The decision by the US Supreme Court to uphold the principle that every American has the right to bear arms will seem shocking to many Europeans. The ruling related specifically to Chicago where a ban on handguns has been in place for 28 years and it will mean that the constitutional right to bear arms will apply nationally. The judgement was carried narrowly 5-4 with Conservatively-inclined judges voting for guns and the other Supreme Court members opposing the change. The argument that self-defence is a basic right and that home-owners are entitled to defend their family and property carried the day. It is one that is heard increasingly in Britain although it is not always accepted in UK courts and does not necessarily relate to the use of firearms. From a European perspective, the individual's rights are seen to be the price that the United States has to pay for a lawless society where guns are routinely carried and used. This week's ruling may not stand for very long. After two key right-wing appointments to the Supreme Court by President Bush the balance is likely to change during President Obama's presidency. A 5-4 verdict is close anyway and could be overturned in future if the opportunity arose. In the first five months of this year, 164 people were murdered with guns in Chicago when the ban was in place.


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