Court rulings on the Second Amendment

Reading the Aug. 2 article "Bush loosens restrictions on guns," I was appalled by the politicized shorthand you used to characterize the 1939 Supreme Court decision which you claimed "held that the [Second] Amendment only guarantees the collective rights of states to keep militias."

The case (US v. Miller) boiled down to just this: whether the weapon in question (the short-barreled shotgun) was a firearm that could contribute to the common defense; that is, whether a particular weapon could be considered an "arm" as the Framers imagined arms to be.

In the end, the court decided the answer was no.

But because the holding of the Miller case is so narrow, virtually no independent legal scholar regards it as a landmark decision, much less one that resolves the boundaries of the right to bear arms.

David D. Brown Santa Monica, Calif.

Two recent articles on this page ("Sticking to his guns," July 16 editorial, and "An NRA foreign policy," July 18 opinion) stated that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment does not recognize an individual's right to keep and bear arms, and that the consensus among constitutional scholars is the same.

Actually, the Supreme Court's older cases do recognize the individual right, but there is no clear modern ruling on this subject. US v. Miller, 1939, is as close as the court came, and the only unambiguous thing we get out of it is that there is no constitutional right to weapons that do not have a militia use. No surprise there.

More recent cases are written as though the court recognizes an individual right, but the cases never explicitly say so.

The most recent federal appeals-court ruling is Fresno Rifle and Pistol v. California. The court ruled that the Fourteenth Amendment was only concerned with important rights protected by the Constitution, and that the Supreme Court had not ruled whether the individual's right under the Second Amendment was covered.

Contrary to articles in the Monitor, law review articles and textbooks show that there is an enormous consensus among modern legal scholars that there is an individual right. Sanford Levinson, who argued Mr. Gore's case before the Supreme Court, is the author of one such law-review article.

William G. Dennis Elso, Wash.

Treat Russia as a partner, not pupil

I proffer an answer to "Pull Russia into the West" (July 26, opinion page) by Michael McFaul. Like many others in the West, he mixes three different things when thinking about Russia's future: Being a (Western type) democracy, being dependent on the West, and being a part of Europe.

Why are these prerequisites for predictable long-time relations with Russia?

Even a super-democratic Russia would eventually be a rival to the US, because it would always have its own interests as a state. Russia's businessmen have their own interests in any part of the world, and a democratic Russian government would surely support them. So democracy couldn't be the guarantee of stable relations.

Remember the times of the First World War, when there was no communism and all allies and enemies had comparable political and economic mechanisms.

President Bush's policies for Russia are wise. He discusses with Russia problems that belong to the foreign-policy domain. He doesn't teach Russia what it should do with its own internal problems.

By that, he shows that he communicates with partners, not students.

Dmitry Startsev Moscow

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