Archive for the ‘constitutional interpretation’ Category

Originalism and the Second Amendment

This is all very simple since according to people who claim to believe in Originalism, “Constitutional interpretation should remain anchored in the original meaning of the Constitution’s text, which is the source of the Court’s authority and legitimacy.” Using that definition:

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 text of the Second Amendment begins with “A well regulated Militia” which is “necessary to the security of a free State“. The language of the text does not mention Self-defence, hunting, target practise, or any other non-militia uses. It is a well established rule or statutory interpretation that inclusio unius est exclusio alterius  which means  that ‘including one excludes another’. The example given where I found this was the statement ‘no dogs allowed’ under this rule would mean that panthers were allowed.

Likewise, the fact that the Militia is specifically referenced would lead one to conclude that this text addresses the militia, but does not cover uses other than the militia.

Likewise, a search of the US Constitution shows that it addresses the militia, but personal defence is not addressed. Likewise, the preamble of the text makes it clear that one of the reasons for adopting the Constitution is to deal with matters of the common defence. However, there are people who claim to follow originalism who are willing to ignore the actual text of the Constitution to advance their beliefs.

The actual wording of the Constitution makes it clear that the Militia and Common defence are covered, but personal uses of weapons aren’t.  I am not going to get into the grammar of the Second Amendment since that isn’t really germane if one is going solely upon the text. Anyway, Dennis Baron addresses that issue in his amicus brief to the Heller decision and this essay where he demonstrates that the founders would indeed have seen this as only relating to the militia.

Reading the Second Amendment as a statement in which every word counts follows from the opinion articulated by Chief Justice John Marshall: “It cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect” (Marbury v. Madison, 1803). But even without that landmark ruling, it would have been clear to 18 th -century readers that the first part of the Second Amendment was bound to the second part in a cause-and- effect relationship, that the right to bear arms was tied by the framers directly to the need for a well-regulated militia.

The Second Amendment was pretty much considered settled case law which was thrown into disarray by Heller and McDonald. US v. Cruikshank, 92 U.S. 542 (1875) wasn’t very helpful since it addressed private action, but Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252 (1886) and US v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) both made it clear that the Second Amendment related to the Militia. Miller is usually not properly represented in recent “Second Amendment Scholarship” and totally ignored in the Heller and McDonald decisions because it is “not helpful”.

Indeed, it is not helpful to the recent decisions which were ultra vires because they amended the Constitution to add a new meaning to the Second Amendment, as this essay demonstrated. I would also add that Justice William O. Douglas addressed Miller and glossed it in his dissent in Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S 143, 150 -51 (1972) , which somehow is omitted in lists of SCOTUS cases mentioning the Second Amendment. Which is too bad since Justice Douglas was a member of the Supreme Court when Miller was decided, which makes him a very good source for how that case should be read.

Justice Douglas pointed out that in Second Amendment jurisprudence:

The leading case is United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, upholding a federal law making criminal the shipment in interstate commerce of a sawed-off shotgun. The law was upheld, there being no evidence that a sawed-off shotgun had “some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia.” Id., at 178. The Second Amendment, it was held, “must be interpreted and applied” with the view of maintaining a “militia.”
“The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia – civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion.” Id., at 178-179.

The Heller and McDonald decisions are examples of Judges failing to follow the rule of law, precedent, and their claimed theory of judicial interpretation. As I pointed out, those two decisions are ultra vires and should be ignored, which is easy since they are incredibly limited in their scope. But even then, some daring justice should show that the emperor has no clothes in these decisions.

Anyway, one doesn’t need to go far if you believe that the text of the Constitution is determining in how to interpret the Second Amendment that it only applies to the militia. It is quite obvious that the Second Amendment relates to the militia from the text. But the Heller and McDonald decisions made it clear that the text was optional, which means that Originalism is a nonsensical school of constitutional interpretation.

The Ultimate Slam Dunk Argument Against the Individual Right Interpretation of the Second Amendment.

