Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Second Amendment debated...

Today's crucial event was the oral arguments before the US Supreme Courtregarding the District of Columbia v. Heller (DC handgun ban).

You can click HERE for the official transcript AND audio of the proceeding! This site is Oyez.org whose defined mission is "a multimedia archive devoted to the Supreme Court of the United States and its work. It aims to be a complete and authoritative source for all audio recorded in the Court since the installation of a recording system in October 1955. The Project also provides authoritative information on all justices and offers a virtual reality 'tour' of portions of the Supreme Court building, including the chambers of some of the justices."

It began with Walter Dellinger, the attorney for the petitioner (DC) arguing the meaning of "bear arms" and "arms"and said that in his draft of the original Constitution, James Madison's intended "bear arms" to relate to those "rendering military service". Dellinger used Madison's original clause which was not included in the final draft:

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country, but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person."

Dellinger claims "And even if the language of keeping and bearing arms were ambiguous, the amendment's first clause confirms that the right is militia-related."

Chief Justice Roberts makes the point that the clause says "the right of the people" and not the "right of the state militias".

Dellinger's interpretation is that "the people" and "the militia" were intended to be one and the same. Then he discussed the militia clause to which Chief Justice Roberts responded:

Well, but your reading of the militia clause, the militia clause specifically reserves concern rights to the States by its terms. And as I understand your reading, you would be saying the Second Amendment was designed to take away or expand upon the rights that are reserved, rather than simply guaranteeing what rights were understood to be implicit in the Constitution itself.

And so it went from there. Back and forth debating the meaning of "arms" "bear" "militia" and so on. It's too long to discuss every detail but it is very interesting. And if you don't want to read it, at least go to the link I posted and listen to the archived broadcast. This is an important moment in history. Regardless of what the guy interviewed on C-SPAN stated today-- that a decision either way will NOT set a precedence, I disagree, I believe that the vote will set precedence.

Today's arguments were really just one of the many many great things America is all about. How many countries in the world can the people take a case about liberty and freedom to the highest court in the land---and know that the court isn't paid off by the government--that the Court will rule in accordance with their best interpretation of the document that is the foundation of the system we have in place today.

It was really a very interesting and important event in our times and we should all pay close attention to those situations when the Supreme Court of the United States is asked to interpret our Bill of Rights.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3/19/2008

    I agree. This is a huge precedent setting case. I also admire your optimism. I worry about judicial activism rather than strict constitutionalist judges. I do hope our rights and freedoms are preserved at the end of the day.--ST