Over the last few years, the Second Amendment has experienced somewhat of a rebirth, thanks largely to a pair of Supreme Court decisions: District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago.
In these seminal decisions, the Supreme Court affirmed the understanding of the Founding Fathers that there is indeed an individual right to keep and bear arms, a God-given right to protect oneself that is guaranteed to us in the Second Amendment to our Constitution. Cities with oppressive restrictions on guns, including the District of Columbia and Chicago, have been forced to at least recognize that they cannot simply deny citizens their right to possess firearms. At the same time, however, these cities continue to erect barriers to citizens seeking to exercise their rights.
In other words, despite the victories in the Supreme Court, the battle for Second Amendment rights in America is far from over. There is perhaps no better reminder of this unfortunate state of affairs than a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough, an appointee of President Barack Obama.
Two pro-Second Amendment groups — the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) and Illinois Carry — filed a lawsuit last May challenging the ban on carrying concealed guns in the Land of Lincoln, which is the only state with a complete ban on the books. The common-sense basis for the lawsuit is that Illinois’ ban on concealed carry deprives citizens of the fundamental right of self-defense, simply because they are in public.
While Judge Myerscough conceded the Second Amendment protects a “general right to carry guns that include a right to carry operable guns in public,” she tossed out the lawsuit, claiming that the “Supreme Court has not recognized a right to bear firearms outside the home.”
As absurd as this federal judge’s ruling appears on the surface, it unfortunately finds some basis in the inchoate opinion issued four years ago by the nation’s high court in Heller. While the five-member majority in that case importantly recognized the fundamental right of an individual to keep and bear arms — and in so finding, invalidated the District’s restrictive gun control ordinance — the actual language of the opinion has been interpreted now to recognize the right to possess a firearm only inside one’s home.
Common sense, and a fair reading of the history of the Second Amendment, leads to the obvious conclusion that its guarantee of the “right to keep and bear arms” was never intended to be limited to intra-home firearms. Unfortunately, the uncertainty created by the pinched opinion in Heller — which may have been necessary to secure the fifth vote (Justice Anthony Kennedy) — is now causing serious damage to firearms rights, as is manifest in Judge Myerscough’s recent ruling.
SAF and Illinois Carry are taking their case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. But the lower court’s ruling does drive home a couple of important points.
First, the U.S. Senate needs to stop sitting on its hands, and pass the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 822), which received overwhelming support in the House last November (passing 272 to 154). This legislation would treat concealed carry licenses much like driver’s licenses, through the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution, and require states to recognize concealed carry permits from other states.
Perhaps even more important, however, this ruling by a lifetime-tenured federal judge reminds us of the importance of presidential appointments to the federal bench — and the severe damage to our Second Amendment rights that can be expected from a second term for President Barack Obama.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He provides regular commentary to Daily Caller readers.