Archive for the ‘federalism’ Category

Second Amendment–You go girl!

Thanks to MikeB for pointing out that Lisa Madigan is going to not play dead the way Walter Dellinger did (Dave Dellinger was one of the Chicago Seven). As I said in my comment to Mike’s post, I point out the irony that the Second Amendment was to protect the States from Federal interference every chance I can get

I am glad that someone is willing to argue proper history in this matter and it’s Illinois’ Attorney General Lisa Madigan McDonald. Dellinger blew it in the Heller oral arguments because he forgot that precedent was on his side.

Yes, the Second Amendment was to protect against Federal Tyranny: in the form of an overblown military budget (why does no one seem to talk about the Standing Army issue?).

Yes, the Founders wanted local legislative power to control their own affairs. That’s what the no taxation without representation bit was about.

DC was screwed by the Supremes.

The next question: how do you argue with historically ignorant justices?

I wish you all the best! Intelligent Women are soooo Sexy!

The Illinois AG’s brief can be read here.

McDonald v Chicago

I find it interesting that people are so interested in seeing the Second Amendment “incorporated” against the states.

The problem is that the Second Amendment was to counter Federal tyranny and guarantee the state’s rights. The history and Framers’ intent concerning the Second Amendment suggest that it was ratified as a means to protect the states from federal encroachment, to limit the states would be contrary to the Amendment’s original purpose. Thus, regardless of the right’s force as applied to federal law, those determining whether the Second Amendment should be incorporated must consider and reconcile the right’s federalist history.

I guess that’s why this quote isn’t used too much these days.

When this power is given up to Congress without limitation or bounds, how will your militia be armed? You trust to chance; for sure I am that nation which shall trust its liberties in other hands cannot long exist.
Patrick Henry, The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal
Constitution (3 Elliot’s Debates 384-7), Virginia, Saturday, June 14, 1788.

Of course, those who find Heller was correctly decided should have no problem with yet another erosion of their rights.

A Simple Second Amendment question and answer part II

I demonstrated how the Second Amendment should be interpreted in A Simple Second Amendment question and answer.

Again, we shall use this as our text for the Second Amendment:

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.

Now, I hear another question that why shouldn’t we ignore the proeme/preamble “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State”? After all there are “scholarly” articles that suggest this position and it was the position taken by DC v. Heller?

OK, that leaves us with the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

What exactly does that mean since we can’t infer self-defence or resisting tyranny if the phrases aren’t specifically mentioned.

Other than the method of statutory interpretation used by Blackstone that requires on use the proeme to help discern meaning, we have Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803) which offers the guidance that:

Affirmative words are often, in their operation, negative of other objects than those affirmed, and, in this case, a negative or exclusive sense must be given to them or they have no operation at all.

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 subsequent part of the section is mere surplusage — is entirely without meaning — if such is to be the construction.

The above quotes are not in order as they appear in the decision, but placed in such a way as to educate modern minds.

You can’t have a clause in the Constitution that is without meaning. Justice Stevens takes Scalia to task at pp 8-9 of his dissent for ignoring the canon of Marbury v. Madison. Of course, you could argue that the words require the proeme to be mere surplusage.

The claim that one can disreagard the proeme is essentially anachronistic. While several nineteenth-century treatises on interpretation support this devaluation of prefaces or prologues, orthodox late eighteenth-century learning, reflected by Blackstone among others, was that prefaces and prologues were pivotal to ascertaining meaning, and indeed that purpose clauses were largely outcome determinative respecting textual interpretation. But, I said that in part I of this Question.

The problem is how does one intepret the Second Amendment if we can’t infer self-defence or resisting tyranny if the phrases aren’t specifically mentioned?

I find it interesting that the apologists for Heller don’t find the insertion of items not mentioned are inferred. It amazes me that more people aren’t disturbed by that practise. It is completely against legal method and due process to infer something in a law that is not specifically mentioned. It is even more incorrect to ignore the language of a law in its interpretation solely on the basis that it is “inconvenient”.

I find it even more disturbing that precedent was overturned without a solid legal basis.

A Simple Second Amendment question and answer

In proper legal theory, one has to use the text of a law to determine its meaning. We shall use this as our text for the Second Amendment:

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.

I picked this version because I don’t want tiny minds making stupid comments about punctuation even though the four comma version might be better for the point I’m trying to make here. But we will use this version. Given the intellect of some people answering this, it is probably better to use smaller numbers (yes, and what comes after two????). After all, you give them 2+2 and they come up with 5.

Anyway, We are not going to discuss whether this is an individual, collective or civic right. We are going to analyse the sentence that is the Second Amendment. We will also look at it in light of what the Constitution says.

Why is there a “the right of the People to keep and bear arms” that “shall not be infringed” using the words above? What is the scope of this right?

