Posted by: Jay | March 18, 2008

What Is Reasonable?

Another thing in the NY Times editorial I wrote about is a word that is often thrown around with regard to gun control. The word is ‘reasonable.’ Unfortunately, reasonable is a very subjective term.

For instance, somebody like James Dobson would argue that banning pornography on the Internet is a ‘reasonable’ restriction on first amendment rights, while most people (myself included) would argue that such a restriction was not ‘reasonable.’ The same goes for gun control. Sarah Brady will argue that the DC handgun ban is reasonable, but Wayne LaPierre will argue it is not.

The NY Times writes:

The second mistake that the appeals court made — one that many supporters of gun rights may concede — was its unduly narrow view of what constitutes a “reasonable” law. The court insisted that its interpretation of the Second Amendment still leaves room for government to impose “reasonable” gun regulations.

But it’s important to see what the NY Times left out. Here is what the district court said:

The protections of the Second Amendment are subject to the same sort of reasonable restrictions that have been recognized as limiting, for instance, the First Amendment.

Well, that puts it into a whole new context. While public opinion may vary widely (as well as the opinions of the editorial board of the NY Times) as to what ‘reasonable’ is, the state obviously has a higher threshold to overcome. In other words, the state can’t say a law is ‘reasonable’ just because they think it is. They should have to prove a compelling state interest in banning certain weapons. While such latitude puts to rest the fear mongering of the anti-gun contingent who claim the recognition of an individual right to bear arms would mean people would be able to possess nuclear warheads, it also wouldn’t allow the government to just ban whatever it wants at any time because it feels like doing so.



  1. Considering the McCain Feingold restrictions in place on the 1st Amendment, I’m not encouraged at all with this talk about “reasonable” restrictions! WTF do they think was the original intent of the phrase “the right … shall not be infringed” if not to mean NO RESTRICTIONS, regardless of how “reasonable”?

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