Monday, March 12, 2007

The 2nd Amendment means individual rights

Last Friday, in a surprise decision, the D.C. Court of Appeals overturned D.C.'s longstanding ban on the ownership of firearms. In Parker v. District of Columbia [.pdf], the court rejects the District's view that the 2nd Amendment was intended only to protect the right of the National Guard to possess weapons, holding instead that the right to bear arms is a fundamental right belonging to all individuals.

Before we go any further, let's take a look at the 2nd Amendment. This Amendment, as passed by the House and Senate and later ratified by the states, reads in full:

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.

There are 2 clauses of the 2nd Amendment, the first starting with "A well regulated Militia" (WRM), and the second starting with "the right of the people" (ROP). What clause is a sentence by itself? The answer is ROP. WRM is just a noun and a participle used as an adjective modifying that noun. So the independent superior clause is ROP; the dependent inferior clause is WRM.

But the gun-control crowds want to focus on the first clause, saying that a "militia" means an organized group like the National Guard.

Let's look up "militia" in the dictionary. There are two meanings for "militia": first, it is "a part of the organized arm forces...", and second, it is "the whole body of able-bodied male [sic] citizens...". When looking at the second clause, the second meaning works best.

And looking at the whole Bill of Rights, the Supreme court decided, in United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, the phrase "the people" in the Constitution means the people of the United States, and the phrase "right of the people" means right of the individual; "group right" is an oxymoron. And the last 4 words of the Amendment, who do they refer? Looking at the Preamble to the Bill of Rights, those last 4 words are meant for the government. The Bill of Rights doesn't grant rights to the people, it restricts government powers from interfering with the unalienable rights of the people. There is a difference.

However, the District's lead attorney, Linda Singer, said that the decision was a "huge setback" because "we've been making progress on bringing down crime and gun violence, and this sends us in a different direction."

Exactly which planet has Singer been living on? Washington D.C. has long been one of the leading cities of the world for gun-related murders. All that the ban has accomplished is to prevent peaceful and law-abiding people from defending themselves against violent criminals who don't give a hoot about obeying gun-control laws.

As you see, Washington has the most restrictive gun-laws in the country, and the highest violent-crime rate thereof, while Vermont has the laxest gun-laws in the country, and the lowest violent-crime rate thereof. That's why John Lott's book title is the truth.

And while self-defense against violent criminals is an important reason for the right to keep and bear arms, we should keep in mind the ultimate purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to ensure against tyranny on the part of the federal government. As Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski put it in his dissenting opinion in Silveira v. Lockyer:

My excellent colleagues have forgotten these bitter lessons of history. The prospect of tyranny may not grab the headlines the way vivid stories of gun crime routinely do. But few saw the Third Reich coming until it was too late. The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed--where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

I hope and pray the Supreme Court doesn't overturn the D.C. Court of Appeals' decision.

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