By Greg Stohr
WASHINGTON — Gun-control advocates, seeking new laws in the aftermath of the Connecticut school shooting, are drawing support from an unlikely source: the Supreme Court's landmark 2008 decision backing the right to bear arms.
That ruling marked the court's first declaration that the Constitution's Second Amendment protects the gun rights of individuals. At the same time, Justice Antonin Scalia's majority opinion said the government could impose restrictions, such as bans on gun possession by convicted felons and the mentally ill.
Since that ruling, in District of Columbia v. Heller, courts have struck down only a handful of state and local gun laws. President Obama announced Wednesday that Vice President Joe Biden will produce by next month a list of actions on gun violence that won't run afoul of the court.
"There is a big chunk of space between what, you know, the Second Amendment means and having no rules at all," Obama said. "And that space is what Joe's gonna be working on, to try to identify where we can find some common ground."
With gun-control advocates now discussing improved background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, the legal obstacles may be less daunting than the political ones.
"The Second Amendment doesn't impose any significant barriers to any of the major reforms being talked about," said Adam Winkler, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law and the author of a book on gun rights. "The Supreme Court made clear in the Heller case that there's plenty of room for gun control under the Second Amendment."
Gun control is getting new attention in Washington after last week's shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn. The gunman, Adam Lanza, killed 26 people, including 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School, before turning one of his guns on himself, police say.