Jul 08, 2009

Assault Weapons and the Second Amendment

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In the Heller case (2008), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protected an individual's right to carry weapons.  Thankfully, it appears that state and local governments still have the power to outlaw especially dangerous weapons.  We won't be seeing people carrying cannons or machine guns down our streets with impunity anytime soon!

In a 2009 California case, People v. James (PDF), Michael E. James was convicted of violating a law (Penal Code 12276) that makes it a crime to possess a variety of assault and military-type weapons. Among the prohibited weapons are the familiar Uzi and something called a "Streetsweeper," which I'd never heard of but sounds incredibly ominous.   

The court in James upheld the conviction.  The judges ruled that the Second Amendment protects only a person's right to own "guns in common use by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes" like hunting or self-defense.  As in other areas, individual rights must be balanced against society's rights.  Chalk up an important win for society.