Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures  |  Adult
Boston  |  Portland  |  Providence
Letters  |  News Features  |  Talking Politics  |  The Editorial Page  |  This Just In

Crackpot court

Taking a shot at the Supreme Court’s recent gunplay
By EDITORIAL  |  July 2, 2008

This past week’s Supreme Court ruling, invalidating Washington, DC’s handgun ban, demonstrates just how far afield “movement conservatism” has taken our country. For that, we have an irresponsible Republican Party to blame; tragically, real people will have to pay dearly.

For years now, the GOP has embraced crackpot conservative theories for political advantage. “Trickle-down economics” helped convince middle-class voters to support reckless tax cuts for the wealthy. Global-warming denial was dreamed up and propagated by corporations who wished to avoid regulation. Myths of a “war on Christmas” and doomsday consequences of same-sex marriage have pulled evangelical Christians to the voting booth to elect Republicans.

Firmly held, irrational, absolutist beliefs may be good short-term politics, but they make for terrible policy — somewhere along the way, the political right lost control of the distinction. Ever since Congress subpoenaed Terri Schiavo’s vegetative body, it’s been clear that the Republican Party is being ruled — and destroyed — by right-wing nut cases.

“Gun rights” has been for the Republicans one of the most important, and most crass, of these foolish ideas. Most reasonable people agree that private ownership of weaponry should be carefully controlled and regulated — as a public issue, guns are not all that different from automobiles. Debate over the details properly belongs in the venue of local, state, and national legislatures, to be shaped through discussion, lobbying, public pressure, and ultimately elections.

But that approach doesn’t get people riled up to pay membership dues to the National Rifle Association (NRA), or to vote Republican out of the belief that Democrats intend to take away one’s hunting rifle.

So, since the early 1970s, the NRA and its ideological brethren have pushed the novel, and unjustified, theory that private gun ownership (for other than state-militia purposes) is an enshrined constitutional right. Republicans latched on, and won over millions of working-class voters.

Now, five justices have turned this ludicrous idea into constitutional law, proving that years of nominations made to appease the far right have at last given us a crackpot Supreme Court.

For a full dissection of the case, see the well-argued (and appropriately outraged) two-part dissent written by Justices John Paul Stevens and Stephen Breyer. Suffice to say that Justice Antonin Scalia, in his almost willfully irrational majority opinion, finds that the Second Amendment “elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.” If you can find anything in the Second Amendment’s 27 words that remotely supports that conclusion, well, you apparently are fit for today’s Supreme Court. Talk about “activist judges”!

Movement conservatives are delighted with this decision. Joining them is presidential nominee John McCain, who until recently was a proud enemy of the NRA (for daring to support background checks at gun shows). McCain, a solid conservative who nonetheless used to stand up against crazy ideas — he acknowledges global warming, for instance — has now, in his quest for the White House, fully succumbed to them. He now grovels before the Christian-right demagogues he formerly denounced. Where once he strived for rational immigration policy, he now calls for mass deportations and a gynormous wall to keep out the brown-skinned. His previous resistance to President George W. Bush’s fiscally irresponsible tax cuts has dissolved; he now supports adopting them permanently.

Fortunately, Americans have lately been making Republicans pay for the consequences of their idiotic theories — consequences that range from climate change to ballooning national debt and a needless, bloody war. Hopefully, they will make McCain pay for his recent shift to the radical right.

Regardless, the die is now cast on gun control. With the newly created constitutional right to carry weapons for self-defense — a right Scalia explicitly equates with the protection against warrantless search and seizure, and the right to peaceably assemble — current gun regulations will almost certainly collapse. Indeed, our own state’s laws are now very much in jeopardy. (For other views on this, see “Supreme Court Makes Gun Laws Target for Debate,” This Just In, page 6.)

Scalia’s glib statement that, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” glosses over the extraordinary weight of constitutional guarantees. (Perhaps that’s not surprising, coming from someone who denies that habeas corpus extends to detainees held at Guantánamo Bay, and withholds from a student holding a BONG HITS 4 JESUS sign the right to free speech.) It seems likely, as some legal analysts have already noted, that this new right will have to extend to felons, to public places (including schools), and to ever more dangerous weaponry.

As Stevens points out in his dissent, the majority justices have now tied the hands of legislatures and law-enforcement professionals in this country. This comes just as Boston’s gun violence has taken a huge early-summer surge: at least 27 people were shot — three of them fatally — in the last 17 days of June. The victims include a baby girl and, most recently, a young boy shot while playing with friends.

