Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 1936-2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 1936-2016

Longtime U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a stalwart defender of the U.S. Constitution and author of the critically important majority opinion in the District of Columbia v. Heller case, passed away on Feb. 13 at the age of 79.

 When Justice Elena Kagan was dean of Harvard Law School, she explained Justice Scalia’s monumental influence: “His views on textualism and originalism, his views on the role of judges in our society, on the practice of judging, have really transformed the terms of legal debate in this country.” In short, “He is the justice who has had the most important impact over the years on how we think and talk about law.”

Justice Scalia’s landmark opinion in Heller affirmed the individual Second Amendment right, including the right to own handguns for self-defense. That decision was made possible not just by what Justice Scalia did in 2008, but by a career dedicated to defending the Constitution.

As a law professor at the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago, as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, and then for 30 years as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia was guided by two complementary principles: textualism and originalism.

“Textualism” means that whenever courts interpret any legal document—a Constitution, a statute or a contract—judges should consider first and foremost the precise words of the document. So in Heller, Scalia observed that the Second Amendment protects “the right of the people.” Justice Scalia’s landmark opinion in Heller affirmed the individual Second Amendment right, including the right to own handguns for self-defense. That decision was made possible not just by what Justice Scalia did in 2008, but by a career dedicated to defending the Constitution. 

He explained that the exact same phrase also appears elsewhere in the Bill of Rights: in the First Amendment, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble;” in the Fourth Amendment, “the right of the people to be secure” from unreasonable searches and seizures. In the First and Fourth amendments, everyone agrees that “the right of the people” refers to an ordinary individual right belonging to all Americans. Thus, the text of the Constitution shows that the Second Amendment is clearly an individual right for all Americans.

Justice Scalia’s other guiding principle was the original public meaning of the Constitution.

What did a given constitutional provision mean to the American people when they ratified it and made it “the supreme law of the land”? Justice Scalia did not invent originalism, an interpretive technique that is as old as the Constitution. But when President Ronald Reagan nominated Scalia in 1986, originalism had been in eclipse for decades. Supposedly, originalism was old-fashioned and outdated.

Over the course of the next three decades, Justice Scalia would explain that originalism, while not perfect, is the best method for judges to discern and enforce the law that the people created and to guard against judges arbitrarily imposing their own policy preferences under the guise of legal interpretation.

Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in Heller cited a mountain of public evidence that Americans in the Founding Era and the Early Republic understood the Second Amendment to guarantee an individual right. In dissent, Justice Stevens had little to work with, and he was reduced to arguing that even if the Second Amendment protects an individual right, it should yield to whatever the government considers necessary for public safety. The majority rejected that approach. “[T]he enshrinement of constitutional rights,” Scalia wrote, “necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.”

Justice Scalia’s other guiding principle was the original public meaning of the Constitution.Unlike some previous Supreme Court justices, Scalia was neither pompous nor aloof. A father of nine and a grandfather of 28, he told young lawyers that there is more to life than work, and they should remember their duties to family and community.

Justice Scalia was not only an ardent and brilliant defender of Second Amendment rights, he exercised those freedoms as a marksman and avid hunter. Indeed, his sudden death, which stunned all those who cherish our guaranteed civil rights, occurred while he was on a hunting trip.

If our Second Amendment endures into the 22nd century, Justice Antonin Scalia will deserve much of the credit, and he will be studied and emulated by judges and law students. Today, we can be thankful for the legacy of a great justice and an exemplary man.

TRENDING NOW
Guns and Taxes

News  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Guns and Taxes

David Hogg wants a federal tax on firearms and ammunition. He has repeatedly broached the idea, including multiple times on Twitter, and only sometimes suggests a use for the tax revenue. Hogg’s tweets on a ...

Washington: Anti-Gun Group Announces 2019 Agenda

Friday, December 7, 2018

Washington: Anti-Gun Group Announces 2019 Agenda

On December 5th, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, a group backed by out-of-state elites, announced it will pursue its most extreme anti-gun legislative agenda to date during the upcoming 2019 Washington Legislative Session.

More Proof That Being a “Celebrity” Does Not Make You Smart

News  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

More Proof That Being a “Celebrity” Does Not Make You Smart

In a November 30 tweet, Tom Arnold, famous for being married to Roseanne Barr and making a few really bad movies, has proven that he knows nothing about guns, gun owners or firearm misuse.

Checks and Balances? Massachusetts Executive Branch Flouts Court Orders on Firearms Licenses

News  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Checks and Balances? Massachusetts Executive Branch Flouts Court Orders on Firearms Licenses

The U.S.’s republican form of governance is predicated on co-equal branches of government that check and balance each other in order to preserve individual liberty. The system does not work when one branch simply ignores ...

Surprise: Study Finds No Rise in Violent Crime Attributable to Adopting Right-to-Carry Laws

News  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Surprise: Study Finds No Rise in Violent Crime Attributable to Adopting Right-to-Carry Laws

As we’ve noted recently, much research purporting to demonstrate connections between access to guns or right-to-carry laws and increases in crime is seriously flawed.  Often it's an attempt to curtail or eliminate Americans’ rights under the Second ...

Levi’s Teams with Billionaire Michael Bloomberg to Attack Gun Rights

News  

Friday, September 7, 2018

Levi’s Teams with Billionaire Michael Bloomberg to Attack Gun Rights

Levi Strauss & Co. established its brand in the mid-19th century by selling durable clothing to working-class Americans. As Levi’s signature jeans gained popularity amongst a wider set in the middle of the last century, ...

Warning to New Mexico Gun Owners: Expect Unprecedented Attacks On Your Second Amendment Rights During The 2019 Legislative Session

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Warning to New Mexico Gun Owners: Expect Unprecedented Attacks On Your Second Amendment Rights During The 2019 Legislative Session

While the New Mexico Legislature will not convene for its 60-day Regular Session until January 15, lawmakers can start prefiling bills on December 17. 

Ohio: Self-Defense Legislation Passes Senate Immediately Heads to House for Concurrence

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ohio: Self-Defense Legislation Passes Senate Immediately Heads to House for Concurrence

Today, the Ohio State Senate passed Substitute House Bill 228 by a vote of 19 - 10.   While the legislation was amended, Sub. HB 228 still contains important protections for the Second Amendment and ...

California: Firearm Excise Tax Legislation Introduced

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

California: Firearm Excise Tax Legislation Introduced

This week, the California Legislature convened for an organizational session and swearing in ceremonies for legislators. During their short stint in Sacramento several new anti-gun proposals were introduced, including Assembly Bill 18, sponsored by Assembly ...

Engineering Professor Shares Thoughts on Constitutional Law, Calls for Handgun Ban

News  

Friday, November 30, 2018

Engineering Professor Shares Thoughts on Constitutional Law, Calls for Handgun Ban

In a recent piece for the Bangor Daily News ironically titled, “Why banning handguns makes sense,” Associate University of Maine Electrical Engineering Professor George Elliott struggled to argue why the tools of self-defense have no ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.