Senator John ThuneFirearms have long been a part of the history and culture of South Dakota. It is difficult to imagine homesteaders defending their claims without the assistance of rifles, and it is hard to ponder an autumn in South Dakota without the blaze orange vests and shotguns that are everywhere during pheasant season. Guns are a part of life in rural South Dakota, but Second Amendment rights are not so universally respected in other parts of the country.
On March 18th, the U.S. Supreme Court heard an important Second Amendment case challenging the constitutionality of a law that bans most privately owned firearms in the District of Columbia, including handguns for personal defense in the home. The D.C. law is the most egregious of several laws across the country which limit the right of citizens to defend themselves and I believe violates both the letter and the spirit of the Second Amendment.
The Second Amendment serves two purposes: to establish the state militias and to protect the rights of individuals to defend themselves. In the eyes of the founders, the state militias were a necessary tool in balancing the power of the states and the central government, and the right of individuals to bear arms was necessary for defending farms, businesses, and rights. The need for this constitutional protection has not diminished with the passage of time.
The necessity of protecting one's life and property is all too real in society today. In every community in America, from the poorest to the most affluent, people are the unfortunate victims of violent crime. If the courts take away the ability of citizens to defend themselves, they are violating a basic tenet of what the Constitution is designed to guarantee: the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
People may think that there is little they can do to influence how the courts decide cases involving their liberties, but it is important to remember that the President appoints judges to the federal courts and the Senate must approve those nominees. Voters need to be conscious of the fact that how they vote can truly influence the overall complexion of the judiciary that is responsible for interpreting not only the Constitution but also laws passed by Congress.
South Dakotans know that firearm ownership plays an important role when it comes to personal protection. We also know how firearms play an important role in our state's recreation industry and the outdoor recreation culture. The right to own and possess firearms also comes with a responsibility to observe all safety practices, and to instill firearm responsibility in our children. I truly believe that the Second Amendment is just as important for defending their freedoms in the future as it is for ours today.