A post by Maynard
Tammy has linked Breyer’s comments, so I’m sure she spoke of this in her Weekend Update. I (Maynard) am posting this without yet having heard Tammy’s analysis…
I’m always interested in hearing the best arguments of those that disagree with me. I’m not simply looking to win; I want to be on the side that deserves to win. To get there, I need to know why (or if) my best trumps their best.
I thought we’d finally settled the argument about the Second Amendment, but here we find Justice Breyer of the Supreme Court still telling us why we’re wrong, and why we’ll ultimately be overturned. Alright, what did I miss?
First, the Second Amendment, in all its simplicity:
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.
What does it say? I’m forced to acknowledge that I can’t simply dismiss that preamble, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”, upon which a vital portion of the debate seems to hinge. Why didn’t the Framers simply write, “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” period? That would have made things so much simpler…for us, anyway. So how do we deal with those opening words?
On the other hand, proponents of a forcibly disarmed citizenry have an even tougher time grappling with the meat of the amendment, that bit about “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. That’s a pretty strong declaration, and impossible to wish away, no matter what its prefix might be.
Here’s what Breyer said:
Madison “was worried about opponents who would think Congress would call up state militias and nationalize them. ‘That can’t happen,’ said Madison,” said Breyer, adding that historians characterize Madison’s priority as, “I’ve got to get this document ratified.”
Therefore, Madison included the Second Amendment to appease the states, Breyer said.
“If you’re interested in history, and in this one history was important, then I think you do have to pay attention to the story,” Breyer said. “If that was his motive historically, the dissenters were right. And I think more of the historians were with us.”
…He suggested that those values and intentions mean that the Second Amendment allows for restrictions on the individual, including an all-out ban on handguns in the nation’s capital.
Okay, we’re talking history and law and politics here. Scholars write big books about these details. There’s far too much for me to cover thoroughly in few words here, and there’s plenty I don’t know. But I’ll try to hit the essence as I understand it.
Breyer is saying that the Second Amendment protects, not the citizens, but the states. Hence the “militia” prefix. The Amendment only applies to state militias.
You can see how that argument might be made. But is this the final word? I don’t think so.
First, we have the wording. “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It doesn’t say, “…the right of the state militias to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” It says “people“. That would seem to be us. As in, “We the people”.
Second, Breyer is arguing that it’s okay for the Federal government to ban arms in Federal enclaves, and it’s okay for state and local jurisdictions to ban arms in their jurisdiction. So in Breyer’s world, an America in which the people are entirely disarmed is not inconsistent with “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Seems to me that’s a pretty blatant statement of Orwellian doublethink. The pieces of Breyer’s argument may make sense in isolation and in theory, but the totality is ridiculous. This is sadly typical of the way intellectuals are capable of losing sight of reality.
Third, I’ll cite the notorious Dred Scott decision of 1857. The Court of that era wrote that recognizing African-Americans as citizens
…would give to persons of the negro race…the full liberty…to keep and carry arms wherever they went.
So the early Court did indeed believe that the government wasn’t allowed to deprive American citizens of the right to arm themselves and bear those arms. Breyer is being a revisionist historian in alleging otherwise.
Perhaps the most fundamental historical point to note is that the Second Amendment was written in the shadow of the Battles of Lexington and Concord. The American Revolution began when the British decided to disarm the locals, and the locals declined to be disarmed. Our Founding Fathers, recognizing that a disarmed people are doomed to fall victim to tyranny, wrote the Second Amendment to prevent that sort of thing from ever happening here again. This is the true spirit of the Second Amendment. Can this be denied?
The Breyers of the world make clever arguments. On the surface, some of these arguments seem to make sense. But if you look at the pattern of the behavior of such people, you’ll see an endless list of rationalizations and constructed excuses for ever-bigger government pushing ever-deeper into the lives of ever-smaller people. Every day in every way, there are more tools for the people to be taxed, regulated, controlled. This trend stands in stark contrast to the spirit and the letter of the Constitution, which is a covenant of limited government to which is delegated a short list of enumerated powers. The Framers understood that government is an organ with a natural inclination to metastasize.
The Fox interview closes with a “Let them eat cake” reassurance from Justice Breyer. “Are you a sportsman? Do you like to shoot pistols at targets? Well, get on the subway and go to Maryland. There is no problem, I don’t think, for anyone who really wants to have a gun.”
These are the words of a man that lives in a bubble. He’s got security and property and every comfort. He’s safe from the government because he is the government. The world would be perfect, except for the ugly rumbling of ignorant citizens that don’t know their place. Breyer is a happy man, and he just can’t understand why you’re not happy too. You don’t need a gun. If you’re one of those sportsmen, take the train to Maryland. Problem solved. Second Amendment? What Second Amendment?