10.01.2008 0

Heller Represents Return to Constitutionality

  • On: 10/14/2008 16:37:54
  • In: 2nd Amendment
  • “Bitter Americans” won a sweet victory yesterday morning in the nation’s highest Court, when the decision for Heller vs. District of Columbia was handed down. And that’s bad news for the Hard Left’s Barack Obama and his angry following of freedom-bashing gun grabbers.

    In deciding one of its most anticipated cases in years, the U.S. Supreme Court handed a stinging rebuke to government officials who, while paying lip-service to the Constitution, still attempt to remove Americans’ God-given freedoms, restricting them from exercising their rights. Such was the case for Dick Anthony Heller, the plaintiff in the case, who was denied the right to purchase and keep a handgun in his home. Mr. Heller, a security guard, lives in a crime-ridden neighborhood, and argued that he needed the weapon for self-defense.

    When a D.C. court refused to hear the case, Mr. Heller appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. In a shocking 2-1 decision, the circuit court labeled D.C.’s handgun ban a violation of the Second Amendment, using clear logic and well laid-out reasoning. An attempt by the mayor of D.C. to appeal to the full D.C. Court of Appeals failed on a 6-4 vote, and both sides pressed on to bring the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Oral arguments were held March 18th, with a majority of the justices seeming to convey that the right to own guns was an individual, not military-limited, right. Dozens of amicus curiae briefs were filed, with over two-thirds of them supporting the affirmation of the lower court’s ruling. Members of congress signed on, 18 opposing, 305 (including 55 senators) supporting. Even Vice-President Dick Cheney signed on, breaking with the official White House line, which supported the individual right to own guns, but tempered it with the “right” of states to regulate.

    Thankfully, the Court ruled as expected, overturning the blatantly unconstitutional handgun ban in D.C., as well as ruling against D.C.’s law on keeping those few legal guns “disassembled and unloaded.” While the case impacts only D.C. specifically, in principle, it strikes down all such laws, and numerous challenges to gun control laws in other States are expected to arise.

    As ALG News predicted, this ruling sided with the strict, literal reading of the constitution:

    “As in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, which upheld a clear stipulation of States’ Rights in the Constitution, Heller v. D.C. will come out on the side of the Constitution. The Court will once again follow a strict adherence to the law, and protecting the right of individuals clearly expressed in the Constitution’s protection of the right to bear arms.”

    Americans for Limited Government President Bill Wilson hailed the decision as “a reminder to the revisionists that the Constitution is neither out of date, nor out of vogue.”

    Indeed, Justice Scalia used his trademark textualist approach in evaluating the meaning of the Second Amendment. Thus, he does not examine the original intent of the author of a bill—though he will often cite it as proof of his reading of the bill, as he did in Heller.

    Justice Scalia begins his opinion with nearly thirty pages discussing the grammatical intricacies of the Second Amendment, working slowly through each clause, and showing similar historical uses of the words to back up his textual reading of it. Then he delves more deeply into the historical and legal precedents for his interpretation of the text, before listing a few possible restrictions, and giving the final ruling on the case before him.

    Mr. Scalia values the separation of powers, the system of checks and balances which keeps the government accountable. By leading the way on this ruling, he demonstrates that he is also a strong supporter of the fourth “branch” of government—the people—and their primary check against tyranny—the possession of firearms.

    If the principles of this ruling are used as precedent in future gun-related cases, then a portion of the Scalia opinion may be applied to the District of Columbia’s response:

    “Third, the Supreme Court’s ruling is limited to handguns in the home and does not entitle anyone to carry firearms outside his or her own home.”

    This would appear to undermine the spirit of Mr. Scalia’s opinion, which outlines the certain limited parameters in which regulating guns is permissible:

    “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.”

    Unless D.C. views all places outside an individual’s home as “sensitive,” a reading of Mr. Scalia’s commentary above would leave little doubt as to the dubious constitutionality of the District’s new ordinance. Expect more cases to follow in the wake of D.C. trying to wiggle its way out of the Court’s decision.

    Additionally, the District encourages that “firearms at home should be kept either unloaded and disassembled or else locked except for use in self-defense in emergencies.” Since they district can no longer force citizens to keep their guns under lock and key, they now apparently resorted to suggesting it.

    Other reactions came from both sides of the issue. The Brady group, one of the most outspoken anti-gun groups in the country, stated the following in their president’s news release:

    “For years, the gun lobby has used fear of government gun confiscation to thwart efforts to pass sensible gun laws, arguing that even modest gun laws will lead down the path to a complete ban on gun ownership.”

    Because, of course, no tyrannical government has “ever” attempted to disarm its citizens in the history of the world! But in actuality, tyrants from George III to Adolf Hitler used disarmament as a means of subjugation. Similarly, why else were African-Americans—even free ones—often barred from owning firearms, in past centuries? More from Brady:

    “For years, the gun lobby has used fear of government gun confiscation to thwart efforts to pass sensible gun laws, arguing that even modest gun laws will lead down the path to a complete ban on gun ownership. Now that the Court has struck down the District’s ban on handguns, while making it clear that the Constitution allows for reasonable restrictions on access to dangerous weapons, this ‘slippery slope’ argument is gone.”

    One can only wonder what their press release would have looked like had Heller gone the other way. Perhaps: “We now call on the federal government to confiscate all guns and institute a complete ban on gun ownership”? Brady Center continues:

    “The Heller decision, however, will most likely embolden criminal defendants, and ideological extremists, to file new legal attacks on existing gun laws.”

    Of course, they forgot to note that, had the decision gone the other way, criminals on the street would have been emboldened by the lack of armed, law-abiding citizens to stop them—and ideological extremists would have filed new legal attacks on existing gun freedoms. The Brady Center goes on to suggest the “hellish” impact of the court’s ruling:

    “After the Heller ruling, as before, approximately 80 Americans will continue to die from guns every day.”

    And every day, anywhere from 295 Americans (at the very least) to 6800 Americans use guns every day to defend themselves. Those statistics could be much worse with the heavy regulation and outright gun bans of which the Left is so fond. Additionally, according to a National Institute of Justice survey, criminals themselves reported that they are less likely to attack a victim if they suspect the victim is armed; additionally, gun regulations will just prompt them to acquire and use bigger guns.

    The National Rifle Association also joined in the chorus of reactions, offering praise to the Supreme Court for its decision:

    “Our founding fathers wrote and intended the Second Amendment to be an individual right. The Supreme Court has now acknowledged it.”

    As the NRA correctly alludes to above, the Second Amendment is not a right given to the people by the government, it is a right of the people protected by the government. Scalia himself agrees with this take, when he reveals the limits of the court in ruling on this issue:

    “Undoubtedly some think that the Second Amendment is outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem. That is perhaps debatable, but what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”

    Justices Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, Alito, and Chief Justice Roberts all demonstrated a proper understanding of the duty of government—to operate within its constitutional bounds. And that is the proper role of the Court.

    The court did a great job yesterday, demonstrating its constitutional restraint, wise judgment, and legal prowess by declaring D.C.’s handgun ban unconstitutional, and affirming the right of American citizens to “keep and bear arms.” The court has played a key role in returning America to a true understanding of the Second Amendment.

    Doing the same for the other nine would be nothing to be bitter about. After all, the Bill of Rights protects all Americans.


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