I just reviewed a really thoughtful article in the June 30, 2010 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine about the Supreme Court’s recent rulings on the Second Amendment (right to bear arms) and public health. The piece, written by Julie D. Cantor, M.D., J.D., is presented in a fair and balanced manner.
It is obvious that handguns present a public health risk, particularly in households with children. However, what is not clear is how recent rulings by the Supreme Court will impact gun control legislation on the state level, and public health overall. Two recent cases, District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago have affirmed the individual’s right to possess a handgun (at home) for home defense.
According to Dr. Cantor, the public health communities fears have not yet been realized:
“In the aftermath of Heller, many in the public health community worried that the decision would unleash a torrent of guns on the public, bringing sudden, high spikes in rates of injury and death. Though it is too early to be completely reassured, dire predictions have not yet been realized. Heller did not create an unfettered right. As the Court explained in that opinion, it is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Thus far, it has not given lower courts a license to annihilate gun-control laws; in the more than 200 post-Heller federal and state cases, courts have left the legal status quo largely intact. Perhaps coincidentally, recent rates of violent crime have been at historic lows.” (Source: Published at www.nejm.org , June 30, 2010, 10.1056/NEJMp1006890, Julie D. Cantor, M.D., J.D.)