For a guy who owns three handguns -- one I purchased, two I inherited -- I’m at a loss for why so many people are going absolutely bonkers over the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today in District of Columbia v. Heller. The 5-4 decision struck down a longstanding ban on handgun ownership in the District, finding that the ban violated the Second Amendment right to bear arms. I own guns, because I live in a sketchy Dallas neighborhood -- by choice. I’m not sure I’d be bothered if the government told me I couldn’t own them. That would mean I’d just have to invest in a menacing machete to protect my home from those who would do me harm. And I’ve never met anybody in my neighborhood that’s as enthusiastic about gun ownership as the guys CNN photographed waving “Come and Take It” flags on the high court steps. Right to bear arms, freedom, flags waving in the background -- they’re all wonderful sentiments, but none of them occurred to me when I paid 99 bucks for my first 9 mm handgun at a gun show seven years ago. Tony Mauro, the astute Supreme Court reporter at our sister paper Legal Times, made it a bit clearer when he wrote that the court “declared for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual right — not a collective or militia right — to keep and bear firearms for self-defense. The ruling ended the court’s nearly 70-year aversion to considering the meaning of the Second Amendment’s oddly constructed language: ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.’ ” But it took David Schenck, a partner in the Dallas office of Jones Day who filed one of the more than 40 amicus briefs in Heller, to drive it home for me why the decision means so much. “It’s really sort of the last foundational constitutional decision the court had left to make,” says Schenck, who filed a brief on behalf of the Texas State Rifle Association and 40 other state rifle associations, urging that there was no disjunction between a militia’s right to bear arms and an individual's, among other things. “Until there’s a Third Amendment question to quartering troops, there’s no basic amendment questions left,” he says. Thanks David, I get it now. But I really hope the high court takes up a Third Amendment case soon. I just can’t have the 101st Airborne crashing at my place; I just waxed my floors.
-- John Council