Copyright © 2007 HUMAN EVENTS. All Rights Reserved.
Tragedy struck leftists all across America last week when a federal appeals court reviewing the District of Columbia’s handgun ban, ruled that the right of the people to keep and bear arms cannot be infringed upon by the District. The court's inexplicable ruling was based on a "radical" interpretation of the recently rediscovered 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads:
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.
According to the Washington Post, which upon hearing of the decision had a small editorial seizure it called “A Dangerous Ruling,” the court’s plain reading of the Bill of Rights has given "a new and dangerous meaning to the 2nd Amendment." Apparently, when the Post reads the amendment according to the ancient and safe interpretation (which goes all the way back to the 1970s) all it sees is:
The Population of the nanny State, being composed of irresponsible rednecks, rejects, and retards, must not be allowed to have Arms.
"[T]his radical ruling will inevitably mean more people killed and wounded as keeping guns out of the city becomes harder," the Post continued, sagely foreseeing a day in the near future when the district might not be the safe gunfree enclave of sanity that it now is. One wonders if D.C. might someday even become the murder capital of the United States without its protective cloak of gun control disarming its law-abiding citizens.
The district's law-and-order mayor, Adrian Fenty, apparently outraged by the disappointing decision, stated afterwards, "I am personally deeply disappointed and quite frankly outraged by today's decision. Today's decision flies in the face of laws that have helped decrease gun violence in the District of Columbia." It's hard to argue with the mayor when one looks at the cold hard facts: today's murder rate is just 26% higher than it was when the gun ban was put in place in 1978, down from a peak of just 128% higher in 1991 before a nationwide decline in crime driven by demographics took hold. With results like that, I'm not sure D.C. can afford to have its gun violence "decreased" any further.
But its not just D.C. that is at risk from this radical discovery of the so-called "Bill of Rights" (if that’s even its real name), the mayor is also worried that the anarchy of Constitutional limits on government power could spread, commenting: "It has national implications with regard to gun control statutes across the country. It's the first time that a federal court has said that the 2nd Amendment restricts or prohibits gun control."
Of course, it's only the first time a federal source has said that the Constitution restricts gun control if you don't count the 2nd Amendment itself -- which is intended expressly to restrict or prohibit gun control. But then this may be the first time a Federal court has read that far into the Constitution -- it's so easy to get hung up trying to find "separation of church and state" in the 1st Amendment, after all.
A number of sources on the left held up for praise in the decision the one dissenting judge, Karen LeCraft Henderson, whose opinion that the gun ban was constitutionally permissible was based on at least two stellar deductions. The first was that since the District of Columbia is not a state (DUHHH!!! Who appointed this moron to the bench?JD) (as in "necessary to the security of a free State…"), then the 2nd Amendment did not apply in that part of America. This is a wonderful precedent, not only for the District, but also for America's other territories such a Puerto Rico.
According to this same logic, Amendments 14, 15, 19, 24 and 26 (among others) do not apply in the District either, which means the District is free to a) deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, b) deny the vote to blacks, c) deny the vote to women, d) institute a poll tax, and e) deny the vote based on age. Clearly, Henderson deserves her new status as a liberal hero.
Henderson's second insight was that despite the right belonging to "the people" in the amendment, it actually belonged only to the militia as an organized military force. To believe this, you have to believe that the United States is the only nation on Earth that felt a need to guarantee its government, in writing, the right to have an army -- which is possible, I suppose, if Jefferson foresaw the attitude of the modern Democrat party towards the military.
The mystery of whether the amendment guarantees the people or the military the right to have weapons perplexed a number of commentators taken aback by the decision. Consider this verbal tailspin featured on MSNBC:
"Now, the issue is 27 words. That's the 2nd Amendment's section on the right to bear arms. I'm going to read the 27 words. They say '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, it's a long-standing legal question in America, and largely unresolved, although partisans on both sides will say it is resolved but a majority of scholars would say it isn't. What does that mean? Does that mean that militias have the right to possess guns or individuals?"
Wow. If only those comments could have been limited to 27 words.
The Washington Post was not afflicted with such uncertainty, however, stating that the amendment applied only to militias (suddenly so popular with the media) and that the ruling was part of an "unconscionable campaign, led by the National Rifle Association… to give individuals 2nd Amendment rights." And you thought that campaign was led by the Founding Fathers.
But what is the "militia"? It is not the army -- by contrast, it was seen as an antidote to having to keep a standing army. It was defined at the time of the Constitution’s writing roughly as "all able-bodied male citizens not in the regular military." (Theoretically it may thus be constitutionally permissible to deny guns to women, old men, cripples, and possibly fat people, but I have to admit I'm against this. These are precisely the groups of people that might need a gun most for self-defense, or possibly for procuring more food.) Viewed in this light, the liberal response to the ruling is, essentially, the right does not belong to the people, so much as it belongs to all civilians.
What the left does not get about the 2nd Amendment is that it is not about the National Guard, or sporting firearms or gun collections. It does not guarantee the government an army, nor does it guarantee civilians the right to hunt and shoot skeet. It's about the right of the people to maintain some portion of the ultimate power of government -- violence -- to themselves.
The Founding Fathers systematically democratized the powers of society through the Constitution and Bill of Rights. They democratized the power of law through the right to vote. They democratized the power of wealth through the right to private property (since repealed by environmentalists and courts). They democratized the power of ideas through the right to free speech (since repealed by McCain/Feingold). And they democratized the power of violence (or the capability to commit it) through the right to bear arms (since repealed by "gun control").
The four great powers of man: law, money, thought and violence were thus divided among the people and not reserved exclusively to the connected, the rich, the approved, and the enlisted. That's the basis of our Republic. That's America. And that is, apparently, a total surprise to liberals.
But the deeper reason behind the hysteria over the decision is that for decades the left has been able to make the Constitution into whatever it wanted. The actual words did not matter. When words -- even just 27 words -- mean exactly what they say, then the power to dictate law from a "living" Constitution disappears and liberals are reduced to trying to persuade people that they are right -- a daunting task. When a court can decide that the 2nd Amendment must be respected, the left is on a slippery slope indeed. Who knows what amendment might be rediscovered next? Personally, I vote for the 10th. Regardless, if the trend is allowed to continue, it will be a disaster for the dictatorial left. Thus, I predict the decision will be appealed.
Mr. Johnson, a writer and medical researcher in Cambridge, MA., is a regular contributor to Human Events. His column generally appears on Tuesdays. Archives and additional material can be found at macjohnson.com