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Standing Guard | When It Comes To Gun Rights, 2016 Election Is About The Court, Too

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Standing Guard | When It Comes To Gun Rights, 2016 Election Is About The Court, Too

This feature appears in the May ’16 issue of the official journals of the National Rifle Association. 

With the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the precarious one-vote majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices who stand behind the Second Amendment has vanished, leaving the future of the individual right to keep and bear arms in the deepest jeopardy. 

This election year, the future direction of the highest court in the land is up for grabs. 

In the short term, the efforts of the pro-Second Amendment U.S. Senate majority to prevent President Barack Obama from nominating a successor to Justice Scalia is of paramount importance and demands our most vocal support. 

If the Senate stands strong against Obama’s certain attempt to replace Justice Scalia with an anti-gun nominee, the very existence of the Second Amendment will depend on the outcome of the November elections. 

For the nation’s 100 million gun owners—led by the National Rifle Association—the election of Hillary Clinton as president, coupled with the election of a Senate led by arch gun-banner New York U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, would guarantee that the high court would be dominated by “progressives,” who would doubtless reverse the landmark decisions upholding the Second Amendment as an individual right.  If the Senate stands strong against Obama’s certain attempt to replace Justice Scalia with an anti-gun nominee, the very existence of the Second Amendment will depend on the outcome of the November elections.

Any doubt about that outcome of a shift in the makeup of the high court is erased by a boast made by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the elite Harvard Club in Washington, D.C., when she called the court’s 2008 landmark decision in District of Columbia v. Heller—a case that enshrined the Second Amendment as an individual right—“grievously mistaken.” 

Past minority dissents, she said, are future majority rulings. 

Of Heller, she said, “I would rank as a dissenting opinion ‘appealing to the intelligence of a future day.’” 

To understand the future day envisioned by Justice Ginsburg, look to Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissent in Heller

“The Second Amendment was adopted to protect the right of the people of each of the several States to maintain a well-regulated militia … there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution.” 

But given the conservative majority of one justice, that arrogant defamation of liberty—utterly denigrating the individual right to keep and bear arms—was the losing objection to what was a remarkably clear, earth-shaking 64-page opinion in Heller penned by Justice Scalia declaring: 

“The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. … 

“In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.” 

Saying “the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon,” Scalia declared that “a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.”

Furthermore, Scalia’s brilliant opinion also opened the way for future  Second Amendment challenges saying, “[W]hatever else it leaves to future evaluation, it surely elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.” 

The Heller decision was followed almost exactly two years later with the high court extending the Second Amendment to every corner of the nation in the 5-to-4 decision in McDonald v. City of Chicago. 

That case was brought by an American patriot—Otis McDonald, an elderly black resident of Chicago, a veteran with extraordinary courage. McDonald, who lived in a once-quiet neighborhood now saturated with criminal violence, simply wanted to keep a handgun in his home to defend himself and his family. Denied that individual right, he sought the protection of the Second Amendment. 

He got it when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-to-4 that Chicago’s ban was unconstitutional, and thus extended the Second Amendment protections to gun restrictions at all levels of government. 

With Justice Scalia’s death—and with as many as three other Supreme Court vacancies possible in the near future—therewill be a seismic shift in judicial philosophy if the enemies of liberty gain control of the executive and legislative branches of government. 

The dissenters in McDonald were even more strident in their opposition to individual liberty than those justices who had objected to Heller: In an aggressive dissenting opinion, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Ginsburg declared: 

“[T]he Framers did not write the Second Amendment in order to protect a private right of armed self-defense.” And “By its terms, the Second Amendment does not apply to the States; read properly, it does not even apply to individuals outside of the militia context.” 

Justice Breyer fumed, “After all, the Amendment’s militia-related purpose is primarily to protect States from federal regulation, not to protect individuals.” 

Consider that those justices lost their chance to liquidate the Second Amendment merely by a single vote. 

And in his off-the-wall dissent, Justice Stevens similarly attacked the majority in Heller:  “In my view, the Court badly misconstrued the Second Amendment in linking it to the value of personal self-defense above and beyond the functioning of the state militias.” 

