Thursday, June 26, 2008

Parsing the majority opinion in DC v. Heller

The news media is already trying to mitigate the gun rights victory embodied in DC v. Heller. It isn't as strong as many gun rights activists might like, but it's much stronger even than many anti-gun activists feared. They're saying that the decision was made by a narrow majority and indicating it allows citizens to arm themselves in their own homes.

It certainly does that, but it does more as well. Simply the introduction is telling and very encouraging for those who believe the freedom of the citizenry of the U.S. is dependent on the 2nd amendment. Why is this so? A government will only do what it feels it can get away with. It will only strike down rights if it has the power to suppress the opposition seeking to preserve those rights. A government that has a healthy respect for its armed citizen is a better government than one that realizes it has all the power and all the weapons. The U.K., Canada, and Australia have done fairly well by their citizens despite disarming them. Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia didn't do so well.

The U.S. was designed to run best with the government holding its armed citizenry in healthy respect. Just as the founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to form and defend this country, so our modern politicians must be held accountable even to the loss of their lives if they act in a heinous manner that might threaten the liberty of our nation. Unlike our founders, modern politicians don't seem to be concerned with the best interest of the nation or its citizens, simply with getting elected and lining their pockets. That can change without any violence; we mus simply hold them to a higher standard with our letters, our voices and our votes. The ultimate, biggest check on our government's power is simple: they can't go too far, because we are armed.

The court held (emphasis has been added to some text):

1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. Pp. 2–53.
(a) The Amendment’s prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause’s text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2–22.
(b) The prefatory clause comports with the Court’s interpretation of the operative clause. The “militia” comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. The Antifederalists feared that the Federal Government would disarm the people in order to disable this citizens’ militia, enabling a politicized standing army or a select militia to rule. The response was to deny Congress power to abridge the ancient right of individuals to keep and bear arms, so that the ideal of a citizens’ militia would be preserved. Pp. 22–28.
(c) The Court’s interpretation is confirmed by analogous arms bearing rights in state constitutions that preceded and immediately followed the Second Amendment. Pp. 28–30.
(d) The Second Amendment’s drafting history, while of dubious interpretive worth, reveals three state Second Amendment proposals that unequivocally referred to an individual right to bear arms. Pp. 30–32.
(e) Interpretation of the Second Amendment by scholars, courts and legislators, from immediately after its ratification through the late 19th century also supports the Court’s conclusion. Pp. 32–47.

I've highlighted a couple of points of importance, though all of this summary is excellent. First, the right to bear arms is absolutely an individual one. History, logic, the founders writings and supporting documents of the time all say this is so. To argue otherwise is disingenuous.

The second highlighted area contains an important phrase that I hope many people read. The right of people to keep and bear arms is ancient. That's right, ancient. It predates our government, it predates the Supreme Court of the United States, it predates the Constitution, it predates the Battle of Hastings in 1066. It is not only ancient, but as the founders wrote, "unalienable." There is no right to ever take it away.

Having found the right to bear arms an individual one, the rest of the 2nd Amendment is clear. It shall not be infringed. Yes, I know there will be limitations on the right to some degree. I'm fine with taking a safety class, and obtaining a permit to carry the firearm to prevent former convicts and the mentally unstable from obtaining and carrying guns. For the rest of us, who are lawful citizens, if we want to do that, there should be no obstruction to us doing so. As the legal battles and interpretations develop around this decision, I hope that right will be available to all lawful U.S. citizens, as it's a right currently denied me by my county sheriff in California, who will receive applications for a carry permit, but turn them down and turn down any future applications based on that initial denial.

I have great hopes that this ruling will make a positive difference for lawful gun owners simply exercising their ancient and unalienable right to defense from criminals and tyranny.

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