If your answer is self-defence, then you are wrong since the phrase self-defence is not plainly written in the text. It is a common legal principle that one cannot infer something when it is not plainly written in the text. It is a principle of statutory interpretation that The express mention of one thing excludes all others, that is items not on the list are assumed not to be covered by the statute.

Again, Fighting government tyranny is not mentioned in the Second Amendment. Additionally, Fighting government tyranny makes no sense in light of Article III, Section iii. That means the insurrection theory is truly not supported by any serious constitutional scholarship. The concept of fighting government tyranny makes even less sense when you consider that Samuel Adams said, “Rebellion against a king may be pardoned, or lightly punished, but the man who dares to rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death.”

That means we must find our meaning in the text, not outside of it. We can also look for further guidance in the Constitution since the Second Amendment must be read within the framework of the constitution. However, a search of the Constitutional text will find that one constitutional purpose is to “provide for the common defence” and you don’t have to read to far into the Constution to find that stated.

Blackstone stated that, although the words of an enacting clause were ‘generally to be understood in their usual and most known signification,’ yet if its words, after due analysis, were ‘still dubious’ or ‘ambiguous, equivocal, or intricate,’ one might look to the context, which included ‘the proeme, or preamble, [which] is often called in to help the construction of an act of parliament.’ (1 Blackstone at 59-60).

Someone said that the proeme could be read as starting with Because. Which means a better way of reading this is Because a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

So, using the text above and the Constution, The right to “Keep and bear arms” has something to do with “a well regulated militia” since that is mentioned in the text of the Second Amendment and is a purpose tied to “providing for the common defence” which is a purpose stated in the Constitution. It has nothing to do with self-defence since nowhere in the text of the Second Amendment or the Constitution is the phrase “self-defence” present or even hinted at.

We will now turn to the universally accepted authority for legal interpretation at the time of the Constitution’s adoption, William Blackstone:

The citation from Blackstone regarding the “proeme, or preamble” is part of a larger section that consists of “observations concerning the interpretation of laws.” 1 Blackstone at *58. One of those “observations” was: “BUT, lastly, the most universal and effectual way of discovering the true meaning of a law, when the words are dubious, is by considering the reason and spirit of it; or the cause which moved the legislator to enact it. For when this reason ceases, the laws itself ought likewise to cease with it.” 1 Blackstone at *61.

Blackstone refers to this “when the reason ceases, the law ought to cease” principle several times in the Commentaries, which would seem to indicate that he considered it a fairly important interpretive principle. 2 Blackstone at *390-91 (discussing property interests in tame and domestic animals and noting “But here the reasons of the general rule cease, and ‘cessante ratione cessat et ipsa lex‘ [The reason of the law ceasing, the law itself also ceases]”), 3 Blackstone at *219 (discussing the law of nuisance, and noting “But, where the reason ceases, the law also ceases with it : therefore it is no nuisance to erect a mill so near mine, as to draw away the custom, unless the miller also intercepts the water.”), 4 Blackstone at *3 (noting that some aspects of Britain’s criminal law “seem to want revision and amendment” and explaining that “These have chiefly arisen from too scrupulous an adherence to some rules of the antient common law, when the resons have ceased upon which those rules were founded . . . “), 4 Blackstone at *81 (discussing the law of treason, and noting that the “plain intention of this law is to guard the blood royal from any suspicion of bastardy, whereby the succession to the crown might be rendered dubious: and therefore, when this reason ceases, the law ceases with it . . .”), 4 Blackstone at *330 (discussing the plea of a former attainder, and noting “But to this general rule however, as to all others, there are some exceptions; wherein, cessante ratione, cessat et ipsa lex.”).

Some of these seem to refer to common-law decision making, but he also applies this principle to statutes.

Which means that if the “cause/reason” for the Second Amendment was the “well-regulated militia”, then it could be argued that when that reason ceased, the law ought likewise to cease with it.

I know I will have lost the simpler minded readers with the citations from Blackstone, but it is rather simple:

The right to keep and bear arms is tied to the militia since no other purpose is mentioned in the text. Additonally, if we look in the Constitution, we find that one of its stated purposes is to “provide for the common defence”. So, it would seem far more likely that the right is in some way tied to a “well regulated militia” than some other purpose.

Of course, with my federalism and stare decisis posts, we can see that the supporters of an individual right don’t mind playing fast and loose with the law. The scary bit is that there has become a cottage industry of “scholars” who have been foisting this theory on an unquestioning public. No one has asked “how can self-defence be comvered when it is not specifically mentioned? Isn’t it a tenet of statutory interpretation that the express mention of one thing excludes all others?”

