Saturday, March 10, 2007

Second Amendment Decision

Yesterday’s decision by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals interpreting the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right to bear arms is cause for celebration for all freedom-loving Americans, even those deeply concerned about gun violence in the United States.

First, nothing in the court’s interpretation prevents government from imposing meaningful regulations on the possession of firearms. Others of our most fundamental rights are properly subject to government regulation (though never outright prohibition), such as the First Amendment’s protection for freedom of speech, which is subject to “reasonable time, place, and manner” governmental restrictions.

Second, we bolster our claim on all of the rest of our constitutionally-protected rights – both enumerated and unenumerated (the right to privacy, for example) – when we adopt the sort of expansive view of liberty recognized in yesterday’s decision. A faithful reading of the Constitution simply does not allow us to pick and choose from among those constitutional rights with which we may agree or disagree; and the fact is that the great weight of serious historical research by many scholars over the past couple decades demonstrates that the Second Amendment (click here to see my forthcoming article in the Missouri Law Review discussing much of this research) was intended to protect an individual right to keep and bear arms – like it or not.

If the individual right to keep and bear arms no longer meets with our vision of what we wish America to be, the only acceptable way to remove the right is to amend the Constitution, not through sleight-of-hand by continued adherence to a discredited interpretation of the Second Amendment.

By: Michael Anthony Lawrence