Sunday, June 22, 2008

Don't Touch My Guns

I don't really have any guns. I just liked this article regarding the Second Amendment.


Anonymous said...

Great article, thanks for sharing it! I'm too careless to own guns, but the more the Libs try to regulate them the more I want one.

Ms.Green said...

Better buy a few before the libs say you can't.

Those of us with guns can't possible defend everybody that is without one.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I read the article. Funny enough, the author seemed all "nit-picky" about grammar.

The following sentence, however, shows that, in fact, he has no idea what he is talking about:
"We will have a standing army (well regulated militia)."

There was, and is, a difference, a fundamental difference, between a "militia" and a "standing army". The former is a group of citizen-soldiers, essentially a reserve force, to be called upon in times of crisis. The latter is a nationally organized, regulated, and permanently-armed and -trained force always on duty. In other words, the Second Amendment, whatever else it may mean (and, apparently, the author just doesn't quite get the fact that some sentences, even well-written and grammatically correct sentences, can be unclear concerning their meaning) refers, in effect, to the National Guard, which falls under the jurisdiction of state governments unless nationalized during times of crisis or emergency. That this is the clear meaning of the Amendment is certain from the only Supreme Court case that examined the issue, decades ago.

Now, having said that, does this mean that the state is barred from regulating fire-arm ownership? Personally, I am conflicted about this question. I choose not to own any guns, even though I grew up in a house with them, took a hunter-safety course, etc., etc. I have nothing against people who do own them, as long as they are tended carefully and thoughtfully (we have forbid our children from going to one house, where a handgun is kept unlocked and available; that is a tragedy waiting to happen).

Of course, if indeed owning a firearm is a "right" the same way speech and assembly is a "right", then even stupid, careless, thoughtless people can own them. This is where so much discussion bogs down. Those in favor of gun control (and I am only one such on even numbered days; on odd-numbered days I am opposed to gun control) forget that those opposed do not view the "right" to keep and bear arms as the same kind of thing as the "right" to freedom of speech or religion.

Having said that, I do believe that an article written by someone who doesn't understand the difference between a militia and a standing army doesn't help matters.

Marshall Art said...

I once read a fairly thorough discussion of this Amendment, and the original intent behind it, in a gun magazine. I've tried to find it and thus far have not. I'm hoping I still have it somewhere. In any case, there was a court decision or opinion, further back that several decades, that stated something along the lines of "and what is a militia, but the people" or words to that effect. The point being that they weren't referring to a state's Nat'l Guard at all, but to the people, who, at the time, were the militia. In addition, it was thought that the best way to prevent the government from gettin' too cocky was for the people to be armed. The logic of such needs no explanation. Yeah, there are those who shouldn't have guns at all. But to bring it up smacks of the very same scare tactics that the right is so often accused when speaking on the war and how to fight it. Sure, some regualtion might be in order. Convicted criminals and certifiable mental patients should be restricted if not already so. But law abiding citizens have the right to protect themselves, their loved ones and their property. This is what the 2nd protects.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

The business about law abiding citizens protecting themselves misses the point. That is not the reason for the Amendment, nor should it be. The right to bear arms is directly related to the existence of a well-regulated militia, for use for national security and protection.

Also, the state has the duty to protect its citizens, what is known as "police power", and has historically exercised what is known as "a monopoly on coercion" (which is the threat and use of force in respect to the law). Ask any police officer and he or she will tell you they would much rather deal with situations than have the complications of a "hero" taking care of things. More often than not, these situations are cases of mistaken identity, even excessive force (an unarmed intruder in one's house killed by the home owner would be a great example).

Again, the reason for the Amendment was to ensure a well-regulated militia, not to allow individuals to pop a cap in a burglar's head. This doesn't help the argument, but distracts from the essence of the Amendment and its reason for existence.

Marshall Art said...

How do you back up your assertion?

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Which assertion? Since I wrote two long comments detailing why I think the way I do, how did I not back up whatever assertion you say I didn't back up?

Marshall Art said...

"Again, the reason for the Amendment was to ensure a well-regulated militia, not to allow individuals to pop a cap in a burglar's head."

That completely ill-informed assertion.

Doc said...

A couple of thoughts:

The second amendment (with the others in the Bill of Rights) was supported by the Anti-Federalists who were skeptical about a strong central government being able to overtake the power of the states by defeating the militias. The amendment reads as such:

"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."

