Jacob Sullum writes a very perceptive piece on the McDonald dissents of Justices Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor. He notes that these Justices worry that overturning the Chicago gun ban would “undermine democracy.” However, these same Justices would never let local prejudices stand in the way of other rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.
Ah, but the Second Amendment is different, they say:
Second Amendment rights are different, Breyer says, because “determining the constitutionality of a particular state gun law requires finding answers to complex empirically based questions.” So does weighing the claims in favor of banning child pornography or depictions of animal cruelty, relaxing the Miranda rule, admitting illegally obtained evidence, or allowing warrantless pat-downs, dog sniffs, or infrared surveillance.
When they decide whether a law or practice violates a constitutional right, courts cannot avoid empirical questions. In cases involving racial discrimination or content-based speech restrictions, for example, they ask whether the challenged law is “narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest” and is the “least restrictive means” of doing so.
Sullum saves his strongest scorn for their claims that it will invite more litigation:
The dissenters’ most frivolous objection is that making states obey the Second Amendment “invites an avalanche of litigation,” as Stevens puts it. Every day we hear about cases in which people argue that the government has violated their rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, or Eighth amendment. Neither Stevens nor Breyer wants to stop this “avalanche.” Only when the Second Amendment is added to the mix do they recoil in horror at the prospect that Americans will use the courts to vindicate their rights.
Read the whole article.