Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More on Chicago gun ban case

Some more commentary on the upcoming Supreme Court hearing on the Chicago gun ban case, McDonald v. Chicago:

From Reason Magazine: The Supreme Court Takes on Guns, Again:
... Following Heller, it might seem clearcut that Chicago's gun control laws should meet the same fate as those in Washington, D.C. So why hasn't it worked out that way? The reason is that the Second Amendment, rare among the fundamental rights laid out in the Bill of Rights, has never been held to apply to actions of any government entity other than a federal one. (Of course, it wasn't even considered to do that until Heller.) In the legal lingo, the Second Amendment has not been "incorporated" against states and localities via the 14th Amendment. By contrast, the First Amendment (Gitlow v. New York), Fourth Amendment (Mapp v. Ohio), and others have been (but not, yet, the Third or Seventh). Furthermore, there is currently some disagreement on this question among different districts of the federal appeals court system.

The 7th Circuit has said no in various challenges to Chicago area gun laws, as has the 2nd Circuit, in the Maloney case. The 9th Circuit, however, earlier this year in the Nordyke case said that the Second Amendment does indeed bind states and localities—though the 9th Circuit recently heard another round of arguments in that case and has decided to postpone its decision until after the Supreme Court decides McDonald.

Yet as Gura has demonstrated at length in his McDonald filings—as have numerous gun-rights scholars, particularly Stephen Halbrook—the top concerns of the drafters and ratifiers of the 14th Amendment in 1868 were the ways the rights of African-American citizens were being violated with impunity in the post-Civil War South, often with the eager cooperation of local and state officials.

Among the fundamental rights noted by the amendment's boosters was the right to bear arms. The 14th Amendment's Senate sponsor, Jacob Howard, referred to the need to protect "'the personal rights guaranteed and secured by the first eight amendments of the Constitution; such as freedom of speech and of the press;...the right to keep and bear arms....' Howard averred: 'The great object of the first section of this amendment is, therefore, to restrain the power of the States and compel them at all times to respect these great fundamental guarantees.'"

The 14th Amendment contains two phrases that could be used to protect individual rights against state and local government encroachment. The one that seems most clearly designed to do so is what Sen. Howard referred to above as "the first section," the Privileges or Immunities Clause, which says "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."

However, that clause has been a dead letter in American jurisprudence since the Supreme Court's 1873 decision in The Slaughterhouse Cases, an incredibly convoluted set of challenges to a legal slaughterhouse monopoly in New Orleans. ...

And CBS News: Gun Rights Case Could Turn On Civil War-Era Laws:
... In last year's Heller decision, both the majority and the dissenters reviewed the history of ratification of the Second Amendment. This time, when reviewing Chicago's ordinance, they'll likely look to the debate over the 1868 adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment (which is what provides an avenue for the federal Bill of Rights to apply to the states).

Sen. Jacob Howard's speech to the U.S. Senate in 1866 provides a glimpse into what was going through the minds of the people who actually drafted the Fourteenth Amendment. Howard said:
To these privileges and immunities, whatever they may be – for they are not and cannot be fully defined in their entire extent and precise nature – to these should be added the personal rights guaranteed by the first eight amendments of the Constitution; such as the freedom of speech and of the press; the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances, a right pertaining to each and all of the people; the right to keep and bear arms; the right to be exempt from unreasonable searches and seizures, and from any search or seizure except by virtue of a warrant issued upon a formal oath or affidavit; the right of an accused person to be informed of the nature of the accusation against him, and his right to be tried by an impartial jury of the vicinage; and also the right to be secure against excessive bail and against cruel and unusual punishments. (Emphasis added.)

Stephen Halbrook, a lawyer and historian who has written a book titled Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms, has extensively reviewed the debate in the U.S. Congress over extending the right to bear arms to the newly-freed slaves after the Civil War. He concludes: "The framers of that amendment understood from hard experience that the rights to personal security and personal liberty are inseparable from the rights to self defense and to keep and bear arms."

The Fourteenth Amendment was enacted largely to overrule the Supreme Court's infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford (1856) case, which said that if the "large slaveholding states regarded (blacks) as included in the word citizens," then they would be granted rights including the ability to travel freely, the right to speak freely, and "to keep and carry arms wherever they went." ...

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