Thursday, June 26, 2008

Yes We Can - keep our guns

In District of Columbia v. Heller the U. S. Supreme Court finally, after 217 years, weighed in on whether Amendment II of the U. S. Constitution granted an individual right to keep and bear arms. Surprisingly, the decision was a narrow 5-4 majority in favor of Heller which recognized the individual right. It is hard to understand how it could have been otherwise. The Bill of Rights is a laundry list of individual rights, enacted in order to limit governmental authority.

Justice Stephens, in the dissent, wrote that the majority, "would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made the decision to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian use of weapons." This is, in my opinion, exactly backwards. The purpose of Amendment II is to limit the tools of government against the individual.

I am no Constitutional scholar, but I can read, and it is sometimes hard for me to understand the contortions the Court must go through in order to reach a decision that fits the justices' individual prejudices. Today is a good day for those of us who believe that the Constitution means what it says rather than having some obscure meaning that is hidden somewhere just out of sight of the rational mind.

Below are the first ten amendments of the U. S. Constitution:

Bill of Rights

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.


Cousin Mark said...

J.R. ... what about rocket launchers, bazookas, machine guns, etc.?? Those are "arms" aren't they? Strictly speaking these should be allowed to individuals as well.

I think because of the 2nd Amendment, the U.S. is always going to have a higher murder rate than other Western countries.

It was nice of you to post the Bill of Rights. I enjoyed reading it this morning.

P.S. I am not upset by the SC ruling in this case.

Cousin Mark said...

P.P.S. We do need to limit the number of Scalia's and Alito's on the Supreme Court though. I'm afraid we're going to have an "activist" conservative SC if McCain gets in.

J.R. said...

The ruling did not really define "arms". That leaves lots of room for future litigation. I don't foresee a lot of credible pressure to define rocket launchers, artillery, etc. as arms. I suspect there will be some movement to have machine guns recognized as arms.

As far as I'm concerned that is the best reason to elect McCain. Liberal courts have been horrible at reading the Constitution, they are too busy "interpreting" it and finding law that is not actually there. But, that is why we have elections.

Cousin Mark said...

Scalia is such a piece of work.

He can accuse the liberal members of the court of "killing innocent Americans" when they grant some rights (habeus corpus) to Guantanamo detainees. In my opinion that is a huge theoretical leap to make.

Then he pushes this gun decision which will definitely promote gun ownership in this country.

I think the tension exists in our country on this issue, because people who live in large cities,such as NYC, find the prospect of the multitudes around them everyday being armed frightening, whereas it's a different psychology in the more rural areas. Just my opinion.

Zane Safrit said...

Thanks. More people should read this...daily.

herendacity said...

It's simple. Smart people should be able to have guns. Stupid people can not. I welcome the back up.