George Will On The Parker Caseby Doug Mataconis
George Will has a good column up at TownHall.com on the Parker v. District of Columbia, where the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently struck down the District of Columbia’s gun ban based on an individualist interpretation of the Constitution.
As Will points out there is an important similarity between those who would whittle down the right to keep and bear arms protected by the Second Amendment and the rights protected by the First Amendment:
When Madison and others fashioned the Bill of Rights, they did not merely constitutionalize — make fundamental — the right to bear arms. They made the Second Amendment second only to the First, which protects the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and worship. They did that because individual dignity and self-respect, which are essential to self-government, are related to a readiness for self-defense — the public’s involvement in public safety. Indeed, 150 years ago this month, in the Dred Scott decision, Chief Justice Roger Taney said that one proof that blacks could not be citizens was the fact that the Founders did not envision them having the same rights that whites have, including the right to “keep and carry arms.”
Increasingly, however, some constitutional scholars and judicial rulings argue that several restraints the Bill of Rights puts on government can be disregarded if the worthiness — as academics or judges assess that — of government’s purposes justifies ignoring those restraints. Erwin Chemerinsky, professor of law and political science at Duke University, argued in The Washington Post last week that even if the Second Amendment is correctly construed as creating an individual right to gun ownership, the D.C. law should still be constitutional because the city had a defensible intent (reducing violence) when it annihilated that right.
Sound familiar? Defenders of the McCain-Feingold law, which restricts the amount, timing and content of political campaign speech, say: Yes, yes, the First Amendment says there shall be “no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” But that proscription can be disregarded because the legislators’ (professed) intent — to prevent the “appearance” of corruption and to elevate political discourse — is admirable.
As Will points out, the Parker case is potentially one of the most important Constitutional cases to reach the Supreme Court in some time. If the Court sustains the Court of Appeals decision and restores the Second Amendment to the place that it belongs, it willÂ have a profound impact on gun laws across the country. If, however, the Court accepts the political expediency arguments of the gun ban’s proponents, then it will have succeeded in denegrating the Second Amendment just as it’s decision upholding the McCain-Feingold law denegrated the First Amendment.