Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," viewing the Supreme Court with a wary eye since 1991! So far we've avoided having to learn about Intelligent Design in schools, but thorny issues still bedevil our learned justices.
This week the court is hearing arguments about a handgun ban in Washington, DC. Certain citizens of our nation's capital think this ban is unconstitutional.
At issue is the interpretation of the Second 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."
Now, you guys and gals out there who want freedom from religion, just remember that there's more than one Amendment on that ancient parchment. The troublesome clause above has been used for years by groups like the NRA to oppose gun control legislation.
To me the Second Amendment seems contradictory. Do you understand it? Seems to me to suggest that only the well-regulated militia ought to have the arms. Personally I would not call a bunch of drug dealers on a DC street corner a well-regulated militia. Nor does the term spring to mind when some scary wackadoo runs amok at a university and starts shooting everything that moves.
On the other hand, the second half of the sentence states that We the People can "keep and bear arms." Does that mean people who aren't part of a well-regulated militia?
Personally I have not been, nor am I now, a member of a well-regulated militia. So I don't own any guns. Guns give me the creeps, because, you know, "production for use" and all that. If I owned a gun, I'd be so curious whether it was working or not that I'd probably plug some innocent bunny or squirrel from time to time. And that wouldn't be very nice.
In the state of New Jersey, getting permission to purchase a firearm is a long and arduous process. A local newspaper reporter decided to try her luck. The cops came to her house and interviewed her entire family. Then they interviewed her neighbors. Then they did a thorough background check. She had to release her medical records. I think it took her about two months to get a permit, and by that time her privacy had been pretty much ripped to shreds.
Across the river, in Pennsylvania, it takes about three hours to buy a gun. Then you have to wait a day before you can buy another gun. The state legislature debated changing the gun laws -- lots of people from inner city Philadelphia went to Harrisburg to support stricter controls -- but Pennsylvania's law held.
On this one I think I would be a strict constructionist. You want a gun? Join the National Guard. That's our well-regulated militia.
But what about the little old lady in the bad neighborhood who owns a handgun and knows how to use it? Wouldn't an intruder think twice before trying to rob her?
My personal solution to this dilemma would be to dig up the authors of the Constitution, re-vivify them, set them adrift in an inner city for a few days, allow them to sample all the state-of-the-art automatic weaponry, and then convene them for discussion. They might want to tweak the grammar on the Second Amendment a little bit.
As for me, the only arms I'll ever bear are the two that attach to my body at the shoulder. Can't kill bunnies with those.
THE MERLIN OF BERKELEY SPRINGS