Today I’m going to talk about one of my most favorite subjects, the Constitution of the United States. More specifically, 2nd Amendment and to start things off, I will quote the Amendment (When I was just getting started in my studies of the Constitution I heard Justice Hugo Black say that he never relied on his memory when quoting the Constitution, he read it.)
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
With the shooting at LAX this morning I’m already hearing some people advocating more armed people at the airport. So I’m going to point out that as things stand now with the “McDonald v. Chicago” decision the right of the individual to keep & bare arms is a fundamental personal right. An that means any law or regulation that infringe on that right must pass the ‘strict scrutiny’ test or be declared unconstitutional. I will not bother to debate the rightness of ruling, the fact of the mater it is the law of the land. What I’m going to talk about is what was missing from the ruling. What is missing is any procedure or test or anything that will help anyone to know just what is meant by arms.
Because the definition in law is not simple (there are several competing definitions but not one of them is blessed by SCOTUS) definition it is any ones guess on just what the Constitution means. Many of the pro gun rights supporters hold that it means ‘guns’. There not wrong, but they’re not right either. Arms does include guns, but it also includes things like horse tack and cavalry sabers. If you take the ‘originalist‘ view of the Constitution arms means everything from pikes, axes, and knives to flintlock pistols to cannon, to ships of war. What we call ‘weapons systems‘ today.
I have no philosophical with using this definition of arms, but I do have a few practical objections. Mainly I have a hard time coming up with a logical and rational rule that keeps WMD out of the hands people who should not have it and still let people to have SAWs. Yes, the court can just rule on the specific law without coming up with any test but that will take up a lot of time of the court to adjudicate each and every one of the type and class of weapons. Not something they will likely like doing. Also remember that what ever the court decides on any given case will be used by the legislature, aka the Congress, to write laws that will pass muster.
Nor can we just use common any more successfully. Just consider the word “gun”. In common usage it means small arms, pistols & rifles. But it also means 14″ coastal artillery or the main batteries of a the USS Wisconsin. We have the same problem with rifle (106 recoilless rifle for example) just to name one.
This is why I dislike the “McDonald v. Chicago” decision, it gives us the right to have every type of weapon ever made and no guidance on how to keep most of those weapons out of the hands of people who should not have them.