I’ve been watching the D.C. vs. Heller case that the SCOTUS handed down the decision on this morning with a sense of fascination about the historical aspect of what happened today. Whether you agree with the decision or not, your opinion will not change as a result of this ruling but you should not overlook the moment in history that we have just experienced.
Yet I don’t think most casual observers recognize what happened today. For the first time in over a century a question about the Bill of Rights itself was resolved. The Heller decision today was ultimately not about the Washington D.C. gun ban, this decision was about something much bigger, what the framers intended when they put pen to parchment and the Heller decision further resolved an obscure debate about the grammatical differences between what was passed by the House and Senate and what was later ratified by the states in 1789-1791. This is gripping stuff, not the dusty remnants of history!
We enjoy a society that is a product of some of the greatest minds that history has ever seen, men who argued extensively, and in written word through the Federalist Papers, about every detail that would come together to form the United States of America. Indeed Hamilton himself argued that the Bill of Rights itself was unnecessary because the People were not surrendering anything therefore no rights needed to be protected, an insight to a powerful intellect who appreciated the immense reality of what they had fought a revolution for, not for the defiance of a monarchy but for ideals.
The brilliance of the U.S. Constitution is not what it says but what doesn’t say. Rather than establish a rigid piece of government machinery, it establishes a framework bound by irrefutable rights and a form of government that serves the People and not the other way around. What has been accomplished with ten amendments, 7 articles, and 27 additional amendments is truly extraordinary, but it all started with the notion that men are endowed with 10 unalienable rights that begin with religion, speech and assembly, and end with a boundary put around federal power.
On this day in history it will be noted that the Supreme Court handed down a decision that laid to rest one of the great legal arguments about what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote the Second Amendment. Simply put this is the most significant legal decision of our generation, probably a great many generations. This is a once in a lifetime event; what the Court decided is the very meaning of one of the Rights we are endowed with not by a government but by a higher power and carry with us.
The opinions that were rendered on the majority and dissenting sides reflect amazingly well reasoned and scholarly insights and the references in the opinions are extraordinary, it’s not often that the 1689 English Bill of Rights is included in a SCOTUS opinion!
In reading Justice Scalia’s opinion, there is an overwhelming theme that to interpret the Second Amendment as not protecting an individual right would gut the amendment of meaning and defy logic. It is, after all, the Second Amendment, not the two hundredth. This is not an obscure line buried among thousands of pages of text. It is inconceivable that the framers would have given it the priority they did, placing it ahead of so many other critical rights, if they only meant it to apply to militias as the dissenting justices suggest.
[From SCOTUSblog ]