Perhaps the gun-rights advocates will be proven right, and the end of gun regulation will somehow result in a safer country. We’ll have to hope so, because there’s nothing we can do to go back now — short of amending the Constitution.

  Topics: The Editorial Page , John McCain , Antonin Scalia , National Rifle Association ,  More more >
  • Share:
  • RSS feed Rss
  • Email this article to a friend Email
  • Print this article Print
Re: Crackpot court
 Regarding the Supreme Court's decision regarding the 2nd Amendment, I believe your aim is poor. The court interpreted the 'shall not be infringed' to mean exactly what is written.  You recognize in the last line of your editorial the process to ban guns.  Amend the constitution. Assuming you will fail to get 38 states to approve your amendment, the only legal way to effect this change would be a constitutional convention.  If you can pull that off (you will fail) you run the risk that the entire constitution will be modified, including the elimination of the 1st Amendment, a part of the constitution that I'll assume you favor keeping.It is also relevent to consider that the Supreme Court heard a complaint regarding the anti-gun laws in Washington DC, where private posession of handguns was essentially prohibited.  In 2004, the firearms deathrate for Washington DC was 22.3, more than twice the rate of any of the bordering states.  In that environment it seems logical to allow law-abiding citizens a means of self-protection. The Supreme Court did its job.  It interpreted the constitution.  It just happens that in this case the court's decision makes common sense. You should stop whining about the court being 'crackpots' because they interpreted the constitution as it is written.
By johnstark on 07/02/2008 at 7:18:32
Re: Crackpot court
When was the last time anybody had to wait 3 days to buy a car???  When was the last time a felon was not able to buy a car??? Why are there more people killed by cars and not guns??? Why not regulate cars more closley??? Do guns cause global warming too??? You have a badcase of "hedupasses"!!!!
By doaclnr on 07/02/2008 at 10:32:58
Re: Crackpot court
Are you really this uninformed about the Constituation?  Perhaps a few quotes from the framers and fathers... "The Constitution shall never be prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms." (Samuel Adams, Debates and Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 86-87)  "No Free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms." (Thomas Jefferson, Proposal to Virginia Constitution, 1 T. Jefferson Papers, 334,[C.J. Boyd, Ed., 1950] ) "A free people be armed...." (George Washington, speech of January 7, 1790 in the Boston Independent Chronicle, January 14, 1790)
"The great object is that every man be armed" and "everyone who is able may have a gun." (Patrick Henry, in the Virginia Convention on the ratification of the Constitution. Debates and other Proceedings of the Convention of Virginia,taken in shorthand by David Robertson of Petersburg, at 271, 275 2d ed. Richmond, 1805. Also 3 Elliot, Debates at 386) "The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it."
-Thomas Jefferson
By johnqp on 07/03/2008 at 9:38:35
Someone is a crackpot, but it isn't the SCOTUS
The Phoenix apparently believes, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that "the people" referred to in the 2nd Amendment are somehow different than "the people" referred to in the Article 1, and 1st, 4th, 9th, and 10th Amendments.  A quick reading of the contemporary literature at the time of the drafting of the Constitution proves that the Phoenix is wrong.  All you have to do is read the references in the majority decision.If the framers of the Constitution intended for the 2nd Amendment to be a collective right, they would have written that "the right of the militia to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  They didn't.
By JaredN on 07/03/2008 at 2:53:39
Re: Crackpot court
The Brady Campaign seems to be saying that the ruling is actually a victory for gun control.  Nice spin.  I think you correctly sense that it is a disaster.  And a disaster it should be, gun control has historically been a failure in the United States.  It certainly was an unqualified disaster in D.C.   Anyway, Civil Rights 1, Government Apologists 0. Why does a paper like the Phoenix take a stand against civil rights and for government rights suppression anyway?  You seem to understand that on most other matters, the government is the problem.  I truly don't understand your thinking on this.
By goingbust on 07/03/2008 at 3:18:44
Re: Crackpot court
Wow.  You actually believe that the second amendment only applies to some collective right of militias?  And you find the "theory" that it provides an individual right to be "novel and unjustified?"  Did you actually read the opinion, or did you just get the cliff notes from leftist bloggers?  Have you studied constitutional law?  Can you find any other amendments to the constitution that pertain to a collective right rather than an individual right?  Have you studied history, particularly documents relating to the historical context in which the Bill fo Rights was framed?  How about linguistics?  Since you are an "Editor," are you able to discern which part of the second amendment is the operative clause, and how it is set up by the prefatory clause?  Have you ever sat down and had an honest conversation with one of the millions of law abiding gun owners who are more articulate and intelligent than you?  Are you able to challenge the redneck gun-nut stereotype that you so bitterly cling to and realize how seriously these people take personal resonsibility?   I didn't think so.   
