As much as I respected SCOTUS Justice Antonin Scalia for his intellect, I still find his Majority Opinion in the landmark decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, to be in error in several ways:
- “The semicolon does jobs that are also done by other punctuation marks, but puts its own spin on the task. Like a comma, it can separate elements in a series. Like a period or colon, it often marks the end of a complete clause (that is, a sentence part that has its own subject and verb). And like a colon, it signals that what follows it is closely related to what comes before it.” https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/a-guide-to-using-semicolons
For that reason, Scalia tripped over the punctuation mark disassociating the two phrases instead of relating and integrating the two phrases.
- Today’s handguns and semiautomatic weapons are much different than those available to citizens when the Constitution was written. “The American Revolutionary Soldiers used a variety of different weapons including muskets, pistols, rifles, long rifles, knives, bayonets, tomahawks, axes, swords, sabres, pole arms and cannon. The soldiers also carried the equipment needed to fight, such as shot molds, tinder lighters and cartridge boxes… “The Continental infantryman had equipment that was like that of the British soldier. In addition to a musket, he carried on his right side a leather or tin cartridge box that held twenty to thirty rounds of ammunition, a musket tool, and a supply of flints.” https://short-fact.com/what-weapons-did-the-colonists-use-in-the-revolutionary-war
So, we ought to keep in mind these were single shot weapons that needed reloading after every time they were fired! These were the same guns used for hunting and self-protection.
- More importantly, ordinary citizens were not only available but required to be automatically enlisted in the Colonial Militias when the Regular Army needed them. “Transformation of local and colonial militias, to a more regularly trained ‘minuteman’ force of militia to finally a professionally trained national Continental Army happened very quickly. Military necessity required American leaders to change their perceptions of standing armies and challenged their republican ideals of volunteer, part-time military service.”
- From the quote above, we can see the “transformation of local and colonial militias, to a more regularly trained” force of militia. It is reasonable to deduce that the “well regulated militia” of the 2nd Amendment was logically in reference to what was learned in the 1776 War, that is the need for “a well regulated militia.” The two ideas are knitted together into one concept.
There are two important points in the Heller Decision that I agree with, but with a caveat. “Scalia asserts in the Court’s opinion that the ‘people’ to whom the Second Amendment right is accorded are the same ‘people’ who enjoy First and Fourth Amendment protection…”
My caveat is that the right comes with the responsibility to be willing to be activated and enrolled in the Regular Army whenever needed. A similar ideal is from the writer Voltaire, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” (“François-Marie d’Arouet (1694–1778), better known by his pen name Voltaire, was a French writer and public activist who played a singular role in defining the eighteenth-century movement called the Enlightenment.”)
Also of note, are reasonable gun requirements in the section “Issues addressed by the majority” that allow:
- background checks “…possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
- banning certain types of weapons — “…all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home…” and military style weapons are therefore not included in the 2nd Amendments right.
All rights are not absolute, because the rights of individuals must be balanced by the rights of other individuals; individual rights must always be balanced by individual responsibility… It’s the answer to the eternal question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9.