By David K. Shipler
Please forgive the cynicism, but here’s a prediction: For all the heartfelt hand-wringing and passionate calls to action since the Newtown massacre, Americans will not be made safer from gun violence. After a year or five years (let’s give Congress plenty of time), the country will still be awash in firearms, they will still be available to many untreated mentally ill people, and mass shootings will still occur on occasion, probably even in schools. Guns exist in a perfect storm of politics, law, and culture not easily revised.
In the most optimistic scenario, the Second Amendment might serve as an asset to those favoring modest controls, for under recent Supreme Court rulings, gun ownership is no longer jeopardized. Recognizing an individual right to bear arms rather than one based only in state militias, the thin conservative majority has effectively eliminated what the National Rifle Association and its supporters saw as the dire threat that all guns would eventually be outlawed and taken from the hands of law-abiding citizens.
That cannot happen as the Second Amendment is now interpreted. In both District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010), a 5-4 majority ruled that the right to keep a loaded gun at home was protected by the Second Amendment. Whether the right extends to handguns outside the home remains uncertain until the justices consider cases that have been decided differently in lower courts.