Friday, June 27, 2008

Heller Reax

I've been looking for some liberal outrage at the decision to strike down DC's handgun ban because of a previously unrecognized individual right to bear arms... and I really haven't found much of any. According to the Washington Post, it seems mostly mayors of big cities who are worried about consequences... but as far as I can tell, the liberal blogoshpere is mostly "meh".

Did the NRA really win such a crushing victory over public opinion? I think I recall(or was I just younger and more liberal?) when the concept of an "individual right" was a pretty kooky one. Now everyone seems to assume that's the way it should be, and here is Jack Balkin's (slightly snarky) take on it:
In Heller, the Court changed existing law dramatically to adopt a new interpretation of the Second Amendment that is actually fairly close to the center of public opinion. It struck down one of the most restrictive gun control laws in the country and it recognized Americans' right to use handguns to defend their home.

Despite its long and occasionally dreary originalist exegesis, the Heller majority is not really defending the values of 1791. It is enforcing the values of 2008. This is no accident. Indeed, the result in Heller would have been impossible without the success of the conservative movement and the work of the NRA and other social movement actors who, over a period of about 35 years, succeeded in changing Americans' minds about the meaning of the Second Amendment, and made what were previously off-the-wall arguments about the Constitution socially and politically respectable to political elites. This is living constitutionalism in action.