Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

Sunday, March 25, 2007

PSYCH!!.

Well, not really. Like I said, don't expect much new content for a while. For certain, don't expect any 7,000-word überposts, but when I come upon somthing interesting or important, I'll certainly make all efforts to put up at least a quick post.

This is one.

Via Alger, I strongly recommend you download and listen to the speech given by Evan Sayet at the Heritage Foundation. The MP3 file is here.

Sayet's speech begins 7:30 in to the recording. It's worth your time, if you're willing to listen to the whole thing. Pass the recording around to your friends. Discuss it. Hell, discuss it in the comments here.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

It's a Bad Time for One, but: Hiatus!.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 will be my last day at the job I've had for twenty-one years and a month (to the day). I'm moving on to what I believe is a better opportunity. After twenty-one years of bitching and complaining about consulting/specifying engineers, I'm about to become one.

Consequently, these last three days at my old job, and the first few weeks at my new one promise to be a little hectic, so feel free to check in from time to time and leave a comment, but don't expect to see much new content here for a bit.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Jim Zumbo Does Some Good

Sort of. Read Confessions of an Ex-Zumbo - and pass the link around.

I'm with KCSteve. That ought to be submitted to Outdoor Life.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Death and the Internet

Cathy Seipp has died. I don't know how many of my readers followed Cathy's battle with lung cancer on her blog Cathy's World. I didn't have her linked on the blogroll because I only read her on occasion, usually when Instapundit linked to her, but I enjoyed her writing and I took vicarious pleasure when she wrote about an arbitration board overruling her insurance company's decision to not pay for an experimental drug that appeared to be helping her.

I remember reading about her daugher Maia's (then pseudonymously "Cecile") conflict with the teaching staff at her high school, and writing a piece on it. I wrote a later piece linking to one of Cathy's NRO columns. That's been the the total linkage on this blog, but I've read a lot of Cathy's stuff.

I am affected by her passing.

This is odd. I've lost a few relatives in the past few years; a grandmother, an uncle and an aunt, a great-uncle. I wasn't particularly close to any of these people. Their deaths did not particularly affect me. But I've also lost other people I've known only (or primarily) through the 'net. Airboss, the wry and intelligent commenter at many blogs whom I met at Kim du Toit's house. Eric the (profuse) Hun, the irrepressible Texas lawyer and hugely prolific poster at AR15.com. Rob "Acidman" Smith, the outspoken self-described Georgia cracker who never held anything back.

I've read these people's words. In some small way I have gotten to know them before their passing and that knowledge has affected me, more than the deaths of blood relatives that I never really knew.

Rest in peace, Cathy. My condolences, Maia. Know that your mother had a life well-lived, and left many people behind who thought well of her.

UPDATE: And I'd like to take this opportunty to apologize to Susan Estrich. I took a cheap shot at Ms. Estrich a while back, but she has written a truly excellent eulogy for her friend, Cathy. As she put it:
Lung cancer was one of the few subjects we agreed on; I lost my best friend seven years ago, and watched in horror as the money from the tobacco settlements got spent building highways. We also agreed about things like mothering, kids and friendship. As for the rest, we had to agree to disagree. But I was always interested in how Cathy put it, where she came down and how she got there, because I knew she’d be as tough on herself as any critic would be. So I checked in every day to see what she was thinking, until the end. Ours was an old-fashioned relationship, the kind people used to have with people they disagree with, the kind that is too often under attack these days.
Thank you, Susan, for being the kind of person it is an honor to disagree with.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wait a Minute... This is in New Jersey??

Picking my jaw up off the floor, I have just finished reading the New Jersey Superior Court's hot-off-the-presses appeal to grant a firearms purchaser identification card to one Dennis Peterson. (How this case is legally identified I have no idea.) It's a PDF image file, or I'd just cut-and-paste the entire thing.

It seems Mr. Peterson was a bit of a wild one as a kid, had a cheating wife, and some other legal problems several decades ago. Due to the divorce and some heated words, Mr. Peterson had a restraining order placed against him and ten of his firearms were seized. Since he didn't have a FID, he didn't get them back. This was four years before the state of New Jersey passed a law making such seizure and surrender grounds for vacating anyone's ability to acquire an FID.

Mr. Peterson recently applied for a card. He answered the questions on the form as thoroughly as he could, and was rejected. He appealed. The judge of the Superior Court found in his favor.

Color me shocked. Stunned, even.

In New JERSEY??

This is from the same state in which an appellate court declared a .22 rimfire Marlin Model 60 a "highly dangerous offensive weapon" because it held two rounds over the legal limit of 15? The Court that said "When dealing with guns, the citizen acts at his peril"???

I'm not going to copy the whole decision, but here's the pertinent cite:
Egregious deprivation would surely be the result if this applicant were precluded from obtaining a firearms purchaser identification card by virtue of the fact that he consensually surrendered his weapons at a time when it was impossible for him to have known that such action would later subject him to lifelong deprivation of his second amendment right.

Additionally, it is clear that in consenting to the disposition of the weapons seized as a result of the temporary restraining order, the applicant did not intend to waive his right to bear arms as provided by the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He therefore could not have knowingly, intelligently, or voluntarily waived that right.
In New Jersey. And this was on February 27, before the D.C. Court of Appeals decision in Parker.

Somebody pinch me. I must be dreaming. (I bet there was an appeal filed by the State immediately thereafter.)

UPDATE: I should read more thorougly before I hit "publish." His lawyer, Evan Nappen reports that an appeal has indeed been filed.

Who's taking bets on this one?

UPDATE, February 2008: Yup. Reversed on appeal.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

I Can Add Nothing to This.

Mostly Cajun rips off a righteous rant on government largesse and being one of the privileged winners of life's lottery.

Well, I can add this: Amen.
Quote of the Day.

From Fabio at The Second Version (I've got to update my blogroll!)
(I)gnorance about the United States is deep and widespread. And I don't mean ignorance of the fine juridical details, or the most obscure apects of American culture. No, I mean ignorance of the actual text of the Constitution, or of the fundamental features of American culture.
Read the whole thing, from a world-travelling Italian's perspective.

Friday, March 16, 2007

As Promised, Fisk #3 or: Next Up at the Plate, Erwin Chemerinsky!


Duke University Professor of Law and Political Science Erwin Chemerinsky has attempted another shrill, frantic refutation of last Friday's Parker v. D.C. decision. Published in Wednesday's Washington Post, it's entitled A Well-Regulated Right to Bear Arms. Professor Chemerinsky is a regular guest on right-wing radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt's afternoon radio show along with Chapman University's John Eastman. Each week they discuss the legal news and offer their opinions on what happens to be the case of the moment.

I'm fully convinced that Hugh chose Erwin for his radio guest for the same reason Fox News chose Alan Colmes for their nightly television show. Aside from his Leftism, Erwin has a voice suitable for the print media, just as Alan Colmes has a face for radio. But then, that's just my personal opinion. A lot of people think Bob Dylan can sing.

Anyway, as a bit of background, I've posted a couple of times on one exchange between Chemerinsky and Eastman. On Wednesday, June 8, 2005 they discussed the appointment of Janice Rogers Brown to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (please, please let the court re-hear Parker en banc. And let Judge Brown write the decision!) As the Geek with a .45 has noted, you're going to hear the phrase "Contradicting 70 years of Constitutional Jurisprudence" a lot for the next few weeks or months. You heard it or its equivalent here first, 6/8/05 in this exchange:
John Eastman: You know, I mean, it's just so preposterous, I don't even know where to begin. The reason Chuck Schumer is so upset about this, is Justice Brown is the kind of judge who will, you know, adhere to the Constitution. And when the members of the legislature, even the exalted Chuck Schumer himself, want to take actions that is not authorized by the Constitution, she'll be willing to stand up and do her duty, and strike it down. That's not an arrogance, that's what the judges are there for, to adhere to the Constitution, and not to let the legislature roll over them and do whatever they want. You know, it really is preposterous. We've turned this upside down. The judges that do exactly what they're supposed to do are demonized, and those that take a powder and let the legislature get away with every abuse, every extension of power imaginable, are touted at the cocktail circuit.

