By David Codrea
“The US Supreme Court declined [on November 28, 2011] to take up a potentially important gun rights case examining whether a federal regulation banning loaded firearms from vehicles in a government park violated the constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” The Christian Science Monitor reported.
The case was Sean Masciandaro v. United States of America, and it centered on a Virginia man with an expired concealed carry permit convicted and fined $150 for having a loaded handgun in his car while parked in a national park.
The case presented two fundamental questions:
“I. Does the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protect a right to possess and carry a firearm for self-defense outside the home?
“II. If there is a Second Amendment right to possess and carry a firearm for self-defense outside the home, is it constitutional to prohibit law-abiding citizens’ possession and carrying of loaded weapons in motor vehicles while on National Park Service land?”
They are important questions to have answered, as earlier SCOTUS decisions in the Heller and McDonald cases respectively ruled a right to possess a firearm in the home, and that this right extended beyond federal enclaves and included the states. The Second Amendment Foundation filed an amicus brief on behalf of Masciandaro written by Alan Gura, the attorney behind those landmark decisions.
But the questions and the legal and Constitutional reasons behind them were dismissed without comment as the High Court declined to hear the case. Importantly, this follows by less than two months a similar denial to hear the case of Williams v Maryland, which also sought a ruling that the Second Amendment applies to carrying weapons in public for personal self defense.
What type of legal trickery is this, or is it perhaps just judicial cowardice? How can the Constitution refer to the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and yet prohibitions against carrying are allowed to stand without comment, while citizens are in danger of being prosecuted and convicted without hope of recourse?
And if the Supreme Court refuses to hear such straightforward appeals, what chance do gun owners have at obtaining relief from so-called “assault weapons” bans, prohibitions on private sales, and requirements to register firearms?
It defies common sense, or at least a basic understanding of the definition of words like “shall not be infringed.” But it also points to the danger of relying on the courts to be the final arbiter of our rights. All they need do is refuse to hear an appeal, and just about any gun case out there will be dead in the water.
Back in 2005, I wrote the following on my WarOnGuns blog, predicting what the likely outcome of a Second Amendment case would be:
“I believe the court will not dare say there is no individual rkba. But if they find there is one, it will be so heavily burdened with ‘reasonable restrictions’ as to ensure the status quo. They’ll never admit the truth unless someone, that would be us, has enough power to compel them.”