The reason that the Supreme Court’s ruling in DC v Heller is so important is not that people in the city of Washington, D. C. will be allowed to own guns. That is a consequence of the ruling, but the real importance of it is that the Supreme Court affirmed that neither they nor any other body of government have the right to invalidate parts of the Constitution of the United States. How refreshing!
As Andrew Langer puts it:
When it comes to the individual nature of rights, history has long obscured what the founders intended. As the years have gone by, the simple, straightforward framework of our government, which laid out limitations on that government’s power and left expansive rights in the hands of individuals, has been muddied and complicated by people either ignorant of what the founders envisioned, or affirmatively interested in subverting that which had been created. The end result has been a much-too-large and too-costly government eager to able to inject itself in all aspects of an individual’s life.
The Supreme Court’s decision in DC v. Heller yesterday dealt a blow to those who would subvert, and, for the first time in a number of years, shed a bright light onto that elegant Constitutional framework.
Langer makes the very cogent point that the 9th and 10th Amendments are the key to understanding the rest of the Bill of Rights. They state that certain rights might still exist that aren’t specifically stated in the Constitution and that all powers not assigned to the central government are retained by the people or the states. That is why you and I have the right to privacy, although it is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution. What the Framers of the Constitution were saying is this: we couldn’t possibly list all of the specific rights that people have, one by one, and so we wrote down just the most fundamental and general ones.
They were also implying that the rights that are listed should be interpreted as liberally, that is as freely and broadly, as possible. That is why freedom of speech extends to symbolic gestures or the wearing of such things as armbands or political buttons. And it is why all citizens are allowed to own firearms, even if they are not members of a formal militia.
If you could sum up the Bill of Rights in a sentence, it would be this: you have the right to do pretty much anything, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the rights of anyone else. That is the whole basis of the American system. I may own property, but I may not put a fence on your side of the property line. I may say that I don’t like you, but I may not publicly lie about you. I may drive a car, but I may not ram it into your car. I may own a gun, but I may not shoot you with it–unless you are threatening to shoot me first.