Erwin Chemerinsky: I think what Senator Schumer is saying, and is absolutely right, is that Janice Rogers Brown's repeated statements that she believes that the New Deal programs like social security are unconstitutional, is truly a radical view. That's not a judge who wants to uphold the Constitution. That's a judge who wants to shred the last eighty years of American Constitutional law. Janice Rogers Brown saying she believes that the Bill of Rights should not apply to the states, would undo the last seventy years of Constitutional law. That's not a judge who wants to follow the law. That's a judge who wants to make the law in her own radical, conservative views.

John Eastman: Hang on, here, because Erwin...there's a wonderfully subtle change in your phraseology that demonstrates what's going on here. You said she won't follow the Constitution, and then you said it's because she won't follow the last seventy or eighty years of Constitutional law. What happened seventy or eighty years ago that changed the Constitution? There was not a single amendment at issue in the 1930's that changed the Constitution. Some radical, federal programs were pushed through. Some radical judges, under pressure, finally signed on them, and the notion that we can't question that unconstitutional action that occurred in the 1930's, and somehow that defending that unconstitutionality is adherent to the rule of law, is rather extraordinary. There are scholars on left and right that have understood that what went on in the 1930's was...had no basis in Constitutional law, or in the letter of the Constitution itself.
Yes, it's "activism" to uphold the original meaning of the Constitution, but it's not activism to make up law out of whole cloth, or rip a right out of the Constitution with one judicial decision. As I've said before, the Left isn't afraid of "irreversible change." They're afraid of reversal of their changes. And, typically, they won't come out and say that.

Professor Chemerinsky continues in the same vein in his op-ed. One more time, let us fisk:
In striking down the District of Columbia's handgun ban last week, a federal appeals court raised the crucial constitutional question: What should be the degree of judicial deference to government regulation of firearms? The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit interpreted the Second Amendment as bestowing on individuals a right to have guns.
Bzzzzzt! I'm sorry Erwin, but only two sentences into your op-ed and you've told a blatant lie already. Let's go to the decision itself, shall we?
The wording of the operative clause also indicates that the right to keep and bear arms was not created by government, but rather preserved by it. Hence, the Amendment acknowledges "the right . . . to keep and bear Arms," a right that pre-existed the Constitution like "the freedom of speech." Because the right to arms existed prior to the formation of the new government, see Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275, 280 (1897) (describing the origin of the Bill of Rights in English law), the Second Amendment only guarantees that the right "shall not be infringed."
(One legal citation removed for better readability.) Yes, Erwin, the Second Amendment doesn't bestow anything. It protects what the Founders considered a natural right that existed prior to the establishment of the government formed under the Constitution - thus that right could not be the right of a political entity that did not exist prior to ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Strike one.
But even if this reasoning is accepted, and it is very much disputed, the Court of Appeals still should have upheld the law as being a reasonable way of achieving the government's legitimate goal of decreasing gun violence.
(Emphasis mine.) The fact that Erwin could actually type those words demonstrates just how factually and morally bankrupt the anti-gun position is. "(A) reasonable way of achieving the government's legitimate goal of decreasing gun violence"? In Washington D.C.???

Stipulated: The three laws challenged by the Parker suit effectively disarm one group and one group only - the law-abiding residents of and visitors to the District.

Stipulated: According to this site, the 1976 homicide rate in D.C. was 26.8/100,000 population (down a bit from 32.8 the previous year.) After passage of those gun restrictions, the homicide rate hovered about that level - going as high as 35.1 in 1981 and as low as 23.5 in 1985 (the only year it dropped below 26.8) before shooting up in 1988 to 59.5 and peaking in 1991 at 80.6. Along with the rest of the nation, D.C.'s violent crime rate dropped after that, but as of 2005 it was still 35.4/100,000.

Here's a map of the D.C. metropolitan area:
Alexandria Virginia abuts Washington. According to the FBI in 2005 the homicide rate there was 2.3/100,000 population. Virginia is one of ten states that still allows open carry. I'm not suggesting cause and effect here, but I am pointing out that allowing citizens to own guns - even carry them in public - does not mean tremendous homicide rates. The point is, disarming the law-abiding citizens has had no beneficial effect on homicide rates in the District, and anyone with half a brain understands how unreasonable such a belief truly is.

But Erwin thinks such laws are "a reasonable way of achieving the government's legitimate goal of decreasing gun violence."

I'm sorry Erwin. Strike two.

Continuing:
There is a major debate among scholars and judges involving two competing views of the Second Amendment. One approach, adopted by the Supreme Court in 1939 and by most federal courts of appeals, sees the Second Amendment as preventing Congress from regulating firearms in a manner that would keep states from adequately protecting themselves.

This "collective rights" approach rejects the idea that the Second Amendment bestows on individuals a right to have guns. The alternative view, adopted by the D.C. Circuit on Friday, sees the Second Amendment as creating a right for individuals to have firearms.
Erwin, repeating and re-repeating a lie does not make that lie true.

Foul ball.
Each approach is consistent with the text of the Second Amendment, and each is supported by strong historical arguments about the original meaning of the provision. The Second Amendment says: "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." Those who take the collective rights approach focus on the initial language of the provision, while those who take the individual rights approach focus on the latter language.
Ooooh, another foul. Not precisely, Erwin. The "collective rights" side demands that the prefatory clause completely encompass the right protected by the operative clause. The individual rights proponents understand that we are the militia. The fact that a "well-regulated" militia does not today exist ain't our fault. But we know that citizens possessing their own firearms makes the possibility of the formation of a militia. Just ask the Algiers Point Militia, and those like them that form after disasters - natural and man-made - that result in a breakdown of official law enforcement and leave us exclusively to fend for ourselves.

We the People are the government, Erwin. The ones drawing a federal, state, or local government paycheck aren't our masters, they're our employees. And the sooner we get back to that understanding, the better off we'll all be.
Each side of the debate marshals impressive historical arguments about what "militia" and "keep and bear arms" meant in the late 18th century. In the past few years, two other federal courts of appeals exhaustively reviewed this history, and one determined that the Framers intended the individual rights approach, while the other read history as supporting the collective rights approach.
That would be the Fifth Circuit, finding in 2001 for an individual right in U.S. v Emerson, and the Ninth Circuit in 2002's Silveira v Lockyer. I've read both. If it weren't so important, it would be quite amusing to reflect on the fact that the Ninth Circuit uses Silveira to attack Emerson. The court in Emerson performed a thorough "strict scrutiny" examination the law under question, but it first had to determine whether such a right existed in order to do so. "Strict scrutiny" is a test reserved "only when there exists a real and appreciable impact on, or a significant interference with the exercise of the fundamental right." Most of the opponents of the Emerson decision protest that a strict scrutiny examination was not called for. After all, they argue, the right is not an individual one, so it can't be a fundamental right. People like ACLU president Nadine Strossen who actually had the temerity to say "the fact that something is mentioned in the Constitution doesn't necessarily mean that it is a fundamental civil liberty."

Even though, you know, it's the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights.

The majority on the panel decided otherwise, and spent the better part of a 75 page decision (as did the D.C. Circuit court) studying the question in deep detail; an "original meaning" examination.

I think the fact that the right in question is #2 on the list might have had something to do with that.

But the fact remained that Emerson stood in strict opposition to the Ninth Circuit's "collective rights" position first reached in its Hickman v Block decision of 1996. Here's the Ninth's exhaustively researched, deeply-considered, well thought-out reasoning behind their "collective rights" conclusion in Hickman:
We follow our sister circuits in holding that the Second Amendment is a right held by the states, and does not protect the possession of a weapon by a private citizen. We conclude that Hickman can show no legal injury, and therefore lacks standing to bring this action.
That's it. That's their whole argument. The judicial equivalent of "Go away, boy. You're bothering me."