Some argue that this has nothing to do with the right of self-protection, and that matter is relegated to the area of criminal law, not constitutional law. Self-protection, via gun ownership, was considered to be a common law practice for the American Colonies. I suspect that there was not much thought given to any need for codifying that practice. In other words, the idea of the second amendment is to prevent the government for taking away your arms so that the state has the ability to form a militia (National Guard).

That being said, the second amendment has been used frequently in defense of an individuals personal right to bear arms. the Bliss case in Kentucky in the 1850's (a shooting of a teacher at a school) upheld the right to bear arms as absolute. The US Courts of Appeals are all over the map on this one. Some argue a collective right and declare state restrictions as okay and non-infringing. Others support an individual right and have found some bans unconstitutional. Even US v. Miller- the most relevant Supreme Court finding on the 2nd amendment is wishy-washy, and is used by both sides of the gun control argument. Although its finding does denote that any gun-related issue viz a viz the second amendment should be encapsulated in the preservation of a militia to be relevant.

Marshall Art said...

I've read a bit on the cases Doc cites, and they are but two of four major cases on the subject. Read together one finds the list decidedly toward personal protection, though as Doc points out in the Miller case, not as clearly as one would prefer. However, the sentiment driving this Amendment is really beyond much doubt as the founders drew heavily from English law on the issue. Personal protection was indeed a the aim as what good is liberty if I can't ensure it for myself? I don't really have it if I must rely on someone else, particularly the government, state or federal. Also, it seems pretty clear that the further removed from the founding, the more the interpretations become convoluted. I don't think I've ever seen anything from that time that suggests anything other than personal protection being the main point of the 2nd. There's certainly plenty that supports it.

Ms.Green said...

If the wording is speaking only of a "national guard", then why bother to put the amendment in there in the first place? That's like saying "all personnel in the armed forces have a right to carry weapons." Duh.

Ever been robbed or had your life threatened, Geoff? If you had, I believe you would have a different view. Do you really believe the police would be there for you at the exact time that you needed them during a life or death situation? I think it would be naive for anyone to think so.

Marshall Art said...

Regarding the matter of stupid, careless or thoughtless people being allowed to own weapons, this is already happening but generally manifests itself in hunting accidents, the firearms for which are rarely restricted. I don't think states with concealed carry have shown a high incidence of wild, west shootouts or vigilantism. The knowledge that anyone might be armed has had a deterrent effect on crime. Merely brandishing a weapon defuses situations.

But here's a couple of thoughts to ponder:

Some complain that Bush's intel gathering tactics are an infringement on civil liberties and personal rights. So is disarming the public. There have been countless examples of innocent bystanders being deprived of their right to life by not having a weapon to defend themselves or by others not having a weapon to protect them. Many have been deprived of their property. Either of these interferes with their pursuit of happiness. Far fewer innocent civilians have had their phones tapped by George.

There have been thousands upon thousands who have thoughtlessly, carelessly and stupidly gotten knocked up, but have been granted the "right" to kill their baby. Even if my interpretation of the Constitution is wrong, which it isn't, the results are far less disturbing than the totally f'd up interpretation that gave us Roe v Wade. I can live with the shortcomings of the proper interpretation of the 2nd, meaning I'm packin' heat, than anyone should over the intent and manifestations of Roe v Wade.

blamin said...

It takes a lot of work to suggest the 2nd amendment doesn’t give us the right to self-protection.

I’ve made this point before, but, when a “bad guy” is threatening the life of your child, that child is not going to plead “please, please Mr. Police Man, help me!” They’re going to say, “please, please, Daddy (or Mommy), help me!

It’s not only the right, but also the duty of us all to do whatever we can to protect our own. If you’re not prepared to protect “your own” to the best of your ability, you have no business (pro)creating.

It goes to the basic argument of so much that’s before us. Are we self-reliant, or do we expect the government to take care of it?

Just my opinion, which isn’t worth much except in my families eyes!

blamin said...

In all fairness, I guess I should “disclose” my inherent bias. My Grandfather started as a barrel polisher for Remington Arms Co., Inc.; Illion, NY on 4/16/35 and retired as a supervisor on 2/28/73.

He loved hunting, but never killed an animal (on the hunt). His specialty during 1940 to 1946 was the manufacturer of sniper rifles.

He loved to drink, had many friends and “outside” activities (bowling, poker, etc.), much to the chagrin of my grandmother, but much to the delight of my father.

He lived in a “nice” neiberhood” not far from the plant, and raised his children there.

