The Nine Bench-Wraiths are hearing D.C. vs. Heller today, where we’ll finally be blessed with the definitive judicial opinion on whether the Second Amendment is an individual or a collective right.
Item A: my prediction of the decision.
They’ll come down with a half-assed cop-out decision that determines the Second Amendment to be an individual right, but that localities have the right to regulate it, since “no rights are absolute”. They’ll cite the Constitutionality of free speech limitations as an example, and we’re right back at Square One.
Item B: my frustration at the discussion in general.
Why is it that we have all these Constitutional scholars, schooled lawyers to a man and woman, who don’t understand they’re debating a non-concept? There is no such thing as a “collective right”. Rights are, and can only ever be, individual in nature. The debate about “States’ rights” annoys me just as much, because States have no rights. They have delegated powers. Same with government authorities: none of them have any rights, because a right is inherent to an individual by virtue of their existence. An FBI agent, for example, has no “rights” afforded to him by that badge and title. They confer certain powers, but they don’t stay with him when he turns in the badge and becomes Joe Public again. The powers of a state are delegated to it by the People, and therefore lack the permanent nature of a right. We can “un-delegate” those powers via the legislative process. If they were “rights”, then they’d be inherent to the State, and nothing could take them away, not even democratic decision via legislation. That notion is obviously not true, otherwise we wouldn’t have needed to delegate those powers to our Government via a Constitution to begin with.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Read through the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. Whenever the Founders were talking about “rights”, they were specifically talking about individuals. Whenever the Constitution talks about government entities, it refers to powers. Go check for yourself.
Lastly, it makes absolutely no sense at all to claim that the individual right to keep and bear arms can be exercised through membership in the National Guard (the “well-regulated militia” that, coincidentally, wasn’t founded until a hundred and twenty years after the Constitution was written). That’s because the NG is, for all intents and purposes, a government entity. Also, membership in the NG is restricted to reasonably healthy individuals in a certain age range, and with a certain amount of prerequisites, and allowing gun ownership (a constitutionally recognized right) only to individuals suitable for service opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms.
Can you imagine the outcry if someone from the right side of the aisle used the very same “collective right” argument and proposed to restrict the freedom of speech or religion to individuals in service to (and under supervision and jurisdiction of) the government, while stipulating that the old and the handicapped need not apply? How would the “Collective Rights” crowd react if someone on the Right were to opine that you can only pray in a government-run church, or that you can only exercise your right to free speech by working in a government-controlled news office?
In actuality, the argument is even more radical than that…these people say that your right to keep and bear arms is satisfied by some National Guard private acting as your proxy. To make the example accurate, our argument would need to be that your right to free speech is satisfied as long as a state-employed journalist can exercise it on your behalf.
Yet much of the same “Bush is teh Hitler” crowd that’s been (rightfully) complaining about the brazenness of Presidential “Free Speech zones” has absolutely no problem with such a radical concept when it’s applied to gun ownership. Remember, kids on the Left and Right: government regulation and control are an abomination when they concern rights we like, and they’re absolutely essential when they concern rights we don’t like.
What the gun opponents don’t understand is that a win for them in this case would set legal precedent to read all the other rights out of the Bill of Rights in the same fashion. If one can be construed to be a “collective” right, then so can all others.