I think they were embarrassed by the level of scholarship involved in Emerson, myself. In Silveira the Ninth Circuit pulled out all the stops in order to justify their Hickman decision. Silveira was a unanimous decision, but one of the three judges wrote a "special concurrence" in which he - well, you read it:
It is well established that, as a threshold matter, this court must determine whether the plaintiffs have standing to assert their claim.... The plaintiffs in this case are simply not entitled to standing and thus I cannot join the court's discussion of the merits of their Second Amendment claims.

Here, the court claims that "[a]lthough in every case we are required to examine standing issues first,... here an examination of that question requires us as a first step to conduct a thorough analysis of the scope and purpose of the Second Amendment. Only after determining the amendment's scope and purpose can we answer the question whether individuals, specifically the plaintiffs here, have standing to sue." Respectfully, I disagree. Previously, this court decided the scope and purpose of the Second Amendment. We are bound by that precedent. In Hickman, this court announced that the Second Amendment guarantees a collective right, not an individual right.
(Legal references removed for clarity.) In essence the Ninth Circuit declared in Silveira that they had to do what they didn't even bother to attempt in Hickman, but judge Magill proclaims that because they had already "announced" (interesting choice of words, there) that the Second Amendment didn't protect an individual right - without such an analysis - such an analysis wasn't necessary.

Isn't this known as "circular reasoning"?

To top it all off, the Ninth Circuit decided another case that same year, Nordyke v King, and used Hickman and Silveira as precedent - Hickman 14 times, Silveira 28 times.

You think they'd have cited somebody in Hickman.

But a crack showed in the façade of the Ninth Circuit. Judge Gould concurred with the Nordyke opinion, but wrote in his special concurrence:
I join the court's opinion, and write to elaborate that Hickman v. Block was wrongly decided, that the remarks in Silveira v. Lockyer about the "collective rights" theory of the Second Amendment are not persuasive, and that we would be better advised to embrace an "individual rights" view of the Second Amendment, as was adopted by the Fifth Circuit in United States v. Emerson consistent with United States v. Miller. We should recognize that individual citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, subject to reasonable restriction by the government. We should also revisit whether the requirements of the Second Amendment are incorporated into the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Our panel is bound by Hickman, and we cannot reach the merits of Nordyke's challenge to Second Amendment. But the holding of Hickman can be discarded by our court en banc or can be rejected by the Supreme Court if it decides to visit the issue of what substantive rights are safeguarded by the Second Amendment.

I write to express disagreement with the "collective rights view" advanced in Hickman and Silveira because I conclude that an "individual rights view" of the Second Amendment is most consistent with the Second Amendment's language, structure, and purposes, as well as colonial experience and pre-adoption history.
(Again, my emphasis.) I've said it before, most recently in Game Over, Man
We depend upon the honor and intellectual honesty of the judges who make up the Justice system, yet it seems that those who are truly honest and honorable are outnumbered by those who are "willing to bury language that is incontrovertibly there." The honest and honorable ones abide, under the rule of law, by precedent that is otherwise insupportable. The middling honest ones, the ones Justice Brandeis labled as "men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding" "build magnificent legal edifices on elliptical constitutional phrases - or even the white spaces between lines of constitutional text."
Judge Gould is apparently one of the (evidently few) intellectually honest and honorable.

And, of course, the appeal for an en banc rehearing was denied.

The Supreme Court denied cert, too.

Enough asides. Continuing:
The assumption in this debate, and one that the D.C. Circuit followed Friday, is that gun control laws are unconstitutional if the individual rights approach is followed. This assumption, though, has no basis in constitutional law. No rights are absolute. Even the First Amendment, which is written in the seemingly absolute language that Congress shall make "no law" abridging freedom of speech or religion, allows government regulation.
BZZZZZZT!!!! I'm sorry Erwin, but that's strike THREE! Yer outtahere!

This is fear-mongering at its most blatant. "Oh no! There'll be no more gun control laws! There'll be armed felons in the streets carrying tactical nuclear weapons! The sky is falling, the sky is falling!"

The D.C. District court didn't overturn U.S. v Miller, and the National Firearms Act is a gun control law. The court states explicitly:
Indeed, the right to keep and bear arms - which we have explained pre-existed, and therefore was preserved by, the Second Amendment - was subject to restrictions at common law. We take these to be the sort of reasonable regulations contemplated by the drafters of the Second Amendment. For instance, it is presumably reasonable "to prohibit the carrying of weapons when under the influence of intoxicating drink, or to a church, polling place, or public assembly, or in a manner calculated to inspire terror..." State v. Kerner. And as we have noted, the United States Supreme Court has observed that prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons does not offend the Second Amendment. Similarly, the Court also appears to have held that convicted felons may be deprived of their right to keep and bear arms. These regulations promote the government's interest in public safety consistent with our common law tradition. Just as importantly, however, they do not impair the core conduct upon which the right was premised.
You should slink off back under your rock now, Erwin you lying sack.

But you don't:
The D.C. District Court ruled on the Constitutionality of the three laws at question.

Therefore, under the individual rights approach, there still is the question of what types of government regulations are appropriate.
Wait... Didn't you just say that "(t)he assumption in this debate, and one that the D.C. Circuit followed Friday, is that gun control laws are unconstitutional if the individual rights approach is followed"??? Now you're discussing "what types of government regulations are appropriate"?

Doesn't bending yourself into a logical pretzel hurt?

But you're still not finished:
For 70 years the Supreme Court has distinguished among constitutional claims in deciding how closely to scrutinize laws and how much to defer to legislatures. In instances where there is reason to distrust the government, such as for laws discriminating on the basis of race, "strict scrutiny" is used and the government can prevail only if its action is necessary to achieve a compelling purpose.
And we've got no reason to distrust the government about gun control? And there's that "70 years" thing again. As John Eastman asked,
What happened seventy or eighty years ago that changed the Constitution? There was not a single amendment at issue in the 1930's that changed the Constitution. Some radical, federal programs were pushed through. Some radical judges, under pressure, finally signed on them, and the notion that we can't question that unconstitutional action that occurred in the 1930's, and somehow that defending that unconstitutionality is adherent to the rule of law, is rather extraordinary.
This piece is long enough, but how many quotes do I need to drag out about the disarmament of citizens by government, you weasle? (Sorry Cowboy Blob and other ferret-lovers out there. It's just an expression.)
But where there is little reason to doubt the legislatures' choices, courts give great deference to the legislatures and uphold laws so long as they are reasonably related to a legitimate government purpose. For example, discrimination that is based on characteristics such as age, disability and sexual orientation need to meet only this more relaxed standard. Even rights enumerated in the Constitution, such as property rights, generally receive only this relaxed level of judicial review. For this reason, for 70 years, government regulation of the economy to protect employees and consumers has been upheld in the face of claims that it unduly restricts property rights.
Like Kelo v New London?

Oh, right. You were on the government's side on that one, too, you statist fuckwit.
In other words, even if the D.C. Circuit is right in holding that the Second Amendment creates individual rights, that does not answer the question as to the level of scrutiny to be used in evaluating gun control laws. I believe that there is a strong argument that the regulation of guns should be treated the same as other regulation of property under modern constitutional law: The regulation should be allowed so long as it is rationally related to achieving a legitimate government purpose.
Again, Erwin, the Second Amendment doesn't CREATE ANYTHING. It protects a pre-existing individual right to arms. Risking invocation of Godwin's Law:
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State. - Joseph Goebbels
(I don't know if that quote is Goebbels' or not, but it is eminently accurate in this context, whoever said it.) Every argument you make is predicated on the lie that the Bill of Rights creates the rights it is designed to protect, and for that if no other reason your arguments fail.
Under this standard, there is no doubt that the D.C. gun law is constitutional.
Thank jeebus even you can admit that.
The city's government was pursuing the legitimate goal of decreasing gun violence, and its means were certainly reasonable.
And repeating this lie doesn't make it any more true either. No, Erwin, they were not reasonable. Disarming the law-abiding without the ability to protect them (and no government can protect everyone, all the time) is not reasonable. Ask Carolyn Warren, Joan Taliaferro and Miriam Douglas. They found out the hard way as have thousands, nay, millions of others. Nor have those means proven in any way effective. But that doesn't seem to matter to you in the least, so long as the State acquires more power.
The Supreme Court will probably review the D.C. Circuit decision. Whether the court takes the individual or the collective rights approach, it should uphold the D.C. law and make clear that courts will defer to legislatures in their regulation of firearms.
I certainly hope the Supreme Court reviews the case, but I don't expect it to. It's dodged the question thus far. I don't see it opening the mason jar of worms it canned and put on the shelf in 1939.