Also, you don’t need to go beyond the text of the Constitution to find mention of the militia and Congress’ power to “provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia”. Again, nothing mentioned in the US Constution regarding personal defence. However, the language, which is within the Constitution might provide a clue as to the reason for “the right of the People to keep and bear arms”. That purpose is to provide that congress continues its obligation to arm the militia according to Article I, Section 8, Clause 16.

One other point that shoots down the individual right interpretation is that there is quite a bit of commentary surrounding the adoption of the Constitution which point to concerns based upon article I, Section 8, clauses 15 & 16, not private purposes. The fact that private purposes were mentioned in various proposals only adds weight to the fact that they were not included in the text of the Second Amendment.

The express mention of one thing excludes all others, that is items not on the list are assumed not to be covered by the statute.

A Layman’s Guide to Heller

By Randy Barnett, the Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Legal Theory at Georgetown University Law Center. Professor Barnett is counsel on an amicus brief in Heller v. District of Columbia filed by the Academics for the Second Amendment. A condensed version of this piece was published in the Wall Street Journal on March 18th as “Gun Rights Show Down”.


Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Heller v. District of Columbia, a suit brought by several DC citizens contending that the ban on the possession of operable firearms inside one’s home violates the Second Amendment. The Circuit Court of Appeals for DC agreed and held the ban to be unconstitutional. However it is decided, Heller is already historic. For the first time in recent memory, the Supreme Court will consider the original meaning of a significant passage of the Constitution unencumbered by its own prior decisions; and the majority and dissenting opinions in this case will be taught in law schools for years to come. Here’s a layman’s guide the significance of the case—and its limits.

Heller Will be Decided on Originalist Grounds. Among law professors, enforcing the original meaning of the Constitution is highly controversial. Critics of originalism deny that we should be ruled by the “dead hand of the past.” They prefer following Supreme Court precedents that may or may not be consistent with original meaning. Any justice who today professes a commitment to originalism is branded a radical; and all Supreme Court nominees are now grilled on their commitment to the doctrine of stare decisis. But what are old precedents if not the “dead hand” of dead justices?

Significantly, then, both sides in Heller are making only originalist arguments. The challengers of the law contend that the original meaning of the Second Amendment protects an individual “right to keep and bear arms” that “shall not be abridged.” In response, the District does not contend that this right is outmoded and that the Second Amendment should now be reinterpreted in light of changing social conditions. Not at all. It contends instead that, because the original intentions of the framers of the Second Amendment was to protect the continued existence of “a well regulated militia,” the right it protects was limited to the militia context. (editorial note: I disagree with this since the Second Amendment should be interpreted as a unitary text within the Constitutional framework)

So one thing is certain. Whoever prevails, Heller will be an originalist decision. This shows that originalism remains the proper method of identifying the meaning of the Constitution. Heller reveals that today’s debate over originalism is really about whether old nonoriginalist Supreme Court decisions should supercede the Constitution’s original meaning when doing so leads to results that nonoriginalists like better.

The Second Amendment Protects an Individual Right. In the 1960s, gun control advocates dismissed the Second Amendment as protecting the so-called “collective right” of states to preserve their militias—notwithstanding that, everywhere else in the Constitution, a “right” of “the people” refers to an individual right of persons and the Tenth Amendment expressly distinguishes between “the people” and “the states.” Beginning in the 1980s, a deluge of scholarship showed why the collective rights interpretation is false.

Now even the District asserts the new theory that, while this right is individual, it is “conditioned” on a citizen being an active participant in an organized militia. Therefore, whoever wins, Heller won’t be based on a “collective” right of the states. This is also true of the approach advanced by U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement: find an individual right but then still largely defer to the judgment of the District (which is not how the Court protects other individual rights). Still, a ruling upholding an unconditioned individual right to arms and invalidating the ban is unlikely to have much affect on current gun laws. Here’s why.

Heller is a Federal Case. Because the District of Columbia is a federal entity, Heller provides a clean application of the Second Amendment which, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, originally applied only to the federal government. Before a state or municipal gun law can be challenged, the Supreme Court will have to decide that the right to keep and bear arms is also protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, which limits state powers. This conclusion is not forgone.

Nowadays, the Court asks whether a particular rights is “incorporated” into the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, an unpopular doctrine among some conservatives. Of course, after recognizing an unconditioned individual right in Heller, affording it less protection from states than other enumerated rights now receive would be awkward—especially given the overwhelming evidence that the right to keep and bear arms was among the “privileges or immunities of citizens” to which the Fourteenth Amendment refers. Indeed, those who wrote the Amendment were concerned about enabling black freeman and white Republicans in the South to protect themselves from violence, including terrorism by local militias.

