Second Amendment addresses individual, not collective, freedom

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2001

It must have been a black day, indeed, for gun confiscationists when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last Oct. 16 explicitly ruled the Second Amendment addresses an individual -- not a collective -- right.

And the court did not mince words in its ruling.

''We hold ... that it protects the rights of individuals, including those not ... actually a member of any militia or engaged in active military service or training, to privately possess and bear their own firearms ... that are suitable as personal, individual weapons,'' the judges wrote in their 77-page decision.

But the judges added, ''that does not mean that those rights may never be made subject to any limited, narrowly tailored specific exceptions.''

The ruling, important in several ways and certain to be ammunition in the continuing battle over gun ownership, was based largely on new legal scholarship that debunks the liberal myth of a collective Second Amendment right. It sets precedence, however, for only those federal courts in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas and is unlikely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, court observers said.

The judges' ruling sprang from a Texas divorce case involving Dr. Timothy Joe Emerson, who was charged with carrying a handgun while under a court order not to threaten his wife. A 1994 federal law prohibits carrying a gun while the subject of such a protective order.

District Judge Sam Cummings of Lubbock, Texas, ruled the federal charge was a violation of Emerson's rights under the Second Amendment. He dismissed the indictment, and the government appealed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Mateja argued the government's case. He said the Justice Department believed the Second Amendment guaranteed only the National Guard's right to have weapons. Further, he said the Clinton administration believed it had the right to seize guns from the public. So much for former President Clinton's self-professed affinity for duck hunters.

In its decision, the appeals court, while affirming that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, said the district court erred because of Emerson's prior behavior and it ordered that he stand trial on the federal charge.

What the decision underscores is the availability now of increasingly good information on the origins and early interpretations of the Second Amendment, until recently much ignored by scholars. Even Laurence H. Tribe, perhaps the nation's pre-eminent constitutional law scholar and a liberal professor of law at Harvard, lately has acknowledged the Second Amendment is an individual right, ''admittedly of uncertain scope.''

The 5th Circuit got it right. Hopefully, other circuits will follow suit and we'll be done with the bogus claims about one of our most important rights.

-- The Voice of the (Anchorage) Times

Oct. 22


Oct. 18, 2001

The Nome Nugget casts a skeptical eye on bio-terror hysteria

The fear of mystery powder and germ warfare and retaliation has taken some crazy turns. It's almost funny when someone says they won't open their e-mail because they don't want to get anthrax. Anthrax is not a computer virus. It is a bacterium.

As far as germs in the mail, well, we all know how long it takes to get mail, and if the mail if ''funny'' looking we should not open the letter. Guess we have an out when it comes to paying bills. Instead of ''The check is in the mail,'' we can say, ''Gee, that envelope sure looked funny, so I threw it out.''

Of course all western Alaskans are safe from bugs on UPS or FedEx second day delivery, because we know there is no such thing as second day delivery in Alaska.

We are consumed by the absurd. There are public opinion polls stating the guestimated probability of terroristic reprisal in response to retaliation. There are people consumed with the certainty that there will be an attack on a shopping mall on Halloween. As if Halloween isn't scary enough. Of course Nomeites will have to worry about being blown away by wind-slammed doors in the Alaska Commercial store lobby.

Terrorism is a real problem and we have to be alert for strange activities. But we can't let the threat of terrorism make us stupid. We can't let it drive us under our beds waiting for the sky to fall.

We have to go about our lives as normally as possible. We can't let ourselves get wound up by fear and ignorance. We have to maintain a sense of humor through this mess.

There is a very interesting solution to the bin Laden problem being talked around town. Don't kill him. Capture him and his buddies, bring them to the United States, give them a sex change operation and return them to Afghanistan to live as women.

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