One thing that Heller and McDonald demonstrated was that it didn’t really care about the Second Amendment within the Constitutional Context. That means that those two cases are an absurdity in “Second Amendment Jurisprudence”. The absurdity starts with its minimalisation of what Heller described as the “preferatory clause”. The reason for the nonsensical nature of the “individual right” interpretation is that it takes the Second Amendment out of legislative and historic context.

But one need not go beyond the four corners of the document to show this is an absurd interpretation of the Second Amendment since it is presumed that a legal document will be interpreted so as to be internally consistent. A particular section of the document shall not be divorced from the rest of the act. Thus, if the Constitution mentions certain goals or subjects in the preamble, it must be considered within the terms of those goals and subjects.

There are two versions of the Amendment and I will use this one for the purposes of the argument I will be making for the purpose of clarity:

“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.”

That means the phrase “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state” was pretty much ignored or discounted in Scalia’s analysis. This is despite the rule of constitutional interpretation that “It cannot be presumed that any clause in the Constitution is intended to be without effect.” The individual right interpretation means that not only is the “preferatory clause” mere surplusage, entirely without meaning, but so is the rest of the text

Of course, the “Individual right” theory also neglects the preamble, which most people seem to stop reading after the first three words:

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

I would assert that both the preamble of the Constitution and the “preferatory clause” are important to the analysis of the Second Amendment within the proper constitutional context. That is because the document needs to be read as a whole. Doing that it becomes clear that one of the purposes of the US Constitution is to address matters of “the common defence”.

From Plato’s Laws through common law and until modern legal systems, preambles to constitutions have played an important role in law and policy making. The preamble to the United States Constitution has become a legend. The phrase “We the people of the United States” and the remaining forty-five words of the preamble are the most well-known part of the Constitution, and the section that has had the greatest effect on the constitutions of other countries. And yet, the preamble remains a neglected subject in the study of American constitutional theory and receives scant attention in the literature. This is a shame since a preamble is the part of the constitution that best reflects the constitutional intentions of its drafters.

The interpretive role of preambles is rooted in the common law tradition. Edward Coke asserted that preambles to an act of parliament are a “good mean to find out the meaning of the statute” and “the key to open understanding thereof”, they are “the key to the statute and the key to the makers.” William Blackstone referred to preambles as intended “to help the construction of an act of parliament.” Blackstone noted that whenever the statute is dubious, “the proem, or preamble, is often called in to help the construction of an act of parliament.” However, in a case of conflict between the preamble and the body of the act, the body of the act prevails. This is still considered good law in common law states. Some have a specific clause indicating the significant role of preambles in statutory interpretation.

The preamble may not be legally binding, but it is key to understanding the rest of the document and should be given weight in any constitutional analysis. Any interpretation that runs contrary to these principles is questionable. Anything which assumes something which is not covered by the main text must be suspect, which the individual rights interpretation does in spades.

This takes us to two concepts of statutory interpretation: (1) only items which are specifically mentioned are addressed within a law. (2) items which are not specifically mentioned are not covered by the statute.

Which takes us to Article I, Section 8, Clause 16, which gives Congress the power:

“To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;”

Note that Congress is given the power to ARM the militia. Only Congress has this power under the Constitution. This is where the individual rights theory provides the usual misquotations removed from their context, which in the case of the Patrick Henry “Let everyman be armed quote” is tragic since it is clear that Henry was concerned with the above section of the Constitution, not a personal right to arms, when one reads it in context.

I really don’t want to get too much into how this one sentence has been mangled and removed from constitutional context in the attempt to create a right which does not exist. The grammar is handled in this article: Dennis Baron, Guns and Grammar: The Linguistics of the Second Amendment. I will say that Prof. Baron would give the “preferatory” clause far more weight than it was given in the Heller decision:

Reading the Second Amendment as a statement in which every word counts follows from the opinion articulated by Chief Justice John Marshall: “It cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect” (Marbury v. Madison, 1803). But even without that landmark ruling, it would have been clear to 18th-century readers that the first part of the Second Amendment was bound to the second part in a cause-and-effect relationship, that the right to bear arms was tied by the framers directly to the need for a well-regulated militia.

