The Constitution really DOES mean what is says

This morning, the 9th circuit court of appeals confirmed that the 2nd amendment is indeed incorporated against the states under the selective incorporation doctrine, in the case Nordyke Vs. King.

This means that the 2nd amendment has a lawful status equivalent to that of the first, fourth, fifth, and other amendments which explicitly protect our fundamental rights.

Of course, that is only lawfully binding within the 9th circuit; but it is expected that other circuits will take judicial notice of the 9ths ruling.

If you aren’t familiar with the Nordyke Vs. King; this is the case where a gunshow operator was denied access to use country fairgrounds for their gunshows, because a county ordnance prevented the possession of firearms on county property by anyone other than law enforcement.

The facts of the case as presented to the court are as follows (emphasis in bold and red are mine):

Russell and Sallie Nordyke operate a business that promotes gun shows throughout California. A typical gun show involves the display and sale of thousands of firearms, generally ranging from pistols to rifles. Since 1991, they have publicized numerous shows across the state, including at the public fairgrounds in Alameda County.

Before the County passed the law at issue in this appeal, the Alameda gun shows
routinely drew about 4,000 people. The parties agree that nothing violent or illegal happened at those events.

In the summer of 1999, the County Board of Supervisors, a legislative body, passed Ordinance No. 0-2000-22 (“the Ordinance”), codified at Alameda County General Ordinance Code (“Alameda Code”) section 9.12.120.

The Ordinance makes it a misdemeanor to bring onto or to possess a firearm
or ammunition on County property. Alameda Code § 9.12.120(b).

It does not mention gun shows.

According to the County, the Board passed the Ordinance in response to a shooting that occurred the previous summer at the fairgrounds during the annual County Fair.

The Ordinance begins with findings that “gunshot fatalities are of epidemic
proportions in Alameda County.”

At a press conference, the author of the Ordinance, Supervisor Mary King, cited a “rash of gun-related violence” in the same year as the fairground shooting. She was referring to a series of school shootings that attracted national attention in the late
1990s, the most notorious of which occurred at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

But the Nordykes insist that something more sinister was afoot. They point to some of King’s other statements as evidence that she actually intended to drive the gun shows out of Alameda County.

Shortly before proposing the Ordinance, King sent a memorandum to the County Counsel asking him to research “the most appropriate way” she might “prohibit the gun shows” on County property.

King declared she had “been trying to get rid of gun shows on Country property” for “about three years,” but she had “gotten the run around from spineless people hiding behind the constitution, and been attacked by aggressive gun toting mobs on right wing talk radio.”

At her press conference, King also said that the County should not “provide a place for people to display guns for worship as deities for the collectors who treat them as
icons of patriotism.”

Without expressing any opinion about King’s remarks, the Board of Supervisors adopted the Ordinance. County officials then exchanged several letters with the
Nordykes.

The General Manager of the fairgrounds asked the Nordykes to submit a written plan to explain how their next gun show would comply with the Ordinance.

As the County Counsel had told the General Manager, the Ordinance did not
expressly prohibit gun shows or the sale of firearms.

An aside from the the blog author: This is in fact a false statement. California statute in conjunction with federal law (i.e. the sum total of requirements imposed by both sets of statutes combined; not each set individually), requires that firearms transfers occur face to face, through an FFL; that the FFL conduct a background check and in person identity verification of the person they are delivering the weapon to at the time of sale, AND at the time of delivery if those times are separate; and that the sale be conducted at the FFLs place of business, an organized gun show, or a licensed auction.

Effectively, the only way they could conduct a gun show, would be to have pictures of guns available, at which time prospective gun purchasers could arrange to meet the FFL later at their place of business to purchase a firearm. It would not even be lawful to explicitly arrange for a sale at the show and then complete the transaction later.

The county counsel knew, or should have known, that this was the case.

The Nordykes insisted then and maintain now that they cannot hold a gun show without guns; perhaps because they thought it futile, they never submitted a plan.

During the same period, representatives of the Scottish Caledonian Games (“the Scottish Games”) inquired about the effect of the new law on the activities they traditionally held on the fairgrounds. Those activities include reenactments, using period firearms loaded with blank ammunition, of historic battles.

After the inquiries, the County amended the Ordinance to add several exceptions. Importantly, the Ordinance no longer applies to [t]he possession of a firearm by an authorized participant in a motion picture, television, video, dance, or theatrical production or event, when the participant lawfully uses the firearm as part of that production or event, provided that when such firearm is not in the actual possession of the authorized participant, it is secured to prevent unauthorized use.

This exception allows members of the Scottish Games to reenact historic battles if they secure their weapons, but it is unclear whether the County
created the exception just for them.

By the time the County had written this exception into the Ordinance, the Nordykes and several patrons of and exhibitors at the gun shows (collectively, “the Nordykes”) had already sued the County and its Supervisors under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for various constitutional violations. The amendment did not mollify them, and their lawsuit has wended through various procedural twists and turns for nearly a decade.

I just want to highlight again one particular passage:

King declared she had “been trying to get rid of gun shows on Country property” for “about three years,” but she had “gotten the run around from spineless people hiding behind the constitution, and been attacked by aggressive gun toting mobs on right wing talk radio.”

