Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Second Amendment’

LA Times gets it right on Second Amendment

Posted by sanityinjection on October 6, 2009

It’s always nice when a media outlet exceeds your expectations. So I was very pleased to read the Los Angeles Times’ editorial today on the Second Amendment case that the Supreme Court has decided to hear.

Briefly, the case focuses on the city of Chicago’s ban on private owenership of handguns. You may recall the Court recently struck down Washington D.C.’s gun ban, ruling that the Second Amendment definitively applies to individuals. In this case, the legal question is whether the state of Illinois (and by extension Chicago) must be bound by the federal Second Amendment in passing its laws. Technically, the amendments in the Bill of Rights only constrain the federal government; however, the Fourteenth Amendment has been taken to extend the protections of the Bill of Rights to state law in other cases.

I applaud the LA Times for recognizing the clear legal argument, and the potential danger to our freedoms if the court were to rule that the states need not be bound by the Bill of Rights. In doing so, the paper’s editors explicitly state that the goal (which they support) of controlling gun violence through legal restrictions on gun ownership and use cannot justify violating the logical interpretation of the Constitution. Or to put it much more simply: The end does not justify the means.

Newspaper editorial boards tend to be practical types unsympathetic to moral, legal, or technical arguments. The Times’ e-board in this case has displayed a wisdom and prudence unusual among its peers.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Second Amendment faces most serious threat in American history

Posted by sanityinjection on June 3, 2009

Ah, the ironies of politics. It was just last year that the Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia’s handgun ban in District of Coulmbia v. Heller. In doing so the court ruled definitively that the right to bear arms is an individual right, putting an end to the pernicious left-wing argument that the Amendment’s “militia” clause was intended to limit gun ownership to military reserve purposes. The decision was hailed as a strong victory for Second Amendment rights, which it was.

Then, just a week ago, Congress passed a bill that included an explicit protection of the right to carry a concealed weapon in a federal park (for persons authorized to do so under state law.) There was no serious attempt to kill the provision. High times for gun rights, yes?

Well, no. In fact, the Second Amendment remains under serious threat. I alluded to the problem in my post commenting on Judge Sotomayor’s nomination. There have been conflicting rulings from various appellate courts on whether the Second Amendment applies to states and municipalities. For example, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has just upheld Chiacgo’s municipal handgun ban on these grounds, while the 9th Circuit, in upholding a California municipal gun ordinance, held that the Second Amendment can be read as applying to states and counties. It is expected that the Supreme Court wille ventually have to resolve the confusion.

I am frankly dumbfounded by all this. The idea that any of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights can be held as not applying to states and local authorities is so dangerous that it borders on lunacy. Under such a philosophy, you could have no freedom of assembly in Pennsylvania, no freedom of religion and an established state church in Utah, and no freedom of the press in Florida. (In practice, state constitutions often explicitly guarantee these kinds of freedoms, so these are random examples.) There would be nothing to stop every single state from banning handguns, with the result that the only place you could legally own a gun would be the District of Columbia.

Even liberals do not want to destroy the Bill of Rights. Rather, their intention is to sidestep it only when necessary in order to advance their radical statist agenda. But their long-standing callous disregard for the letter and process of the law, in favor of a focus solely on outcomes, will come back to haunt them if this precedent is allowed to take hold.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Obama nominates Sotomayor for Supreme Court: First thoughts

Posted by sanityinjection on May 26, 2009

It is tempting to rush to judgment concerning President Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. Judge Sotomayor has a fairly extensive judicial record which is already being mined by the media for juicy tidbits.

However, there is a reason that the Senate holds confirmation hearings. Judge Sotomayor should be afforded the opportunity to participate, through her statements,  in the public re-definition of herself as a jurist that accompanies every Supreme Court nomination. So, like the Senate GOP, I am going to refrain from taking a position until I’ve heard more from the judge herself.

