Respectfully submitted by Lawrence Rafferty (rafflaw) Guest Blogger
I have discussed the Second Amendment and the difficulties I have in allowing citizens to own semi-automatic weapons and large capacity clips of ammunition in the past, but Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in a recent Fox News interview, just took my concern over semi-automatic weapons and shot it down.. with a shoulder firing rocket!
“Referring to the recent shooting in Aurora, CO, host Chris Wallace asked the Supreme Court Justice about gun control, and whether the Second Amendment allows for any limitations to gun rights. Scalia admitted there could be, such as “frighting” (carrying a big ax just to scare people), but they would still have to be determined with an 18th-Century perspective in mind. According to his originalism, if a weapon can be hand-held, though, it probably still falls under the right to “bear arms”:
WALLACE: What about… a weapon that can fire a hundred shots in a minute?
SCALIA: We’ll see. Obviously the Amendment does not apply to arms that cannot be hand-carried — it’s to keep and “bear,” so it doesn’t apply to cannons — but I suppose here are hand-held rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes, that will have to be decided.
WALLACE: How do you decide that if you’re a textualist?
SCALIA: Very carefully.” Think Progress
OK. I get it now. Under Justice Scalia’s originalist reading of the Constitution, he might not allow you to carry a big Axe around to frighten people, but a shoulder firing rocket launcher might be legal! At what point do we decide that public safety just might trump a radical reading of the Constitution? This is the same justice that opined in the District of Columbia v. Heller case that reasonable restrictions to the Second Amendment might be allowed by the Court. Heller
Maybe Justice Scalia needs to see the photos of the carnage a semi-automatic weapon or a shoulder fired rocket launcher can create. Under this thinking, RPG’s might be legal for all citizens to own and carry. Grenades can be hand-held and therefore under Justice Scalia’s warped sense of thinking, they too might be legal for citizens to carry. Do we draw the limit at briefcase nukes that can be carried in one’s hand?
Obviously the theory that Justice Scalia is promoting can be carried to extreme and hilarious lengths. The real scary part is that Justice Scalia doesn’t understand how hilarious and dangerous his concepts are in the real world. I am also confused why Scalia is allowed by Chief Justice Roberts to go on Fox News and opine about issues that just may end up in front of the Supreme Court. Isn’t this interview evidence that Justice Scalia has already made up his mind on the issue of other portable weapons?
What do you think of these comments by Justice Scalia and does his concept of originalism go too far? Since Justice Scalia thinks that these kind of weapons may be legal, is it too far-fetched to wonder if the current crop of right-wing Militia’s are free to purchase these kind of weapons, even if they hope to use them against the government?
Additional Reference: Prof. Geoffrey Stone, University of Chicago