Obama’s judgement call
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Another example is gun control. The murder rate in the US is horrendous and almost all of the murders are caused by handguns. Several years ago, in a case called Heller versus United States, the Supreme Court, in a five-to-four decision, held that government restrictions on gun ownership violated a constitutional guarantee: "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". The four liberal justices who dissented argued that the right to own a gun was limited to the state's need for "a well regulated militia" and did not extend to private gun ownership. The five conservative justices in the majority disagreed and held that the preamble did not limit the scope of the right "to keep and bear arms". As a consequence, tens of thousands of Americans will continue to die every year from unregulated handguns.
A third example is affirmative action. The US has a long and awful history of racism, manifested first in slavery, then in laws that kept African-Americans separate from whites, and still today in the consequences of past discrimination and in public attitudes that are shaped by our own history. To address those concerns, private institutions and government agencies have developed affirmative action programmes that are designed to make sure that African-Americans and other historically disadvantaged minorities in the US have a fair chance of getting an education and a job. To do this, those institutions and agencies take race into account. The Supreme Court currently has pending before it the question of whether a state university that employs such a policy in admissions to ensure a diverse student body violates the constitutional provision that prohibits the government to deny "any person the equal protection of the laws."
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