by Diane Rufino, October 1, 2019
My professor at law school, Judge Andrew Napolitano, FOX News Senior Legal Analyst, wrote an excellent article on Red Flag Laws.
Not only is this article spot on regarding the issues (unconstitutionality) of Red Flag laws, but it is a brilliant overview of our founding and of the original intent and understanding of our Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms. The history included in Judge Napolitano’s article is a history that our children will never be exposed to in the public school system. Our government will never allow students to be taught that they have an inherent right to be armed against government should it turn despotic and tyrannical (which almost all governments, at some point, become).
St. George Tucker, one of our country’s most influential legal scholars and an expert on the US Constitution (as ratified), wrote the following in his View of the Constitution of the United States (1803) regarding the right to arms addressed in the Second Amendment:
“This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty. . . . The right of self-defense is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction. In England, the people have been disarmed, generally, under the specious pretext of preserving the game: a never failing lure to bring over the landed aristocracy to support any measure, under that mask, though calculated for very different purposes. True it is, their bill of rights seems at first view to counteract this policy: but the right of bearing arms is confined to protestants, and the words suitable to their condition and degree, have been interpreted to authorize the prohibition of keeping a gun or other engine for the destruction of game, to any farmer, or inferior tradesman, or other person not qualified to kill game. So that not one man in five hundred can keep a gun in his house without being subject to a penalty.”
Tucker’s View of the Constitution was the first extended, systematic commentary on the Constitution after it had been ratified by the people of the several states and amended by the Bill of Rights. And his Blackstone’s Commentaries, With Notes of Reference to the Constitution (1803), from which the following excerpt originates, was the major treatise on American law in the early 19th century. Lawyers arguing before the Supreme Court of the United States would frequently cite to Tucker’s Blackstone’s Commentaries more often than any other commentator until 1827.
The information in Judge Napolitano’s article is information that I did not learn in my years at Seton Hall Law School (which was recently renamed “Seton Hall School of Social Justice”). The reason is that the Second Amendment had not been interpreted and analyzed honestly by the Supreme Court when I was a student there. For all of our country’s history, the Second Amendment was assumed by ordinary citizens to include the individual right to self-defense while it was assumed by government to only include the right to firearms when men formed into a militia. This difference of viewpoints highlights exactly the difference between Free Individuals and Government. It highlights the difference between the views and intent of Free Individuals versus the views and intent of government. Individuals want their rights secure; and especially from the reaches of government (as the Bill of Rights was intended to ensure). They are protective and defensive of their rights. Government, on the other hand, wants to control the people and is ever so willing to re-interpret rights such that government can burden, define, and even take them away (such as when third parties make a complaint that a certain individual is a threat and should have his/her firearms confiscated).
When I was attending law school, the controlling Supreme Court jurisprudence was that the right protected in the Second Amendment was not an individual right but a collective right. In 1939, the Supreme Court decided a firearms case, United States v. Miller, in which it interpreted the Second Amendment as such. The right to keep and bear arms, as a result of the case, was understood to be a collective right; it gave rise to the “Militia Theory” of the Second Amendment. I graduated from Seton Hall when this case was still controlling jurisprudence. The year after I graduated, however, marked a profound shift in the view of the Second Amendment. George Bush ran for president on the view that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to keep and bear arms, for self-defense and self-protection. That was also the view held by the NRA at the time, which was one of Bush’s biggest campaign backers. John Ashcroft, Bush’s Attorney General issued a letter in 2001 renouncing the “Militia Theory” of the Second Amendment and endorsed the “Individual Rights” view. The US Department of Justice would from that date forward “unequivocally” support the view that the amendment guaranteed and protected the “private ownership of firearms” (as the letter read). Immediately after the letter’s release, Ashcroft send a memorandum to all federal prosecutors officially informing them of the administration’s official position. [In other words, the Attorney General, as part of the Executive Branch, NULLIFIED the position of the Judicial Branch].