I will make a few comments, though. The first is that as a general rule, I think the President should be entitled to the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his nominees – for the Court, the Cabinet, or any position. A difference in political ideology should not be sufficient grounds to oppose a Presidential nominee. Sotomayor is unquestionably a liberal. Well, duh. Did you think Obama was going to appoint a conservative? If he were to withdraw Sotomayor’s nomination for any reason, his second choice is not going to resemble Antonin Scalia. So it would be silly for the GOP to oppose Sotomayor simply because she’s a liberal. Nor does Sotomayor’s record suggest that she votes in a knee-jerk or thoughtless fashion. In fact, she’s rather known for aggressive questioning of appellants.

Of course, the judicial record I mentioned above contains a number of controversial items that I would argue are legitimate areas of concern. For example, Sotomayor is on record as stating that the Second Amendment only applies to the federal government and not to the several states. That argument, generalized to cover the other Amendments in the Bill of Rights, would allow states to abrogate rights such as free speech and freedom of religion if their state constitutions allow it. Thus, I will be eager to hear how Sotomayor chooses to put this portion of her record in context when it comes up during the hearings, as it surely will.

However, one must keep in mind the political context of this nomination. Assuming no major bombshells arise to derail the nomination, Obama can count on the votes of most Democratic Senators and one or two Republicans, who do not care to vote against her because she is (pick one) liberal, female, or Hispanic. This means that no matter how long the blustering goes on, Sotomayor is likely to be confirmed. Conservatives will have to gauge whether it is worth making a stink over Sotomayor’s record and risk being painted as racist or sexist for opposing her.  The GOP may choose to save its ammo for a later fight when Obama nominates John Paul Stevens’ successor. Also, the hearings will probably take place over the summer when fewer Americans are paying attention to politics. So there’s less to be gained by grandstanding by either side.

At the end of the day, I believe that unless a Presidential nominee proves to be seriously flawed in qualifications or character, we should defer to the President’s preferences, whether that President is a Republican or a Democrat. (I have not forgotten the political assassination of Judge Robert Bork, one of the most qualified individuals ever nominated to the Court, by Democrats on purely ideological grounds.) The question is whether Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings will magnify today’s concerns to prove to be such flaws, or not. Like political junkies everywhere, I will eagerly await the answer.

But the outcome of this should be important to all Americans. Not because Sotomayor is female (not the first or even second woman on the Court) or Hispanic (a first, but there’s always going to be another first – first Albanian-American, first disabled person, etc. – when does it stop being the primary method of viewing people?), but because the nine members of the Supreme Court are among the most powerful people on earth – as powerful as the President in their collective ability to make decisions that affect the lives of ordinary Americans – think Dred Scott, Brown v. Board of Education, and Roe v. Wade, just for starters. What that means is that we should all hope for a nominee who takes the responsibility of being a Supreme Court Justice with the greatest of seriousness, and who will use her or his legal experience and understanding of the Constitution to make decisions based on the body of American law, not to advance a particular political agenda, but rather to hold any and all political agendas subject to the same scrutiny and standards. Liberals dissatisfied with the Court up until now have felt that the majority of the Justices have not done so; if that is the case (and I don’t agree that it is), replacing a partisan activist Court with another one swinging in the opposite direction is not a victory for the rule of law, only an Orwellian swap between the oppressors and the oppressed (Read 1984!)

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Quote of the Week

Posted by sanityinjection on May 20, 2009

“I don’t like guns necessarily. What I want is those constitutional rights to be protected.” – Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Mr. Coburn was speaking on a rider he attached to the credit card regulation bill now moving through Congress. The rider allows persons who are authorized by state law to carry loaded and concealed weapons to continue to do so when they enter a national park or wildlife refuge. Current law requires those weapons to be unloaded and secured upon entry.

I share Senator Coburn’s sentiments. I do not own a gun or have any particular affection for guns. I have no interest in hunting, though I’ve often said to myself that I should learn how to fire a handgun as an emergency skill. Nevertheless, I do not believe that the Second Amendment, or any Amendment to the Constitution should be sidestepped or disregarded. The Founding Fathers felt that the right to bear arms was so important that they placed it immediately after freedom of religion, speech and assembly.

Whiel I admit I do not imagine a pressing reason why one would need to carry a concealed weapon in a national park, I also see no pressing reason why one should have to disarm in order to transit through one.

The rider is expected to succeed because Democrats do not want to derail the credit card bill, and President Obama cannot veto the gun language without vetoing the entire bill.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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