A Ruling on the 2nd Amendment

US District Judge Benson Everett Legg (Maryland District), in a Monday ruling has said that Maryland residents are not required, as a Marayland had had it, to convince authorities that they have a “good and substantial reason” to own a handgun.

Judge Legg wrote, among other things,

…the Court finds that the right to bear arms is not limited to the home. The signposts left by recent Supreme Court and Fourth Circuit case law all point to the conclusion that Woollard‘s ―claim to self-defense—asserted by him as a law-abiding citizen…—does implicate the Second Amendment, albeit subject to lawful limitations.

He went on [emphasis mine]:

A law that burdens the exercise of an enumerated constitutional right by simply making that right more difficult to exercise cannot be considered “reasonably adapted” to a government interest, no matter how substantial that interest may be.  Maryland‘s goal of “minimizing the proliferation of handguns among those who do not have a demonstrated need for them,”…is not a permissible method of preventing crime or ensuring public safety; it burdens the right too broadly.  Those who drafted and ratified the Second Amendment surely knew that the right they were enshrining carried a risk of misuse, and states have considerable latitude to channel the exercise of the right in ways that will minimize that risk.  States may not, however, seek to reduce the danger by means of widespread curtailment of the right itself.  “[E]ven the most legitimate goal may not be advanced in a constitutionally impermissible manner.”

At bottom, this case rests on a simple proposition: If the Government wishes to burden a right guaranteed by the Constitution, it may do so provided that it can show a satisfactory justification and a sufficiently adapted method.  The showing, however, is always the Government‘s to make.  A citizen may not be required to offer a “good and substantial reason” why he should be permitted to exercise his rights.  The right‘s existence is all the reason he needs.

Maryland’s Assistant Attorney General, Matthew Fader, says he’ll appeal, saying “we” disagree, and taking note of the “very important implications of the ruling for public safety.”  He’s wrong, though, on two counts: in the first place, the public safety is maximized by hewing to the Constitution, not by deviating from it.  In the second place, he apparently wasn’t paying attention to the Legg’s ruling:

States may not, however, seek to reduce the danger [of misuse] by means of widespread curtailment of the right itself.

Judge Legg has the right of it.

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