WA Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders Authors Significant Gun Rights Ruling
By Alan M. Gottlieb
Executive Vice President
Second Amendment Foundation
Washington –-(AmmoLand.com)- The Washington State Supreme Court has issued a precedent-setting opinion in the case of State v. Christopher William Sieyes which holds that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights “applies to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment”
This outstanding opinion was authored by Justice Richard B. Sanders, a Supreme Court veteran who clearly understands the history of both the state and federal constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
Perhaps what makes the Sanders opinion so remarkable is that it places the Washington Supreme Court ahead of the United States Supreme Court in recognition that the U.S. Constitution’s recognition of the right to keep and bear arms applies to all citizens, and should also place limits on state and local governments, as it does on Congress.
Quoting Justice Sanders, “Lower courts need not wait for the Supreme Court the Constitution is the rule of all courts both state and federal judiciaries wield power to strike down unconstitutional government acts.”
The Sanders opinion was issued February 18, 2010 and its significance quickly registered with gun rights organizations and activists across the map. For example, the National Shooting Sports Foundation hailed the ruling. NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence G. Keane called it “a welcome development and victory for the rights of law-abiding firearms owners.”
This state high court opinion, among other things, effectively “puts on notice” anti-gun groups in the Evergreen State that their continued efforts to impair the rights of legally-armed citizens will face not only growing legislative resistance, but intense legal scrutiny. Though not binding on other states, it clears a path for other state supreme courts to follow.
Despite its brevity at only 24 pages, Justice Sanders’ opinion – which was co-signed by five of his colleagues, including Chief Justice Barbara A. Madsen – thoroughly and proactively debunks any suggestion that the authors of Article 1, Section 24 of the Washington State Constitution did not mean specifically what they wrote:
“The right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired, but nothing in this section shall be construed as authorizing individuals or corporations to organize, maintain or employ an armed body of men.”
Perhaps Justice Sanders put it best when he noted, “This right is necessary to an Anglo-American regime of ordered liberty and fundamental to the American scheme of justice.”
The Second Amendment Foundation (www.saf.org) is the nations oldest and largest tax-exempt education, research, publishing and legal action group focusing on the Constitutional right and heritage to privately own and possess firearms. Founded in 1974, The Foundation has grown to more than 650,000 members and supporters and conducts many programs designed to better inform the public about the consequences of gun control. SAF has previously funded successful firearms-related suits against the cities of Los Angeles; New Haven, CT; and San Francisco on behalf of American gun owners, a lawsuit against the cities suing gun makers and an amicus brief and fund for the Emerson case holding the Second Amendment as an individual right.