A year or so after he retired, the acreage across the road was sold to a development company that constructed “public” housing apartments.

Even though most of the people in those apartments were people whom just needed temporary help, “welfare lifers” occupied a good portion.

One evening, after coming home across the lot from his buddy that lived behind him, he surprised a dude climbing through the window into the spare bedroom that contained his 6-month-old granddaughter (my sister).

Granddad shot his ass in the ass! When he fell out the window, Gramps shot him again! This was 1974.

There had recently been a rash of rapes, and thefts. It just so happens that this scumbag had many items from previous break-ins in his apartment.

But you no what? It didn’t matter if this particular “perpetrator” was the same guy or not. He crossed the line, and he paid the price. No charges were brought against Gramps, and never again did anyone mess with HIS HOUSE (i.e. his castle).

Marshall Art said...

The deterrent effect, Blamin. Not only did he possess the weapons, but he showed his willingness to use them in defense of his own. Sorta like a good president. Not only having a weapon, like, say, nukes, but showing the willingness to actually use them, is what deters foes from acting with impunity.

But the bottom line is protection. The 2nd insures our right of self-protection is secure.

Marty said...

"Ever been robbed or had your life threatened, Geoff? If you had, I believe you would have a different view."

Not necessarily. My parents were robbed in their home at gun point many years ago. The robber came in through their kitchen window. He tied them up and made them lay on the floor face down while he ransacked their home. He threatened their lives. He took what cash he could find, a few valuables and their car. He also stole my Dad's watch which had an inscription. His mistake was to pawn it. That allowed the police to find him. Only he wasn't just a thief. The police told us that if he had found a gun in their home he would have shot and killed them with it. He was a wanted murderer who broke into homes, robbed, then killed his victims with their own guns.

My parents to this day do not own a gun. Neither do I.

My son used to own guns. That was until he served two tours in Iraq. Guess he got his fill of guns over there.

Ms.Green said...


I totally understand and respect your family's decision not to own guns.

My experiences have been different.

A gun has kept me from being raped - and I didn't have to pull the trigger. I can assure you I would have if I'd had to.

A gun saved a relative's life when a doped up teenage burst into her house and attacked her. She did shoot him. Police said it probably saved her life.

An elderly woman I know who is in a wheelchair had a man break in her house, ransack it, then rape her. She cried over and over to the police and said she wished she had had a gun - she WOULD have shot him. - but her family didn't think she needed one. A gun in her lap would have saved her a horrible experience that she will never forget - and the police still have not apprehended the suspect.

Both my husband and I have passed the classes and exams for concealed carry and our oldest son is about to. Our two younger sons are not interested in carrying - that is their choice.

I can tell you that if someone breaks in our house when we are home, they will not take our guns from us and use them on us - because we've been trained in the proper handing of weapons.

People who are not properly trained, or who are afraid of guns, or who don't think they could kill someone if they had to do not need to have weapons - I agree.

The rest of us have every right to do so.

I'm thankful that your parents survived such a horrible ordeal. I am also thankful for your son in his service to our country and to freedom.

Marty said...

Thanks Ms. Green. I should add that while I'm a pacifist and practice non-violence, my son does not share those beliefs, neither does my husband, even though neither of them have guns. However, both are trained in using them.

Yes, I agree you have every right according to our constitution. No disagreement there.

I am also thankful that you and those you know are also safe.

"I can tell you that if someone breaks in our house when we are home, they will not take our guns from us and use them on us - because we've been trained in the proper handing of weapons."

But unless you're wearing your guns, you may not have time to get them, trained or no. I pray to God you never experience that, however.


Ms.Green said...

But unless you're wearing your guns, you may not have time to get them, trained or no. I pray to God you never experience that, however.

Great point.
My house is fortified at night and we have a dog that sleeps in the bedroom with us. We have signs posted on several obscure windows warning those that are considering breaking in that they might want to reconsider. There are loaded but not visible guns within reach of both my husband and I as we sleep at night.

I think chances of us getting caught without protection are about the same as getting struck by lightning. It could happen, but it's highly unlikely.

During the day, as I said, we both have concealed carry permits.

I pray I will never have to use a weapon and that I will never have to kill someone in a defensive situation. But if it's a choice between someone I love being harmed or the criminal being harmed, it's a no-brainer. If I am personally threatened, I will defend myself as well.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

I was robbed at gun point once. I do not find that to be an advertisement for gun ownership.