The best you can hope for, Erwin, is that an en banc rehearing of the case gets the decision reversed. That's what I think is going to happen, Janice Rogers Brown or no Janice Rogers Brown. There are too few intellectually honest and honorable judges in our system.

UPDATE: Fellow gun-blogger and gun-rights absolutist Publicola also fisks Erwin, and has links and excerpts from other very interesting caselaw. I strongly recommend you read his Fisking Erwin.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Saul Cornell, AGAIN

or: "A Fisker's Work is Never Done"

As I said in my previous piece, the gun control partisans are coming unglued. Next exhibit: Professor Saul Cornell, associate professor of history at Ohio State University, Director of the (Joyce Foundation-funded) Second Amendment Research Center of the John Glenn Institute at Ohio State, and a man with a very jabberwocky view on history, legal precedent, and the right to arms.

His latest: another op-ed, this time on the Parker v D.C. decision from last week. Yes, friends, it's all a plot by the Vast Gunny Conspiracy.

Again, let us fisk:
Parker v. District of Columbia: Opening Volley or Just A Flash in the Pan?

Guest Blogger

Saul Cornell
Department of History,
Ohio State University
Note that he doesn't point out his directorship of the "Second Amendment Research Center" here. He's just a humble member of Ohio State's History department. One would think for maximum "expert status" he'd be resting on those laurels. Perhaps Joyce Foundation funding is becoming radioactive?
The recent decision in Parker v. District of Columbia striking down the District of Columbia's gun control law rests on a combination of bad law and even worse history. It also demonstrates the methodological weakness of originalism in its current form.
And Professor Cornell is going to cite us chapter and verse in refutation?
It is rather shocking to see a Federal Appeals Court misread established precedent in such a politically distorted fashion. The interpretation of U.S. v. Miller offered by the Appeals Court rests on a revisionist reading of the case manufactured by gun rights scholars.
Manufactured and revisionist in his "expert" opinion. Yet those gun rights scholars apparently managed to convince the foremost expert on American constitutional law, Laurence Tribe - professor of Law at Harvard, and author of the most widely used ConLaw textbook in law schools today, American Constitutional Law (3rd Edition.) In the first and second editions, Tribe relegated the 2nd Amendment to mere footnotes, but in the 3rd Edition (2000) he devotes several pages to it, concluding:
Perhaps the most accurate conclusion one can reach with any confidence is that the core meaning of the Second Amendment is a populist / republican / federalism one: Its central object is to arm 'We the People' so that ordinary citizens can participate in the collective defense of their community and their state. But it does so not through directly protecting a right on the part of states or other collectivities, assertable by them against the federal government, to arm the populace as they see fit. Rather the amendment achieves its central purpose by assuring that the federal government may not disarm individual citizens without some unusually strong justification consistent with the authority of the states to organize their own militias. That assurance in turn is provided through recognizing a right (admittedly of uncertain scope) on the part of individuals to possess and use firearms in the defense of themselves and their homes -- not a right to hunt for game, quite clearly, and certainly not a right to employ firearms to commit aggressive acts against other persons -- a right that directly limits action by Congress or by the Executive Branch and may well, in addition, be among the privileges or immunities of United States citizens protected by §1 of the Fourteenth Amendment against state or local government action.
This goes well beyond what the DC Appeals court found in Parker, but we're supposed to take Cornell's word - an historian - that these "gun rights scholars" have "manufactured" their case, not convincingly researched it and provided it for peer-review like any other legitimate scholars.
According to the revisionist reading of Miller, the Court only cared about the type of weapon at issue in the case. This reading casts aside more than seventy years of jurisprudence and is absurd.
Absurd? Then why doesn't Professor Cornell quote the pertinent part of the decision to prove his point? I quoted it below, I'll be more than happy to do it again:
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.
Note that the court does not do what the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently does; it does not read this as meaning that no one not a member of the militia has any right to arms. The government's lawyers argued that position, but the Supreme Court did not decide the case on those grounds. They decided the case on the suitability of Miller's shotgun as militia equipment. Period. They ajudicated on the type of weapon - however much Professor Cornell wishes to deny it. And a question: What amendment passed seventy years ago that overturned the understanding of the Second Amendment in Supreme Court jurisprudence up to that time?
All of the contemporary reports of Miller in the press and legal scholarship of the day treated the case as though it simply restated the overwhelmingly scholarly and legal consensus of the day that the Second Amendment was about the militia. If there was any reason to doubt this reading, then one need only look at the New York Times the day the case was reported. Judge McReynolds prefaced the decision by noting that "We construe the amendment as having relation to the military service and we are unable to say that a sawed-off shotgun has relation to the militia." Clearly, the revisionist reading of Miller has no historical foundation.
Note what Justice McReynolds did not say: "We construe the amendment as having relation to the military service, and since Miller was not a member of any military organization, he had no right to possess a firearm." "No historical foundation"? My muscular buttocks.
The use of Founding era sources in Parker is no less problematic. One of the issues discussed by the Court is the meaning of the phrase “keep and bear arms.” To support the dubious proposition that this phrase was typically used to describe both military and non-military uses of firearms, the Court turned to the Pennsylvania Anti-Federalist Dissent of the Minority. It is a remarkable version of originalism that would use a hastily drafted protest that was never copied by any other state nor emulated by any major writer during ratification as the basis for reconstructing the meaning of an important constitutional text. Indeed, the Dissenters were so far out of step with thinking within their own state that none of them won election to the First Congress that actually drafted the Bill of Rights. Indeed, the Dissent of the Minority was invoked and dismissed during the debate over the Bill of Rights as a text that symbolized the most radical Anti-Federalist demands. Madison did not even include it among various proposals he collected when he began formulating his own list of possible amendments. Yet, despite the overwhelmingly historical evidence that this text was not typical, nor ultimately influential, gun rights scholars and their allies on the DC Court of Appeals insist on using this text as though it were dispositive of the meaning of the Second Amendment. Rewriting the Second Amendment as if it were written by the Pennsylvania Minority take originalism in the direction of an alternate history science fiction fantasy.
Uh, Professor? You just completely blew off the entire discussion in Parker over who "the people" are in favor of dissing the court's understanding of "keep and bear arms." They show, with vigor, that "the people" in the Second Amendment are the same "people" in the First, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments. Not a collective. Individuals. And why is it that anti-gun scholars seem unable to understand the concept of the word "keep"? Even if the Second Amendment was specifically intended only for the purpose of having an armed "well-regulated militia," what part of this portion of Miller don't they understand?
The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. 'A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.' And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.
(My emphasis.) In order to bear arms "supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time," wouldn't that mean that they had to keep them, at home, like the Swiss do today?

Who is it proposing "alternate history science fiction fantasy" here?
The Parker decision contains other historical errors that have been frequently repeated in gun rights scholarship. The Court falsely asserted there are no 19th century constitutional commentaries who favored the militia based reading of the Second Amendment. This would have shocked Joseph Story, the most influential commentator of the pre-Civil War era and Benjamin Oliver, one of the most influential popular constitutional writers of the antebellum era.
Stop right there. Let's discuss Joseph Story for a moment. Here's what Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story said in his 1833 Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States that's been quoted so often:
The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.
Here's the entire quote in full context:
The next amendment is: "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."

§ 1890. The importance of this article will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defence of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers. It is against sound policy for a free people to keep up large military establishments and standing armies in time of peace, both from the enormous expenses, with which they are attended, and the facile means, which they afford to ambitious and unprincipled rulers, to subvert the government, or trample upon the rights of the people. The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.

