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The Missoulian - "McGrath's View On Gun Rights Was Always Clear"

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Location: Helena, MT

The Missoulian - "McGrath's View On Gun Rights Was Always Clear"

Whether attorney general would stand up for Second Amendment wasn't in doubt.

We all knew this was coming. We would have been surprised - and disappointed - if it didn't happen.

But Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath didn't disappoint. This month he signed on to support a legal brief headed to the U.S. Supreme Court that basically states what we've all known all along; that individuals are allowed to own firearms.
The Second Amendment is pretty clear on this point. For those who have forgotten their elementary-school lessons on government, the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights says that, "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." And ever since the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791, our government of the people, by the people and for the people has interpreted that to mean that we, the people, get to own guns.

Even so, many others have argued that the Second Amendment actually gives only those people who are members of militias the right to bear arms.

And that's the argument going up before the Supreme Court in a landmark case that could provide some much-needed clarity to the Second Amendment.

The core of the case concerns the current ban on handguns in Washington, D.C. See, a security guard named Dick Heller tried to get a permit to keep a gun at his home in the district, but his application was denied. He sued over the matter and won.

But the case didn't end there. District authorities appealed, and now both they and Heller would like the Supreme Court to decide the matter once and for all.

To help that decision along, 31 states have given their official support to what's known as a "friend of the court" brief stating that they interpret the Second Amendment to mean that individual citizens, and not just members of militias, have the right to bear arms. The original brief was penned by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

We weren't too worried about what position McGrath would take. After all, Montana is certainly a state that appreciates the average citizen's right to bear arms - for hunting, for personal protection or just for collection.

And McGrath stated his intention to support the brief back in early December, about a week after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear Heller's case. Even that announcement was a little late for some people, including Helena attorney Tim Fox, who is running as a candidate for Montana Attorney General in the next election. He won't be running against McGrath, however, because McGrath termed out of his current office and is now running for chief justice of the Montana Supreme Court.

Fox noted that some states filed their opinions in support of the brief long before the Heller case reached the Supreme Court. Some states filed as early as 2004. In response, McGrath said that he wrote his opinion as soon as he could.

The case still hasn't been decided and a few more supportive opinions might still trickle in from other states, so it seems pointless to argue that McGrath waited too long to file Montana's official opinion. After all, we knew all along that he would.

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