Keeping the government at arms reach

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Feb 15, 2008 No Comments ›› Greg Jones

Keeping the government at arms reach

This week the Foundation for Moral Law filed an amicus curiae brief (http://www NULL.morallaw NULL.org/PDF/dc_v_heller_foundation_brief NULL.pdf) in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller.  The specific issue in the case is the constitutionality of Washington, D.C.’s draconian ban on handguns, but the broader issue in the case is the meaning of the Second Amendment.  For years there has been a scholarly dispute as to whether the Second Amendment recognizes an individual right to keep and bear arms or whether it refers to a collective right of state militias to possess and use firearms.  If the amendment holds the latter meaning, then cities and states are free to enact practically any regulation, up to and including outright bans, on gun ownership.  If the individual right meaning is the correct one, then government is much more limited in what it can do to regulate firearms.  The U.S. Supreme Court has never directly decided which meaning it believes is the correct one, and this case presents the opportunity for a definitive ruling on the meaning of the “right to keep and bear arms.” 

You might think that this issue has little relevance for the mission of the Foundation, but in reality it goes to the heart of how we preserve the rights we hold most dear.  At bottom, the Second Amendment is about preserving the God-given right self-defense.  People possess an inherent right to defend themselves and their families from threats on their life and liberty, and the right to keep and bear arms is the practical way in which the Constitution ensures that right.  Ultimately, in order to maintain our God-given right to acknowledge God we must posses the ability to defend ourselves from attacks by individuals and government.  The Second Amendment helps to give us that ability. 

Because the Foundation adovcates interpreting the Constitution according to how it was understood at the time of its enactment, we argued in our brief that both the history behind the Second Amendment and the language employed in the Amendment dictate that it recognizes an individual right to keep and bear arms.  The history behind the Second Amendment shows that—as was the case with so many of the other amendments in the Bill of Rights—the goal of the amendment was to stymie the possibility of government tyranny.  The Second Amendment in particular sought to do this by denying government the power to disarm the people.  This could only be effective if the amendment recognized an individual right to keep and bear arms.  The brief butresses this point by tracing the right of bearing arms from ancient English history through the framing of the Second Amendment in the first Congress to how the text was interpreted by early American legal commentators.  Its conclusion is that the evidence is overwhelming that the Second Amendment affirms an individual right to possess and use firearms.  

The D.C. Court of Appeals reached this same conclusion (http://www NULL.saf NULL.org/dc NULL.lawsuit/parker NULL.decision NULL.pdf) and therefore struck down the D.C. provisions being challenged in this case.  Because of the constitutional gravity of this case, many organizations and individuals have filed briefs (http://www NULL.gurapossessky NULL.com/news/parker/pleadings NULL.html) in the case.  It is our hope that the Supreme Court will follow the lead of the D.C. Court of Appeals, our brief, and several of the other fine briefs in holding to the true meaning of the Second Amendment.  A positive ruling will be a boon to American individual rights, but a ruling in the opposite direction will place the right of self defense in serious jeopardy.  You can be sure that Firm Foundation will be monitoring this case closely and will provide updates as news breaks the subject.

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