WA SUPREME COURT JUSTICE RICHARD SANDERS AUTHORS SIGNIFICANT GUN RIGHTS RULING

By Alan M. Gottlieb

Executive Vice President

Second Amendment Foundation

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.”


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