‘Heller’ gun case evokes strong feelings in area


Local Jewish organizations have stressed their continued support for gun control measures in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in late June on the case District of Columbia v. Heller.

In the 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled in late June that the District of Columbia could not ban owning handguns for self-defense.

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Sydell Shayer, advocacy chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis, stressed that the court’s ruling does allow laws to control the ownership and use of firearms.

“The Supreme Court decision of District of Columbia v. Heller does not prohibit passing laws to control the use of firearms,” Shayer said. “Therefore, the JCRC will continue to support strong, federal, state, and local measures to control and reduce the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns and other non-sport firearms and ammunition, and community efforts to reduce the quantity of guns and ammunition available on the streets and in the home.”

“The JCRC will continue to support background checks for gun purchases, mandatory waiting periods, mandatory training programs and licensing for gun owners as well as registration of handguns. Citizens should take this Supreme Court decision as a mandate to redouble their efforts to ensure that guns are used safely and lawfully.”

Amy Kuo Hammerman, Missouri State Public Affairs Chair for National Council of Jewish Women, said the court ruling undermines the work done by NCJW, which “works for laws, policies, and programs to restrict and regulate firearms and prevent gun violence,” she said.

“We deplore the U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring that the Second Amendment dictates that Americans have an individual right to own guns. The decision in Heller v. D.C. overturns the basis for two centuries of government regulation of firearms,” Hammerman said.

“In the words of dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer, the ruling ‘threatens to throw into doubt the constitutionality of gun laws throughout the United States.’ We share Justice Stevens’ deep concern about the willingness of the court’s new majority to overturn decades of precedent and unnecessarily engage in ‘the political thicket’ of the merits of gun control policy. Such judicial activism does not bode well for the hundreds of other past decisions upon which we all now rely to define the fundamental terms of engagement in American life,” she said.

Nationally, Jewish organizations have offered similar criticism of the court decision. However, one Jewish group, Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, a non-profit group based in Wisconsin, has praised the court decision.

The group submitted an amicus brief to the court, supporting Heller.

In a statement after the court ruling on the group’s Web site, New Jersey attorney Daniel Schmutter, who filed the amicus brief, wrote, “Today’s decision represents a substantial victory for American gun owners.”

“The majority opinion clearly provides room for the survival of gun laws which do not offend the fundamental self-defense purpose of the Second Amendment. Thus, as with other rules of law, the real meat and potatoes, so to speak, will be found in the many lawsuits to come,” he wrote.

“What the decision does recognize is that the right to keep and bear arms is not absolute. So far that’s nothing controversial. Notwithstanding the fact that some folks would have liked a decision that swept away gun laws en masse, I doubt that anyone seriously following this issue expected that there was any likelihood of that. Instead, those watching this issue were keenly interested in the scope of the right and the standard of review to be applied,” Schmutter wrote. “Heller represents a very good decision establishing a strong right to keep and bear arms. Yet it will require years of litigation to define with any firm degree of utility for either side.”