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The politics of guns

The Washington Post's Balz and Richburg write: "With yesterday's decision, the Supreme Court pushed the gun issue back to the forefront of the nation's agenda, opening a new chapter in what has been one of the most contentious and divisive debates in American politics for the past four decades. Advocacy groups braced for new skirmishes, both in courts and in legislatures. Gun rights advocates, hailing what they called a historic milestone, immediately targeted other jurisdictions with laws similar to those in the District of Columbia, whose handgun ban was struck down yesterday. Defenders of gun control took heart from language in the ruling acknowledging the constitutionality of some reasonable restrictions, but they warned of a new assault on those restrictions."

VIDEO: On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that while gun laws can be Constitutional, the Constitution does protect an individual's right to have a gun. A Hardball panel talks about how this ruling will affect the 2008 election.

"Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) endorsed the essential finding in the court's decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. But the gap between their past positions on gun control sparked the resurgence of a cultural debate between the presidential candidates that is likely to continue until November." More: "Some Democratic strategists saw yesterday's ruling as one that will deprive conservatives of one of their most extreme arguments -- that Democrats are trying to take away all guns. 'Whatever you believe about the merits of the decision, it's a decision that protects Democrats from the charge that they want to ban all guns, because the Supreme Court has said you can't do that,' said pollster Geoffrey Garin."

"Neil Newhouse, a GOP pollster, said the ruling could help McCain in Western battleground states such as Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, where there is strong support for Second Amendment rights. But Democrats said McCain could face new problems among suburban women in other battlegrounds.

Salon's Madden takes the angle that the ruling somehow makes it harder for McCain and Republicans to make the case that Obama and the Democrats can somehow take guns away. "In one sense, the Supreme Court's watershed ruling on the incendiary issue of gun control was a stark reminder of what's at stake this November regarding the nation's top court. Given the age and health of several sitting justices, it is likely that the next U.S. president will appoint at least one new member to the now conservative-leaning bench. But rather than setting off a months-long debate and stirring partisans on both sides of the political divide, the court's decision may have shoved the gun control issue further aside -- and helped inoculate Obama from it.

"McCain welcomed a Supreme Court decision invalidating a District of Columbia handgun ban. Barack Obama sought to straddle the subject by saying he favors an individual's right to bear firearms as well as a government's right to regulate them." 
 
The Chicago Tribune called Obama's response "carefully worded" and noted that he "straddled differences between gun-control advocates and defenders of the right to bear arms… Obama has amassed a mostly liberal record on gun control. He supports a proposal to override state "concealed-carry" laws with a nationwide ban on concealed weapons. He would reimpose the Clinton administration's ban on assault weapons that was overturned by the then-Republican-controlled Congress. In 1999, before he ran for the U.S. Senate, he favored a ban on gun stores within five miles of a school or park."

Speaking of the Supreme Court, the Boston Globe notes that McCain and Obama "have laid out vastly different visions for the Supreme Court should they win the White House. Obama pledges to appoint justices with a broader social outlook, while McCain said he wants more jurists like Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative who was appointed by President Bush. Legal analysts say the court is likely to have at least one vacancy during the next administration: The oldest justice is 88, two others are in their 70s, and all three could be nearing retirement."