And yet, though this truth would seem so clear, and the importance of a well regulated militia would seem so undeniable, it cannot be disguised, that among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline, and a strong disposition, from a sense of its burthens, to be rid of all regulations. How it is practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see. There is certainly no small danger, that indifference may lead to disgust, and disgust to contempt; and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause of our national bill of rights.
Here Professor Cornell seems to argue that Story's fear - an indifferent population avoiding its duty - means that the government has the power to pass laws disarming them.

Somehow I don't think Justice Story would have gone along with that idea. Even if the populace does not subject itself to militia service, it is not a militia, according to Story, but citizens - that is, individuals - with a right to keep and bear arms that provides a check against "the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers" which is "the palladium of liberty."

Now, as to Benjamin Oliver, I've only been able to find one citation of any significant length to his take on the right to arms from his book The Rights of an American Citizen: with a Commentary on State Rights, and on the Constitution and Policy of the United States. (American Book Exchange has one copy at $275. I don't think I'll be adding that tome to my library any time soon.) That source is Michael Bellisiles, so you'll forgive me if I suspect cherry picking on the part of that author, given his proven history of "selective quoting." However, this is what Bellesiles says Oliver wrote:
As the early American political scholar Benjamin Oliver wrote in 1832, the "cowardly and disgraceful" act of carrying concealed weapons transformed what might have been a barroom brawl into a deadly encounter. The Second Amendment, which Oliver held relevant only to the militia system, offered nothing "to prevent congress or the legislatures of the different states from enacting laws to prevent citizens from always going armed."
Bellesiles then insists that legislatures of the time were in full agreement with Oliver, passing laws against carrying weapons. Well, no. Against carrying concealed weapons. Carrying openly seems to have been accepted practice. And today states are allowed to pass laws regulating the carrying of concealed weapons. A few, like Arizona and Virginia, do not restrict (at least not by statute) the open carry of firearms to this day.

Oliver might have thought that it should be OK to restrict all carry, but the legislatures and courts of the time certainly did not.

Continuing:
It also would have shocked influential post Civil War commentators such as John Forrest Dillion(sic) and Joel Prentiss Bishop.
Then I'd appreciate some citations from them to that effect, with links. This is argumentum ad verecundiam - appeal to authority. Hey, I can throw names around too! How about Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and the six Supreme Court Justices that joined him in his Dred Scott decision of 1856? (At least I give a cite.)
One could go on for pages documenting the historical errors, logical missteps, and ideological distortions of the opinion in Parker.
Then I suggest you do so, because your side is going to need to flood the court with amicus briefs for the appeal.
It is too early to tell if this case will end up being reversed. If it does then Parker will have been little more than a flash in the pan. If the case is upheld than(sic) history will view Parker as the first volley in a full frontal assault on modern gun regulation.
Right. Modern gun regulation? Again I ask: What amendment got passed seventy years ago that rendered the Second Amendment null and void?
What is indisputable is that the Court's analysis of history and precedent was driven by an activist ideology, not a genuine understanding of the original meaning of this provision of the Constitution.
That's the topsy-turvey jabberwocky world of Saul Cornell. An attempt to perform a strict-scrutiny original-meaning analysis on the Second Amendment doesn't find what he wants it to find, so it's driven by "activist ideology," but seventy years of bad precedent built upon a foundation of racism isn't.

Sometimes I wish someone had the power to revive the Founders just so they could bitch-slap these people.

Up next: Erwin Chemerinsky's WaPo piece A Well-Regulated Right to Bear Arms. But tomorrow. These things are too time-consuming.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Working Hard to Deliberately Mislead.

Robert J. Spitzer, Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science at SUNY Cortland, has authored an op-ed on the History News Network website. Entitled Working Hard to Misconstrue the Second Amendment, it's just one more example of the deliberate mendacity (that means "blatant lying," but in polite language) practiced by gun-ban-control activists. These people present themselves as "experts" that we're supposed to believe because they're experts. They provide citations we're supposed to take at face value supporting their positions, and not question whether they might be misleading us to further their own ends.

And most people would not question - or at least, they used to.

Then "fisking" came along.

Let us fisk.
In a startling case that may single-handedly revive interest in the Second Amendment's "right to bear arms," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 Friday that a D.C. law barring residents from keeping handguns in their homes violated citizens' Second Amendment right to have guns, aside and apart from service in a militia. In carving out an "individual" right, the case of Parker v. District of Columbia proves that bad history makes for bad law.
Let's see: "carving out an 'individual' right" - scare quotes around "individual." And blaming "bad history" for the decision. Right. Moving on...
In its 58 page ruling, the two-member Parker majority contradicts nearly fifty other federal court rulings spanning seven decades, as well as four Supreme Court rulings, all of which support the straightforward proposition that the right to bear arms exists only in connection with citizen militia service.
Yes, there are seven decades of court rulings doing exactly what Spitzer says, but what amendment overturned the Second seventy years ago? I wasn't aware of of one. So, if you actually study the history, what would you find? Spitzer doesn't tell us.
For all of the dissembling by gun rights advocates, the amendment's full wording is pretty clear: "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."
Dissemble: "to give a false or misleading appearance to; conceal the truth or real nature of." Pot? Meet kettle - as I am about to demonstrate in spades.
As Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger once noted, the amendment "must be read as though the word 'because' was the opening word."
And where did Chief Justice Berger say this? In an article he wrote for Parade magazine - that tabloid that gets put in your Sunday newspaper, four years after he retired from the bench. Here's the entire quote in context:
We see that the need for a state militia was the predicate of the "right" guaranteed; in short, it was declared "necessary" in order to have a state military force to protect the security of the state. That Second Amendment clause must be read as though the word "because" was the opening word of the guarantee. Today, of course, the "state militia" serves a very different purpose. A huge national defense establishment has taken over the role of the militia of 200 years ago.

Some have exploited these ancient concerns, blurring sporting guns -- rifles, shotguns and even machine pistols -- with all firearms, including what are now called "Saturday night specials." There is, of course, a great difference between sporting guns and handguns. Some regulation of handguns has long been accepted as imperative; laws relating to "concealed weapons" are common.
Burger here seems to be saying that "sporting arms" - weapons not particularly suited for militia service - are protected by the Second Amendment, but somehow handguns, especially cheap "Saturday night specials" are not. But the Parker decision was specifically about keeping a loaded firearm in ones own home - a condition flatly illegal in Washington, D.C. What does Burger have to say about that?
Americans also have a right to defend their homes, and we need not challenge that. Nor does anyone seriously question that the Constitution protects the right of hunters to own and keep sporting guns for hunting game any more than anyone would challenge the right to own and keep fishing rods and other equipment for fishing -- or to own automobiles. To "keep and bear arms" for hunting today is essentially a recreational activity and not an imperative of survival, as it was 200 years ago
(Emphasis mine.) Now, I've read the Constitution thoroughly. Where other than the Second Amendment would you get the idea that it protects "the right of hunters to own and keep sporting guns for hunting game"? Even though the Second Amendment says not word one about hunting or sporting use?

Odd that Professor Spitzer left that out, isn't it? Let's continue:
Alone among federal rulings siding with the Parker majority is a 2001 case from the Fifth Circuit, U.S. v. Emerson, when for the first time a federal court embraced the "individualist" view.
Correct again. And how did they do it? By studying the actual history of the Second Amendment. I've read the decision. Most of Professor Spitzer's audience has not.
Yet even this case offered little meat to supporters of the individualist view, since the Emerson court upheld Timothy Joe Emerson's prosecution for violating a federal gun law (he was later convicted).
What did the decision actually say?
Although, as we have held, the Second Amendment does protect individual rights, that does not mean that those rights may never be made subject to any limited, narrowly tailored specific exceptions or restrictions for particular cases that are reasonable and not inconsistent with the right of Americans generally to individually keep and bear their private arms as historically understood in this country. Indeed, Emerson does not contend, and the district court did not hold, otherwise.
and
We agree with the district court that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to privately keep and bear their own firearms that are suitable as individual, personal weapons and are not of the general kind or type excluded by Miller, regardless of whether the particular individual is then actually a member of a militia. However, for the reasons stated, we also conclude that the predicate order in question here is sufficient, albeit likely minimally so, to support the deprivation, while it remains in effect, of the defendant's Second Amendment rights. Accordingly, we reverse the district court's dismissal of the indictment on Second Amendment grounds.

