Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Richard Epstein on The Libertarian Gun Fallacy

Richard Epstein's latest foray into Second Amendment interpretation was published January 31st in the Hoover Institution Journal's Defining Ideas series. He had previously praised Justice Stevens' Heller dissent as "one of his ablest opinions" in an October 17, 2011 Defining Ideas article. The new article, entitled The Libertarian Gun Fallacy, argues that the Heller and McDonald cases were wrongly decided by the Supreme Court because the Second Amendment is not a protection for individual rights, but rather is a federalism provision intended to protect the states. Prof. Epstein bases his interpretation on the "well regulated militia" clause of the amendment. He supports his view by analyzing every provision in the Constitution containing a reference to the militia except the Fifth Amendment.

My response to this article is posted at Defining Ideas. In it, I note that Epstein tore the Second Amendment out of its actual American bill of rights related historical context. This approach makes it impossible to determine what its language was intended to mean. A much better understanding of American bill of rights related history solves this problem. American history indicates that both Second Amendment clauses were intended as individual rights protections because both were based on prior restrictions on state governments found in state bills of rights. The Second Amendment's predecessor language was not understood as protecting state governments. A link was provided to my latest article, The American Revolutionary Era Origin of the Second Amendment's Clauses, which examines and documents relevant American bill of rights history.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The History of the Second Amendment's Clauses

Now that my history of the Second Amendment, The American Revolutionary Era Origin of the Second Amendment's Clauses, is easily available online, it is my hope that the Second Amendment dispute, which is the mother of all ideological divides, might start to wane. Public policy decisions should be based upon facts - all of the relevant facts - not just a selection of historical information that results in a plausible sounding argument that is directly contradicted by extensive, relevant information.

As noted in a previous post, Prof. Jack Rakove criticized Justice Scalia's Heller decision last July 4th as containing "intellectual embarrassments of the first order". He did not seem to realize there were such embarrassments in his own brief to the Supreme Court. In December of 2010, Prof. Pauline Maier indicated that citing the founders and framers to justify striking down state and local gun laws would be "an abuse of history." She strongly supported the position taken in the historians' brief and appeared not to recognize mistakes within it.

It appears the historians involved in the Heller brief are totally unaware of the errors that have been documented in their presentation to the Supreme Court. I have decided to contacted each of those still teaching through their university email addresses to let them know about the new article, pointing out that it documents extensive information overlooked in their brief. The article itself links to documentation of factual errors in the brief.

Twelve of the historians were contacted on Dec. 31st. Two, Profs. Lois Schwoerer of George Washington University and John Shy of the University of Michigan are retired, and therefore have no university email readily available, and, unfortunately, Prof. Higginbotham passed away in 2008. So far I have received a reply from one of the historians thanking me and indicating an interest in reading the article.

On two previous occasions long ago I attempted to contact notable persons who supported gun control in an attempt to establish a dialogue over what the facts about the Second Amendment actually were. One was a media personality, the other a retired state superior court judge. In the first case no answer was returned, and in the second, I received a mass of literature published by Handgun Control. Those were very disappointing results.

We will see what the new year brings with this initiative.

Happy New Year!