20 October 2009

Collective or Individual?

Quick Answer for Sevesteen: gun rights are illusory in common law.

I have begun to dislike the terms "collective" and "individual" right in relation to the Second Amendment. First off, neither term really conveys what the right actually encompasses (in legal terms--it's scope). Saying that the right is collective and belongs to the States isn't really helpful. The right was intended to ensure that the Federal Government would not abuse its power to arm the militia under Article I, Section 8, Clause 16 to the detriment of the militia.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that this subject is hard for the booboisie to comprehend since even Supreme Court Justices have difficulty comprehending that there was a difference between civic and private purposes. I mean the booboisie can't comprehend comics, let alone complicated ideas. Also, “collective right” or “individual right” doesn't really define what exactly was being protected. The State's right to have militias? A personal right to own firearms outside of militia service?

That's why the question that the Supreme Court allegedly was considering in Heller was:
Whether the following provisions—D.C. Code §§ 7-2502.02(a)(4), 22-4504(a), and 7-2507.02—violated the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes?

Justice Stevens pointed out that:
The question presented by this case is not whether the Second Amendment protects a “collective right” or an“individual right.” Surely it protects a right that can be enforced by individuals. But a conclusion that the Second Amendment protects an individual right does not tell us anything about the scope of that right.

Guns are used to hunt, for self-defense, to commit crimes, for sporting activities, and to perform military duties. The Second Amendment plainly does not protect the right to use a gun to rob a bank; it is equally clear that it does encompass the right to use weapons for certain military purposes. Whether it also protects the right to possess and use guns for nonmilitary purposes like hunting and personal self-defense is the question presented by this case.
Justice Stevens's Heller Dissent p.1

This question was answered by US v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) as:
In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense. Aymette v. State of Tennessee, 2 Humph., Tenn., 154, 158.

The Constitution as originally adopted granted to the Congress power- 'To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.' U.S.C.A.Const. art. 1, 8. With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view.

I paraphrase the dicta to make it comprehensible to modern minds as:
The entire text of the Second Amendment was made with the obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of the forces created under authority of Article 1, Section 8, Clause 16. It must be interpreted and applied in consideration of that purpose. Without evidence that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' is reasonably related to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment of the body organised under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 16 of the Constitution or that its use and possession would contribute to the common defense.

Despite what various sides say about the holding taking it from various portions of the early paragraphs. The actual holding is that: "We are unable to accept the conclusion of the court below and the challenged judgment must be reversed (i.e., that the National Firearms Act violates the Second Amendment). The cause will be remanded for further proceedings."

Although it seems from the dicta that the Second Amendment right is best defined as a civic right in that it requires a "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia" at least according to Miller, but not according to Heller which choose to ignore the method and precedent of Miller.

Although, As I read Miller, the proper answer to the Question in Heller was "no" for a multitude of reasons. The Heller court had other dilatory tactics if it couldn't give the proper answer, but I digress...

The Founders came from the common law tradition and didn't totally reinvent the wheel when it came to the nascent US legal system. That means the law of the United States was originally largely derived from the common law system of English law, at both the federal and state levels. Weapons related to militia service enjoyed greater protection and were not subject to the same level of regulation as personal arms in the early republic. The right to keep arms for civilian purposes was not removed from the sphere of the State's legislative power, it was subject to the full scope of the state's police powers.

As anyone familiar with Common law developments regarding gun regulation will tell you, there are no "gun rights" in other common law jurisdictions even though they all have the militia tradition to some extent or another (E.g., Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom). Other Common law based jurisdictions are quick to ban personal firearm ownership after gun massacres.

