Bill Of Rights
Thanks to the judicial activism of the right-wing extremists of the Roberts Court, there is an individual constitutional right to bear arms. That is the current law. That is the current official interpretation of the meaning of the vague words of the small, exclusive and exclusionary group of white Protestant men, some of whom were slave owners, some of whom were monarchists, and none of whom seemed to think women should be allowed to participate in governance, who lived more than two centuries ago but whose words more than two centuries later are considered sacrosanct for guiding us through the modern world. That doesn't mean that the current interpretation of those vague words always will be the law, but it is the law for now. And while those opposed to regulation of guns can take comfort in the judicial activism of those right wing extremists of the Roberts Court, liberals and progressives and people who care about history and precedent and judicial integrity can find at least intellectual coherence and honor in the words of Justice John Paul Stevens, whose dissent to that extremist right wing judicial activism was joined by the Court's three other honest members:
Since our decision in Miller, hundreds of judges have relied on the view of the Amendment we endorsed there;2 we ourselves affirmed it in 1980. See Lewis v. United States, 445 U. S. 55 , n. 8 (1980).3 No new evidence has surfaced since 1980 supporting the view that the Amendment was intended to curtail the power of Congress to regulate civilian use or misuse of weapons. Indeed, a review of the drafting history of the Amendment demonstrates that its Framers rejected proposals that would have broadened its coverage to include such uses.

The opinion the Court announces today fails to identify any new evidence supporting the view that the Amendment was intended to limit the power of Congress to regulate civilian uses of weapons. Unable to point to any such evidence, the Court stakes its holding on a strained and unpersuasive reading of the Amendment’s text; significantly different provisions in the 1689 English Bill of Rights, and in various 19th-century State Constitutions; postenactment commentary that was available to the Court when it decided Miller; and, ultimately, a feeble attempt to distinguish Miller that places more emphasis on the Court’s decisional process than on the reasoning in the opinion itself.

Even if the textual and historical arguments on both sides of the issue were evenly balanced, respect for the well-settled views of all of our predecessors on this Court, and for the rule of law itself, see Mitchell v. W. T. Grant Co., 416 U. S. 600, 636 (1974) (Stewart, J., dissenting), would prevent most jurists from endorsing such a dramatic upheaval in the law.4 As Justice Cardozo observed years ago, the “labor of judges would be increased almost to the breaking point if every past decision could be reopened in every case, and one could not lay one’s own course of bricks on the secure foundation of the courses laid by others who had gone before him.” The Nature of the Judicial Process 149 (1921).

But until a more honest Court reverses this abominable ruling, the law is the law, and the individual right to bear arms is officially sanctioned. It is, for now, a constitutional right. It also is an anomaly in so many ways, not the least of which is that while so many subsequently written constitutions, for nations all around the globe, have been deliberately modeled on the U.S. Bill of Rights, and its encoding such Enlightenment ideals as free speech, freedom of assembly, a free press, and freedom of worship, they somehow have neglected to include the freedom to own and carry firearms. Similarly, while oppressed people from all around the globe dream of being able to escape to or transform their governments into similarly encoding those Englightenment ideals, those oppressed peoples never seem to clamor after the right to own and carry firearms. Similarly, the people of not one nation that has enacted regulations and restrictions on the right to own and carry firearms clamors for repeal of those regulations and restrictions.

The constitutional right to own and carry firearms, now encoded in the United States thanks to the judicial activism of  the right wing extremists of the Roberts Court, is unique among economically developed democratic nations. It stands in bloody contrast to the evolution of humanity, with all other economically developed democracies strictly regulating private ownership of firearms, and in some cases effectively banning it. But for now, in the United States, the individual right to own and carry firearms is a constitutional right. And yet, even in the United States, it is a unique constitutional right. It is an anomaly both among economically developed democracies and it is an anomaly among constitutional rights in the United States. It is, in fact, an abomination. Because this one constitutional right bears an enormous human cost. A staggeringly mind-boggling human cost. A cost of 11,078 homicides and 19,392 suicides in just the last measured year. A cost of more American lives lost than in all wars Americans have fought in, ever, combined. No other constitutional right comes at such a cost in human sacrifice. No other constitutional right would be allowed to stand at such a cost in human sacrifice.

(More over the fold)

From the most innocent of children to this nation's most celebrated military marksman, the former sometimes dying in accidents and sometimes deliberately slaughtered, and the latter, after surviving four tours of the hell that was the Iraq War, coming home to be with his family only to die in the hell that is America's gun culture, the only two things all the victims of this constitutional right have in common is that they were killed by violence, and that none of them deserved it. From the countless killed by domestic violence to those shot randomly in drive-bys, the only two things all the victims of this constitutional right have in common is that they were killed by violence, and that none of them deserved it. From those murdered while holiday shopping at a mall in Oregon to those murdered attending the opening night of a blockbuster movie in Colorado to those murdered observing their religion at a temple in Wisconsin to those murdered attending a party in Alabama, the only two things all the victims of this constitutional right have in common is that they were killed by violence, and that none of them deserved it. And then there were the students: kindergartners in Connecticut, high schoolers in Ohio, college students in California and Texas— the only two things all the victims of this constitutional right have in common is that they were killed by violence, and that none of them deserved it. And their survivors, too, all of their survivors— grandparents, parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, all friends and loved ones, their lives forever shattered, also victims of this constitutional right, also none of them deserving it. And all of this within just the past year. And the list could go on and on.

Since the incomprehensible horror of Dec. 14, the death toll is 1,803, and rising daily. Free speech doesn't come at the cost of human sacrifice, and yet there are limits on free speech to protect human life. Freedom of the press doesn't kill people, and yet there are limits on press freedom to protect human rights. Freedom of religion doesn't kill people, and indeed, there are limits on religious freedom to protect human life. But there are virtually no limits on the right to own and carry firearms, and to anyone with a basic sense of humanity, the toll in human lives is overwhelming. No other people in the world would consider such human sacrifice. Every other economically developed democracy has the same violent video games, the same violent movies, and the same violent TV shows as the United States, and the population of every other economically developed democracy suffers from poverty and income disparity and mental illness; but none suffers anything remotely similar to the rate of gun-related homicides and suicides suffered by the United States. Little wonder that such large majorities of Americans want that constitutional right to include strong regulations and restrictions. Human sacrifice is too high a price for such an anomalous and archaic value, and the American people, although generally supportive of gun ownership rights, and hesitant about the abstract concept of gun control, strongly support President Obama's specific measures to regulate gun ownership, including bans on high capacity magazines and assault weapons. Even in states with large numbers of gun owners, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania and North Carolina and Colorado and Oregon. Even in Texas, a plurality supports an assault weapons ban.

Public opinion is clear, and demographic shifts will continue to make it even more clear. The United States will catch up to the rest of the economically developed democratic world. No constitutional right should come at the cost of thousands of annual human sacrifices. The American people already understand that, and no longer are willing to accept the price. The American people support the right to own guns, but they want that right strictly regulated. It's time for the politicians to follow. Their failure to do so will be measured in blood.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Feb 17, 2013 at 06:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA) and Shut Down the NRA.

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