It is no surprise that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment to the Constitution is an individual right, not something reserved for state militias.
It is disappointing that four members of the court disagreed with the ruling.
The Second Amendment reads:
"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."
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Over the years the inclusion of "well regulated militia" has led many to claim the amendment was meant for state militias.
Scholars point out that if that were so, it would be the only place in the Bill of Rights where the term, "right of the people," refers to states instead of citizens.
The Supreme Court has long acknowledged that the guarantees in the Bill of Rights serve as a check on state and local, as well as federal, laws, but not on citizens.
This case (McDonald v. City of Chicago) involved a gun ban that has been in effect for 28 years in Chicago.
The ordinance bans the possession of handguns by most city residents. It bars firearms possession unless an individual holds a valid license, and those licenses haven't been issued in many years.
Following the Supreme Court rejection of the law, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley said officials already are at work rewriting the ordinance to try to meet the court's gun rights guarantee while protecting Chicago residents from gun violence.
It was concern about gun violence in America that led four justices to side against the majority.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent. He was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.
Breyer noted that handguns cause an estimated 60,000 deaths and injuries in the United States each year, and cautioned that the ruling will hinder state and local efforts to control the carnage.
"Unlike other forms of substantive liberty, the carrying of arms for that purpose often puts others' lives at risk," Breyer was quoted as saying.
And that is indeed cause for deep concern. It is not an effective argument, it would seem, in limiting individual rights.
If safety trumped all in courts, there would be no automobiles on the roads (or horses, for that matter) no swimming pools and no space program.
Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority -- composed of him, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas -- went back to the very reasons for writing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in the first place: English tyranny.
"King George III's attempt to disarm the colonists in the 1760s and 1770s provoked polemical reactions by Americans invoking their rights as Englishmen to keep arms," Alito said, adding that for the authors of the Bill of Rights, "the right to keep and bear arms was considered no less fundamental."
In that context, arguments that the only legitimate uses for guns are target shooting and hunting lose all force. The Second Amendment's powerful, underlying principle is that Americans have a right to protect themselves.
This latest ruling does much to clear up murkiness that still gathers around the Second Amendment.
The court ruling says the right to bear arms is not absolute, and it is into this thin crack that Mayor Daley and Chicago council members seek to get a new restrictive law enacted.
The city's last one doesn't appear to have done much good, however.
Chicago has the second highest murder rate of any city in the United States and 80 percent of those murders are committed with guns.
We certainly sympathize with those who would aim to reduce gun and any other kind of violence in Chicago or the whole nation.
Just don't try to sidestep the Constitution to do it.
The ruling doesn't eliminate gun laws. Felons and the mentally ill still can be banned from owning guns, for instance.
But the only honest approach to overturning the Second Amendment is to confront it directly through a Constitutional Convention.
As Justice Alito noted, anything less is tampering with the fundamental history of the United States.