If you wish to go outside the Constitution, there are many more problems with the Individual right interpretation. In fact, both the Heller and McDonald decisions were exercises in sophistry which removed the interpretation from an “originalist” and “constitutionalist” context and placed them into pure fantasy. If anything, the Heller and McDonald decisions are unconstitutional exercises of power by judicial amendment of the constitution. McDonald even more so since it somehow neglected Article I, Section 8, Clause 16 and created a right which was present in state laws in contrast to its non-existence in the US Constitution.

I am truly disappointed by the praise of the emperor’s new clothes in McDonald v Chicago by the justices willingness to separate the Second Amendment from Constitutional context by even countenancing that it had nothing to do with Article I, Section 8, Clause 16. How does Congress’ power “incorporate” to the States without an amendment to the Constitution? McDonald can only be described as silly buggers and not really precedent.

State v. Buzzard, 4 Ark. (2 Pike) 18 (1842), puts the absurdity of the individual right assertion:

However captivating such arguments may appear upon a merely casual or superficial view of the subject, they are believed to be specious, and to rest upon premises at variance with all the fundamental principles upon which the government is based; and that, upon a more mature and careful investigation, as to the object for which the right was retained their fallacy becomes evident. The dangers to be apprehended from the existence and exercise of such right, not only to social order, domestic tranquillity and the upright and independent administration of the government, but also to the established institutions of the country, appears so obvious as to induce the belief that they are present to every intelligent mind, and to render their statement here unnecessary. [1]

The revisionist theory that the Second Amendment somehow applies to a context outside the common defence is beautifully destroyed since it does not withstand scrutiny within the four corners of the US Constitution.

It is even more devastated if we are going to go outside the document since we need to have the “scholars” explain how:

  1.  The concept of self-defence did not allow for the use of deadly force as a first option when the Constitution was written.  Deadly force at that time was a LAST option. There was a duty to retreat. Deadly force could only be used if there was no lesser alternative and all other options had been exhausted.  You had to have your back to the wall to be able to kill someone.
    –carrying a weapon would create a presumption that you intended to do harm.
  2.  Where are the other versions of “gun rights” in Common Law nations?
  3. The issue of civilian control of the military, which fear of standing armies is a common thread in English political thought.  It was mentioned in the debates in relation to this Amendment, whereas personal defence was next to nonexistent.
  4. regulation of private arms has always been a part of the common law.
  5. When primary source material is read in its complete form, it highlights the above issues and the lack of concern with a right to own a weapon outside the context of the common defence.
  6. Why the US Constitution would concern itself with matters of “personal defence”, especially in light of point (1) above?
  7. Why state constitutional provisions explicitly mention this right, but it is not mentioned in the US Constitution.

There are far too many flaws in the Individual Right interpretation of the Second Amendment when one looks at it critically. There are even more flaws in the “precedent” set by Heller-McDonald despite its “friendliness” to firearms regulation. These are dangerous decisions to be left in the common law cannon.

It is a shame that Heller and McDonald have been allowed to create mischief in the US legal system.

I will not even bother readdressing the absurdity of the associated insurrection theory of the Second Amendment since it is so far from the Constitutional contexts as to be laughable. The fact that so many people are willing to accept it in their ignorance is astounding.

[1] Compare Buzzard to the part of Presser v Illinois,  116 U.S. 252, 6 S.Ct. 580, 29 L.Ed. 615 (1886), which says:

Military organization and military drill and parade under arms are subjects especially under the control of the government of every country. They cannot be claimed as a right independent of law. Under our political system they are subject to the regulation and control of the state and federal governments, acting in due regard to their respective prerogatives and powers. The constitution and laws of the United States will be searched in vain for any support to the view that these rights are privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States independent of some specific legislation on the subject.