Further, the idea that a conservative is a liberal who was mugged, which hovers behind this particular question, misses the fact that no event is understood in the same way by all people. Sure, some people might decide that it is far better to fight fire with fire, as it were. Others don't. It's that simple.

Of course, also behind this is the idea that one can only comment on events one has experienced. Thus, I shall refrain, in the future, from discussing death, war, tax evasion, traveling in Europe, traveling anywhere outside the continental US except Canada, living anywhere other than New York, PA, DC, Virginia, and IL, thinking like a conservative, playing sports for any reason other than the fun of it, and working for more than mere survival wages. I shall also demand that everyone who writes makes sure they do not imagine what it is like to do anything other than what they have directly experienced.

Marty said...

To be honest, Ms. Green, all my pacifism could fly out the window if my family was threatened. We don't know how we will react in a situation until it actually happens to us. I'd have to use a kitchen knife though... or maybe some mace...a baseball bat... or a fire extinguisher.

Looks like you've taken quite a few steps to protect yourself. Wow. After my parents were robbed they nailed all their windows shut. Only problem is... if they have a fire and can't get out their doors....they might have a problem getting out a window, I'd think.

Me. I guess I'm a bit careless. No alarm. I leave my front door unlocked half the time. My back door almost all the time. Don't have a dog. But do have 8 cats. Ya think they might claw an intruder to death? It's possible. My parents had a cat one time that attacked the air conditioning repair man.

Ms.Green said...

My parents had a cat one time that attacked the air conditioning repair man.

ROFL - Now that's an idea - an attack cat!!! HA! Don't let the libs find out, they'll be trying to outlaw possession of a feline.

I was robbed at gun point once. I do not find that to be an advertisement for gun ownership.

Whoa! I'm thankful you lived to tell about it. That must have been very frightening! And again - I'm suprised that the incident did not make you more inclined toward self protection - but I don't fault you if you came to a different conclusion. I respect your right NOT to own a weapon.

Further, the idea that a conservative is a liberal who was mugged, which hovers behind this particular question, misses the fact that no event is understood in the same way by all people.

Well, I assure you, there was no secret implication behind my question. Also, I've never been a liberal. Never. Ever. Again, I respect your decision to not own a firearm. All I ask is that you respect my decision TO own a firearm.

Marshall Art said...

Nice comments, ladies. (Geoffrey, take notes) All of the comments show why we shouldn't be restricted from owning and carrying weapons if we so choose. I say "shouldn't be restricted" as opposed to "should be allowed", because we already have the right, and had it before the Amendment was composed. The Amendment only re-iterated that right and restricted the feds from messing with it.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Well, it seems the Supremes have spoken, via Justice Scalia, and have actually woven a "both/and" in his decision in an approach that attempts to balance individual rights with the original intent a la the militia. From the decision, quoted at length by Ezra Klein:
"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.... 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.... 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.

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those "in common use at the time." 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of "dangerous and unusual weapons." [cites omitted]

It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service--M-16 rifles and the like--may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment's ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right."

Again, I still feel two ways about gun control, and honestly don't fell all that strongly about it as an issue. I find this particular bit from the decision interesting only because Scalia is doing some serious intellectual gymnastics to carve out an individual right within a broader history of interpretation that saw the "militia" clause as constricting that right. He recognizes that history, and honors it, giving a lot of wiggle room for gun control advocates to work.

Anyway, thought I'd share that with you.

ELAshley said...

Original intent:
"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 operative clause [highlighted] is not limited by the prefatory clause [unhighlighted]. The Framers had a firmer grasp of Latin grammar than an overwhelming majority of today's modern metro-sexual elitist prig.

There's nothing mysterious about it. Furthermore, if the Framers had intended the 2nd to ONLY mean state militia could own and bear arms, every president since Washington has violated his "solemn" oath to "...preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

What was clear to our founders--that individuals should have the right to bear arms--is obviously lost to the pious and intellectually bankrupt Left. Seriously, are we today to be expected to believe that every president from Washington on was wrong about the 2nd Amendment?

Here's something to consider. Had Gore been successful in his attempt to steal the '00 election the 2nd Amendment would have been overturned today. The same four "justices" who voted today to excise a fundamental right of every American citizen from the Constitution, were the very same 4, plus Kennedy, who voted to give terrorists one of our fundamental rights of citizenship.

Do you want to see America fundamentally redefined and reshaped by the systematic butchering of our Founding document? Then Obama is your Marxist ass. Want to see America survive--Constitution intact--for another generation? Then McCain is your Liberal ass.

