Monday, November 19, 2007

Should the right to keep and bear arms be infringed by the courts?

In 1975 Washington D. C. enacted The ‘Firearms Control Regulation Act’ prohibiting residents from owning handguns for the purpose of deterring “gun violence”; but did it do so?

The number of violent crimes in Washington D. C. has gone from 554/100,000 in 1960 to 1,512 in 2006. In the same period the murder rate went from 10/100,000 to 29/100,000. The police department reports that violent crime is up 12% just this year so far.

Clearly restricting gun ownership only affects law-abiding people. Thomas Jefferson noted in his Commonplace Book (quoting Cesare Beccaria), "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."

Is it any surprise that criminals prefer as victims people who have no means of self defense?

Does the Second Amendment prohibit the government from infringing on the individual rights of citizens to keep and bear arms, or does it restrict the central government from infringing on the rights of the several states to maintain well-armed militias?

The intent of the Second Amendment, however, was abundantly clear to our Founders.

The principal author of the Constitution was James Madison. Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers – "The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation... forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any..."

James Madison appointed Justice Joseph Story to the U.S. Supreme Court, he wrote - "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."

Justice Story was echoing the words of Alexander Hamilton - "If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense..."

Only those unfamiliar with or wishing to ignore the historical foundation of gun ownership ignore the right of the people to bear arms is the most essential of the rights enumerated in our Constitution, because it ensures the preservation of all other rights.

Earlier this year The Court of Appeals for the U.S. District of Columbia by 2 to 1 held that the Washington D.C. Firearms Control and Regulation Act was an unconstitutional violation of the Second Amendment’s prohibition against infringement of “the right to of the people to keep and bear arms”. In making its decision, the court said –

"The Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government... The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty."

The majority opinion also notes, "The activities [the amendment] protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual's enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia."

The dissenting judge's conclusion did not dispute the plain language of the Second Amendment's prohibition on government, but he insists that the District is not a state, and thus is not subject to the prohibition. This is ridiculous since such a conclusion means that District residents are not subject to any protection under the Constitution. Are the rights to free exercise of religion or freedom of the press not available to residents of Washington D.C.?

The case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue is simple – Does the Second Amendment prohibit government from infringing on the individual rights of citizens to keep and bear arms, or does it restrict the rights of the states to maintain a well-regulated militia?

The appealed case is not about crime prevention, or whether the District is subject to prohibitions in the Bill of Rights; it is about whether the Constitution's provision that citizens have the right to defend themselves against both criminals and tyrannical governments have the meaning clearly intended by the country’s founders who wrote it or those judges who would amend the Constitution by judicial decree rather than by amendment and judges who properly interpret the Constitution based on the Constitution's "original intent."

Of Constitution’s Second amendment and "important principles," Thomas Jefferson wrote, "It is [the peoples'] right and duty to be at all times armed."; let us not allow the courts to take away this Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.


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