The Libertarian presidential candidate weighs in:
The ruling "will go down as one of the Supreme Court's most important rulings on behalf of liberty," says Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr.
Until today, the Court had never held that the Second Amendment directly applied to individuals. "Today's decision marks a new era for gun rights in America," explains Barr, who is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association. Barr also drafted the Libertarian Party's amicus curiae brief in Heller. "By protecting an individual's right to keep and bear arms, the Second Amendment ensures that all Americans are able to participate in sporting activities, hunt, and protect themselves and their families," he explains.
The right to self-defense is particularly important for women and minorities in a city like Washington, D.C. "Where crime rates are high, a gun may be the only means for law-abiding citizens to safeguard themselves and their families," Barr notes. "Lawful gun ownership deters an untold number of crimes every year."
But the Court's ruling, though welcome, is not enough. "It is important to have a president who also supports the right of Americans to own firearms," says Barr. "Sen. Barack Obama says that he believes in such a constitutional right, but he supports the District of Columbia's ban, which gives criminals an advantage over law-abiding citizens," notes Barr.
Sen. McCain has not advocated an absolute prohibition, "but he cosponsored legislation which could require registration of attendees at gun shows and even ban such shows," Barr warns. And Sen. McCain's campaign legislation "curtailed the First Amendment right of gun owners to protect their rights by participating in election campaigns."
As part of the Bill of Rights, the Second Amendment undergirds American liberty. "The individual's right to keep and bear arms helps ensure all of our freedoms," says Barr. "The Supreme Court's recognition of the constitutional right to gun ownership is a recognition of the right to life, liberty, and property for all Americans."
The speed with which that went out reveals the confidence a lot of people had that it would go this way. Nothing yet from those other presidential candidates. Earlier, Barack Obama had issued a fishy retraction of last year's unambiguous statement that "the gun ban is constitutional."
"That statement was obviously an inartful attempt to explain the Senator's consistent position," Obama spokesman Bill Burton tells ABC News.
UPDATE: John McCain weighs in:
Today's decision is a landmark victory for Second Amendment freedom in the United States. For this first time in the history of our Republic, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms was and is an individual right as intended by our Founding Fathers. I applaud this decision as well as the overturning of the District of Columbia's ban on handguns and limitations on the ability to use firearms for self-defense.
Unlike Senator Obama, who refused to join me in signing a bipartisan amicus brief, I was pleased to express my support and call for the ruling issued today. Today's ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller makes clear that other municipalities like Chicago that have banned handguns have infringed on the constitutional rights of Americans. Unlike the elitist view that believes Americans cling to guns out of bitterness, today's ruling recognizes that gun ownership is a fundamental right—sacred, just as the right to free speech and assembly.
This ruling does not mark the end of our struggle against those who seek to limit the rights of law-abiding citizens. We must always remain vigilant in defense of our freedoms. But today, the Supreme Court ended forever the specious argument that the Second Amendment did not confer an individual right to keep and bear arms.
UPDATE II: From Barack Obama:
"I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures. The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view, and while it ruled that the D.C. gun ban went too far, Justice Scalia himself acknowledged that this right is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe. Today's ruling, the first clear statement on this issue in 127 years, will provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.
"As President, I will uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun-owners, hunters, and sportsmen. I know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne. We can work together to enact common-sense laws, like closing the gun show loophole and improving our background check system, so that guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals. Today's decision reinforces that if we act responsibly, we can both protect the constitutional right to bear arms and keep our communities and our children safe.
As Phil Klein points out, this is sort of a new take.