Gun Rights Under Fire

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

"We're distressed to see it, but not alarmed," said Todd Pegg of Sportsmen's Specialties in Harrisonburg.

Another controversial ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court in California has triggered some rapid-fire talk among Virginian gun-owners.

"Most of the people around here find that it's unfounded in reality and history," said Pegg.

The decision said individuals have no right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. In upholding California's assault weapons ban, the federal appeals court instead said the amendment only applies to state militias.

"This just pushes things back further from the notion that there is an individual right to own a firearm," said Attorney David O'Donnell.

O'Donnell said he expects the ruling to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision there will reconcile the 9th Circuit ruling and last year's finding from a federal appeals court in New Orleans guaranteeing personal gun possession.

"Historically, the Supreme Court has shied away from Second Amendment cases and if it did go to that Court, the 9th Circuit's view would be on the losing side," said Pegg.

Pegg said one-third of all decisions the Supreme Court overturns come from the 9th circuit.

"In 1997, they had 20 decisions and 19 of them were overturned," said Pegg.

"The 9th Circuit is one of the most liberal federal courts. The 4th circuit that we're in is one of the most conservative courts," said O'Donnell.

That leaves O'Donnell to believe firearm rights in a pro-gun state like Virginia are safe … for now.

"This is part of the rights we guard closely … and it's an important one," he said.

The unanimous decision from California is at odds with the Bush administration. Last year, Attorney General John Ashcroft said the Second Amendment does, in fact, grant citizens the right to own a gun.


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