Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Be careful what you ask for!

I became deeply interested in the American Constitution--and the history of Constitutional interpretation--about a dozen years ago when I began work on what is now known as Sonlight Curriculum Core 400: Civics/American Government program.

In general, I took a textualist/classic liberal perspective on things.

Ever since that original study, however, I find myself caught up short and taken by surprise by issues and arguments related to the Constitution. Like this one I bumped into this morning: The Trouble with 'Incorporating' the Second Amendment by Jack Hunter:
When the City of Chicago banned all handguns recently, countless Americans . . . cried foul. When it looked like the Supreme Court might overturn the ban, gun-rights advocates cheered the decision. But while their heart is in the right place, their enthusiasm is not, as what gun-rights advocates are really cheering is the federal government assuming even more power.
Got that?

I had to do a double-take.

What's the problem with the Supreme Court coming to a decision on a matter of Second Amendment rights?

Pay attention:
Constitutional historian Kevin Gutzman [notes]: "[E]ssentially what [the Second Amendment] means is that the federal government is to have nothing to do with your ownership and use of weapons. But that doesn't mean that nobody is able to regulate your ownership and use of weapons. . . . Clearly some level of government has to be able to regulate the use and possession of firearms."
So who should have that authority? According to the Constitution, such regulation is a prerogative of local--perhaps city, perhaps state, perhaps both--governments. It is "simply" not supposed to be the prerogative of the federal government.

And what happens if and when the feds acquire power in this area? As the Washington Times commented, then "federal law trumps state law anytime the court sees fit, completely ignoring the Bill of Rights' intended purpose of limiting federal authority. What some consider a small victory for gun rights is actually a grand defeat for limited government."

See Hunter's article for more.

Thought-provoking. And too bad both Democrats and Republicans, so-called liberals and so-called conservatives are completely oblivious to their lack of a solidly-grounded political philosophy!

For some additional perspective on the issue, see States must protect gun rights as they ensure public safety and a distressing article about the everywhere-else-"originalist" Antonin Scalia becoming a judicial activist on this particular question.
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