For example, when Martin Bryant killed 35 people and wounded 21 others in Port Arthur, Tasmania. Both federal and state governments, some of which (notably Tasmania itself and Queensland) were opposed to firearm control, quickly took action to restrict the availability of firearms. It should be noted that the Tasmanian state government initially attempted to ignore this directive, but was subsequently threatened with a number of penalties from the federal government. Though this resulted in stirring controversy, most Government opposition to the new laws was silenced by mounting public opinion in the wake of the shootings. Under federal government co-ordination all states and territories of Australia banned and heavily restricted the legal ownership and use of self-loading rifles, self-loading and pump-action shotguns, together with considerable tightening of other gun laws.

When Michael Robert Ryan, armed with two semi-automatic rifles and a handgun, shot and killed sixteen people including his mother, and wounded fifteen others, then fatally shot himself in Hungerford, England. The massacre led to the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, which banned the ownership of semi-automatic centre-fire rifles and restricted the use of shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than two rounds. The Hungerford Report had demonstrated that Ryan's collection of weapons was legally licensed.

The Dublane Massacre where Sixteen children and one adult were killed led to the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997 being passed. This means that as of 1997 handguns have been almost completely banned for private ownership in Great Britain. Exceptions to the ban include muzzle-loading "blackpowder" guns, pistols produced before 1917, pistols of historical interest (such as pistols used in notable crimes, rare prototypes, unusual serial numbers and so on), starting pistols, pistols that are of particular aesthetic interest (such as engraved or jewelled guns) and shot pistols for pest control. Under certain circumstances, individuals may be issued a PPW (Personal Protection Weapon) licence. Even the UK's Olympic shooters fall under this ban; shooters can only train in Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, or abroad.

Compare the reactions from Australia and Great Britain to the Circle Jerks that occur in the United States after mass shootings and other examples of mayhem caused by firearms. People are so frustrated that they don't even bother to mention gun control. Maybe if someone wipes out an entire city...

Likewise, Early commentators in the US saw the difference possession for the common defence and personal uses. For example, the following passage is often cited by "gun rights" advocates to buttress their position:
7. “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and their own State, or theUnited States, or for the purpose of killing game; and no law shall be passed for disarming the people or any of them unless for crimes committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals; and as standing armies
in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military shall be kept under strict subordination to, and be governed by the civil powers.”
"The Address and Reasons of Dissent of the Minority of the Convention of Pennsylvania to their Constituents (December 18, 1787), reprinted in Pennsylvania and the Federal Constitution, 1787-1788, p. 422

This is because the private purposes of "defense of themselves" and "killing game" is mentioned. The problem is that the public can be disarmed for "unless for crimes committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals". This raises a few questions in my mind such as how strongly are the private purposes protected in light of "real danger of public injury from individuals". I believe that the fact that private purposes are mentioned in this passage, but aren't in the text of the Second Amendment shows that the Second Amendment should not include those purposes under the maxim of Statutory Interpretation Expressio unius est exclusio alterius (The express mention of one thing excludes all others).

Additionally, we have this quote showing a difference between use for the common defence and personal uses from ratification times.
The Bill of Rights secures to the people the use of arms in common defense; so that, if it be an alienable right, one use of arms is secured to the people against any law of the legislature. The other purposes for which they might have been used in a state of nature, being a natural right, and not surrendered by the constitution, the people still enjoy, and [may?] continue to do so till the legislature shall think fit to interdict. "Scribble Scrabble," Cumberland Gazette, January 26, 1787; "Scribble-Scrabble," ibid., December 8, 1786

The right to keep and carry firearms was one of the issues in Commonwealth v. Selfridge (1806), the most important murder trial of the early republic that began to change the need to retreat in self-defence situations. In this case, Selfridge's lawyer conceded that "every man has a right to possess military arms" and "to furnish his rooms with them." Yet the defense also recognized that the ownership and the use of non-military weapons were not constitutionally protected. Rather than assert a constitutional claim, the defense framed a common law argument on behalf of his client. Selfridge's attorney argued "there is no law written or unwritten, no part of the statute or common law of our country which denies to a man the right of possessing or wearing any kind of arms." Given this fact, it was indisputable that "in every free society a man is at liberty to do that which the law does not interdict, nor can the doing that which is not forbidden be imputed as a crime." Therefore, the acquittal in the Selfridge case made perfect legal sense since Selfridge had not broken any law.
Trial of Thomas O. Selfridge, attorney at law, before the Hon. Isaac Parker, Esquire, for killing Charles Austin, on the public exchange, in Boston, August 4, 1806 by Thomas O. Selfridge, Published by Russell and Cutler, Belcher and Armstrong, and Oliver and Munroe (Boston) 1807.

