If you haven’t been hiding under a rock then you’ve heard by now that the Supreme Court is going to opine on the DC gun ban. I think the possible decisions fall into two broad categories.
1. The court rules that feds (and states) can regulate firearms as they see fit.
Since the question as written by the court pretty much presupposes an individual right, this is an unlikely outcome, but just in case lets examine the results…
Crickets. Crickets. Crickets. Since anti-gun laws are one of the “third rails” of modern politics and this being a presidential election cycle, I wouldn’t expect any immediate changes. But I’d also expect pressure from the Bradys and their ideological fellows for more gun bans. I’d also expect a backlash from the more gun friendly states. In an Article for the New York Post, Glen Reynolds raises an interesting idea that would give the gun banners fits:
“…states that don’t like federal gun-control laws could just enroll every law-abiding citizen in the state militia and authorize those citizens to possess machine guns, tanks and other military gear.”
This would neatly sidestep the NFA and the ’86 machine gun ban. In fact, now that it’s been brought up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this tried in some states.
In the last decade there’s been a swing away from the anti-gun laws passed in the sixties and a movement toward a recognized right to self defense in the majority of states. This trend wouldn’t change, and in fact many states have codified an individual right in their state constitutions.
So a decision allowing DC style gun bans wouldn’t change much. After all, the governments that can get away with it ALREADY have a ban of some kind. The more gun friendly states wouldn’t change, and there might be a backlash like there was in some states after the Kelo decision.
2. The court rules against the DC ban and recognizes an individual right.
This is where it gets very interesting. I wouldn’t expect a “no gun laws at all” ruling. All the other rights guaranteed in the constitution have limits and I don’t see the court striking down ALL gun laws.
Again, except for DC, I wouldn’t expect any immediate changes. Depending on the wording of an “individual rights” ruling, I think we’d see legal challenges to other governments, city and state, that have implemented total bans and egregious limits. If the Supreme Court decision doesn’t explicitly mention that this ruling applies to states, then that will become the next point of contention, and may reach the supreme court again. That’s why I expect the decision to say something about that. The Judges have to know that issue will come up and they aren’t stupid.
I would expect challenges to other federal bans, specifically the 1934 National Firearms Act and the 1986 Volkmer McClure Act. By placing a $200 tax on the transfer of machine guns and suppressors, the NFA effectively banned private possession of machine guns and suppressors since no one would pay that much for a $50 machine gun or a $5 muffler. By the 80’s, inflation decreased the burden of the $200 tax and the paperwork required for a NFA weapon transfer became the major hindrance to machine gun ownership. The 1986 Act banned civilian possession of machine guns manufactured after 1986.
An individual right decision also raises the possibility of nationwide concealed carry reciprocity much like states honor other states drivers licenses.