Heller Involves a Complete Ban on Operable Firearms in the Home. DC not only bans all handguns, it makes it illegal to possess in one’s home any operable firearm. No state has a comparable law; only scattered municipal firearms bans would be immediately threatened. And the Court would still have to decide how much scrutiny to give gun regulations that fall short of complete prohibition. Furthermore, the DC gun ban is only being challenged as it applies inside the home. So a ruling against DC would not immediately affect most laws governing firearms in other venues.

Most Existing Gun Regulations Would Likely Be Upheld. Under current Supreme Court doctrine, even the First Amendment rights of speech and assembly are subject to reasonable time, place, and manner regulations. So too would gun rights. However, because political support for the right to keep and bear arms is so powerful, only gun laws with pretty plausible justifications actually get enacted—e.g., laws against felons owning firearms. Therefore, even if the Court decides to scrutinize federal and state regulations, rightly or wrongly, most would likely be upheld.

Then Why Is Heller So Important? Although the implications of striking down the DC gun ban are limited, a decision upholding an unqualified individual right in Heller would still be significant. For one thing, it would be a vindication of originalism. More importantly, the private ownership of firearms is a hallmark of American liberty. The right to arms is so politically popular, even Democratic candidates for president feel they must support it—albeit only for hunters. Still, while most gun control activists now deny that they favor banning all firearms, their strategy seem to be to incrementally achieve prohibition by a series of statutes and tort suits that raise the costs of gun ownership and undermine the feasibility of using guns in self defense. Once the Supreme Court recognizes an individual right, lower court challenges to pretextual regulations that may not currently be brought may well be allowed.

But gun rights supporters should also be careful what they wish for. While a Supreme Court decision favoring gun rights in Heller might induce more legislative caution before enacting gun laws, it could also allow legislators to shift responsibility for assessing constitutionality to the courts. And supporters of the gun rights groups that have so effectively protected the right to arms might become apathetic thinking the courts would protect them. Now that Heller is before the Court, however, these risks are worth running. To shrink from enforcing a clear mandate of the Constitution—as, sadly, the Supreme Court has often done in the past—would create a new precedent that would be far more dangerous to liberty than any weapon in the hands of a citizen.

Published Sunday, March 30, 2008 6:00 AM by Federalist Society

© The Federalist Society. All rights reserved.

Editorial comment: Opinions in this are not necessarily ones I share

A real violation of my Second Amendment right

The Amendment was to prevent the establishment of a Standing Army. I have long said that the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were violations of my Second Amendment right, not gun control.

§ 1197. Notwithstanding the reasonableness of these suggestions, the power was made the subject of the most warm appeals to the people, to alarm their fears, and surprise their judgment. At one time it was said, that the militia under the command of the national government might be dangerous to the public liberty; at another, that they might be ordered to the most distant places, and burthened with the most oppressive services; and at another, that the states might thus be robbed of their immediate means of defence. Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution 3:§§ 1195–97

There you go! Story backs me up aren’t Iraq and Afghanistan “the most distant places”? Aren’t these long tours of duty “burthened with the most oppressive services”?

The folks fighting McDonald v. Chicago need to point out that the Second Amendment can’t be extracted from the Constitutional framework, let alone remove the significance of the proeme.

As I have said before, Dellinger should have argued that there was already precedent:

In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense. Aymette v. State of Tennessee, 2 Humph., Tenn., 154, 158.

The Constitution as originally adopted granted to the Congress power- ‘To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; 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.’ U.S.C.A.Const. art. 1, 8. With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view. UNITED STATES v. MILLER, 307 U.S. 174 (1939)

I realise that McReynolds wrote this holding in an ass backward manner, it makes much more sense if the first paragraph is read after the second or to paraphrase this:

The entire text of the Second Amendment was made with the obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of the forces created under authority of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 16. It must be interpreted and applied in consideration of that purpose. Without evidence that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’ is reasonably related to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment of the body organised under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 16 of the Constitution or that its use and possession would contribute to the common defense.

Unfortunately, we have the poorly thought out precedent of Heller to contend with.

But, wasn’t the Second Amendment supposed to protect the States from Federal encroachment on their laws? I mean wasn’t part of the tyranny thing that there was “no taxation without representation” ? In other words, it wasn’t the taxes, it was the local decision making.

Tyranny would be local legislation overturned by someone who is not a local citizen, in this case the federal government, or even more saliently the Cato institute, using the legal system to overturn legislation. I thought conservatives hated that sort of thing.

Oh, yeah, the Cato Institute is a Libertarian organisation. You know, Libertarianism: facism with a smiley face or right wing anarchism.

So, having Federal Judges come around and second guess local legislation is Tyranny!

But, how do you get that point through to judges who have already interpreted the Second Amendment out of its context and trashed proper legal scholarship.