I know, riveting research.
As seems to be the case with gun laws nationwide, what I've found so far is a complicated and confusing patchwork of laws and ordinances, and no clear answer. Of course, I'm no legal scholar, so if anyone with some knowledge of this wants to chime in and clarify things for me, it would be much appreciated.
According to today's decision, an outright ban on the sale and ownership of handguns was deemed unconstitutional. However, Justice Scalia, in his majority opinion, did note that,
“It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,” Justice Scalia wrote.So this issue is far from being resolved. One could reasonably assume, however, that any other city or state with an outright ban on handguns will have to do away with such laws.
The ruling does not mean, for instance, that laws against carrying concealed weapons are to be swept aside. Furthermore, Justice Scalia wrote, “The court’s opinion should not 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.”
But what is the law in Madison? A friend of mine keyed me in to the fact that Madison has an outright ban on the sale of handguns within city limits, and that the City Council also passed an ordinance banning their possession.
Section 25.01(11a): It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, association, or corporation to sell, give away, trade, or transfer any handgun to any other person, firm, association, or corporation within the corporate boundaries of the City of Madison.Wisconsin state law, however, has something different to say:
Except as provided in subs. (3) and (4), no political subdivision may enact an ordinance or adopt a resolution that regulates the sale, purchase, purchase delay, transfer, ownership, use, keeping, possession, bearing, transportation, licensing, permitting, registration or taxation of any firearm or part of a firearm, including ammunition and reloader components, unless the ordinance or resolution is the same as or similar to, and no more stringent than, a state statute.So is Madison's current ordinance already trumped by state law, and we're just kind of ignoring it? Or is Madison's law somehow "similar to state statute"?
While I'm puzzling all of this, I can't help but ponder the greater fact that a large chunk of the problem with gun laws in the United States is that they are so fragmented and confusing. I'm a strong proponent of good regulation: background checks, wait periods, bans on assault and other insane-o weapons, proper training, and that sort of thing. In theory, a lot of that already exists--the trouble seems to be mostly in how we do or do not enforce them. That's where the most work remains to be done.
In the meantime, I don't necessarily think that SCOTUS' decision was wrong (bad, maybe, but not wrong). The same friend I mentioned earlier made the argument that the decision reflected judicial activism on the majority's part, but noted that that didn't necessarily equate wrong or bad. It was an intriguing idea--in the end, isn't the point of having learned scholars sitting in judgment to interpret the law as it applies to ever-changing, modern circumstances? And isn't that exactly what alleged "strict constructionist" Scalia and co. just did?
After all, if we went with the original meaning of the amendment, it's like that 1) individual's would have the right to own guns, but 2) the government would then have the right to inspect those weapons at-will, to make sure they were being properly maintained and "well-regulated," should they ever need to call up the owner for active duty in a militia. Something tells me neither side of the debate would much enjoy that.