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On the second amendment

One of our long-standing political rules of thumb: Major court rulings that address emotional topics tend to energize the side that lost. Think abortion. Think busing. Think gay marriage (2004, though much of the emotion so prominent then seems bleached out now). And now, as of today, think gun control.

Well we remember an evening some years back at a political event in the Idaho Panhandle. After hearing several Democratic candidates make their case, a group of guys in the back of the room were still shaking their heads, and they would not be swayed. They agreed with the bulk of what the candidates said, but had two problems. A nagging one, with abortion. And a big one – they were convinced, no matter what they heard from the candidates (several of whom also owned guns), that the Democrats were about to take away their guns if they got elected. Period. And that was a deal breaker.

Well, today, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court declared in effect that the U.S. Constitution would bar any attempt to do what those guys in the back of the room were concerned about: “Held: The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for
traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

That rustling sound you hear is the air going out of the they’re-coming-for-our-guns mindset. Not all of it, of course: No decision or action by anyone would eliminate it all. But a lot of people for whom gun ownership is very big deal are likely to look at that subject a little differently, with less concern, than they did not long ago.

Eventually, there may be some counterblast, from the organizational roots, for gun regulation. But not right away. In the meantime, the dynamics may well have changed.

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