We remand the cause for further proceedings not inconsistent herewith.
The Fifth Circuit examined Emerson's claim to a violation of his Second Amendment protection of his right to arms, studied the history of the Second Amendment, concluded that the right was an individual one, but - like every other individual right - subject to "limited, narrowly tailored specific exceptions or restrictions for particular cases," and that Emerson had received due process "albeit likely minimally so," so that his right had not been violated.

It was a pretty good decision, though the court (probably wisely) stayed far away from trying to define the exact scope of the Second Amendment.

Continuing:
Until Parker, Emerson had been ignored not only by the other circuits, but even by other Fifth Circuit courts.
Not so! The Ninth Circuit majority in Silveira v. Lockyer had some pretty harsh things to say about it, and it's been mentioned in more than one of the dissents in that court both in Silveira and Nordyke v. King.
While accepting a militia basis for the Second Amendment, the Parker court concluded that the amendment also "protects an individual right to keep and bear arms . . . for such activities as hunting and self-defense,"
A position also taken by Chief Justice Warren Burger, no? Isn't he an authority anymore?
with the latter encompassing "either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government." Parker's linchpin for this sweeping conclusion is its assertion that the reference to "the people" when read "intratextually" (that is, assuming it has the same meaning throughout the document) "leads us to conclude that the right in question is individual."
Right. Since "the people" who have the right to assemble, petition for redress of grievances, have a protection against unreasonable search and seizure, etc, are, you know, individuals, but "the people" who have the right to keep and bear arms are states. It's blindingly obvious.

If you're a mendacious putz.
Since Americans had a "pre-existing right" to protect themselves and hunt, these activities must also have come under the umbrella for the Second Amendment, they assert. The problem with this assertion, aside from the fact that the Bill of Rights was the product of many hands, is that no evidence supports it.
Oh really? Stay tuned.
All of the debate in the First Congress concerning the right to bear arms dealt with military matters. Worse, Parker's claim conflates very different rights.

Individual self-defense was protected for centuries under the common law, just as modern criminal law recognizes legitimate personal self-defense. It had and has nothing whatever to do with the Second Amendment.
Except that the Second Amendment protects the instruments necessary to effect ones self-defense.
And the invocations of an armed citizenry struggling to overthrow a tyrannical government arose from natural rights, not from the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. When Americans fought to end British rule, they were not only fighting against the British, but for their own, indigenous American government. Once that struggle was won, Americans traded violent overthrow for peaceful change – through the ballot box, the jury box, and the petitioning of their new government for the redress of grievances.
Did we surrender our natural rights when we formed the United States? This is Professor Saul Cornell's rather interesting position. I don't think so.

Professor Spitzer deliberately leaves out the box we're both using - the soap box - and the last box on which our liberty stands: the cartridge box. The doomsday provision, as 9th Circuit judge Alex Kozinski put it, "one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed - where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees."

What, that can't happen here?
The notion that the Second Amendment somehow enshrines a right of revolution for Americans contradicts the very idea of peaceful governance. In fact, as the Constitution says, militias are to be used to "suppress insurrections," not cause them. And the only attempt to include hunting in the federal Bill of Rights, arising from Pennsylvania, was defeated.
Well, at least Thomas Jefferson thought we should have a periodic rebellion just to keep our civil masters on their toes. Remember that "blood of patriots and tyrants" quote?

But here's where the real mendacity comes to the fore:
More bothersome in this federal court ruling is its failure to address the pertinent case law. The Parker majority ignores three Supreme Court cases that address the meaning of the Second Amendment. In U.S. v. Cruikshank (1876), the Court concluded that “bearing arms for lawful purposes” was not what the Second Amendment was about.
Really? As Clayton Cramer notes in a comment to Professor Spitzer's op-ed:
Cruikshank? The Supreme Court was looking for a way to end prosecution of Klansmen who had disarmed dozens of freedmen. (It was a lot easier to disarm the freedmen after murdering them.) Cruikshank not only found that the Second Amendment didn't apply in this situation, but similarly with respect to the right to peaceably assemble.
Right. Another one of those rights of the state.

Oh, wait...

Clayton doesn't quote the decision there, but I will:
The right there specified is that of "bearing arms for a lawful purpose." This is not a right granted by the Constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed; but this, as has been seen, means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress.
(Emphasis mine.) Keep this wording in mind. That sounds remarkably like a "pre-existing right," doesn't it? The court just narrowly said that the Federal government couldn't violate your (pre-existing) right to arms, but there was no protection against the state doing it.

All to legally justify the disarmament (and subsequent murder) of newly freed blacks. What a stellar decision to depend on.
More importantly, the Court stated flatly in Presser v. Illinois (1886) that the Second Amendment did not protect a citizen's right to privately bear arms; instead, it protected the "keeping and bearing of arms" so that the government could not be deprived of "their rightful resource for maintaining the public security" or "disable the people from performing their duty" to the government.
On this, Clayton responds:
Presser? The Illinois government was using the National Guard to terrorize unionists, and they responded by forming their own military organization. What was prohibited was an armed body of men marching through the streets--the relevance to individuals being armed is pretty small. More importantly, the decision doesn't say what Spitzer wasn't(sic) it to say.
He then quotes the actual decision:
We think it clear that the sections under consideration, which only forbid bodies of men to associate together as military organizations, or to drill or parade with arms in cities [116 U.S. 252, 265] and towns unless authorized by law, do not infringe the right of the people to keep and bear arms. But a conclusive answer to the contention that this amendment prohibits the legislation in question lies in the fact that the amendment is a limitation only upon the power of congress and the national government, and not upon that of the state.

It is undoubtedly true that all citizens capable of bearing arms constitute the reserved military force or reserve militia of the United States as well as of the states, and, in view of this prerogative of the general government, as well as of its general powers, the states cannot, even laying the constitutional provision in question out of view, prohibit the people from keeping and bearing arms, so as to deprive the United States of their rightful resource for maintaining the public security, and disable the people from performing their duty to the general government.
This hardly jives with Professor Spitzer's contention that the right to arms is somehow not an individual one, but one somehow of the states, does it? And what does Presser use for a precedent? Cruikshank. Parker could have quoted that line in bold to support their position, but D.C. isn't a state, as the lone dissenter in Parker anguishes about.

Continuing:
And in 1894, the Court upheld a Texas law "prohibiting the carrying of dangerous weapons" in Miller v. Texas, turning aside a Second Amendment rights claim. Little wonder that these three cases went unmentioned.
Little wonder, indeed, since they support the Parker court far better than you'd admit. Clayton, again:
Miller v. Texas? The big problem with this case is that the Supreme Court did not claim that the right in question belonged to the states; they argued that it was a limitation only the federal government:
We have examined the record in vain, however, to find where the defendant was denied the benefit of any of these provisions, and, even if he were, it is well settled that the restrictions of these amendments operate only upon the federal power, and have no reference whatever to proceedings in state courts.
The precedent cited by the court in Miller v. Texas? Cruikshank. That's circular reasoning on the part of Professor Spitzer, is it not?

But we're not quite finished:
The Parker majority does devote considerable analysis to the most recent Supreme Court case on the Second Amendment, U.S. v. Miller (1939). Here again, the court labors to reformulate the meaning of a case that is perfectly clear.
Yes, it is. But I see it perfectly clearly in an entirely different way than Professor Spitzer does, and there are a whole lot of us (including the majority in Parker) who see it the same way.
As Judge Karen Henderson noted in her dissent in Parker, Miller declares that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms relates to those Militia whose continued vitality is required to safeguard the individual states." Indeed, the Miller court stated flatly that the Second Amendment must be interpreted by its "obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces [militias] the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made."