By Mark W on 07/03/2008 at 3:33:58
Re: Crackpot court
     In 1998 Massachusetts instituted some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. During its 10 year tenure gun ownership was reduced from 1.5 million citizens of the commonwealth to fewer than 300,000, an 80% decrease in licensed gun owners. In that same time period violent crime rates in the commonwealth have increased steadily every year. A 2007 report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported a 78% increase in firearm related assaults and a 67% increase in homicide related firearm deaths since 1998. One would think reducing the number of firearm ownership in the state would reduce the rate of violent crimes by firearms, but sadly this thinking is completely incorrect. The only people whom these laws affected are the law abiding citizens who wanted a way to protect themselves and their family. A criminal by definition has already broken the law, why would anyone think stricter laws would change the criminals mind from using a firearm for illegal or violent purposed.
     The Supreme Court reaffirmed our founding fathers thoughts towards firearm ownership. The purpose is to ensure all law abiding citizens of the United States have the right to choose if they so desire to bear arms and that right shall not be infringed. FBI statistics prove that areas in the USA that restrict the firearm rights of its citizens, such as Washington D.C, have some of the highest crime rates in the nation. Washington D.C. in particular does not allow its citizens to carry or even posses an assembled firearm in the home, but yet if you are a criminal you can do what you want and carry on the streets, shopping malls, restaurants.
     Criminal seek out victims who are unable to protect themselves. We have seen this time and again in schools and shopping malls. Innocent people in “gun-free” zones were targeted and paid the ultimate price for lawmakers who put laws in place stripping our basic right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in lieu of protecting criminals.
By my1969v8 on 07/03/2008 at 10:22:01
Re: Crackpot court
 Wow, someone's been drinking the bongwater. Typical leftist, sour grapes twaddle. In summation: Jurists who can find a right to abortion in the text of the Constitution are enlightened scholars of the law, while those who find the people's right to keep and bear arms are crackpots. Your side lost. Liberty won. Suck it up, kids. And you wonder why they have to give away their newspaper for free.
By BruceNH on 07/05/2008 at 9:13:30
Re: Crackpot court
JaredN is correct that the "*right* of the people" in the Second Amendment is an individual right, by direct analogy to the First, Fourth, and Ninth Amendments.  The Tenth Amendment is a different animal, however, reserving a collective *power* to the States and other instruments of local popular initiative. //
By hcunningham on 07/06/2008 at 10:17:40
Re: Crackpot court
And, the childish cartoon accompanying this piece really helps your argument along. Not. 
By BruceNH on 07/07/2008 at 10:23:32
Re: Crackpot court
This was Antonin Scalia channeling Harry Blackmun on abortion and picking up vibes from our local Supremes on same-sex marriage.  At least the phrase "the right to bear arms" appears in the Constitution.  If you don't think people should own guns, then don't buy one, no?
By ggoverman on 07/07/2008 at 1:15:46
Re: Crackpot court
Nowhere else in the Constitution does a 'right' attributed to 'the people' refer to anything other than an individual right.  There is nothing else to say here...there is no other way to interpret the 2nd amendment except that the intention of the founding fathers was that intividuals have the 'right' to possess guns.
By ChristopherDroz on 07/07/2008 at 2:21:14

election special
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   BAD CRAZINESS  |  September 17, 2008
    Wall Street’s meltdown is more dangerous than realized. McCain is clueless, but does Obama recognize the root of the problem?
  •   PALIN: THE PLAIN TRUTH  |  September 03, 2008
    Don’t be fooled by the Tina Fey styling, McCain’s vice-presidential pick is a menace
  •   WHAT OBAMA MUST DO  |  August 28, 2008
    A new talent must wrestle with an old hand at political survival
  •   GEORGIA ON YOUR MIND?  |  August 13, 2008
    Why the Russians are acting like Soviets! And why it will be difficult to stop them!
  •   MAO'S GHOST  |  August 08, 2008
    The spirit of the chairman haunts the Beijing Olympics

 See all articles by: EDITORIAL

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

Featured Articles in The Editorial Page:
Wednesday, September 17, 2008  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2008 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group