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Supreme Court rulings limit options of gun-control task force

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Assaut weapons

The Obama administration’s high-level gun-control task force, established Wednesday, will be navigating tricky legal terrain reshaped by Supreme Court conservatives.

Some state and local gun-control measures already have died over the past four and a half years, done in by the high court’s 2008 ruling that recognized expansive constitutional protections for firearm ownership. Similar Second Amendment restraints will limit the ambitions of the Obama gun task force and its Capitol Hill counterparts.

“The Supreme Court has decided that the amendment confers a right to bear arms for self-defense, which is as important outside the home as inside,” Judge Richard Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted in a ruling last week.

Some additional gun restrictions, however, certainly will survive legal challenge. The Supreme Court has said that “laws imposing conditions and qualifications” on firearms sales may be permitted. This might allow, for instance, more background-check requirements. The court further indicated in 2008 that “an important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms” extends to “dangerous and unusual weapons.”

That might include military firearms such as the M16 assault rifle, which the Supreme Court specifically cited. Adam Lanza, who killed 20 children and six women last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., used a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle, a civilian version of the M16.


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