Sic semper proditores (Thus always to traitors)

BundyOK, all you supposed “Constitutionalists” out there:
  1.  The Constitution makes it clear that waging war on the US is treason (Article III, Section iii–it’s the only crime mentioned in the Constitution!). 18 USC Chapter 115 tells you what laws you are violating and it was passed in accordance with US Constitution Article VI.
  2.  The Second Amendment does not explicitly repeal any of the main Constitutional provisions relating to treason and insurrection.
  3.  Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it is unconstitutional.
Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494 (1951) puts paid to the insurrectionist theory:
“The obvious purpose of the statute is to protect existing Government, not from change by peaceable, lawful and constitutional means, but from change by violence, revolution and terrorism. That it is within the power of the Congress to protect the Government of the United States from armed rebellion is a proposition which requires little discussion. Whatever theoretical merit there may be to the argument that there is a “right” to rebellion against dictatorial governments is without force where the existing structure of the government provides for peaceful and orderly change.”

Verb sap.

Alice Paul was right!

Alice Paul believed that to have freedom from legal sex discrimination requires an Equal Rights Amendment that affirms the equal application of the Constitution to all citizens. This is despite the Fourteenth Amendment beginning:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The central purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to guarantee equal citizenship and equality before the law for all citizens and for all persons. It does not simply ban discrimination based on race. The fact that the word race is not mentioned in the text (as it is in the fifteenth amendment) was quite deliberate.

This is the man who wrote an opinion that ended the DC gun ban--spot the conflict.


The problem is that some people didn’t get the message about that, in particular one who has shown that he can find Constitutional language “is mere surplusage — is entirely without meaning”. This is despite Marbury v. Madison saying that “It cannot be presumed that any clause in the Constitution is intended to be without effect, and therefore such construction is inadmissible unless the words require it.” The even more frightening aspect is that this is a view held by the majority of the US Supreme Court that it can rewrite the Constitution, rather than interpret laws.

Alex Pareene in Salon states that:

Ok, well, all the Amendment says is that equal protection under the laws will be afforded to citizens, not “straight male citizens,” or whatever distinction Scalia’s making here. Scalia can be very literal-minded sometimes, like when he explains that the Eighth Amendment doesn’t forbid torture because interrogations aren’t “punishment.” Other times, he gets fuzzier with the language; despite the fact that the government is not allowed to establish or promote religion, Scalia is OK with “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Constitution always happens to only mean whatever an ultra-conservative Republican asshole thinks it means, isn’t that funny?

Alas, Alex, Scalia has gotten away with twisting the Constitution without too much of a peep from the legal community, let alone the general populace. In fact, Scalia’s Heller decision was held as the “correct” interpretation by many who should know much better.

The real problem is that there is no Constitutional means for telling the Supreme Court that it has it wrong: Short of a hue and cry for Scalia to be impeached. The problem is that Scalia’s bad decisions and poor judgement have gone without comment.

Which gets us back to Alice Paul, The Equal Rights Amendment is needed in order to prevent a rollback of women’s rights by conservative/reactionary political votes, and to promote laws and court decisions that fairly take into account women’s as well as men’s experiences. We now have a concrete example of a Supreme Court Justice who is more than willing to rewrite the Constitution rather than interpret it using precedent (e.g. DC v. Heller). Scalia is kind enough to point out that the political arena is the one place where we can send idiots like him a message (Impeachment and removal from office would be nice). Instead, the right is using the Court system to attack our rights. Judges, such as Scalia and Silverman, are all too willing to ignore precedent and the statute’s wording in order to trash the Constitution.

Thus, something such as this:

The Equal Rights Amendment
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Which makes it clear that discrimination because of Sex, rather than mere reliance upon the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause is needed. Some people are too stupid to realise that women are persons.

If you saw a blind, three legged, 29 year old horse win the derby…

you’d say the race was fixed.

On the other hand, I’m rather amazed at the people who are praising the Heller-McDonald decisions. For example, The Brady Organisation which will happily point out that the decision doesn’t preclude reasonable regulations.

