Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Foreign felony convictions don't bar gun ownership in the USA

So says the United States Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision. I haven't read the case yet but it appears that the Court reached its decision on the grounds that an act that's a felony in another country might actually be behavior encourage here, or vice-versa. Also, other countries may not have the same procedural safeguards as our legal system.

Strangely, two of the dissenters were Scalia and Thomas (joined by Kennedy), both of whom are on record as recognizing that the Second Amendment recognizes an individual right. Their line of reasoning is that Congress barred gun ownership for persons convicted in "any" court of a felony, and they saw nothing to indicate that "any" is limited to US courts. Thus, they are being consistent in their method of interpreting legislation, i.e., appplying textualism.

After some consideration I have to conclude that while Scalia and Thomas (whose opinions I generally respect more than the other justices') missed the point. The right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental individual right, as recognized by the Second Amendment. It's bad enough when American laws infringe upon it, but it would be worse if we allowed decisions made in foreign jurisdictions, many of whom have little respect for individual rights of any kind, to serve as the basis for denial of a fundamental right.

If we frame the question as, "Should rights recognized under the Bill of Rights be abridged due to felony convictions rendered in any foreign court," the answer has to be a resounding no. If not, then they aren't rights, just priviledges, subject to revocation at the whim of those in power.

Edited at 19:58 to correct the numbers on the Court's split, and to fix a spelling error in the title.

No comments: