Sunday, December 16, 2007

Controversy at the Supreme Court

Two of the most difficult and controversial issues are before the Supreme Court in the coming year. The court has already granted cert in a case testing whether the District of Columbia Handgun ban is Constitutional under the 2nd Amendment.
See: for more info.

Even though the court could possibly limit its ruling to handgun ownership, I think considering the current makeup of the court it is likely that they will take the opportunity (the first in 70 years) to define exactly what the those famous words mean:

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

That's the easy case. The more difficult one is Kennedy v. Louisiana, which has a writ before the court currently, and will almost certainly be granted. It asks whether the death penalty should be allowed in non-homicide cases (in this case, child rape). I always cringe at cases like this, because the crime is clearly heinous, vicious, and utterly depraved, but it sets a disturbing precedent to allow the state to kill when the crime did not involve the taking of a life.

To take a complicated issue and make it more difficult, the whole idea of Capital punishment is becoming political this year. New Jersey just banned the practice (though the Governor has yet to officially sign the bill, which he will), and death sentencing is at one of the lowest levels it has ever been (the number I remember from the news is 120 death sentences in 2007, down from 300 something in 1997).

Clearly there is evil in the world. Clearly there are crimes and there are people for whom it is our natural reaction to say "I want him dead." But it may be because of that very reaction that the state should not be allowed to kill. If we can truly be considered an enlightened society, it is at least possible that that comes from our greater knowledge that some base human instincts ought to be proscribed for the betterment of society as a whole. That one, or even many may want death to answer for death may very well be the reason we should not allow it.