DC v Heller [2]

Let me apologize for speaking about the Supreme Court's "ruling" and "go-ahead for gun control on a major scale." More accurately, I should have talked about comments members of the Court made while hearing oral arguments in the DC v. Heller case, which is a case before them challenging the Washington D.C. ban on handguns. Oral arguments are heard before the final decision is made after  which the Justices' deliberations following oral arguments are made. All the relevant documents are available for everyone's review. [1]  <p>For those who know nothing about the case, Dick Heller is a Washington D.C. special police officer permitted to carry a handgun while on duty as a guard at the Federal Judicial Center. He wanted to have a handgun in his home for the purpose of self-defense, so he applied for a registration certificate, which was denied. At that point he sued the government maintaining that the restriction on his right to bear arms was unconstitutional.  <p>Rights exist. Rights should be taken away when people act criminally or irresponsibly—not before they do, or else regulated rights become nothing more than a temporary privilege held only at the pleasure of the regulators. History has demonstrated time and again that it is the behavior of tyrannical governments to take rights away from individual citizens.  <p>This is even admitted in the Bush Administration brief, or legal arguments presented to the Supreme Court, against Heller when they wrote that "the Framers frequently contrasted American society with the perceived tendency of European governments to disarm their populations in order to facilitate oppressive rule." [2]  <p>But interestingly the Bush Administration brief asks the Supreme Count not to decide, but rather to remand, or return the decision-making to a lower court to determine how the right to bear arms in this case can be subjected to a "more flexible standard of review" [3]  <p>My concern was not in the probability that at least five of the Justices will vote agreeing that it is an individual right under the Second Amendment to bear arms. Certainly they could, on remand, pass the buck and send the case back to the lower court. My concern is not with either decision, but it is, rather, with verbiage by either the courts above or below to restrict an inviolable right.  <p>For example, consider that Justice Paul Stevens asked Heller's lawyer Alan Gura if it would be accurate to say that the right that the Second Amendment protects was a right that shall not be "unreasonably infringed." Amazingly, Gura said "Yes."  <p>

"Amazingly" I say? The Constitution says, flat out, the right of the people to bear arms "shall not be infringed." One doesn't just willy-nilly add words to the Constitution. The attorneys for Gun Owners of America point out that the framers of the Constitution did not say that "shall not be infringed" means "shall be subject only to reasonable regulation to achieve public safety." [4]

This past Sunday  <p>

 I was talking with someone who had read my last week's letter. This individual wanted to know how far one should be able to exercise the right. He noted that there must be some reasonable restriction on the right to bear arms. He asked me, "Do I have the right to keep nuclear weapons privately?" adding "Can I have my own tank, bazooka or surface to air missiles?"

 <p>Infer my answer by considering this hypothetical discussion between Thomas Jefferson and  Benjamin Franklin—Founding Fathers who led the colonies against the British—and others contemplating the writing of the Constitution of the now united States. Perhaps it will spark public written response from the Pioneer readers:  <p>"Gentlemen, we wrote and were inspired by the Truth of the Declaration of Independence. Did we mean it when we wrote therein that there was, at that moment in the course of human events, a time when it became necessary 'to dissolve the political bands' which connected us to Britain?  <p>"Did we just, sirs, when we said, at the Beginning, that Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness remain inviolable Rights given to us by our Creator? Did we quip when we wrote those awe-filled words: 'That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government'?  <p>"Gentlemen, that Terrible Nation across the Atlantic offended us with the musket and the canon—terrible weapons of war that they were. Their soldiers quartered in our homes sullying the sacrosanct homes of our families, and they sought to remove what weaponry that we had.  <p>"But our rifles and rockets were equal to theirs. Did not their Red Glare in Just War inspire Mr. Key to write of them in the "Star Spangled Banner" and to say that it was by the fury of their blasts that our Flag—that great symbol of our very right to exist—could be seen waving still as did our Cause?  <p>"Then we will not act foolishly, we who have experienced the Government of Tyrants, to secure what we have won having risen in arms against them. Nay, gentlemen! Indeed it is with grave Consideration that we must Guarantee the people of this new Nation conceived in Liberty, the same Means that will enable them to follow—God forbid that it should be necessary—the same Course of Human Events that may one day befall them!  <p>"Shall we restrict their ability to oppose this government should the people of this newly founded country deem it as tyrannical as they who wrote unjust laws and taxed us unfairly from across the Atlantic? Shall we say that it is Unreasonable to have the Right to Bear Arms that are equal to those who may oppose them?  <p>"Today we see the pistol, the musket, and the canon. How recently could we have only spoken of the sword and shield? Shall we be so foolish as to think that at some future time no greater weaponry might develop in the Hand of an Oppressor that would offend the people? How many of us, especially you, Mr. Jefferson, have written that government, even Our own, should NOT be trusted?  <p>"Nay, gentlemen! One day it might be needful to call upon the people to stand against tyranny once again. Thusly must we write that the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed!"  <p>TexasPatriot here again: It is fashionable in this day and time of political correctness to speak disparagingly of the Old Dead White Men who wrote an out of date Constitution. I beg to differ, and would still fight to defend it. Do your children know what's in the Declaration of Independence? Can they recite the Preamble to the Constitution? Are they inspired by Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death!" speech? Are any of your children among those who refuse—and not for religious reasons, which I would understand as justifiable—to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in our schools?  <p>But these are our times. Perhaps recent developments in laws affronting our Constitution and our Liberty, written since September 11, 2001, don't bother you. They do me.  <p>

I mentioned Benjamin Franklin earlier. I end with a quotation often attributed to him: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." But that sparks a subject for another letter on another day.

TexasPatriot  <p>Notes:  <p>[1] http://www.gunowners.org/hellertb.htm.  <p>

[2] District of Columbia, et al, Petitioners v. Dick Anthony Heller, Amicus Curiae brief for the United States, No. 07-290.

[3] Id at 32.  <p>

[4] H. W. Titus & Wm. J. Olson "Opposing View: An Unambiguous Right" March 19, 2008 Internet editorial.