Quote of the Day:
“It is the spirit, and not the form of law that keeps justice alive.” –Earl Warren
An interesting opinion was handed down yesterday by the United States Supreme Court. By a 5-4 margin, broken down along ideological lines, the Court ruled that Americans have the right to own a handgun which cannot be abrogated by Cities or States in the name of gun control. Conservatives are jubilant, liberals are angry, or so the drivel spewed by the American press would have us assume. Speaking for myself, a liberal thinker disinterested in cheap political labels, I think they got it right. Media, pundits and talkers…..you oughta know by now, you can’t pigeonhole me.
Because I agree with the Court that the law should have been stricken, don’t mistake me for a “pro gun rights” type. The truth is I hate handguns. From what I’ve read over the years handguns cause exponentially more deaths and injuries from accidental discharge and heat of passion killings by non-criminals than they save in crime prevention. And countries with handgun prohibitions typically have far lower murder rates. I think America’s handgun obsession is misguided at best. However I believe in upholding the Constitution and the rule of law, and that includes the laws I don’t like.
All of our freedoms come with risk. The prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures puts us at risk of a terror cell keeping itself hidden as it plans attacks. Freedom of speech allows all manner of hateful, traitorous personalities a chance to gain strength through recruitment and intimidation. Freedom of religion means groups like the Moonies and their wingnut newspaper the Washington Times can operate without fear of recrimination. And the right to bear arms allows us the means to go around killing one another in every manner besides self-defense or defense from tyranny. Why some self-professed liberals are able to stomach the risks of some civil liberties but not others is an inconsistency I can’t abide. Our only real option is a constitutional amendment changing the text of Number 2. And we all know that ain’t happening so let’s forget gun control. The people have spoken.*
Ahh, but those devoted acolytes of Limbaugh and Beck, they have their own inconsistencies. This decision was activist! It was an assertion of Federal Control and Superiority! It attacked States Rights! Where are the conservative complaints? One must not, if he is to be intellectually honest, only complain of an abrogation of states rights when the courts rule against their personal views. The decision reached yesterday was a classic case of activism. There has been no longstanding precedent on state action on gun control. The ruling was based mainly on a selective reading of history, a reading thoroughly and effectively challenged in the dissent.
As for those “originalists” among the conservative crowd, the ones who are often heard in times like now when a Supreme Court nominee is being vetted by the Senate, why these originalists and strict constructionists must decry this ruling most loudly. For they believe, unlike Elena Kagan and Thurgood Marshall, that the original Constitution was not a “flawed document.” Do they realize that the original Constitution applied only to the Federal Government and not to the States? That the States, under the original document, could in fact restrict freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to bear arms, for example, in any way they chose? This was a major flaw in the original document. The flaw was corrected not merely by the fourteenth amendment, but by an expansive, some say activist reading of the amendment, that forced the states to afford the same rights for its citizens which the federal government was precluded from restricting. The expansive, activist approach is responsible for the end of Jim Crow and many other forms of discrimination. It wasn’t “strict adherence” to the original flawed document, but it was right and it was just.
The court’s activism yesterday was likewise right, based on overwhelming public opinion in the U.S. and on a broad, expansive, activist view of the Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment.
*I think it would be interesting if some politician came along who said, “I’m a strict constructionist and a patriot. I believe in the Second Amendment, as it is written. The government cannot restrict anyone from owning a gun, ever. However, if you own one you must sign up for the state militia and be subject to being called out for duty at any time.”