In fact, the Second Amendment protects a civic right, that is it is supposed to ensure that the Article I, Section 8, clause 16 militia remains armed and has fuck all to do with “”gun rights”. But, you small minded fucks need to get it through your thick skulls while that concept means the Second Amendment doesn’t preclude a gun ban: It also means that Kennesaw Georgia can force people to buy a gun (although, that sort of law could run afoul of the First Amendment).

The Civic right interpretation was the law of the land up until 26 June 2008. And, quite frankly, you can argue that it still remains the law of the land since the Second Amendment has not been properly amended, thus the Supreme Court acted ultra vires in producing this decision.

But, that’s not my point. My point is that Walter E. Dellinger argued worse than any first year law student despite his background, although one of the themes in this blog is that the US legal education system sucks. Still, you’d think that someone of Dellinger’s experience would pound in:

Stare decisis: Dellinger had the accepted interpretation of United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) which he mentioned as:

The court unanimously said in Miller that the Second Amendment must be interpreted in light of its obvious purpose to ensure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of the military forces.

Unfortunately, Dellinger appears to have been poorly studied in the history of the Second Amendment and its relationship to Standing Army question. Additionally, He was unaware of Shays’ Rebellion, which were the farmers who were on the framers’ minds: not the ones of dime novel ilk that were on Justice Kennedy’s.

There are enough quotations which show that the issue related to that of the Article I, Section 8, clause 16 militia to have sunk any suggestion that there was a private right.

The other aspect which would have strenghtened Dellinger’s argument was the rule of constutitonal interpretation that I keep hammering upon:

None of the words in the Constitution are without force and effect, except those superseded by amendments, unless such amendments are repealed. Except for the statement of purpose in the preamble, every word was intended by the Framers to be legally normative, and not just advisory, declaratory, aspirational, or exhortatory. Verba intelligi ut aliquid operantur debent. Words should be interpreted to give them some effect.

This principle of Constitutional Construction was mentioned in Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), as It cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect; and therefore such a construction is inadmissible, unless the words require it.

And while we are at it: nowhere in the Second Amendment can one find the words which allows for “the people” to own arms for personal defence. Again this goes to the rule of construction that no phrase is without meaning. Expressio unius est exclusio alterius’ (The express mention of one thing excludes all others) : Items not on the list are assumed not to be covered by the statute.

Self-defence is not mentioned in the Second Amendment (or the US Constitution).

Justice Stevens’s dissents in Both Heller and McDonald pointed out that was “a strained and unpersuasive reading” which overturned longstanding precedent, and that the court had “bestowed a dramatic upheaval in the law”. Stevens also stated that the amendment was notable for the “omission of any statement of purpose related to the right to use firearms for hunting or personal self-defense” which are present in the Declarations of Rights of Pennsylvania and Vermont. The fact that these decisions were 5-4 means that the Civic right interpretation isn’t dead, just dormant.

But the other side was just as lame as Alan Gura’s argument demonstrates:

MR. GURA: Well, my response is that the government can ban arms that are not appropriate for civilian use. There is no question of that.
JUSTICE KENNEDY: That are not appropriate to —
MR. GURA: That are not appropriate to civilian use.
JUSTICE GINSBURG: For example?
MR. GURA: For example, I think machine guns: It’s difficult to imagine a construction of Miller, or a construction of the lower court’s opinion, that would sanction machine guns or the plastic, undetectable handguns that the Solicitor General spoke of.

Now, if you are going to say that the first clause has no effect, which the Five fools do, then one is left with:

the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

It is a well-established tenet of our statutory interpretation that the use of the word “shall” generally indicates the legislature’s intention to make a provision mandatory, as opposed to discretionary. Or to quote the RKBA folk:

What don’t you understand about “Shall not be infringed”.

Of course, the court’s construction and interpretation, again violates the principle about the use of the word “shall” since in this context the phrase is now discretionary.

