The U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings on constitutional
rights on Thursday.
Most of our attention has been focused on its gun control
ruling. The court tossed out a Washington,
D.C. law that effectively bans
handguns. In its first Second Amendment ruling in nearly 70 years, a sharply
divided court said the right to bear arms is a personal right and not directly
related to “a well-regulated militia.”
The vote was 5-4.
Gun laws in several other cities, potentially including San Francisco, may fall as
a result of the decision. But the court said it would uphold many regulations,
including surprisingly registration – one of the great bet noires of the
National Rifle Association and other gun advocates.
In its second constitutional ruling, which for now has drawn
less attention, the court struck down a provision of the McCain-Feingold
campaign finance law known as the “millionaire’s amendment.” Much like public
financing in presidential campaigns, the provision was intended to level the
playing field in congressional elections. It tripled the $2,300 limit on individual
campaign contributions in the event that an opponent spent more than $350,000
of his or her own money.
Writing for the court, Justice Samuel Alioto said raising
the contribution limit was an unconstitutional infringement on the free-speech
rights of the deep-pocket candidate.
This too was a 5-4 decision.
If nothing else, both underscore the potential influence of
the next appointee to the high court. I expect to start hearing a lot about
that on the presidential campaign trail. What do you think about the rulings?
And the court as a campaign issue?
— Jim Sweeney