Monday, March 17, 2008

DC v Heller: What Did the Founders Really Mean?

Tomorrow District of Columbia v. Heller will be heard before the Supreme Court. Tomorrow, at the beginning of the 21st Century, the Nine members of The Court, all born in the 20th twentieth century, will listen to argument and debate over what the members of the Constitutional Convention meant in the 18th Century, when they arranged 27 words and 3 commas into the 2nd Amendment.

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

After over 200 years, it is amazing that we, as a people, do not appear to know what these words mean.

I remember grade-school US History. I remember having to memorize what each of the 10 Amendments in the Bill of Rights were. Things were simple. We have freedom of speech, religion, press, the right to bear arms, trial by jury, etc. These were our Rights. They were from God. They were non-negotiable.

In High School and College classes discovered that what I learned in grade-school was not exactly true. I learned that The Court said that what the Founders wrote was not exactly what the Founders meant. I learned that "The Court" has looked at the words the Founders wrote and answered the question "what did they REALLY mean."

However, has "The Court," when looking at the MEANING of what the Founders SAID, left out what the Founders REALLY meant?

The Court has looked at what "freedom of speech, press, and religion" has meant. But, did The Court forget too look at the FIRST five words of the Amendment and forget what THEY really meant?

"CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW…." I am not a legal scholar, but a plain text reading to me says, "Congress shall make NO LAW…" To me that means "Congress shall make NO LAW" regarding freedom of speech or religion or freedom of the press or of the right to petition the government.

Over hundreds of years and hundreds rulings, The Court has created a situation where every one of the rights listed in the Bill of Rights now has an "asterisk." Free Speech only means Free Speech under certain circumtances. The Right to Bear arms, according to some, does not mean that at all. Police can go "door to door" to search for guns and drugs because it is "voluntary." The powers not EXPRESSLY granted to the Federal Government are reserved to the States or to the people, except when the Federal government wants to create new regulations.

Tomorrow the Court will look at the Second Amendment and argue over the first 23 words. However, I would venture to say that the last FOUR words, will be ignored. The last four words of the Second Amendment are just as important. The words "SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED" should specifically limits to what the government may do with regard the "right of the people to keep and bear Arms."

So I return to the central question: What did the Founder's Really Mean?

In my opinion, I think the Founders would say, "Look at what we wrote-It's simple: The People's rights--all of them--SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. PERIOD."


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