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Good news, bad news for gun rights

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By Michelle Malkin  •  June 28, 2010 01:31 PM

First, the good news: The Supreme Court affirmed the Heller decision on the individual right to bear arms and essentially and effectively struck down the city of Chicago’s sweeping gun ban:

The Supreme Court ruled for the first time Monday that the Second Amendment provides all Americans a fundamental right to bear arms, a long-sought victory for gun rights advocates who have chafed at federal, state and local efforts to restrict gun ownership.

The court was considering a restrictive handgun law in Chicago and one of its suburbs that was similar to the District law that it ruled against in 2008. The 5 to 4 decision does not strike any other gun control measures currently in place, but it provides a legal basis for challenges across the country where gun owners think that government has been too restrictive.

“It is clear that the Framers . . . counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the conservatives on the court.

It was a 5-4 decision with Justice Sam Alito penning the majority decision and Justice Antonin Scalia writing a scathing concurrence and kiss-off to retiring Justice Anthony Stevens. Ed Morrissey runs down the ruling here.

Praise pouring in from Capitol Hill. From my mailbox, GOP Sen. Jim DeMint reacts:

Today, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina), chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, made the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the McDonald v. City of Chicago case that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms to citizens in all 50 states.

“This is a critical victory for the Constitution and the freedom guaranteed by the Second Amendment for individual Americans to keep and bear arms,” said Senator DeMint. “Our freedoms have been under attack by big government liberals for decades, but today the Supreme Court rightly based their decision on the Constitution and the law, not personal opinions.

“This is also an important reminder that Supreme Court justices must have an unwavering dedication to our Constitution and rule of law. In fact, current Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, as a Supreme Court law clerk in 1987, wrote that she was not ‘sympathetic’ to a man who argued for his Second Amendment right to bear arms.”

“It’s also disappointing that Solicitor General Kagan, after taking an oath to defend the Constitution, declined to submit a brief in defense of Second Amendment rights in such a clear case where American freedoms were being threatened,” said Senator DeMint.

And GOP Rep. Mike Pence:

U.S. Congressman Mike Pence, Chairman of the House Republican Conference, released the following statement today after the U.S. Supreme Court, in its ruling on McDonald v. Chicago, extended the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms to all fifty states:

“In its ruling today, the Supreme Court has affirmed a fundamental point of federalism: No state has the right to legislate away the blood-bought Constitutional right of every law-abiding American to protect their person, their family, and their liberty.

“This decision is a victory for the Second Amendment, but as a 5 to 4 ruling among the justices it also sends a warning. The Supreme Court is closely divided and at least four of its members would not extend a basic constitutional right to all fifty states. For that reason alone, the nomination and confirmation of any Supreme Court Justice requires careful deliberation to ensure that the members of the high court will protect the rights handed down by our Founding Fathers.”

The bad news? This should be a triumph for the granddaddy of gun rights groups, the National Rifle Association. But the NRA has been getting into hot water lately with grass-roots. Erick Erickson at RedState and Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice blows the whistle:

Despite the NRA’s concerns about Sonia Sotomayor’s gun rights record – concerns confirmed by her vote today in McDonald – the NRA did not publicly oppose her confirmation last summer until after the release of a letter of opposition signed by 14 members of the NRA board and the heads of five NRA state affiliates. Nonetheless, the NRA’s eventual opposition was key to making gun rights the most prominent and influential issue in the final month of the Sotomayor confirmation fight.

This summer, people have been asking why NRA board members have not spoken out about Kagan’s even worse Second Amendment record. The explanation CFJ has been hearing from board members was confirmed yesterday by Erick Erickson’s reporting at RedState:
“Internal Senate emails confirmed by NRA Board Members show that the National Rifle Association’s management team has explicitly and directly told the NRA’s board they are prohibited from testifying about second amendment issues during the Elena Kagan confirmation hearings. … [and] from coming out against Kagan in their individual capacity.”
The gag order, issued months ago in anticipation of the current Supreme Court vacancy, was a reaction to the NRA’s concern about having its hand forced last summer.

Unlike other leading gun rights groups, including the Second Amendment Foundation and Gun Owners of America, the NRA had been silent on Kagan. But that changed on Friday. While stopping short of opposing Kagan for now, the NRA did issue a statement critical of her. Erickson says the statement came “after the internal Senate email began leaking out.”

Levey notes the NRA sellout on the DISCLOSE Act:

It remains to be seen whether the NRA will formally oppose Kagan’s confirmation before the Judiciary Committee and full Senate vote on her. I hope so. Having opposed Justice Sotomayor and announced the scoring of her confirmation vote last summer, doing less this summer will be interpreted as NRA acquiescence in Kagan’s confirmation.

I am not unaware of or completely unsympathetic to the political calculations holding the NRA back. However, in light of the NRA’s recent negotiation of a special carve out in the DISCLOSE Act, the controversial campaign finance bill, the NRA needs to be sensitive to putting politics above principle.

Yeah, that’s a chronic problem in Washington, isn’t it?

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