes as an inaccurate representation of the senator's views was made to the Chicago Tribune on Nov. 20, 2007.
In a story entitled, "Court to Hear Gun Case," the Chicago Tribune's James Oliphant and Michael J. Higgins wrote ". . . the campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said that he '...believes that we can recognize and respect the rights of law-abiding gun owners and the right of local communities to enact common sense
laws to combat violence and save lives. Obama believes the D.C. handgun law is constitutional . . .
Asked by ABC News' Charlie Gibson if he considers the D.C. law to be consistent with an individual's right to bear arms at ABC's April 16, 2008, debate in Philadelphia, Obama said, "Well, Charlie, I confess I obviously haven't listened to the briefs and looked at all the evidence."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., by contrast, has been forthcoming when it comes to the D.C. gun law. He signed an amicus brief in the District of Columbia v. Heller case, signaling not only his belief in the Second Amendment but also his view that the DC gun ban is incompatible with it.