Constitutional Rights And "Your World"

Slate's blog on legal issues.
March 26 2008 8:23 PM

Constitutional Rights And "Your World"

Over at Obsidian Wings , my friend Publius [ not his real name -- a.w. ] suggests that states should enjoy flexibility under the Second Amendment to calibrate gun-control regulations in light of the varying needs of different cities and towns:

If your world is 18th century Massachusetts, then broad gun rights make a lot of sense. If your world is a densely-populated housing project in the Bronx, then broad gun rights make much less sense. Indeed, they create very dangerous environments. And if your world is rural Montana, then the policy rationale shifts back the other way.

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Publius seems to get the analysis precisely backward:  If "my world" is a housing project in the Bronx, then I'd face a greater need to carry a gun, for self-defense. By contrast, if I lived in rural Montana, then my need for easier access to guns would be much, much lower.

That said, maybe Publius is on to something. Maybe the courts should take more care to calibrate constitutional rights in light of the facts on the ground in differing locales. If we're going that route, then I'd recommend that we start with the Fourth Amendment's protection against "unreasonable" searches and seizures, giving police officers greater discretion in searching persons, homes, and automobiles without a warrant in high-crime urban areas, and further limiting their discretion to conduct warrantless searches in low-crime suburbs.

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