Getting back to today's decision and it's dissenters, and their argument of "unusual weaponry," consider the times in which this Amendment was written--Muskets, Flintlocks, Carbines, pistols... no one knew what a rocket launcher was. Commonsense is expected here. Commonsense tells even the most ardent supporter of the 2nd Amendment that the Framers did not intend for every citizen to be allowed to own cannons. What, realistically, does a law-abiding 18th century farmer need with a cannon? to blow stumps out of the ground? By that same measure, for what purpose does a law-abiding 21 century citizen need with a surface to air missile? Absolutely none.

The language of the 2nd Amendment does NOT deny ownership of firearms to citizens... "The People." The militias were primarily private citizens called to duty in time of need. They owned and maintained their own firearms. this system dates back to the 12th century and England's Henry II.

Settlers likewise used firearms to defend themselves from marauders and tribesmen. Only in the most diseased and twisted liberal mind could the 2nd Amendment be construed to deny law-abiding citizens the right to own and bear arms.

As to gun-control. Do we need it? Sure! But to the extent that law-abiding citizens are denied the right to own a firearm for the express purpose of defending themselves and their homes and families from intruders? "No, no, a thousand times NO!" [just to quote Dan]

And please Geoffrey, none of this is directed at you. I understand your position and agree with it less than I disagree, but I have no beef with you. Really.

Marshall Art said...

Listened to a bit of Hannity on the radio today. He had quotes from a substantial assortment of founding fathers, Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Mason and a few others. There is NO doubt that the 2nd was protecting the individual's right to self-protection.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

As to ELAshley, I didn't take your words as opposing any position I hold, because, to be honest, of all the things in the world, I just don't get all "het" up about gun control one way or another.

Actually, Marshally, Scalia is quite clear in his decision, including the portion I copied and pasted from Ezra Klein's blog at The American Prospect that the original intent concerned itself with the militia as an organized force of citizens using whatever weapons they had to hand. Indeed, Scalia noted that, with technological developments making such an exigency obsolete, there are many issues related to the militia clause that should be addressed, but Scalia refused to address precisely because such an address was not necessary. He dealt with the facts of the case, and ruled that the DC law was outside the Constitution.

Interestingly, yes, gun ownership is assumed by such a provision, which is why the "right" is protected within the context of gun-owners being part of a militia, a well-regulated state-defense force.

Yet I must repeat that this is all academic for me. I do not care, for the most part, about the issue, and waffle on my position depending upon who spoke to me last and what I had for breakfast that day. I realize that some feel passionately about this issue, and I respect that.

Marshall Art said...


I think you are misinterpreting Scalia's interpretation. He's saying that the 2nd doesn't restrict states from regulating which types of weapons and who can have them. He's saying that such does not interfere with our rights to bear some weapons. In other words, we can have firearms for protection, but a municipality may, on its own, prohibit concealed carry (though that's a stupid law). But to say one cannot own a handgun is against the intent. Frankly, the intent goes further than Scalia is willing to admit, though I haven't read the whole decision yet. But I will try to find some of the quotes Hannity used to give you an idea of what I mean. The point to keep in mind is that it is of little use to guarantee individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, yet deny one the means to protect those rights. It is extremely illogical.

ELAshley said...

"...though I haven't read the whole decision yet."

I have. It's a long and arduous read. Have fun.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Marshall, to be blunt, Sean Hannity is about as credible a source as Pee Wee Herman. Even should he read the entire text of the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, I would wonder how he could manage it.

Also, all the founders commenting at one time or another on this or that social condition in the late-18th and early-19th century really holds little weight. We are discussing Constitutional law in the early 21st century. Yes, original intent bears some weight, which Scalia covers, and which I acknowledge. In the end, this is a legal, not social or political or even historical, issue, and the case is decided on the merits with regard to an interpretation of relevant controlling statutes and governing Constitutional norms. As there were few in regard to gun control, especially as sweeping a program as DC had, Scalia managed to cover the history and background of the amendment fairly well as well as acknowledge the muddled nature of the wording (which is not apparent to noted constitutional scholar ELAshley). If that sounds like a liberal giving props to Scalia, well, there you go. Unlike some other decisions (and many of his dissents) he managed more than a modicum of restraint on this one, dealing only with the issue at hand as controlled by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. What Sean Hannity says George Washington said in the 1790's, or Thomas Jefferson said in 1805 is quite literally meaningless. All that counts, right now, is what the Supreme Court, given voice in Justice Scalia's opinion, says.