The Parker majority view, however, asserts that Miller protects only a "weapons-based" right focusing "only on what arms are protected by the Second Amendment," because the Supreme Court upheld Miller's conviction for carrying a sawed-off shotgun (a gangster weapon regulated by a 1934 federal law) across state lines, as possession of that weapon held no "reasonable relationship" to a militia. Parker's twisted logic is that the Second Amendment is about protecting weapons ownership if the weapon has military utility, from assault rifles and bazookas to tactical nuclear weapons. The absurdity of Parker's argument underscores its desperation to achieve its real goal: to overturn the Supreme Court's Miller decision.
I've read Parker. I've read Miller. I've read so damned much caselaw I ought to have a JD diploma on my wall. The Supreme Court didn't "uphold Miller's conviction," it reversed the lower court's quashing of the indictment and remanded the case for trial. Miller was never convicted because he never appeared before a court again. His co-defendant Layton plead guilty. (Thanks for reminding me to mention that, Bob.)

The court in Miller heard the goverment's argument that Miller was not a member of a militia and therefore had no right to any firearm, and declined to decide the case on those grounds. If they had, we wouldn't be having this discussion. Instead they ruled on the narrow question of his weapon. The decision says this:
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.
(Emphasis mine.) Note two things: First, no defense was presented in Miller's behalf, else it could have been demonstrated to the court that short-barrelled shotguns had a long history of military service. Nobody filed a brief on Miller's behalf, no one stood in front of the court to plead his case. Second, the wording of that paragraph seems to me, and a lot of other people, to emphatically imply that had there been any evidence the Court would have had to find in Miller's favor. The Second Amendment would have protected not a state's right to arm its militia, but an individual's right to keep and bear such a weapon.

Tactical nukes? Who's twisting what, here?

Concluding:
Parker's bald judicial overreach abuses history and law to achieve a partisan political end – to paste into the Constitution a personal right to own guns. Its effort is an affront to the militia tradition, constitutional history, settled court precedent, and common sense.
Right. Seventy years of gun control history shows that the right to arms was first stripped from newly freed blacks, then others "not like us," and now, finally, everybody; and it's been done one slow step at a time by judicial overreach and abuse of history and law, ripping from the Constitution a personal right to own guns one thread at a time.

Parker just slapped a patch on the wound, and the gun control partisans are coming unglued.

UPDATE: Paul Helmke, master of mendacity for the Brady Center, has another perfect example of the deliberately misleading op-ed over at the Brady Blog. His commenters do a thorough job of pointing out his errors, though.

I wonder how much longer that outlet is going to allow comments? Some of them are scathingly funny.

ANOTHER UPDATE:

I just saw this. Apparently professor Spitzer reviewed Clayton Cramer's new book Armed America (order your copy today!). Clayton comments:
I'll be charitable and assume that Spitzer is working off a Brady Campaign summary of the 19th century Supreme Court precedents that he mentions, because if he actually had read them, it would be obvious that he's suffering creeping Bellesilesism.
In other words, "practicing deliberate mendacity."
Quote of the Day.

(Via 4RWW, from a comment at an excellent post at Protein Wisdom.)

Today's quote, by Ric Locke:
Saddam Hussein was a hateful, bloodyminded, bloody-handed tyrant who ran one of the nastiest regimes the planet has ever seen. Righties, we’ll stand before the Throne stammering excuses for supporting vile regimes, but Anastasio Somoza never fed people into a chipper-shredder. If the Left, including Democrats, believed one-tenth of what they’ve been spewing for the last half century they would have been screaming in the streets in 1993 for Clinton to remove Saddam by any means necessary.

Instead they have blocked that removal by any means possible, screamed in frustration when that blockage wasn’t successful, excused his excesses, lionized his followers, and made every attempt to vanish his crimes. In the course of that they have betrayed every Leftist and abandoned every democrat in Iraq.

So the only thing, the only strategy remaining to them is make it didn’t happen. It is imperative, a matter of psychic survival, that the Michael Moore “narrative” win out—that Uncle Joe Saddam was a benevolent father figure presiding over a somewhat-strict but peaceful, pastoral land of kite-flying children until viciously mauled by the evil George Bush.

Bush lied—not just about uranium in Africa but about everything: no Kurds got gassed, no Marsh Arabs got killed, no palaces got built with children’s food money, no living babies got thrown in an open ditch to be smothered with the bodies of their parents and buried. It didn’t happen—because if it did, if Bush didn’t lie, they have violated every precept, betrayed every principle, and smashed every ideal that makes the Left, including Democrats, anything but scare-tales to keep people lying awake sweating in fear.

Which is exactly what happened. Whether or not George Bush is a clever man, his record clearly shows that he isn’t a liar.

The thinking ones know it, and sweat bullets and swing into action immediately anything pops up that threatens to expose them. That’s where the feverish desperation comes from—there’s so much they have to suppress. It leaves them open to opportunists. Joe Wilson doesn’t believe in anything but Joe Wilson; his behavior is purely for his own aggrandizement, as is evident to anyone who examines the case, but the Left is forced to support the insupportable because to do otherwise is to threaten the sacred narrative.

Emphasis in original. And precisely the way I see it, myself.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"This is very unprofessional..."*

No, Ms. Hess, it's the kind of professionalism your counterparts in the media are sorely lacking. You should not feel embarrassed for having these emotions, you should be outraged that we're not seeing it from any other news outlets.

They're too busy "getting distracted by the shiny political knife-fight."

Via Pass the Ammo, UPI correspondent Pamela Hess on C-Span. Nine minutes of impassioned, important speech:

This, too:

*(Alternate title: "This is not about the original case for war.")
"Al Qaeda turned it on, but is powerless to turn it off."
Terrorists started this war with killing, and now are suing for peace with more killing, lashing out at schoolyards, marketplaces, and soccer matches, blowing up kids, women, and men on their way to work or worship. All to win the battle for headlines, which they are certain to get; the greater the savagery, the bigger the font.

Our soldiers, meaning the soldiers from countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany, yes France, and the United States, are better in all aspects but one: The terrorists somehow manage to beat us all in our respective medias. We may own the air, but terrorists own the airwaves.
From Michael Yon's latest dispatch Ernie is Dead. Please read it all.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Too Bad Jim Zumbo Didn't Wait a Couple of Weeks

This will hopefully be my last post for a while on the Zumbo incident, but it is such a striking coincidence, I have to comment.

I'm a subscriber to the bi-monthly magazine Handloader. My April, 2007 issue arrived in today's mail. Knowing the publishing industry slightly, I'm aware that everything in this magazine was written, edited, prepped and typeset at least a month ago, if not far longer. Starting on page 62 of this issue the author, well-known gunwriter Mike Venturino, examines light .223 caliber bullets in the context of varmint hunting. What's the gun pictured on the two-page spread? A Rock River A4 varmint rifle.

From the article:
When I quit varmint shooting about 1981, combining the words varmint and autoloader in the same sentence would have been a contradiction. Everybody then knew there was no way a "black rifle" could be accurate enough to hit tiny little ground squirrels at distances of 200 to 300 yards. With what was available then it probably would have been difficult to even mount a suitable varmint scope on a "black rifle." I honestly don't remember, because I didn't pay much attention to autoloaders then - and still don't for the most part. Maybe that will change some.

Anyway, on hand now is a Rock River A4 Varmint, which is that company's adaptation of the basic AR type of autoloading rifle known the world over as either AR-15, or in its selective fire military version as the M-16. However, the A4 Varmint is a long way from a military-style rifle. First, instead of the distinctive carrying handle of an AR-15, it comes with a rail atop the receiver that can be fitted with Weaver-type scope mounts. The A4 Varmint can be had with barels 16, 18, 20 and 24 inches long with rifles weighing from 7.9 to 9.7 pounts at each end of the spectrum. These barrels taper from 1.05 inches under the aluminum tube handguard to .920 inch ahead of the gas block. They are stainless steel, air gauged and made by Wilson, all with one-in-8-inch twist rates, except that an option can be a one-in-12-inch twist in the 24-inch barrel only. The trigger is a standard military two-stage type, but when the actual pull begins, this one released at 3 pounds.

