Monday, June 30, 2008

Just because you have the right...

Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito. It's a pretty odd day when I find myself in agreement with this crowd of U.S. Supreme Court Justices and disaligned, at least in underlying principle, with this list: Souter, Ginsburg, Stevens and Breyer. I had briefly thought to say "I applaud the Court's recent Second Amendment ruling" but I quickly thought better of it; it's not something to cheer about the way the NRA is cheering. I do think it is correct; I think free adults should have the right to own weapons.

It's a right that carries an awesome responsibility that many people just can't live up to, and that creates real problems and real tragedies. Guns (and other weapons) are meant for situations where justice, law and order have broken down or are unavailable at that moment. They can really level a playing field when a couple of thugs invade a home.

I wish we didn't live in a society where that, and other more insideous threats, still exist, but we do, and now our right to arm ourselves, should we feel the need, is more clear. To be sure it's not crystal clear; the Second Amendment is probably the most obtusely worded of any of them. It's worth looking at some of the contemporaneous provisions from the English Bill of Rights and from some of the early states -- there are more radical notions there, like the fact that standing armies are dangerous to Liberty in times of peace and that it is up to "the people" to provide for the common defense. And it is up to the people to exercise their rights responsibly -- or not to: you also have the right to not own a hand gun, and to push for a society where others don't feel a need to own one either. That's the homeland I want to protect.

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