Marshall Art said...

That's really lame, Geoffrey. Truth is truth no matter the period of history. And the truth here is that we have the right to defend ourselves and that's the point of the 2nd. As I said earlier, none of our other rights mean squat without the means to secure them. You cannot secure your right to life if cop or soldier decides to take it for reasons illegal. You cannot seucre your right to life should a thug decide to take it when there is no cop or milita around to protect you.

And your opinion of Hannity is worthless against the quotes he offered as evidence of original intent. Who cares what you think of him? What really matters is that you are obviously one of those jugheads who think the Constitution is a living document, which of course in liberalspeak means that it means what a lib wants it to mean at any given time for the benefit of the lib. This is crap and nonsense. One would need to find the intent in the founders to support this and I don't believe that has ever been done.

"Unlike some other decisions (and many of his dissents) he managed more than a modicum of restraint on this one, dealing only with the issue at hand as controlled by the Second Amendment to the Constitution."

In reality, this is typical of Scalia and the other three conservative justices. It is how they are supposed to render opinions. To that fact, ELAshley is far more sound in his Constitutional understanding than you. You, like the other five justices, make shit up.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

While outside the scope of this particular thread, I found this sentence by Marshall just fascinating: "Truth is truth no matter the period of history."

So, I'm assuming that Aristotle was right and Newton, Einstein, Mach, Heisenberg, Hawking are all wrong? Lamarck was right and Darwin wrong? Kant's ethics didn't so much supersede Aristotle's and St. Thomas' so much as uncover the truth the way a paleontologist uncovers a dinosaur's skeleton?

While such a sentence may be comforting to many, I find it just meaningless. Timeless truth is an impossibility, whether in science, politics, ethics or even (gasp!) religion. I have written about this enough for me to say no more, other than pointing out the obvious flaw that timeless truth would, first and foremost, have no need of discovery, be available to all human beings in all times and places, and not need translation from one language to another precisely because, as a universal, it would exist in and for itself as something "self-evident" to use the words of the Declaration of Independence.

This is not to say there are no ethical concerns to which I have deep attachment and would fight. It just means I do not confuse my own concerns with those of the universe (as implied by the word "universal"). This is a fundamental disagreement, and I do not wish to pursue it further, and I certainly have no desire to pick a fight on a topic far outside the scope of this particular post.

Except to say this. Scalia's decision is a model both of judicial restraint and legal reasoning precisely because it covers both the history of the controlling legal and constitutional context and addresses the particulars of the DC gun ban not only within that context, but the larger context of evolving cultural, social, and legal norms (not to mention technological) that have an impact on how we understand the words of the Second Amendment. I realize many liberals are upset by the decision, but it really is quite mild, restrained, and a wonderful example of how to do legal reasoning.

There are no timeless truths in the Constitution, and Scalia did not reaffirm them. He interpreted a clause of our national constitution and applied that interpretation to a particular set of circumstances. None of this suggests that at some future time it is outside the realm of possibility that another Supreme Court justice might interpret things in a different way. If such an event occurs, it will not be a victory for a different set of "universal" values. It's just different. Different isn't inherently bad, or evil, or wrong, or going against the grain of the universe, or God, or anything else. It's just different.

Political and social and cultural disagreements are just that - disagreements. People feel strongly about this, that, or the other issue, but that does not mean that any one position is "the Truth". I make no such claims for my own position. This doesn't mean I don't feel strongly about some things; it only means that I do not believe that what I believe is in line with the flow of history, or the way the universe really is, or God's will, or anything else.

Democracy is messy because we are dealing with all sorts of changing facts and contexts. Different people believe different things, but there isn't a "true" position. There are facts, certainly, that are open and accessible to everyone. But there is no single interpretation of these facts that trumps all others. To put it in to Platonic terms, we are always in the realm of opinion, staring at shadows on the cave wall. Except, of course, it is impossible to stand up and turn around and discover what is casting those shadows. We live our lives and die without the ability to discover what, or whom, is casting those shadows.

And that's OK.

Anonymous said...

Funny that "Founding Fathers" could include "the people who participated in the forming of this Republic or of evicting the King". Just how many people would that include? Taking hand picked quotes from a small number of these people is less than genuine.

The best argument that I've seen come out of the latest gun debate is the comparision between this decision and abortion. I looks like those wacky justices are making things up again.

Its all very interesting that the people of Baltimore cant make rules for themselves. Big govt. getting in the way again.