The Electric Commentary

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Reading the Constitution is hard.

One thing that really pisses me off is that some people, many of whom have positions as justices on the US Supreme Court, think that interpreting the Constitution is some sort of game, the goal of which is to come up with a plausible theory of interpretation to lend support to your preconceived ideas of what is should say.

The Second Amendment is the best example of this. It is actually quite possibly the clearest, most direct amendment in the Constitution.

To understand the second amendment, it is important to remember one thing:

1. The people who wrote the Constitution had recently accomplished a civilian overthrow of a state-sponsored military.

The second amendment is as follows:

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.

Most people, even some gun nuts, think that this amendment authorizes the ownership of firearms in the context of an organized militia only. They interpret the second amendment to read:

If you have some sort of state sanction, or license, or the like, then you can own a gun.

They use this interpretation to severely curtail the rights of would-be gun-owners. It is worth noting, however, that his interpretation is completely, objectively incorrect. A more accurate interpretation is as follows:

Look, the state needs an army. Defending the people is one of the clear, legitimate uses of government. But, it's possible that, at some point, that military will turn on us, the people. After all, that exact thing just happened to us in our war with the British.

Because the military may turn on the people at some point, we absolutely must allow the people to own guns, so that they may overthrow the military, and the government, when it is appropriate to do so.

This is the correct interpretation, but good luck finding a politician who will support the idea that gun ownership is essential for protection from him.

What really grinds my gears is the dishonesty that most people use in reading this amendment. Both Danny and I are squeamish about guns. We don't own any guns, we've never fired a gun, and we are not oblivious to the existence of foreign nations with more gun control and less violence (nor are we ignorant of the existence of studies that say that crime is lower in areas that allow citizens to carry concealed weapons.)

But, we're libertarians, we can read, and we're not hypocrites, and so we believe that Americans have the legal right to own guns. This should be clear to everyone.

If we wanted to change US gun policy, the honest way to go about it would be to lobby for a Constitutional amendment that would allow for gun control, but instead opponents seek out judges willing to engage in "creative" Constitutional interpretation.

The worst part about this is the effect it has on the judiciary. Instead of fair, smart judges we look for partisans. This creates a judiciary that is less concerned with fairness, and more concerned with their party's interests. The abortion issue has a similar destructive effect.

Whether you are a gun enthusiast or a gun-hater you should be aware of the actual law of the land, and the steps that you must go through to change that law. The founders had a very good reason for enacting the second amendment, and they made it very clear (through use of language as well as through its "2nd place ranking" in the Bill of Rights) that the right to bear arms was very important to the existence of a free nation.

You may disagree with that, which is fine. However, if you do not agree with it, you should recognize that nothing short of a constitutional amendment will change anything.

The "stupid judges" policy of eroding constitutional rights is practiced by both parties, and it is one of the most destructive policies to which a government can adhere.


  • Yes. I agree 100%.

    By Anonymous mitch, at 5:25 PM  

  • Just another bit of pressure on the flusher primed to send this great country down the tubes.

    Places like America can only crumble from within.

    By Anonymous Rashid Muhammad, at 11:12 PM  

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