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The Supreme Court Expands Gun Rights

In an historic decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to expand the protection of gun rights under the Second Amendment. The 5-to-4 ruling states that the constitutional guarantee of an individual’s right to bear arms supersedes local and state gun control laws. This decision builds upon a landmark 2008 case which ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm in federal enclaves. 

The court’s ruling is a symbolic victory for conservatives as well as the libertarian movement, which has been in the news recently with the nomination of Rand Paul as the Republican Senatorial candidate from Kentucky. The son of prominent libertarian Ron Paul, the younger Paul came under fire from the media after expressing his belief that private institutions should be able to discriminate on the basis on race. In a 2007 Big Think interview, Virginia Postrel, former editor of Reason magazine, outlined the modern libertarian ethos.

The actual legal implications of this new ruling, though, are unclear. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who sat down with Big Think for an interview several years ago, affirmed that Supreme Court decisions can have “major consequences” for American society. But UCLA law scholar Adam Winkler says today’s ruling will have little effect on existing gun control laws.

Some see today’s ruling as further proof that the nation’s highest court has shifted towards the right, something Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe discussed during his Big Think interview. Liberals roundly criticized the court’s ruling last year that overturned limits on corporate contributions to politicians, saying this decision amounted to conservative activism. But CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told Big Think he disagrees that the Supreme Court has become too politicized.
Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination hearings also began today on Capitol Hill. The congressional hearings will try to determine her position on major issues like gun control, abortion, and executive power. Kagel has been nominated to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, one of the court’s most liberal members.


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