We can get into the fix is in part of this in that the Court could have made Gura and his ilk look like idiots since they construct the phrase to be both discretionary and the first clause to be without effect. So, not only are they asking for Miller to be overturned, they are also asking that long standing rules of Constitutional interpretation be ignored.

Anyway, by ignoring the language “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State”, we should now have a right which allows for the personal ownership of weapons of mass destruction: let alone machineguns. Any Justice worth their salt should have brought this up (Sorry, that includes you, Justice Stevens).

The problem is that the gun loon crowd act like Pavlov’s dog and salivate when they hear “gun rights” and “individual right”, but don’t really understand what exactly is going on here and how they have been the ones who were fucked. That’s slightly less so from the “antis”: although I’m sure we would be hearing about it if they felt truly fucked over . The Heller-McDonald Supreme court decisions talk of “presumptively lawful regulatory measures”, specifically name some, and then declare the list “is not exhaustive”.

In case you missed it or are too fucking stupid to have figured out what happened–here is the Heller-McDonald language:

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. See, e.g., Sheldon, in 5 Blume 346; Rawle 123; Pomeroy 152–153; Abbott 333. For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. See, e.g., State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann., at 489–490; Nunn v. State, 1 Ga., at 251; see generally 2 Kent *340, n. 2; The American Students’ Blackstone 84, n. 11 (G. Chase ed. 1884). Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Heller at 54-5

Which has as a footnote (26):

We identify these presumptively lawful regulatory measures only as examples; our list does not purport to be exhaustive.

Better yet:

But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home. Heller at 64

From McDonald:

It is important to keep in mind that Heller, while striking down a law that prohibited the possession of handguns in the home, recognized that the right to keep and bear arms is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” 554 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 54). We made it clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as “prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,” “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” Id., at ___–___ (slip op., at 54–55). We repeat those assurances here. Despite municipal respondents’ doomsday proclamations, incorporation does not imperil every law regulating firearms. McDonald at 39-40

The only thing off the table is anything that purports to be a ban. Which leads to my question: had Chicago theoretically allowed for registrations (as does New York City) since that is not an “absolute prohibition”– would the law have passed constitutional muster? After all, NYC’s law has been around for 99 years: doesn’t that count as a longstanding regulatory measure?

Likewise, Candidates cannot say that gun laws violate the Second Amendment if they do not infringe upon the rights to truly “law abiding citizens” to own firearms. As the Court said (twice) “the right to keep and bear arms is ‘not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.’”

We can get into the watering down of the Second Amendment right, but that is something which comes from the territory of a judicial amendment of the document: it is whatever a judge says the right is.

True supporters of the Constitution should be appalled at the Heller-McDonald decisions for what it did to the Second Amendment. The even more amusing part is that Scalia has trashed everything that he claimed to believe in by putting his name to this piece of shit, although one can truly question what type of biased hack he is to have not recused himself from this decision. Better yet, one must question what he is doing as a Supreme Court Justice as his presence on the bench does nothing to dignify the institution.

One must decide the law based upon the law, not one’s personal biases.

Anyway, the fix is in and everybody got fucked: especially the Constitution.

Principles of Constitutional Construction

I found this here:

None of the words are without force and effect, except those superseded by amendments, unless such amendments are repealed. Except for the statement of purpose in the preamble, every word was intended by the Framers to be legally normative, and not just advisory, declaratory, aspirational, or exhortatory. Verba intelligi ut aliquid operantur debent. Words should be interpreted to give them some effect.

This principle of Constitutional Construction was mentioned in Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), as It cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect; and therefore such a construction is inadmissible, unless the words require it.

The Heller-McDonald decisions chose to ignore this cannon of Constitutional Construction and are, therefore, invalid.

Unless, of course, one wishes to amend the Constitution to change the meaning to that expounded by the court.

Finding gold in a pile of horseshit

You know the story about the kid who is so optimisitic that when his parents give him a pile of horseshit, he goes looking for a pony with the comment “with all that shit–there must be a pony somewhere!”.

