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Many years ago, cartoonist Rex F. "Baloo" May and I tried to sell a daily comic strip to the newspaper syndicates called Atlantea the Beautiful. Ostensibly, it was about the final days before Atlantis sank beneath the waves, but it was actually a satire of contemporary American politics, being written and drawn during the George H.W. Bush Administration.
What's significant about it is the way we portrayed the Atlantean Supreme Court: nine old men in black dresses sitting atop a giant slot machine, as lawyers below jump up absurdly to pull the lever. Judging from the reactions in the media to the real court's decision to accept a case about the right to own and carry weapons, Rex and I were spot on.
A word here, first, about that right.
Despite the pathetic lies of ideological opponents to individual weapons ownership and the act of self-defense, what the Founding Fathers intended the Second Amendment to express is abundantly clear. All that anybody needs to understand it is to put himself in their position.
Imagine that you (as one of the Founders) have just astounded the world -- and probably yourself, as well -- by defeating the biggest, richest, most powerful and ruthless empire that our species has ever witnessed, in your fight for independence from it. You were able to do this because all but the poorest household in your tiny country was armed with a straighter- and farther-shooting weapon than the enemy possessed.
The last thing on Earth you ever want to see is your children, or your children's children back under the thumb of that brutal tyranny. If Imperial armies can be beaten by private armament, you can answer the question yourself: what do you want the Second Amendment to mean?
And, as a Founder, would you really agree that a right like this, "necessary to the security of a free state", can be regulated by the very entity that it may become necessary to defend one's family against?
Would it even occur to you -- especially since the Revolution started when the government attempted to confiscate privately-owned weapons -- to write a Constitutional amendment guranteeing to the government, not the individual, the right to keep an bear arms? Precisely how stupid or crazy do gun prohibitionists think everybody is?
And precisely what do these high-tax, anti-property rights schemers have planned for us, that they don't want us able to defend ourselves?
The present case, District of Columbia v. Heller -- not that the specifics actually matter -- is all about the District's outright prohibition of pistols and revolvers, and its ridiculous insistence that rifle and shotgun owners dismantle their weapons and lock them up. What's against the law in D.C. -- and it's perfectly apparent in that city's violent crime rate -- is not so much firearms themselves, but the successful act, always embarrassing to those in authority, of self-defense.
After all, If Americans can successfully defend themselves, then they'll need many fewer police officers, and hardly any bureaucrats at all.
But as many writers have already observed, there's a lot more at stake here than just another interpretation of the Second Amendment. The National Rifle Association believes (and for once in a very long while, I agree with them) that it was a strategic error of the highest magnitude to trust the right of the people to keep and bear arms -- or any other right, for that matter -- to a deeply-flawed body like the court.
Go to: http://tinyurl.com/2rhfdb
The Second Amendment is "merely" one of ten, the first amendments to be added to the then-new American Constitution. Together, they comprise what is generally known as the Bill of Rights. They are the highest law of the land, and they were the price Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Party -- those individuals who desired "a strong central government" -- was made to pay by Thomas Jefferson's Anti-Federalists, before the latter would consent to the entire Constitution being ratified.
It was considered a package deal.
Thus any Supreme Court ruling weakening the Second Amendment is, by logical necessity, a ruling weakening the other nine amendments, as well. And any ruling against the Bill of Rights -- that undoes the deal between Federalists and Anti-Federalists -- undoes the whole Constitution.
So, I pretend to hear you ask, what? Isn't the U.S. Constitution just an old scrap of paper -- as our Glorious Leader contends? Also, isn't it hopelelessly outdated, utterly obsolete in this age of iPods, nuclear power, Palm Pilots, wireless Internet communication, and spaceships?
Not exactly. To begin with, it isn't really paper, it's parchment -- animal skin -- and the main body of the Constitution is the working charter, the operating system, if you will, for the strong central government that Hamilton and his Federalist buddies wanted so badly. Without it, you have no government -- at least no government operating by the consent of the governed -- just as, without an actual operating system, all the computer hardware in the world is merely worthless junk.
Thirty years ago or so, I predicted that, if the Supreme Court ever rules against the Second Amendment, that will be the end, not of the Second Amendment, but of the Supreme Court. It should be clear now that, without the rule of law -- without a legal government -- there's no need for a Supreme Court. All that we have left is a dictatorship, running on terror and brute force. Maybe that's what those currently in power actually want, but the age in which an arrangement like that is stable has been over for quite a while. It is most likely to come to an end more quickly than its proponents anticipate, and also very badly.
Goodbye to the Second Amendment, goodbye to the United States of America.
Is the court likely to understand all that? I don't know. Despite their august public image, they are hardly rocket scientists or brain surgeons. It's important to remember that what they are is lawyers, and, if my information about how lawyers become judges holds water (they mostly get "kicked upstairs" so they won't be an embarrassment to the firm), not very good ones. The 1856 Dred Scott v. Sanford case http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dred_Scott is early evidence of that.
In 1918, despite the clear language of the 13th Amendment outlawing "involuntary servitude of any kind", the court upheld the draft, saying it was a necessary part of the Constitutional power of Congress to raise an army. Apparently the dullards sitting on that particular court were unaware that amendments invariably supercede whatever was written in the main body of the document. If this were not so, Bill Clinton and George Bush would be free to run for a third term.
Apparently George Orwell didn't invent Orwellian language. What the court actually said was: "Finally, as we are unable to conceive upon what theory the exaction by government from the citizen of the performance of his supreme and noble duty of contributing to the defense of the rights and honor of the nation as the result of a war declared by the great representative body of the people can be said to be the imposition of involuntary servitude in violation of the prohibitions of the Thirteenth Amendment, we are constrained to the conclusion that the contention to that effect is refuted by its mere statement."
In other words, "It isn't involuntary because we say it isn't".
The year 1939 brought us the deeply bungled case of U.S. v. Miller, in which, among other things, the court ruled that short- barrelled shotguns, which had been effectively outlawed by the Roosevelt Administration in 1934, were to remain illegal because they had no military application, and therefore were not protected by the Second Amendment. This pronouncement must have come as a surprise to the veterans of World War I who had relied on short-barrelled shotguns -- military issue and otherwise -- to keep their trenches free of "Huns".
More recently, we have Kelo v. City of New London (2005), which, if taken seriously, spells the end of private property in America. The court held that a municipality (and by extension, a county or state) is perfectly free to steal a private individual's real estate and hand it over to some other private individual or corporation, if the city gains more tax revenue from whatever new use the real estate is put to.
It appears that throughout its long, awkward, anchorless history, the Supreme Court is simply willing to do the dirty work that politicians can't get done (or don't want to be seen doing), themselves.
Now this same cross-dressing gaggle of criminals, idiots, and lunatics who slipped Dred Scott the purple shaft, cancelled out the Thirteenth Amendment, gave government a green light to infringe on your right to own and carry whatever weapon pleases you, and decided that whatever you own is up for grabs by any crook or corporation that can bribe a city councilman, is about to decide whether or not -- like any other man, woman, and responsible child -- you have an unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right to obtain, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any weapon, rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything, any time, any place, without asking anyone's permission.
People within the general freedom movement complain all the time about the "Nanny State". Now we're all about to learn who the real nannies are: those nine old men and women sitting atop that giant slot machine.
A fifty-year veteran of the libertarian movement, L. Neil Smith is the Author of 33 books including The Probability Broach, Ceres, Sweeter Than Wine, And Down With Power: libertarian Policy In A Time Of Crisis. He is also the Publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise, now in its 17th year online.
Visit the Neil Smith archive on JPFO.
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