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U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va.

A Republican congressman from Virginia is asking President Bush to order the Justice Department to submit a brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case that supports the rights afforded U.S. citizens under the Second Amendment.

The request from Rep. Virgil Goode concerns a filing submitted by the Justice Department in a Supreme Court case over the legality of a handgun ban imposed by the District of Columbia.

A similar request already has been submitted by officials for the Gun Owners of America, whose executive director, Larry Pratt, warned:

“If the Supreme Court were to accept the Solicitor General’s line of argument, D.C.’s categorical gun ban of virtually all self-defense firearms could well be found to be constitutional. …”

But worse than that, he said, the new precedent to affirm any and all gun restrictions would be “reasonable,” constitutionally the lowest rung of the qualifications ladder.

“In contrast to other provisions in the Bill of Rights, which can only be trumped by ‘compelling state interests,’ the Second Amendment would be relegated to an inferior position at the lowest rung of the constitutional ladder, should the Justice Department prevail,” said Pratt.

Goode now has weighed in on the issue, sending Bush a letter this week about the arguments submitted in the case.

“If this view prevails, a national ban on all firearms – including hunting rifles – could be constitutional, even if the court decides – on ample historical evidence – that the Founders intended the Second Amendment as an individual right,” his letter said.

“I would ask that you direct the Justice Department to withdraw this unfortunate brief and to replace it with an opinion which reflects the right of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms,” Goode wrote.

The GOA said Goode also is circulating his letter among colleagues, asking for their support on the issue. The organization also has notified the U.S. Supreme Court of its intent to file a friend-of-the-court brief on the issue soon.



Paul Clement

At issue is the phrasing of the government’s position, submitted in a document that was filed by U.S. Solicitor General Paul D. Clement. He said since “unrestricted” private ownership of guns clearly threatens the public safety, the Second Amendment can be interpreted to allow a variety of gun restrictions.

“Given the unquestionable threat to public safety that unrestricted private firearm possession would entail, various categories of firearm-related regulation are permitted by the Second Amendment,” Clement wrote in the brief.

Pratt said the legal opinion could have been written by a gun-limit lobby and it could be used in support of a ban on all guns by a government proclaiming “this is a reasonable regulation” even while affirming the “right” to bear arms.

Paul Helmke, of the pro-gun control Brady Campaign to Prevent Handgun Violence, in fact earlier said he saluted the position paper.

But Pratt said it would be analogous to the situation in the state of Illinois, where the state constitution provides a right to keep and bear arms, “subject to the police power,” he said. Not surprisingly, Illinois has one of the most restrictive atmospheres in the nation regarding guns, he told WND.

“Rather than argue that ‘shall not be infringed’ is a categorical prohibition on government gun-banning, the administration has chosen to align itself with those who do not believe in self defense or civilian gun ownership,” Pratt said.

In the case at hand, a Washington, D.C., ban on all handguns kept by residents in their homes for self-defense is being challenged.

Alan Gura, who is heading up the challenge, said he was troubled by Clement’s actions and described the statements as “hostile” to his Second Amendment position.

“We are very disappointed the administration is hostile to individual rights,” he said.

Because of the specifics of the D.C. case, the ultimate ruling is expected to address directly whether the Second Amendment includes a right for individuals to have a gun or whether local governments can approve whatever laws or ordinances they desire to restrict firearms.

The amendment reads, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Clement is the Bush administration’s chief lawyer before the court. He submitted the arguments in the case that is to determine whether the D.C. limit is constitutional. He said the Second Amendment “protects an individual right to possess firearms, including for private purposes unrelated to militia operations,” and asserted the D.C. ban probably goes too far.


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