In November of 2001, we had the first federal ruling to apply the updated view of the Second Amendment – United States v. Emerson. A federal appeals court in Texas held that the earlier decisions interpreting the Second Amendment to apply only to state militias had been wrong. The case involved a man who had been brought up on charges of illegally possessing a firearm. Timothy Joe Emerson’s wife had previously accused him of threatening her, which led her to obtain a temporary restraining order against him. Under federal law, a person under such an order is prohibited from possessing firearms. Emerson, however, refused to give up his. He argued that under the Second Amendment, he should be able to keep his gun, his Beretta pistol, because the Constitution guaranteed him the right to have one for self-defense. The court agreed with him, under the Ashcroft DOJ view. The original meaning of the Second Amendment, the ruling articulated, was to guarantee individuals, and not just militias, the right to keep and bear arms. [The ruling went on to explain that persons with a history of violence could be legally barred from possessing guns. And using that logic, the court ordered Emerson to stand trial]. But the Emerson case marked a profound shit in Second Amendment jurisprudence. And then the 2008 landmark case District of Columbia v. Heller solidified that view in a brilliant and masterful opinion written by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
I have written extensively about his in my article “Anatomy of a Supreme Court Case: District of Columbia v. Heller (2008),” which I posted on my blogsite on June 12, 2019. [https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2019/06/12/anatomy-of-a-supreme-court-case-district-of-columbia-v-heller-2008/].
Why are lawmakers talking about Red Flag Laws and other Gun Control Laws? Why are Democratic candidates like Beto O’Rourke talking about government confiscation of firearms? It’s because they have no clue what significance the Constitution has as a founding document, as a document to define and empower the federal government while at the same time, limiting it. It’s because they have no clue whatsoever why the Bill of Rights is so critical and what purpose those amendments serve in our so-called “free country.” It’s because they idolize leaders such as Hitler and Stalin more than they idolize visionaries such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
Why are millennials, liberals, and progressives (ie, Democrats) so willing to fight for and support gun control laws, to support gun bans, and to support repeal of the Second Amendment? It’s because they don’t value liberty. They aren’t inclined to take the chances that come with a free society (which is the reality that bad people will do bad things, especially in our current era devoid of religion and morality and strong stable families) and they aren’t willing to accept the responsibility that comes with being a member of a free society, which includes the support of policies that strengthen families, morality, self-sufficiency, honest education, proper gender roles, religious guidance, inclusion rather than “diversity” (which is actually code for division and identity politics), the rule of law, and the rights of victims over the rights of criminals, and which reward sacrifice and success, military service, and common sense. Healthy communities are the natural by-product of good and responsible law-making, where the most productive qualities and most productive conduct are encouraged and protected.
It is so true what they say….. People who do not know what their rights are, who don’t know why those rights are essential, and who don’t know how they are secured are the ones who are unfit to stand up for them. In a way, they are undeserving of the freedom that the United States offers. Being an American means you responsibly exercise your God-given and other liberty rights, you respect the identical rights for others, you conduct yourself in a way that reflects admirably on the United States, and you accept the duty of defending those rights, opposing government when it abuses its powers, and in general, ensuring that the country you inherited is at least the same (but hopefully better) than the one you will leave to future generations. That is the way you preserve our great American experiment and the way you preserve individual liberty.
It all starts with proper and honest education. Education should always favor the people and their rights and responsibilities, and not the supremacy of the federal government and its agenda. And that’s because the primary role of government, as explained in exquisite detail in the Declaration of Independence, is to secure and protect the rights of the individual. When it ceases to perform that primary role, then government as is should cease to exist and the people should “alter or abolish” it and institute another government, “laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
So please read Judge Napolitano’s article below and share it. Please use it to help educate your children, grandchildren, etc. At least use it to begin a conservation, a debate, or to inspire them to learn more. We can take back our country and protect our rights, one child at a time. They are our future.
RED FLAG LAWS: THE DANGEROUS URGE TO DO SOMETHING, by Judge Andrew Napolitano, Sept. 20, 2019 [https://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2019/09/20/red-flag-the-dangerous-urge-to-do-something/ ]
When the Constitution was written, the idea of owning arms and keeping them in the home was widespread.
The colonists had just defeated the armies of King George III. The colonial weapon of choice was the Kentucky long rifle, while British soldiers used their army-issued version of Brown Bessies. Each rifle had its advantages, but the Kentucky (it was actually a German design, perfected and manufactured in Pennsylvania) was able to strike a British soldier at 200 yards, a startlingly long distance at the time. The Bessies were good for only about 80 yards.
