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Ruth Marcus: Strengthening our resolve

BY RUTH MARCUS Published: December 21, 2012

What if candidates tempted to take a politically dangerous vote in favor of gun control knew that a super PAC would outspend the NRA? What if candidates learned to fear the gun-control lobby instead of the NRA? This won't work everywhere; money can only change so many votes.

But Sanity PAC could choose wisely — perhaps the 15 Republicans in congressional districts that Obama won in 2012, or Democrats wobbly on gun control.

Political will must be matched by judicial wisdom. The Second Amendment protects the individual right to keep and bear arms, but the Constitution, as Justice Robert Jackson said, is not a suicide pact. Even as it invalidated the District of Columbia's ban on possession of handguns in the home, the Supreme Court carved out space for reasonable restrictions.

Now federal courts are busy determining which ones. In a ruling last week, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated Illinois' broad prohibition against carrying loaded guns in public. The 9th Circuit is weighing laws in California and Hawaii that require applicants for concealed-carry permits to demonstrate a legitimate need to carry a weapon. The 2nd Circuit recently upheld a similar New York state law requiring applicants to show “proper cause” to be allowed to carry concealed handguns in public.

This issue is hurtling toward the Supreme Court. Will the justices interfere with states' decisions about how best to protect their citizens from gun violence? Surely even the most conservative will remember Daniel, Charlotte and the other dead children before taking that terrible step.