05 July 2010

2nd Amend.

Via Unacoder:
Reason | Jacob Sullum | Gun Shy

In their dissenting opinions, Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer (joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor) worry that overturning gun control laws undermines democracy. If "the people" want to ban handguns, they say, "the people" should be allowed to implement that desire through their elected representatives.

What if the people want to ban books that offend them, establish an official church, or authorize police to conduct warrantless searches at will? Those options are also foreclosed by constitutional provisions that apply to the states by way of the 14th Amendment. The crucial difference between a pure democracy and a constitutional democracy like ours is that sometimes the majority does not decide.
Well said.

This is what bugs me about people who support heavy-handed gun control laws. It's not that gun control is a bad thing in and of itself. (Well, I sort of think it is, but that's not what annoys me.) What gets me is that the Second is right there, plain as day. There are some words in the Bill of Rights, and those words mean things.

You can go on and on with statistics about violence and crime and social science and this study and that study. Maybe an armed citizenry was never a good idea. Maybe it used to be but now it isn't, due to sociological or technological changes. Whatever. None of that matters to me, because there's still that pesky "the right of the people ... shall not be infringed."  Not "shall not be infrigned, unless sociologists come up with new empirical evidence," or "shall not be infringed until such a time as people think guns are scary and dangerous."

If there is new evidence or people do change their minds then there's a very straight forward legal way to remove that right, and that way isn't to just ignore the amendment.

Anyway, there's not much point in me going on about this because Mike Munger has already covered this ground a couple of days ago:
Had a nice glass of wine last night, and re-read one of my favorite essays, by one of my most favoritest lefties....Sandy Levinson, of the UT-Austin Law School.

Here is the essay: The Embarrassing 2nd Amendment.

Sandy (whom I got to know down at UT-Austin when I was there) is honest. He does not like the 2nd Amendment. But he believes in the rule of law, and so feels obliged to point out two things.

First, the words in the 2nd Amendment have meaning. They appear to mean that there is an individual right to keep and bear arms. Subject to regulation, not an absolute right, all that's true. BUT. SOME. INDIVIDUAL. RIGHT.

Second, we can't pick and choose which amendments to enforce. If the Bill of Rights is important, if the Constitution cannot be violated, then we have to enforce all of it. If you don't like the 2nd Amendment, then amend the Constitution.
I deeply appreciate the kind of intellectual honesty that Levinson exhibits here.  I would recommend his essay.

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