Following Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on guns, sundry outraged mayors were fuming because the justices, “for the first time,” discovered in the Constitution an individual right to bear arms, placing in danger all their precious (though thoroughly counterproductive) local victim disarmament edicts.
The city of Chicago, for instance, currently governed by yet another Richard Daley (how many does this one make?) had filed an amicus brief arguing that since the Second Amendment restricts only federal gun-banning, it shouldn’t apply to Cook County.
That argument would have made some sense before enactment of the 14th Amendment in 1867 (apparently it still takes some time for news to reach Chicago), specifically barring states, counties and municipalities from restricting the rights of U.S. citizens. This was done specifically to stop recalcitrant racist jurisdictions in the years immediately following the Civil War from attempting to limit the rights of black citizens to register and go to the polls. It was easier to intimidate them, see, if they could be arrested for bearing arms (especially concealed firearms, the carry method curiously favored by black folk who would be lynched if seen carrying a gun openly). So the Southern states responded to post-Civil War Reconstruction by enacting “black codes,” specifically aimed at disarming racial minorities. This was banned in 1867, mayor.
In fact, Thursday’s “narrow” 5-4 ruling “discovered” no new right, at all.
The mainstream press has been reporting that in its 1939 Miller decision — the last significant Second Amendment case to make it to the justices — the high court found a right to bear arms “only related to militia service,” or words to that effect.
Nonsense. No one in his right mind believed in 1939 that the missing moonshiner Miller belonged to any active militia or unit of the National Guard. Miller wasn’t even represented in court. The court clearly (and properly) believed in 1939 that any member of “the people” had a right to keep and bear any weapon “of militia usefulness,” without regard to whether they had ever served in any military or quasi-military unit. That’s why they asked the government liars — if I were to change that word to “lawyers,” what would I be changing, precisely? — whether sawed -off shotguns such as Miller’s had been found useful in combat in the First World War. That is to say, whether it was the kind of “arm” of which the keeping and bearing by “the people” is protected and guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
Lying through their teeth, the government liars then lawyered, saying sawed-off shotguns had not been of any use in the recent dust-up in France. So the court, in a very narrow 1939 ruling, upheld that portion of the 1934 National Firearms Act which places tax-and-registration restrictions on possession of sawed-off shotguns, since they were officially recognized as being of no military usefulness.
How did we get from that ruling to the fact that I can’t now go down to the hardware store and pay cash for a newly imported, inexpensive machine gun? Machine guns aren’t of “military usefulness”?
Let us compare the enforcement of the Second Amendment — even after Thursday’s ruling — to the enforcement of other provisions of the Bill of Rights.
The Sixth Amendment says that if the government charges me with a crime, I have a right to “the assistance of counsel.” In 1966, the Republic being 177 years old, the Supreme Court suddenly “discovered” (in Miranda vs. Arizona) that this right had a new meaning, previously unrecognized. It turns out this right means that when a police officer arrests you, he has to tell you that you have a right to an attorney, and then say, “If you do not have an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”
Then, if you plead poverty, the court will appoint you a “public defender,” and the taxpayers will pay for his or her services.
I’m not saying that’s an entirely bad thing. I doubt most Americans today would want to entirely disband the office of the public defender. But Imagine if the Supreme Court now defended my Second Amendment rights with equal vigor.
Thursday, the court ruled that when the Constitution says my right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed,” that means it’s still OK to arrest me if I try to enter a school or other government building while carrying my Taurus .44.
But if they applied the 1966 Miranda standard to the Second Amendment, they would instead have ruled that, when I enter a federal courthouse or other government building, the receptionist or security guard who greets me would be required to say, “Ah, sir, you don’t seem to be wearing a sidearm. I’m required to advise you that you have a right to keep and bear arms. If you don’t currently have a gun, one will be provided you at government expense. Is there anything in our display rack here that suits your tastes? Can I loan you this Kimber .45 , perhaps, or this Para-Ordnance .40 with a full-sized magazine?”
“Oh, that’s idiotic!” some younger products of the youth homogeneity camps will fume. “If we allowed people to carry guns into schools and courthouses, mayhem and mass murder would ensue.”
We have indeed seen “mayhem and mass murder ensue” in America. But not during the three centuries prior to 1934 (or even up to 1968) when walking around with a gun was so common as to go largely unremarked. The rise of those sociopathologies can be correlated quite closely with the gun bans enacted starting in 1934 but predominantly since 1968, along with the conversion of our common schools into a massive “jobs” program of fenced-off “secure” youth internment camps, where any lad who shows any spirit of independence or other evidence of “testosterone poisoning” is promptly labeled a “behavior problem” and doped up on mind-altering drugs such as Ritalin and Luvox.
Most of our “schoolyard mass shooters” had been lately doped up on such nostrums. You can look it up.
The court has taken a hesitant half step in the right direction. With any luck, we will dodge the danger of having gun-grabber Barack Obama — who at least cannot be said to have forgotten the struggles of his black American ancestors against racism in this country in centuries past, since he has no such ancestors — appoint our next three or four Supreme Court justices.
Barring that, perhaps we can continue hesitantly back up the path toward the freedom land.
Vin Suprynowicz (vsuprynowicz@reviewjournal. com) is the Review-Journal’s assistant editorial page editor.