Supreme Court declines case that could define gun rights
2nd Amendment 'hot potato' raised by 9th District ruling
By MICHAEL P. MAYKO      December 02, 2003     Connecticut Post

The U.S. Supreme Court dodged a political bullet Monday when it declined to consider a case that would have forced it to define whether the Constitution guarantees an individual the right to own a gun.

Frank D'Andrea, of D'Andrea's Gun Case and Archery Pro Shop in Stratford, believes the Supreme Court strayed away from the issue because it's "a political hot potato."

"The last person who is going to commit a crime with a gun is the person who legally registers his gun, fills out an application and submits his fingerprints," said D'Andrea.

The issue before the Supreme Court involved the constitutionality of a California law that required state residents to either turn in their assault weapons or show proof that they were made inoperable.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided in a ruling that the Second Amendment's intent was to protect a militia's, not an individual's, right to bear arms.

The 9th Circuit Court covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

Several groups such as the National Rifle Association, the Pink Pistols, Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership urged the Supreme Court to take on the case.

"The 9th Circuit is an anomaly," said Bruce Stern, a Trumbull lawyer and proponent of a law-abiding individual's right to possess firearms. "Their thinking hardly falls in the American mainstream."

Stern maintains that the predominant thinking is that the Second Amendment applies to an individual's rights to bear arms as opposed to a collective right.

"What they [the Supreme Court] did is let the law of the land stand," said Stern.

The court's decision did not surprise Lisa Labella, co-executive director of the Connecticut Collaborative for Education Against Gun Violence.

"What they did is reaffirm the state's right to have an arms-bearing militia or National Guard," said Labella. "That was a decision they made in 1933 in a case challenging the federal law making interstate transportation of sawed-off shotguns a crime."

Labella said the court's decision does "not mean anyone can't legally possess a gun" nor "does it mean everyone under any circumstance can possess a gun."

David Lyman, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and owner of the Blue Trail Range and gun store in Wallingford, believes it's the right of the people to possess firearms.

"It would be difficult for any court to put themselves in the place of our Founding Fathers and try to interpret precisely what they meant," said Lyman.

What they wrote is "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."

Lyman doubts the Supreme Court's action will affect his business.

The court has never said if the right to "keep and bear arms" applies to individuals.

Although the Bush administration has endorsed individual gun-ownership rights, it did not encourage the justices to resolve the issue in this case involving a challenge to California laws banning high-powered weapons.

"Citizens need the Second Amendment for protection of their families, homes and businesses," lawyer Gary Gorski of Fair Oaks, Calif., wrote in the appeal filed on behalf of his rugby teammates and friends.

The challengers included a police SWAT officer, a Purple Heart recipient, a former Marine sniper, a parole officer, a stockbroker and others with varied political views.