The United States Supreme Court has issued three very important decisions in the last few days, and for the first time in a long time, I agree with all three decisions. All of the decisions were reached by a 5-4 vote. I wish the votes had been a little more lop-sided, but I guess you can't have everything.
Last week, the court restored habeas corpus rights to the Guantanamo detainees. This restored the "rule of law" by guaranteeing that anyone in U.S. custody can appeal their detention to a United States court. No one can be detained indefinitely without justification. This was a much-needed step in restoring America's reputation as a nation based on laws, rather than the whim of a ruling dictator.
Two days ago, the court struck down the penalty of capital punishment for child rape. They made it clear that the death penalty would only be tolerated in cases where there was a loss of life. Child rape is a heinous crime, but it can be handled with very long prison sentences.
This decision may actually save the lives of the abused children. If an offender already faced the death penalty, what would stop them from taking the life of the young witness? Now, if they take that young life, they will know their sentence can be upped to the death penalty.
Yesterday's decision cleared up a long-standing argument over whether the second amendment gave individuals the right of gun ownership, or whether that right was reserved to a militia. The court came down on the side of the individual. They said the opening phrase of the amendment (regarding militias) simply gave one of the reasons why individual citizens are guaranteed the right of gun ownership.
As the victim of a gunshot wound during the commission of a crime, I am not crazy about the ease with which criminals can get guns. I would be personally happy if all handguns were to disappear tomorrow. But I can read, and I believe it's pretty obvious the court made the right decision -- the Constitution gives the right to own guns to individuals (so they can form a militia if needed).
Some people were worried that this decision would erase all our nation's gun laws, but the majority on the court did not make their decision that far-reaching. Speaking for the majority, Justice Scalia said, "Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."
This decision leaves in tact such laws as denying guns to convicted felons and the mentally ill, mandating a waiting period for a gun purchase, the registration of guns, requiring a license to carry a gun and the outlawing of guns such as machine guns. I'm sure that some will try to contest these laws, but I don't think they will get far. This decision was about guaranteeing the right of ownership, not about the invalidation of reasonable laws.
The court guaranteed Americans the right to own a gun, but it did not give them permission to be stupid and abuse that right.