The NY Times editors are tackling gun control (they favor it!) with a series of hard-hitting, head-scratching editorials.
First, a call for reason and flexibility:
Those who believe, as we do, that the Second Amendment does not provide each American with an absolute right to own guns, must recognize that this position can alienate sympathetic listeners and is not likely to prevail any time soon. We must respect the legitimate concerns of law-abiding, safety conscious gun owners, in order to find common ground against unyielding ideologues.
Wait, the view that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is absolute has prevailed? Are there other examples of unlimited rights in our Constitution? I may just walk into a crowded NY Times lobby and yell "Fire!"
The editors return to the third planet a bit later:
There are no rights granted by the Constitution that are so absolute that they erase concerns about public safety and welfare.
And in a subsequent editorial:
Personal Guns and the Second Amendment
The text of the Second Amendment creates no right to private possession of guns, but Justice Antonin Scalia found one in legal history for himself and the other four conservatives. He said the right is not outmoded even “in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem.”
It is not just liberals who have lambasted the ruling, but some prominent conservatives like Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The majority, he wrote, “read an ambiguous constitutional provision as creating a substantive right that the Court had never acknowledged in the more than two hundred years since the amendment’s enactment. The majority then used that same right to strike down a law passed by elected officials acting, rightly or wrongly, to preserve the safety of the citizenry.” He said the court undermined “conservative jurisprudence.”
In the real world, however, criticism has abated in part because the majority opinion was strikingly respectful of commonplace gun regulations. “Like most rights,” Justice Scalia said, “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”
And: “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms” —“prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’ ”
Justice Scalia does not say how federal courts should evaluate such regulations and the Supreme Court may need to return to this issue soon, to resolve a substantial disagreement that has arisen in federal appeals courts.
So the Times view that the Second Aemendment creates only a limited right to bear arms, which they initially claim to be controversial, is in fact the law of the land as explained by Justice Scalia. It's two papers in one! FWIW, they probably meant to write "...the Second Amendment does not provide each American with *any* right to own guns". "Any", "absolute", hard to tell.
As an exercise for the reader, imagine the Times re-writing this to describe Roe v. Wade and its follow-up. The notion that a right so clearly enumerated in the penumbra of the Constitution could be questioned or subject to modification is anathema in that context. Whatever.