Likewise, the Brady campaign tries to put a good spin on the Heller-McDonald decision and I have to agree with them. Doug Henigan says in his blog post on the decision:

So far, the oddest reaction to the McDonald decision is from the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre. Far from the purely celebratory statements he made after Heller, yesterday LaPierre himself conceded that the “constitutional victory” in McDonald could end up eventually as a “practical defeat”. Indeed, LaPierre has already put together his “enemies list” of those to blame for such a defeat, including “activist judges, defiant city councils, or cynical politicians.” Is he preparing his membership for the disappointments to come, as all manner of state and local gun laws are upheld and elected officials are emboldened to enact even tougher laws?

LaPierre may also be contemplating the future of the gun debate now that handgun bans are “off the table,” in the words of the Heller majority opinion. How long will the NRA’s leadership be able to argue, with anything approaching a straight face, that the Second Amendment precludes gun regulations like background checks, limits on large-volume sales, safe storage requirements, assault weapon bans, owner licensing, and registration of gun sales, when both Heller and McDonald read like legal briefs for the constitutionality of those laws? And, more importantly, how long will the NRA’s leadership be successful in using its legendary scare tactics to convince gun owners to oppose every gun regulation as a step down the “slippery slope” to a gun ban, when Heller and McDonald have taken gun bans “off the table”?

Viewing Heller and McDonald from LaPierre’s vantage point, an old expression comes to mind: Be careful what you wish for. It could come true.

The problem is that the gun loon crowd act like Pavlov’s dog and salivate when they hear “gun rights” and “individual right”, but don’t really understand what exactly is being mentioned. The Heller-McDonald Supreme  court decisions talk of “presumptively lawful regulatory measures”,  specifically name some, and then declare the list “is not exhaustive”.

Anyway, here is the Heller-McDonald language:

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. See, e.g., Sheldon, in 5 Blume 346; Rawle 123; Pomeroy 152–153; Abbott 333. For example,  the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues. See, e.g., State v. Chandler, 5 La. Ann., at 489–490; Nunn v. State, 1 Ga., at 251; see generally 2 Kent *340, n. 2; The American Students’ Blackstone 84, n. 11 (G. Chase ed. 1884).  Although we do not undertake an exhaustive historical analysis today of the full scope of the Second Amendment, nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Heller at 54-5

Which has as a footnote (26):

We identify these presumptively lawful regulatory measures only as examples; our list does not purport to be exhaustive.

Better yet:

But the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table. These include the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.  Heller at 64

From McDonald:

It is important to keep in mind that Heller, while striking down a law that prohibited the possession of handguns in the home, recognized that the right to keep and bear arms is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” 554 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 54). We made it clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as “prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,” “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” Id., at ___–___ (slip op., at 54–55). We repeat those assurances here. Despite municipal respondents’ doomsday proclamations, incorporation does not imperil every law regulating firearms. McDonald at 39-40

The only thing off the table is anything that purports to be a ban. Which leads to my question: had Chicago theoretically allowed for registrations (as does New York City) since that is not an “absolute prohibition”– would the law have passed constitutional muster? After all, NYC’s law has been around for 99 years: doesn’t that count as a longstanding regulatory measure?

Likewise, Candidates cannot say that gun laws violate the Second Amendment if they do not infringe upon the rights to truly “law abiding citizens” to own firearms. As the Court said (twice) “the right to keep and bear arms is ‘not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.’”

We can get into the watering down of the Second Amendment right, but that is something which comes from the territory of a judicial amendment of the document: it is whatever a judge says the right is.

So, I have four hopes for the Heller-McDonald decisions: it results in strict gun laws being upheld as long as they are not “bans”, there is a shitload of litigation clogging the court system (after all I do this for a living), and it results in massive confusion creating a constitutional crisis of amazing proportions which goes well beyond the concept of “gun rights”. An additional hope is that it becomes clear that the US legal system runs on the golden rule: those with the gold make the rules.

And the blame lands squarely on the laps of the five stooges.

“Equal Justice Under Law” my arse.

It’s more like we have the best justice money can buy.