The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The challenge to the DC gun-control law

Normally I am of a rather libertarian bent, but I seriously part company with people who are usually allied with me on one issue: gun control. I fail to see any reason why an ordinary law-abiding citizen would have reason to own a gun (and unless he/she was in the army, where they would even have learned to use one!) and so I fail to see any reason to allow anyone privately to own one. (The military and police, of course, need them.)

But before getting into this issue in depth, I want to address the issue that is really at hand: Washington, D. C.'s right to enact its strict gun-control laws. Some people appeal to a misguided reading of the Second Amendment. Let me quote the Second Amendment in its entirety: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Note the first first 13 words. No other freedom guaranteed in our Constitution has a qualifier: not a single one! Obviously this is a clue to the intent of this amendment. "The right of the people to keep and bear arms" is only guaranteed in order to provide for "a well regulated militia" and not for any other purpose. (For more details see where this is discussed at some length.)

So now we get to people who claim that, under common law, the militia consists of all able-bodied citizens. (Mostly this is to deny that "militia" now means the National Guard.) Well, if you claim to be part of the militia, you are obligated to put yourself under Congressional control. After all, Art. I, Sect. 8, clause 15 states: "[The Congress shall have Power] To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions" while clause 16 adds: "To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress" -- a pretty clear grant of power to the Congress.

There is no way of getting around this language. If you want to claim that the militia is everyone, then you cannot be armed except by Congressional provision; if you accept, as I do, that the militia is now the organized National Guards, then you do not have "the right ... to keep and bear arms" except if you are a member of the organized Guard. Any other reading of the Second Amendment is a perversion of its intent.

Now the question arises: is the District of Columbia entitled to pass these laws? Obviously, by my reading, a State has the power; the Second Amendment doesn't apply to the states anyway, and the Bill of Rights freedoms only apply to the states because of a judicial reading (probably justified) of the Fourteenth Amendment, but even if you apply the Second Amendment to the States in this way, it still grants "the right ... to keep and bear arms" only to people organized in militias, not to the public at large. But the District is not a state. It therefore gains its powers from Congress, under Article I, Section 8, clause 17, just as any city government gains its powers from the laws of the state in which it is incorporated. And Congress has not challenged that the home-rule charter granted to DC allows it to pass this legislation; it has been on the books for decades.

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