It’s time to set a new precedent. For the past seven years Bush/Cheney and Co. have been doing an outstanding job trashing the US Constitution. That Military Commissions Act of 2006 was a real Neocon crowd-pleaser. However, it’s time for the State to take aim at another pillar of the Constitution. Coming under fire right now is the favorite target of the State, the Second Amendment.
Just to refresh your memories, here it is:
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.
Many Americans do not comprehend the meaning of this sentence. Well, that’s understandable since it was written over 200 years ago.
Fortunately… or unfortunately… we have the Supreme Court and a whole slew of lawyers to debate what this means in order to split hairs, "once and for all," who gets to pack heat.
The District of Columbia has had gun control laws in effect since 1975. One result of this is that the gun crime rate in the nation’s capitol has been perilously high. The year 2007 saw 181 murders, up 7.7 percent from 2006. And another has been this lawsuit.
Writing for the Christian Science Monitor, Warren Richey has been covering the case. Seeking and failing to obtain permission to keep a handgun at this home, "Dick Anthony Heller, a special police officer at the Federal Judicial Center… sued in early 2003, charging that the handgun ban and other measures violated his Second Amendment right."
Last year, the D.C. Circuit Court "ruled that the Second Amendment right is a personal one, at least to have a gun for self-defense in one’s own home." Displeased with that ruling, the city of Washington DC took the case to the Supreme Court.
The Christian Science Monitor sums up: "District of Columbia v. Heller requires the high court to confront a series of questions. First, what kind of right does the Second Amendment secure, a collective, militia-related right or an individual right?
"Second, if it secures an individual right, is that right violated by a handgun ban and other strict gun-control measures such as those enacted in Washington?"
The kicker for the Justices is "what level of constitutional scrutiny" may be applied to gun-control laws on the books in Washington DC.
The problem is, and has been, these three words: "well regulated militia." Anti-gun folks may read this to mean that to serve the security of the state are only members of state-recognized militias allowed to have guns. NASCAR fans and others who support the right of the individual to own a firearm, focus on this section: "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Nobody seems able to agree. Often they seem more concerned with reading the Second Amendment in the way that best serves their own biases.
Was the Second Amendment placed there so that Daniel Boone could bag a buck for dinner? Or was it put in place to drive out the Red Coats? Or both?
Is the right to own a gun part of a person’s inalienable right to self-defense? About which William Blackstone wrote that it "is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression."
Is it there to ward off the FBI as they come to take you away for ordering a copy of the Qu’ran from Amazon.com? Hm… I wonder how they found out about that? Is it there to pop those pesky gophers digging up our manicured golf courses? Or is it simply an outlet so we can go to the shooting range and feel like Real Americans like John Wayne, Chuck Heston and Jack Ruby!?
I’m not too keen on gun ownership. However, before anybody starts accusing me of "liberal bias" hear me out. As far as I’m concerned a civilized society does not need firearms for personal defense. A civilized society does not need to regulate them either.
Is America a civilized society? Well, that’s open for debate. Some civilized societies have much stricter gun control laws… and much more violent crime.
If one reads the US Constitution and pays close attention to the style of language used, one could deduce that the intent of the Second Amendment is clear. You and I can keep and bear whatever damned thing we want to.
The fact that Van Heflin did not carry a Big Iron on his hip was his choice. But when Jack Palance rode into town, Van sure as hell must have been pleased that Shane was not under arrest for possession of a firearm.
Here’s what really ought to scare us about this summer’s historic Supreme Court decision: the folks who are making it. Should those nine weasels be entrusted to interpret the words of much wiser and quite possibly more honest men? Let’s face it, the Founders were right 99.9% of the time but two recent Supreme Court decisions occurred when five out of nine of the Justices ordered the state of Florida to stop the recount during the 2000 presidential election. Not content with that bone-breaker, three days later seven out of nine Justices ruled to reverse the Supreme Court of Florida’s decision to order manual recounts in certain counties.
And look what we got out of those two shabby rulings: the loser! And we’ve been stuck with that loser for seven-and-a-half years. Trust the Supreme Court to anoint as president a profligate warmonger rather than the election’s obvious winner who has gone on to win a Nobel Prize. The fact that Daddy Bush appointed two (Souter and Thomas), members of that Gang of Nine, makes those catastrophic, historic decisions rather suspect.
It certainly was not in the best interest of the nation. Things have been rotten in Washington ever since.
Doesn’t this make you all a tad nervous? Not only should this scare the hell out of those with "liberal bias," but also it should alarm those with annual reservations at Ted Nugent’s Sunrise Safari hunting camp.
What if a majority of those nine wiseacres decide that possession of a firearm is only permissible if one is a member of a state-approved "well regulated militia?" Those who want the guns off the streets will hold a love-in. Those who own DVD copies of every movie Clint Eastwood ever made will be firing their ordnance into the air in defiance.
The reality is that it would be bad news for both.
Ask yourself, what exactly is a "well regulated militia?" Oh… it’s a… it’s a group of… uh armed citizens to defend the State. Right…
And how does a group of gun owners form a "well regulated militia?" Do they make up a logo and raise a flag? Too simple. Will they have to fill out a massive heap of forms and apply to Uncle Sam to be recognized? Will they have to be fingerprinted and have computer chips placed in their teeth? Will their names and Social Security numbers be printed on the bullets they buy?
And would such a decision put the power of deciding who and what is a "well regulated militia" into the hands of the federal government?
You bet it does.
The Men with the Badges will get to keep their firearms. The National Guard and armed forces will certainly get to keep theirs. How about the private military contractors like 3D Global Solutions, Aedion Corporation, ALGIZ Corp., Alpha Point Security, AirScan, AQMI, Blackwater, BDM, BrianThorn, C3 Defense, Critical Intervention Services, Custer-Battles, Berodt Dynamics, DefenseSecurity, Defion International, DynCorp, Elite Security Corps., ITT, ISCS International, International Security Instructors, Jax Desmond, KBR, Global PMC Recruitors, MPRI, ManTech International Corporation, Northbridge Services Group, Northrup Grumman, Overwatch Protection Solutions International, Paratus Worldwide Protection Services LLC, Raytheon, SCG International Risk, Security Services NW, Inc., Sharp End International, Skylink USA, SOS Temps, Inc., Spartan Consulting Group, Tactical Response Services, Titan Corporation, Top Cat Marine Security, Triple Canop, Inc., Vinnell Corporation, VIP Investigations and Protective Services Inc., EUBSA BV Inc. STOP units – Special Tactics and Operations, and Pathfinder Security Services?
Do you think any of them, some with interesting political connections, might get the federal government’s automatic stamp of militia?
What about the rest of us? What if the members of Happy Kyne and the Mirth Makers… all five of them… form a hunting club for some R&R? Do you suppose they will be a State-approved militia?
Who is going to protect us from a State determined to "protect" us? Isn’t Big Brother likely to want even more "security" for America? Won’t that lead to more "security" personnel on the streets? Won’t that lead to even more over-crowded prisons? Is the State seriously concerned with protecting its citizenry or controlling them?
God help us all if The Gang of Nine produce yet another murky decision in favor of gun possession restricted to members of state-designated militias instead of ruling in favor of the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Once they infringe upon the Second Amendment, will it be time for them to take on the First Amendment?
You bet it will.
Tom Chartier [send him mail] played lead guitar in legendary Los Angeles punk band The Rotters for 26 years until their final appearance in January of 2004. He has lived in Tokyo and Los Angeles. Currently he resides somewhere in the Caribbean. Elizabeth Gyllensvard [send her mail] no longer lives in Washington D.C., and spends her time reading British history.