Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Right to Bear Arms is an Individual Right


Well, it finally came out today, Scalia's opinion in DC v Heller. And I am quite satisified with the result.

While it has many pages and is quite long winded, especially with the dissents, it boils down to simply this: The Second Amendment reads: "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." The basic disagreement was whether this meant that only state militias are constitutionally protected or whether individuals are.

I agree with the individual protection. Or, to put it another way (as is noted in the opinion), another way to phrase the amendment (with the same meaning) is: "Because a well-regulated Militia is necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."

The meaning of a Militia is also important to note - back then, a Militia was every ablebodied man between a certain age. In other words, it was really the whole population (minus women, which has since been mostly remedied in our military, and minus the too young or old, which is just common sense). So the notion was that in order for there to be an effective Militia, every man needed to keep and bear arms (and know how to use them) so they would be there to be drawn upon as needed. This was not the national guard. This was EVERYONE (within the gender/ableism limits of the time).

On top of that, they were VERY mistrustful of the notion of the government having a monopoly on military arms - they wanted the population itself to be armed militarily so as to always have the threat of another revolution if the government turned to tyranny.

So I'm very pleased with this opinion, though I must confess, I like many others had the notion that this was a well-settled issue - probably because it has been treated as such for so long despite the lack of a definitive ruling.

I don't particularly like the idea of just the official government having a monopoly on arms - I simply don't trust anyone with that kind of power. Power corrupts. Guaranteed. I could go into all of the instances of where government guns have killed people, no charges filed - like with ill-conceived police drug raids, but I'll save that for another time.

I will close by saying that I'm a huge fan of the Bill of Rights, and I don't get selective there about which ones I champion - I am fanatical about all 10 of them. Its too bad that neither political party is as consistent. (The right-wing seems to think only the 2nd Amendment exists, while the left seems to think everything but the 2nd exists (and possibly not the 9th or 10th either).

One of these days I may even go out and buy a gun.

UPDATE: Well, upon looking into the whole opinion, it isn't that much to write home about. It just maintains the status quo. Any logical reading of the Constitution would recognize that it is about military weapons - it isn't about self-defense or hunting. That means ALL arms, including things like machine guns, bazookas, RPGs, etc. Of course, that would scare the crap out of most people, so let's just ignore that and just twist some logic to get the result we want. It really makes no sense. Oh well. (Note that I am not giving any opinion on whether it would actually be a good idea to have the populace as well armed as the military. Whether it is a good idea or not, it is the law, whether we want to accept it or not.)


The Barefoot Bum said...

the left seems to think everything but the 2nd exists

This is a gross oversimplification. There are quite a lot of people on the left, myself included, who argue for licensing, regulation and reasonable controls, i.e. precisely how the Constitutionally protected right to bear arms is directed to the well-regulated militia.

There are also a lot of leftists, again, myself included, who believe that the 2nd amendment is a big mistake. If it came up for repeal (by another Constitutional Amendment, of course) I would vote for it in a heartbeat.

It's one thing to believe that a provision of the Constitution is mistaken. It's quite another to believe that the Constitution should be ignored.

AFAIK, very few people at all are arguing that the 2nd should simply be ignored. 90% of anti-gun lobby are arguing for provisions that seem obviously permitted by the well-regulated militia clause.

The whole, "the left wants to take away our guns, and damn the constitution" is a pure right-wing NRA wingnut myth.

DBB said...

There are plenty of those on the left who do want to take away all guns - except those held by the government - I know this for a fact because I heard from many of them today as they reacted to the ruling. These individuals (all lawyers, for what that's worth) all were upset with the ruling because they want all guns banned.

I'm all for reasonable regulation of guns. I just don't trust only letting the government have guns. In fact, I'd rather private citizens be allowed guns and police NOT carry guns. Which is probably crazy, I know.

DBB said...

Having now read more of the opinion, though I agree with the general principle, it is a really stupid opinion - it finds a fundamental right, then it fails to actually apply the analysis as if it were a fundamental right. So in that sense, the opinion is garbage. It basically just continues the status-quo, with no real justification for it that makes any sense whatsoever. Color me unsurprised.

The Barefoot Bum said...

There's a difference between wanting something and lobbying for something.

It's really irrelevant that a lot of people on the left (again, myself included) think the private ownership of guns is a Bad Idea. That's what the Constitution is for: To make the popularity of certain beliefs irrelevant. In just the same sense, it's irrelevant that a majority of people like "under God" in the pledge or "in God we trust" on the currency.

The anti-gun control argument goes like this: Leftists want to end private ownership of guns (true). Leftists lobby for regulation of private gun ownership (true). Therefore, regulation of private gun ownership is equivalent to or will lead to ending private ownership of guns (slippery slope fallacy).

DBB said...

Oh, no argument there - I don't think guns will be banned. Not without changing the Constitution. I do still know people who would pass laws like DC's anyway and just ignore the Constitution entirely in that respect simply because they want guns banned. Some of them are lawyers. But I don't think that would actually work for them.

In the end, the opinion just upholds the status quo and while it does a good job of initially discerning what the amendment actually means, it then turns around and uses a piss-poor application of that analysis that doesn't really make any sense at all to basically justify keeping most of what we have now on the books.

An honest interpretation of the 2nd Amendment would note that it wasn't about hunting or self-defense, it was about the populace having military arms, partly as a check on the government. That means in today's terms: bazookas, RPGs, machine guns, etc. But that scares the piss out of most people, so let's jut pretend that it was something else and we'll go back about our business.