(AP) - The Supreme Court is being asked to overturn an appeals court
ruling that said the Constitution does not guarantee people a
personal right to own a gun.
The court's past rulings on Second Amendment gun rights - many in
the 1800s - are a mess that should be straightened out when the
justices return from their summer break, an appeal being filed
Thursday at the court said.
The appeal relates to one of two closely watched cases from the
liberal-leaning 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
The high court will also decide later this year whether to review a
9th Circuit ruling that banned teacher-led reciting of the Pledge of
Allegiance in public schools because of the phrase "under God."
The gun case includes an unlikely group of challengers - not the
National Rifle Association or other organized groups, but some rugby
teammates and friends. They include a police SWAT officer, a Purple
Heart recipient, a former Marine sniper, a parole officer, a
stockbroker and others with varied political views. They had sued
the state over laws banning high-powered weapons.
"Citizens need the Second Amendment for protection of their
families, homes and businesses," their attorney and rugby teammate,
Gary Gorski of Fair Oaks, Calif., wrote in the appeal of a ruling
that upheld California's assault weapons ban.
The Second Amendment states, "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."
The 9th Circuit panel said the amendment's intent was to protect
gun rights of militias, not individuals. A more conservative appeals
court in New Orleans has ruled that individuals have a
constitutional right to guns.
Eugene Volokh, a constitutional law professor at the University
of California, Los Angeles, said the Supreme Court's record on the
Second Amendment is thin and odds are against the justices taking
"The court hasn't jumped into it since 1939," he said. "At some
point the Supreme Court will want to make sure it is interpreted
consistently throughout the nation."
The case brings a politically charged issue to the court just
before the presidential election. If justices agree to hear the
case, it will be scheduled for argument next year.
Last year, gun-control advocates were dismayed by the Bush
administration's endorsement of individual gun-ownership rights, in
a filing at the Supreme Court that effectively reversed
long-standing federal government policy on interpreting the Second
The administration could weigh in now in this case. Mathew
Nosanchuk, litigation director for the pro-gun control Violence
Policy Center, said it's better strategy for the White House to
steer clear of the issue. The California case involves a state
assault weapons ban, and there is controversy over whether Congress
should renew a federal assault weapons ban next year.
President Bush has said he supports extending the federal ban,
but sentiment is strong in the GOP-controlled Congress to let the
ban expire and Bush has not put much energy into efforts to extend
Some advocates on both sides probably want the justices to
decline to review the 9th Circuit ruling, said gun rights attorney
Stephen Halbrook. "It's a wild card. You really can't read where
He also said the case is complicated because it involves
questions about state authority to undercut gun rights and whether
the challengers had standing to sue the state.
On the Net:
9th Circuit: http://www.ce9.uscourts.gov
Volokh's archive on gun rulings: