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September 28, 2009

Does it Apply?

Last year, the Supreme Court overturned a handgun ban here in the federal enclave of Washington and ruled that the Second Amendment protects individual gun ownership (the justices did leave room for firearms regulation, saying government could prohibit guns in "sensitive places" and forbid ownership by certain dangerous people, such as felons). But the court did not say whether the Second Amendment also applies to the states.

Last Thursday, an 11-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals grappled with this specific question. The case, Nordyke v. King, involves a dispute over a firearms ban at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in California. Some members of the divided panel argued that the Second Amendment "right to keep and bear arms" is binding on states. Others argued that the Supreme Court has never overturned its earlier rulings that said the Second Amendment applies only to the federal government. One judge suggested the court uphold the ordinance as a valid public safety measure while side-stepping the constitutional argument.

Sayre Weaver, attorney for Alameda County, presented the argument that the earlier Supreme Court decisions that set precedents on the scope of the Second Amendment remain binding and can be overturned only by the high court. The 9th Circuit issued an order after the argument that they are holding the Nordyke case pending disposition by the Supreme Court of another case, National Rifle Association v. Chicago, where the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Second Amendment is not incorporated at the state level.

The Supreme Court’s decision on whether to accept the Chicago case for consideration will be a key one and have a significant effect on gun-related litigation across the country.

September 14, 2009

A Little Less Comedy Tonight

One of the greatest things about working for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has been the myriad of fascinating people that you meet and come to admire.

One such person is Larry Gelbart, the award-winning writer whose sly wit helped create such hits as Broadway's "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," the films "Tootsie" and "Oh, God!" and the hit television series "M-A-S-H". Mr. Gelbart died this past week at the age of 81.

During his long career as a comedy writer, Gelbart wrote for Bob Hope, Jack Paar, Red Buttons, Jack Carson, Eddie Cantor, Joan Davis and many others. In the 1950's he joined a legendary writing team that included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon and Carl Reiner writing for Sid Caesar's "Caesar's Hour."

Reiner, longtime friend and colleague, as quoted by AP writer Christy Lemire, called Gelbart "the Jonathan Swift of our day...It's a great, great, great, great, great, great loss. You can't put enough `greats' in front of it." Reiner directed "Oh, God!" from Gelbart's Oscar-nominated script. "The mores of our time were never more dissected and discussed. He had the ability to make an elaborate joke given nothing but one line."

Mr. Gelbart was a warm and generous human being. He will be greatly missed. There will be a little less comedy tonight.

September 7, 2009

Old and Wise

As I reflected on the harsh political rhetoric of this past summer, I was reminded of the words of the ancient writer of the Epistle of James:

"You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger, for your anger does not produce righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

"But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they look like. But those who look to the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

"If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled is this: to care for the orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

[James 1:19-27, Inclusive Language translation]