Hope for the unarmed

Pleased by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of guns, the president of the Arkansas Rifle and Pistol Association told newspaper reporters that the ruling would make it harder for legislators to introduce limits on gun ownership. This, we thought, is the height of redundancy.


Long before the court decision last week, Arkansas legislators knew they better not introduce any restrictions on gun ownership. And they didn’t, no matter how many schoolchildren were shot down on the playground. So afraid of the National Rifle Association were Arkansas legislators that they enacted a law prohibiting local governments too from requiring gun control. Not that it mattered much, in practical terms. The local governments wouldn’t dare offend the gun lobby either.

Even had the Supreme Court ruled the other way, in favor of gun control, no gun control law would have been approved in the state of Arkansas, bet your boots on it. The gun lobby is well funded, well organized and, if it comes to that, well armed.


The lobby is so powerful, in fact, that the Supreme Court decision may result in legislators introducing bills requiring that everyone carry a gun, including those who’re nervous about guns, or who believe that a concealed weapon would spoil the fit of one’s clothing. (Or the fit of one’s lack of clothing. If the legislature decides it wants everybody packing, there’ll be no exception for nudists.) With the NRA’s backing, mandatory-carry legislation could be passed easily. NRA-financed candidates would run on promises of “A pistol on every hip.”

But there is hope for avoiding such laws, and that hope is found in the same Supreme Court that has just ruled that individuals as well as militias have the right to bear arms, thereby invalidating a key argument of the gun control advocates. Ordinarily, we find no comfort in the opinions of Justice Antonin Scalia, but while writing his gun decision he clearly suffered a momentary fit of good sense. Supporters of the Second Amendment have long argued that the right to bear arms is absolute, that no restriction is permissible. Bless his heart, Scalia said no:


“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.”

So the same decision that took away an anti-gun argument — that the Second Amendment empowers only groups, not individuals — also nullifies the pro-gun argument that the bearing of arms cannot be infringed in any way. It could have been worse.