The U.S. Supreme Court’s 2006 decision in District of Columbia v. Heller provides good policy guidance on gun ownership rights and public safety. Justice Scalia wrote this opinion with great care. First, the Court confirmed the right of individuals to possess firearms for traditional lawful purposes such as self-defense within the home and for hunting.
Second, the opinion also held that Second Amendment rights are not unlimited. Justice Scalia went out of his way to declare longstanding laws designed to protect the public are valid and enforceable. States and cities now have the constitutional clearance to pass local laws prohibiting possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill; that forbid guns in sensitive places such as schools, airplanes, and government buildings; that impose conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms; and that restrict the right to carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. This Supreme Court ruling provides the legal framework to use background checks to alert the police and FBI when a suspected terrorist attempts to buy a gun and to block that sale.
The benefits of the Heller case are broad in scope. The opinion furnishes the constitutional basis for the Kansas legislature to repeal the unfortunate law permitting the concealed carry of handguns on college campuses. Similarly, the decision validates ownership of the types of weapons Kansas farmers need to protect their families and livestock in the rural areas of our state. We have good law here.