At her press conference, King also said that the County should not “provide a place for people to display guns for worship as deities for the collectors who treat them as icons of patriotism.”

Disgusting.

Unfortunately the result here is mixed. The circuit has ruled that the 2nd is incorporated against the states; but that it did not overturn the statute in question… I’m not really sure I agree with or follow their reasoning on this one.

The ruling provides that the second amendment is explicitly incorporated against the states, in plain language:

We therefore conclude that the right to keep and bear arms is “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.”

Colonial revolutionaries, the Founders, and a host of commentators and lawmakers living during the first one hundred years of the Republic all insisted on the fundamental nature of the right.

It has long been regarded as the “true palladium of liberty.” Colonists relied on it to assert and to win their independence, and the victorious Union sought to prevent a
recalcitrant South from abridging it less than a century later.

The crucial role this deeply rooted right has played in our birth and history compels us to recognize that it is indeed fundamental, that it is necessary to the Anglo-American conception of ordered liberty that we have inherited.

We are therefore persuaded that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment and applies it against the states and local governments.

There could not be a better, and more unambiguous, declaration of right than this.

What is puzzling to me is how they decided that the county ordnance did not then violate the second amendment.

Yes, they make clear that laws which make exercising fundamental rights more difficult do not automatically infringe upon them (from a legal standpoint); but it seems to me this is a clear cut case of a local government, promulgating a complete ban on the possession of firearms on land controlled by that local government.

Such a ban should be clearly unconstitutional under this analysis.

It would be like saying free speech did not apply on county property, which IS clearly prohibited. Yes, there can be reasonable restrictions, but total prohibition should be right out.

Given the relative weakness of argument supporting the ordnance, and complete lack of precedential support, I can only conclude they were desperately hunting for a reason not to invalidate ALL gun control legislation in one stroke.

Now, the real question, is whether either party is going to continue appealing, and file a petition for certiorari before the supreme court.

Both parties have grounds, and standing to file; and both parties have both incentive and disincentive to do so.

If they do, and the court decides to take it, it would be the second most significant second amendment case ever, after Heller (Heller clearly supersedes Miller, and is therefore more significant)

By the by, if you read the whole ruling (and I recommend you do) there is some extensive discussion of Cruikshank, Presser, and Slaughterhouse. I believe that Heller provided an explicit foundation for all three to be overturned (at least partially).

Actually I believe that proper jurisprudence suggests they should be overturned as having had no facial validity in their initial rulings, being clearly against the principals engendered in the constitution; but Heller gives a precedential foundation for this).

Although I’m generally not a big fan of Hugo Black; I think he had the right concept on the 14th amendment. In fact, I believe it should have been clear without the fourteenth amendment, and merely through the supremacy clause that ALL elements of the constitution as directly related to the people and the protection of our rights (as opposed to the structural components of the constitution) applied to the states.

Also contained therein, is an analysis of the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental individual right, and commonlaw right from before the founding of this nation through the passage of the 14th amendment and beyond; including a discussion of the racist nature of gun control.

The footnotes and citations too contain a wealth of information, this lovely nugget being my favorite:

we do not measure the protection the Constitution affords a right by the values of our own times. If contemporary desuetude sufficed to read rights out of the Constitution, then there would be little benefit to a written statement of them. Some may disagree with the decision of the Founders to enshrine a given right in the Constitution. If so, then the people can amend the document. But such amendments are not for the courts to ordain.

In all, the incorporation portion of the ruling and opinion are so well researched, and reasoned, in such depth; that I cannot see how a credible argument could successfully be made against it, given an honest arbiter.

Conversely, the section (only a few paragraphs of a 40 page ruling) arguing that the ordinance did not violate the second amendment was so poorly argued that I can’t see how a successful argument COULD NOT be made against it, given an honest arbiter.

So I say, Alameda County, PLEASE appeal this to the supreme court on incorporation grounds; and to the Nordykes, please appeal the decision to uphold the law.

Thanks ever so much.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

  • Samaritan

    We the people have an interesting way of deciding, in extremis, what our rights actually are. On an April morning in 1775 the government attempted to end our right to keep and bear arms with very little success… If the government sticks its nose into an area where it has no business then it should not complain when it gets slapped down.

    If the government decides that it wants to act as a protector of the peoples rights, which is its only lawful/constitutional reason for existence, then it will find us eager to support its policies. The constitutional rules here are simple, all the federal government needs to do is follow them.

  • Larry Sheldon

    This is not the Ninth Circuit I thought I knew.

    Maybe there is hope after all.

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  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    I believe it should have been clear without the fourteenth amendment, and merely through the supremacy clause that ALL elements of the constitution as directly related to the people and the protection of our rights (as opposed to the structural components of the constitution) applied to the states.

    Except that such an interpretation would have been directly contradictory to the clearly stated intent of the Bill of Rights, which was seen at the time solely as a limit on federal power.

    It also would have required judges to make some rather creative leaps of logic —- the First Amendment, for example, says “Congress shall make no law” not “The State Legislature of Illinois shall make no law”

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