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Supreme Court: Gun ownership is protected

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday made what will surely become an historic ruling in giving its interpretation of the Second Amendment, the first since it was ratified in 1791.

But while it may seem the high court's ruling gives carte blanche authority for Americans to own and yield guns, we caution that the ruling effectively tosses out any government bans on guns, but does not prohibit regulation of their purchase and use, such as waiting periods to purchase a gun or the need for permits to carry a concealed weapon.

The ruling, in a District of Columbia case, however does provide an answer to a long asked question: Does the Second Amendment simply provide for arming a citizen militia or does it indeed grant individual Americans the right to own and possess guns.

The Second Amendment reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

In the 5-4 decision, justices struck down a D.C. ban on handguns, giving its interpretation that the Second Amendment does protect an individual's right to own guns no matter what, aside from the need to arm a state militia.

Justices almost solely focused on the amendment's perceived right that Americans may own and possess guns for self-defense, and are mostly silent on their use for hunting or sport shooting. Still, the important ruling makes it clear that Americans have the constitutional right to protect themselves by using firearms. The Constitution does not permit "the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority. He noted that the handgun is Americans' preferred self-defense weapon as it "can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police."

America is unique with such a right, where possession of handguns by civilians is banned in most other nations, such as in England. But our road to democracy and the freedoms we enjoy has been rocky and we've learned much along the way, such as securing among ourselves the right to defend our person and our families and that the government shall not deprive us of that ability.

Thursday's Supreme Court ruling affirms that right. But our democracy also proclaims that an individual's rights must not be infringed upon by others, so the regulation of firearms to ensure that right is also needed. Current methods on the books, such as a seven-day waiting period to purchase a gun to ensure a proper background check into criminal history and mental health is done, is proper. And while Minnesota's laws were recently loosened in gaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon, nonetheless a permit must be obtained which specifies that training also be completed.

Registration of handguns has been a controversial issue, but urban communities beset with violence and wanting to ban handguns perhaps should be allowed to register handguns so at least they know where the guns are.

But as Thursday's ruling makes abundantly clear, government cannot prevent an American from having that handgun.

-- Bemidji Pioneer