Gun Rights Hanging by a Thin Thread
June 30, 2008
A few minutes after ten on the morning
of June 26, the Supreme Court gave every conservative a reason to get
excited, charged up, fired up, yes, even, if need be, a little wild-eyed
about the coming election.
Yes, with its decision in District of
Columbia et al. v. Heller, the Court has completely and irreversibly
extinguished the hope burning in the hearts of Democrats and their Liberal
allies that Right of Center voters won’t overcome the malaise affecting
Of course, I may be wrong. Languid
conservatives may refuse to fight, refuse to become sincerely animated when
they explain to their independent and moderate friends what is at stake in
On the fence conservatives may stay at home on
Election Day; they may skip voting for president; or they may vote for the
Barack Obama may win — in that event, we know
what kind of judges he’ll nominate because he has been up-front and
clear-cut regarding his support for a Liberal Activist judiciary.
Well, if he does win, we can tweak the old
saying a bit to remind us that "In a democracy people get the kind of
Supreme Court they deserve.”
But enough about the consequences of malaise,
political pacifism, and political nihilism on the part of conservatives.
Let’s get to the case at hand.
First the background: Justice Scalia summed up
the essence of the District of Columbia law at the heart of Heller
when he wrote as follows in the majority decision:
"...[the DC law] totally bans handgun
possession in the home. It also requires that any lawful firearm [rifle,
etc] in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock at all times,
rendering it inoperable.”
The issue before the Court, then, was this:
Does the Second Amendment confer a right upon individuals to bear arms,
thereby making the extreme provisions of the DC law unconstitutional; or
does the Amendment establish only a corporate right that pertains to the
right of states to form militias, thereby not simply rendering the DC law
constitutional but permitting states to outlaw individual ownership and
possession of arms altogether?
(By the way, contrary to what most Americans
may believe, this question had never before been taken up by the Supreme
In its decision in Heller, the Court
came down on the side of an individual right. However, the decision was 5-4,
a fact that ought to have every person who cares about gun rights shouting
not just "Aye, there’s the rub” but "Aye, there’s an astonishing,
frightening, never would have believed it rub!”
To fully comprehend the profound nature of
that rub, we need to look at what the Liberals in the minority had to say.
Therefore, a few quotes from Justices Stevens and Breyer before getting
to what Justice Scalia emphasized in the majority opinion.
(Only quotes it is, because what Stevens and
Breyer write, and what Ginsburg and Souter agree with, is so clear and so
shocking that comment is unnecessary.)
Specifically, there is no indication that the
Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of
self-defense in the Constitution.
...the Second Amendment’s omission of any
statement of purpose related to the right to use firearms for hunting or
personal self-defense, is especially striking...
It [the Second Amendment] does not describe a
right "to keep arms” and a separate right "to bear arms.” Rather, the single
right that it does describe is both a duty and a right to have arms
available and ready for military service, and to use them for military
purposes when necessary.
The Second Amendment’s language, while
speaking of a "Militia,” says nothing of "self-defense.”
They [the Framers] are unlikely...to have
thought of a right to keep loaded handguns in homes to confront intruders in
urban settings as central. (Breyer
italicizes only the word "central.”)
Nor, for that matter, am I aware of any
evidence that handguns in
particular were central to the Framers’ conception of the Second Amendment.
(Breyer italicizes only the word "handguns.”)
In my view, there simply is no untouchable
constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded
handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas.
On behalf of the majority, Scalia begins with
a statement of belief every common sense American will find refreshing as he
argues that the Second Amendment’s words "Right of the People” mean exactly
what they say because the Constitution "was written to be understood by the
voters; its words and phrases were used in [a] normal and ordinary
[manner]...[excluding] secret or technical meanings that would not have been
known to ordinary citizens in the founding generation..”
Then, throughout the rest of his long opinion,
he offers a constitutional, legislative, and judicial history of gun rights,
including references to and quotes from Pennsylvania’s Declaration of Rights
(1776) "That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of
themselves, and the state.”
Of course, the Liberal Activists deny the
relevance of laws passed before the Bill of Rights was ratified and hold
that similar state laws passed after its ratification only prove that the
Framers never intended to confer gun rights upon individuals for any purpose
There it is, then: For the first time in
American history, an adjudication by the Supreme Court regarding the Second
Amendment’s fundamental meaning.
And what do we find except the
following profound fact that encompasses only one of the many issues
requiring every lover of democracy and every hater of a judicial oligarchy
never to relent in the fight against Liberal Judicial Activism:
What the vast majority
of Americans have taken as a fundamental right for more than two centuries
hangs by the thin thread of one vote, one vote cast by one person of 300
million, one vote that if changed to the side of the Liberal Activists will
have the Supreme Court ruling that in the Second Amendment, the Framers
thought it a good and wise thing to veer from the rights of the People they
enumerated in the rest of the Bill of Rights to guarantee the right "to keep
and bear Arms” exclusively to government.