In much of the media coverage of McDonald, I see that most of the anti-gun crowd is taking quite a bit of comfort in claiming that the court left intact "reasonable restrictions". Perhaps understandably so, that thin liner is about all that's left of their warm feel-good "blanket of gun-control".
The use of the phrase "reasonable restrictions" to describe the post-McDonald, and still over-the-top onerous gun regulations, was upsetting my stomach. Enough to inspire me to take a closer look at just what Heller and McDonald actually did say about reasonable restrictions.
I don't claim this is a full analysis, and IANAL, but here's the low hanging fruit... please feel free to chime in with deeper analysis as appropriate.
I think these anti-gun folks are putting way too much faith in the Heller/McDonald reasonable restriction position. Those in support of the new registration procedures and even the requirement to keep your gun in your home at all times are falling all over themselves to cite the opinions' position that reasonable restrictions were acknowledged to be valid.
But just what did they say?
From Heller, pp 54-55 of the Court's opinion (written by Scalia), we have:
At the end of the Syllabus of Heller (the Syllabus is provided for only some opinions as a helpful summary of the opinion, but is not included as a part of the opinion), the writer states:
Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. See, e.g., Sheldon
, in 5 Blume 346; Rawle 123; Pomeroy 152-153; Abbott 333. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. See, e.g., State v. Chandler
, 5 La. Ann., at 489-490; Nunn v. State
, 1 Ga., at 251; see generally 2 Kent *340, n. 2; The American Students’ Blackstone 84, n. 11 (G. Chase ed. 1884). Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.26
We identify these presumptively lawful regulatory measures only as examples; our list does not purport to be exhaustive
Because Heller conceded at oral argument that the D. C. licensing law is permissible if it is not enforced arbitrarily and capriciously, the Court assumes that a license will satisfy his prayer for relief and does not address the licensing requirement.
Then in McDonald, the same section of Heller is referenced, again in the Opinion of the Court (by Alito) pp 39-40:
We made it clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as "prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill," "laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms." Id., at ___-___ (slip op., at 54-55). We repeat those assurances here. Despite municipal respondents’ doomsday proclamations, incorporation does not imperil every law regulating firearms.
So that's what they actually said... what does it mean? According to the Syllabus of Heller, they specifically did not address any licensing issue. The only thing that comes remotely close is to include a reference to "laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms", which is certainly not a clear reference to any sort of licensing and especially not to any registration scheme (I would suggest that registration is farther removed from purchase than licensing, and especially when they specifically say "commercial sales" and do not mention "private sales"), and even more so not when the clearly stated purpose of such schemes is to make it as hard as legally possible for citizens to legally acquire a gun!
It appears that there are already lawsuits under way to oppose these new registration schemes. I really don't see any precedent, even with Heller and McDonald acceding to not "cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions..." for any idea that registration or licensing for the sole purpose of making gun ownership and possession more difficult being acceptable under the Second Amendment.