What was most bizarre is that the dissenters—in denying the Second Amendment as an individual right—also indirectly embraced the firearm confiscation schemes of England and Australia. 

Stevens wrote, “[T]he experience of other advanced democracies, including those that share our British heritage, undercuts the notion that an expansive right to keep and bear arms is intrinsic to ordered liberty. … 

“[I]t is silly—indeed, arrogant—to think we have nothing to learn about liberty from the billions of people beyond our borders.”

Liberty? British heritage?

He’s clearly talking about the “liberty” of civil disarmament in Australia and the United Kingdom.

That is the same evil concept touted by Obama and wholeheartedly embraced by Hillary Clinton. England and Australia are an Orwellian nightmare where ordinary peaceable, law-abiding citizens—duly licensed gun owners—were forced to turn in their registered firearms for destruction. Those guns, the private property of law-abiding citizens, were “turned into soup cans and park benches.” 

And when the dissenters talk about “billions of people beyond our borders,” they are talking about the “international norms” of the United Nations, usurping American laws and our Constitution. 

Citing the laws, court decisions and constitutions of foreign nations is something some of the “progressive” justices have espoused in hearing 
cases that have come before the U.S. Supreme Court.

But it gets worse. Justice Ginsburg, who has sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States, finds that hallowed document wholly inferior to the constitutions of other nations. 

In an Egyptian television interview in January 2011, she disavowed the U.S. Constitution saying: 

“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the Constitution of South Africa … a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights.” 

You might ask, why would a U.S. Supreme Court justice prefer another constitution to that which was forged in Philadelphia more than 200 years ago? What makes the South African Constitution so superior? 

In that document, the inalienable individual rights spelled out in our Bill of Rights and the limits on government in our Constitution are replaced with something its proponents call “positive rights.” These are “rights” possessed by government “to intervene in social and economic life, promoting equality rather than simply procedural fairness.” 

And civil disarmament is among those rights of government intervention. You might ask, why would a U.S. Supreme Court justice prefer another constitution to that which was forged in Philadelphia more than 200 years ago? What makes the South African Constitution so superior? 

It’s senseless, but here we have a U.S. Supreme Court justice who might find herself in the majority embracing the very essence of undefined and unknown “social justice.”

Again, remember the vacancy left by the passing of Justice Scalia. That’s the future if Hillary, Schumer and Nancy Pelosi take power and pack the Supreme Court. 

We can stop them. 

Remember, in politics and in legislative bodies, they who have the biggest number win. And if the gun banners get the biggest number, they win everything. If enough Democrats were elected in November to give them a majority in the Senate, Schumer would control the agenda, the calendar and the committee structure. In doing so, you can bet the farm that our guns and our culture would be a favored target for eradication. 

If you think Harry Reid was bad, imagine Schumer, who is even more dangerous to the Second Amendment. 

A Schumer Senate would ensure that a “progressive” Supreme Court majority might just last a lifetime.

In order to protect the seminal gains of Heller and McDonald, and to form a U.S. Supreme Court that will continue to uphold the U.S. Constitution, three elements are absolutely crucial in this upcoming election. 

We must elect a president who believes and will fight for the Second Amendment. We must defeat Hillary Clinton and end once and for all the Clintons’ corrupt political machine along with their gun-ban dynasty. 

We must elect a Schumer-proof U.S. Senate and maintain the current Second Amendment majority—a majority that will protect our hard-fought liberty using its duty to advise and consent on any nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal courts in general.

And we need to maintain the Second Amendment majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

With the future direction of the Court at stake, there has never been a more important election than this one. 

We must start early and be unceasing in our efforts to educate and organize others. We are the vanguard. NRA members are the leaders in what can only be considered the crucial fight for liberty, and the very future of that liberty is at stake.

Wayne LaPierre

BY Wayne LaPierre

Executive Vice President, NRA

Since 1991, Wayne LaPierre has led the NRA through a period of unprecedented membership growth and political clout in defense of our Second Amendment rights. And that strength has been put to the good benefit of NRA members and gun owners. In large part because of Wayne's leadership, Right-to-Carry is now the law in 41 states. All 50 states have enacted laws to protect shooting ranges, and all 50 passed legislation to protect hunters from harassment.

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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.