A liberal replacement for Scalia might be the fifth vote to cut back on or overrule the 2008 Scalia majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller and subsequent Supreme Court decisions recognizing a constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
After going virtually unchallenged for more than one hundred years, Americans’ right to own guns is one of the hottest political topics of the second half of the 20th Century. The issue has calmed somewhat in the early days of the 21st Century, but if history is our guide, the debate is going nowhere until an inevitable and definitive ruling is handed down by the nation’s courts: does the Second Amendment apply to individual citizens?
The right to keep and bear arms fundamentally is the assertion that people, either individually or collectively as a militia, have a personal right to possess weapons. Often, but not always, the arms at the forefront of the conversation are firearms, though other kinds of weapons are involved as well. Debates about the right to keep and bear arms also usually involve issues such as the right of individuals to defend themselves, their families and their property as well as issues such as the right to protect oneself even against one’s own government.
Although much of the history of the laws in the United States have their basis in English common law, the United States and the United Kingdom have very different approaches to the issue of the right to keep and bear arms. The right to keep and bear arms is recognized in the United States Bill of Rights and has been enacted as the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. In contrast, in the United Kingdom, neither English law nor Scottish law discusses the right to bear and keep arms. Although they may carry pepper spray or a side baton, even police officers in Great Britain do not routinely carry firearms. Further, the Prevention of Crime Act 1953 prohibited individuals from carrying offensive weapons, such as firearms and knives, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse. Moreover, the Firearms Amendment No.) Act 1997 effectively banned in Great Britain the private possession of all modern pistols, even for competitive sporting purposes.