Put aside the advantages we had of the passionate defense of freedom and homeland, to say nothing of superior leadership, it doesn’t take any advanced understanding of mathematics or ballistics to appreciate why we won the Revolution.
It is a matter of historical fact that the colonists won the war largely by superior firepower.
Six years after the war was over, delegates met in Philadelphia in secret and drafted what was to become the Constitution. The document, largely written in James Madison’s hand, was then submitted to Congress and to the states, which began the process of ratification.
By then, Americans had already formed two basic political parties. The Federalists wanted a muscular central government and the Anti-Federalists wanted a loose confederation of states. Yet the memory of a Parliament that behaved as if it could write any law, tax any event and impair any liberty, coupled with the fear that the new government here might drift toward tyranny, gave birth to the first 10 amendments to the Constitution — the Bill of Rights.
The debate over the Bill of Rights was not about rights; that debate had been resolved in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence declared our basic human rights to be inalienable. The Bill of Rights debates were about whether the federal government needed restraints imposed upon it in the Constitution itself.
The Federalists thought the Bill of Rights was superfluous because they argued that no American government would knowingly restrict freedom. The Anti-Federalists thought constitutional restraints were vital to the preservation of personal liberty because no government can be trusted to preserve personal liberty.
Second among the personal liberties preserved in the Bill of Rights from impairment by the government was the right to self-defense. Thomas Jefferson called that the right to self-preservation.
Fast-forward to today, and we see the widespread and decidedly un-American reaction to the tragedies of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. Even though both mass murders were animated by hatred and planned by madness, because both were carried out using weapons that look like those issued by the military, Democrats have called for the outright confiscation of these weapons.
Where is the constitutional authority for that? In a word: nowhere.
The government’s job is to preserve personal liberty. Does it do its job when it weakens personal liberty instead? Stated differently, how does confiscating weapons from the law-abiding conceivably reduce their access to madmen? When did madmen begin obeying gun laws?
These arguments against confiscation have largely resonated with Republicans. Yet — because they feel they must do something — they have fallen for the concept of limited confiscation, known by the euphemism of “Red Flag” laws.
The concept of a “Red Flag” law — which permits the confiscation of lawfully owned weapons from a person because of what the person MIGHT do — violates both the presumption of innocence and the Due Process requirement of proof of criminal behavior plus the opportunity to challenge that allegation before liberty can be infringed.
The presumption of innocence puts the burden for proving a case on the government. Because the case to be proven — might the gun owner be dangerous? — if proven, will result in the loss of a fundamental liberty, the presumption of innocence also mandates that the case be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Republican proposal, the “Red Flag” laws, lowers the standard of proof to a preponderance of the evidence — “a more likely than not” standard. That was done because it is impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an event might happen. This is exactly why the “might happen” standard is unconstitutional and alien to our jurisprudence. It is simply not sufficient to protect our inalienable rights and the liberty rights we are entitled to, according to “the laws of nature and by Nature’s God” (Declaration of Independence, first paragraph).
In 2008, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the Supreme Court, in the case District of Columbia v. Heller, that the right to keep and bear arms in the home is an individual pre-political right. Due process demands that this level of right — we are not talking about the privilege of a driving a car on a government street — can only be taken away after a jury conviction or a guilty plea to a felony.
The “might happen” standard of “Red Flag” laws violates this basic principle. The same Supreme Court case also reflects the Kentucky long gun lesson. The people are entitled to own and possess the same arms as the government; for the same reason as the colonists did — to fight off tyrants should they seize liberty or property.
If the government can impair Second Amendment-protected liberties on the basis of what a person might do, as opposed to what a person actually did do, to show that it is doing something in response to a public clamor, then no liberty in America is safe.
Which liberty will the government infringe upon next?
Judge Andrew Napolitano, “Red Flag Laws – The Dangerous Urge to Do Something,” Tenth Amendment Center, September 20, 2019. Referenced at: https://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2019/09/20/red-flag-the-dangerous-urge-to-do-something/
Diane Rufino, “Anatomy of a Supreme Court Case: District of Columbia v. Heller (2008),” www.forloveofgodandcountry.com, June 12, 2019. Referenced at: https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2019/06/12/anatomy-of-a-supreme-court-case-district-of-columbia-v-heller-2008/