Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Supremes to Look At the 2nd Amendment

It looks like the US Supreme Court will take a look at the Second Amendment.

The case comes up by way of Washington D.C.'s outright ban on handguns. This is a similar law to what can be found in cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

At the core of the case is the argument over the Second Amendment and if it protects an individual right, or a collective one. This case is to the debate over guns as Roe v. Wade is to the debate over abortion.

One would think that a gun nut such as myself would be excited to have this case be heard. One would be wrong. There is little upside for gun owners here and a major down side.

There are three possible outcomes here. First, the Supremes could issue a ruling that is ambiguous. Second, the Supremes could issue a ruling protecting the individual's right to own firearms. Finally, the Supremes could issue a ruling stating that the Second Amendment only protects a state's right to form armed militias (the modern day version of the National Guard).

An ambiguous ruling would probably leave the status quo in place. Communities, and states wishing to ban guns could continue doing so, likely with some additional provisions being necessary before such a ban could be in effect or require them to at least allow some means by which people could legally acquire a firearm. Net result, lots of upset people on both sides of the issue and the debate rages on.

A ruling supporting an individual right to firearms would largely kill the anti-gun lobby. Gun bans in the aforementioned cities would probably have to be reexamined or overturned completely. This would obviously be a major improvement and after the dust settles, we'd all be better off for it. Our cities would be safer as statistically, increases in gun ownership and issuance of Concealed Carry laws have drastically reduced crime where those laws have been implemented. Net result, not much of a shift for most people outside of major metropolitan areas. Gun rights protected, but not really changed that much.

A ruling supporting the collective right interpretation would be disastrous. Decades of work to implement shall-issue concealed carry laws in 38 states could be repealed at the stroke of a judge's pen. Castle Doctrine laws protecting the rights of people to defend themselves in their homes, gone with the stroke of a judge's pen. Outright bans on firearms would carry the weight of the Supreme Court behind them. Gun confiscation would commence immediately in dozens of communities. Over time, with no armed populace to worry about, our government will slowly cut off the rights enshrined in the First Amendment. They'd use the same argument that the right to free speech doesn't apply to individuals, but to a collective right to say what we want. Net result, crime skyrockets and our society slips one step closer to tyranny.

One might argue that the individual right argument will win the day what with Bush's appointees on the USSC. However, individualism is a dying ideology in America in 2007. The Supremes will only rule in favor of the individual right if they perceive that by protecting an individual right, the rights of the collective won't be impacted. The Second Amendment is not a headlines grabbing debate like free speech or separation of church and state (it is Christmas time after all).

Keep in mind that Kelo (a recent USSC decision) took away our property rights in favor of collective property tax values. While the two newest members of the court were not there to make that ruling, neither have gone on record to demonstrate that Kelo was a bad ruling. The Supremes care very little for my rights as an individual. They have been codifying through their rulings or through their unwillingness to hear cases the steady erosion of individualism and the creeping expansion of collectivism.

If the case is to be won in favor of individuals, the case will need to be made beyond the scope of individual rights. It will need to unpack the wording of the Second Amendment and demonstrate the clear language contained within it. Unfortunately statistical data showing declines in crime in areas where laws enabling citizens to defend themselves are enacted will likely not be heard. Expect to hear that an individual's rights should be suspended "for the children", or to prevent the streets from "run red with the blood of innocents", or the laundry list of fear mongering tactics the gun lobby will take. Expect to hear from Police Chiefs from all over the country discuss how disarming civilians will make the police's job easier and everyone will be safer for it. Expect this to be the knock down, drag out fight that it is with our society's future hanging in the balance.

The framers of our Constitution understood that and armed populace was necessary for the survival of a truly free society. Their writings all point to that conclusion. An unarmed society cannot call its members citizens for they have no means by which to back up their words. They are subjects, ultimately submissive to the power of the state with no means to resist. The framers wanted a society of citizens. People who could stand on their own and use the implicit threat of violent revolution to compel the government to listen. When our society is disarmed, how will we convince our elected officials to truly listen to us? Our government can revoke our rights at any time. It is only the threat of violent revolution that compels our government to play by the rules.

"[The disarming of citizens has] a double effect, it palsies the hand and brutalizes the mind: a habitual disuse of physical forces totally destroys the moral [force]; and men lose at once the power of protecting themselves, and of discerning the cause of their oppression." - Joel Barlow (a political theorist from Thomas Jefferson's time). This is a right we must protect. Our society is lost if we do not.

Are you a subject, or a citizen? I don't trust the members of the Supreme Court to make that decision for me. I am not at all excited they are taking this case up.

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