The A4 Varmint sent to me by Rock River came with a 20 inch barrel, atop which was soon mounted a Leupold 10x scope. The catalog states that Rock River guarantees accuracy of .75 minute of angle at 100 yards. My thought was "An autoloading .223 outshooting most bolt-action .223s? We'll see about that." The facts turned out to be that this A4 Varmint often will group under .75 inch for five shots at 100 yards.
The article goes on for several pages discussing different bullets, powders, and loads (it is a magazine dedicated to handloaders after all), and compares the A4 to a Savage Model 11F bolt-action, but the piece concludes:
Also gained from this project is some deep respect for the accuracy potential of a modern-day autoloading rifle. Twenty-five years back when I gave up varmint shooting, I honestly never thought they could be viable long-range varminters. They are, although I still don't like the way they spread my empty brass hither and yon. Last year in Oregon there were often opportunities for quick repeat shots, since the ground squirrels often clustered together. This coming spring with the Rock River A4 Varmint rifle, I'll find out if indeed a fast second shot is an asset.
Looks like Venturino was "living in a vacuum" as well. But at least he didn't let the vacuum reside between his ears when he sat down in front of his word processor.

And too bad Jim Zumbo didn't get a chance to read Venturino's article before he went after coyote in Wyoming. He might have taken an AR, and saved himself a boatload of grief.
On Global Climate Change.

I had plans to write a long, involved piece on this topic. I've been reading extensively, collecting bookmarks and such for a couple of weeks now. However, I came across a post that said everything I'd planned to say, and with a brevity I know many of my readers wish I could emulate. (Like you, Alger.)

If you're at all interested in the topic, please read Coyote Blog's Am I Anti-Science?

Bang on.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Molon Labe!.

My wife and I went to see 300 today. It was a pretty good crowd for a Sunday after-matinee show, and we were not disappointed. Good performances, special effects that fed the story and didn't distract from it, and a good plot. (It's a well-known historical piece, hard - but not impossible - to screw up.)

I will say one thing further. I found this review (via Rotten Tomatoes) to be amusing. Money quote:
These Spartans are equal parts John Rambo, Conan the Cimmerian, and John McClane. I feel comfortable enough in my (relative lack of) masculinity to say that if I had to stand in the presence of these men for more than ten seconds, I’d spontaneously grow a pair of ovaries.
Let's just say my wife enjoyed it far more than she'd anticipated.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Light a Seegar, it's the Best Birthday Present EVER!.

Mrs. Baker's little boy was born 45 years ago this day, and today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia gave me the best birthday present a gun-nut could ever want: A decision overturning D.C.'s draconian gun-ban on the grounds that the Second Amendment to the Constitution protects an individual right to arms.

If you've not been following the case, this has been in the pipeline for a while. The D.C. court was the ideal place to bring up such a suit because the District is not legally a "state." Its statutes are subject only to federal law. Because of the precedent of U.S. v. Cruikshank the Second Amendment has been excluded from "incorporation" under the 14th Amendment's "privileges or immunities" and/or "equal protection" clauses. State and local restrictions on the right to arms are legal (thus Chicago and Morton Grove, IL can ban handguns while Kennesaw, GA can mandate firearm ownership). While many courts have thrown out Second Amendment challenges on the "collective rights" arguments, all they've needed to do is cite Cruikshank - but Cruikshank, like Dred Scott before it, is a racist decision.

At any rate, Washington, D.C. doesn't get that protection. It's under federal law only, and the Second Amendment definitely applies.

Bear with me here. I've read enough legal decisions to make my eyes bleed over the last ten or twelve years. As a result, I assume other people have the same knowledge I've acquired, or conversely, don't know a damned thing about what I'm discussing. Either I give too much background information, or not enough. I prefer to err on the side of "too much."

In 1976 the City of Washington, D.C. passed three ordinances that had the following effects:
1: No new handguns could be added to the existing registry except for handguns belonging to retired police officers - essentially a ban on any new (legally possessed) handguns in the District.

2: No handgun could be carried without a permit - thus preventing even mere possession in ones own home.

3: All firearms - long guns included - had to be kept unloaded and either disassembled or with a trigger or other locking device installed, thus rendering any firearm kept legally from being available for self defense.
(And in the period since, D.C. has often been "murder capital of the U.S." for cities over 500,000 population - trading off fairly regularly with that other gun-control bastion, Chicago.)

Two very similar cases were brought before the D.C. District Court in 2003. Seegars v. Ashcroft was brought by the NRA on behalf of several plaintiffs arguing that the D.C. ban on registering new handguns was a violation of the Second Amendment. At about the same time the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, filed Parker v D.C. on essentially the same grounds. In both cases all the plaintiffs were asking for was the right to keep a loaded firearm in their own homes. There was much wrangling, and the NRA attempted to get both cases tried simultaneously, but the Cato lawyers fought that battle successfully and kept them separate.

The National Rifle Association drew a lot of flak at the time (even from me) because they argued in front of the court that they were OK with registration. At any rate, Seegars lost in the District court and when it proceeded to the Appeals court that suit was dismissed on a very narrow reading of an earlier case where the panel concluded that the plaintiffs didn't have standing to sue because they hadn't actually been arrested and prosecuted for trying to register a firearm! To top it all off, during this period some granstanding Senators tried to render the whole point moot by overturning the D.C. gun ban by act of Congress. That failed too.

So, with Seegars a lost cause, many of us (me among them) figured Parker was headed for the scrap heap as well. The District Court found against Parker and the other plaintiffs because it (like most courts) believed the Second Amendment does not protect an individual right to arms. CATO then appealed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals - and the appeal was granted. It seems one of the Parker plaintiffs actually tried to register a handgun - and was rejected. That was sufficient "damage" in the eyes of the Court. (I'll be quoting from the decision a lot in a later post.)

Today in a 2-1 decision (District cases are heard by a single judge, Appeals court cases are heard by a three-judge panel) the Appeals court found that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to arms, and that the rights of the plaintiffs had been unconstitutionally violated by the D.C. gun ban.

This was immediately denounced as "judicial activism at its worst" by the Brady Bunch. I'll have more to say on that topic later, too.

So where do we go from here? Well, most probably the District of Columbia will file for a Stay to prevent the decision from vacating the D.C. gun ban (don't rush out and buy a handgun yet, you denizens of D.C!) Then it will file an appeal for an en banc rehearing of the case. If granted, all (or at least most) of the judges on the D.C. Circuit will hear the case, and we'll get to see how many of them are honest and how many (in the words of 9th Circuit judge Alex Kozinski) are willing to constitutionalize their personal preferences, burying language that is incontrovertibly there. Regardless of the outcome of such an appeal, the case will then progress to the Supreme Court.

And there's the rub.

What happens then?

In 2001 the Fifth Circuit in U.S. v Emerson decided that the Second Amendment did indeed protect an individual right to arms, but that the right was not immune to "limited, narrowly tailored specific exceptions or restrictions for particular cases that are reasonable and not inconsistent with the right of Americans generally to individually keep and bear their private arms as historically understood in this country." It decided that the defendant's individual right to arms had not been violated because he had received due process of law "albeit likely minimally so". In December of 2002 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Silveira v Lockyer decided that the plaintiffs had no standing to sue because there was no individual right to arms, based on their previous Hickman v Block decision. (Note to the Ninth Circuit: I live in Arizona, one of the states you preside over. And I know what the Second Amendment says, even if you do not.)

So we had two Circuit Courts of Appeals with recent cases having opposite holdings on whether the right to arms was individual or collective.

The Supreme Court passed on both appeals. Dr. Emerson remained in jail, Californians don't get any new "assault weapons" as defined by whoever is in charge of the California Dept. of Justice this week. And the question of whether or not the Second Amendment protects an individual right remains unanswered by our highest court.

Will they hear it? If they hear it, how will they decide? Will they finally "incorporate" the Second Amendment against infringement by the states?

In other words, will the Supreme Court overturn 72+ years of bad law at one stroke?

Think on that question and see if you can sleep soundly tonight.

I'll have more to say on today's decision later. I need to read it again and think a bit.