What did Scalia say about gun control?

Since the horrific shootings in Newtown, CT, there has been much discussion about gun control.

Some have asserted that guns can’t be restricted because ownership is protected under the Second Amendment.

As I’ve pointed out, no right is unrestricted and rights are always balanced with responsibilities.

And what did Justice Scalia say?

Scalia, of course, is one of the most conservative members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Author of the Majority Opinion in the 2008 Heller case, Scalia wrote:

 Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. . . Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, 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.

Now, Justice Scalia cannot be said to be a strong supporter of gun control. However, it’s clear that he believes that it is perfectly constitutional to have some restrictions.

Often people portray efforts to introduce some restrictions (or develop a new program) as all-or-nothing propositions. But they’re not.

Whether or not particular restrictions are not only constitutional but also good public policy is a different matter, of course, and this must be worked out by citizens and elected officials.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.