Likewise, there are other instances where it is made clear that States legislatures could regulate firearms for personal uses
The legislature, therefore, have a right to prohibit the wearing or keeping weapons dangerous to the peace and safety of the citizens, and which are not usual in civilized warfare, or would not contribute to the common defense. The right to keep and bear arms for the common defence is a great political right. It respects the citizens on the one hand and the rulers on the other. And although this right must be inviolably preserved, yet, it does not follow that the legislature is prohibited altogether from passing laws regulating the manner in which these arms may be employed.

To hold that the legislature could pass no law upon this subject, by which to preserve the public peace, and protect our citizens from the terror, which a wanton and unusual exhibition of arms might produce, or their lives from being endangered by desperadoes with concealed arms, would be to pervert a great political right to the worst of purposes, and to make it a social evil, of infinitely a greater extent to society, than would result from abandoning the right itself. Aymette v. State, 21 Tenn. (2 Hump.) 154 (1840).

Aymette is quite clear on the difference between the use of arms for Common defence and personal uses.

So, to recap on how to tell what is being discussed:

Civic context:
Basic gist: the right is better defined as a civic right in that it requires a "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia" that is the body organised under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 16 of the Constitution.
The test is: does it contribute to the common defense? "How will your militia be armed?"
Key words to clue you in: "subject to militia duty", "Common defence", security, free State, discipline, standing army, system of defense, general obligation, military duty, etcetera

Personal uses:
personal non-military use, not related to the common defence.
Test: is the use military in nature or related to the common defence? If the answer is "no", then this is a private use.
Key words to clue you in: "defense of his home, person and property", family, hunting, recreational use, purpose of killing game, private use, etcetera.

Anyway, if one goes to the primary sources such as Patrick Henry's comments in regard to the Constitution, one finds a direct reference to the Federal power over the militia in relation to the Second Amendment and the need to preserve state militias from Federal interference.

Patrick Henry, Against the Federal Constitution (June 5, 1788) Argument IV: against the standing army Constitution: Article I Section 8
8.1 You will find all the strength of this country in the hands of your enemies; their garrisons will naturally be the strongest places in the country. Your militia is given up to Congress, also, in another part of this plan: they will therefore act as they think proper: all power will be in their own possession. You cannot force them to receive their punishment: of what service would militia be to you, when, most probably, you will not have a single musket in the state? for, as arms are to be provided by Congress, they may or may not furnish them.
9.1 Let me here call your attention to that part which gives the Congress power "to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States—reserving to the states, respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress."
9.2 By this, sir, you see that their control over our last and best defence is unlimited. If they neglect or refuse to discipline or arm our militia, they will be useless: the states can do neither—this power being exclusively given to Congress. The power of appointing officers over men not disciplined or armed is ridiculous; so that this pretended little remains of power left to the states may, at the pleasure of Congress, be rendered nugatory. Our situation will be deplorable indeed: nor can we ever expect to get this government amended, since I have already shown that a very small minority may prevent it, and that small minority interested in the continuance of the oppression.

or Patrick Henry's "That every man be armed" speech found at The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution (3 Elliot's Debates 384-7), Virginia, Saturday, June 14, 1788. Page 386-7
. . .

As my worthy friend said, there is a positive partition of power between the two governments. To Congress is given the power of "arming, organizing, and disciplining the militia, and governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States." To the state legislatures is given the power of "appointing the officers, and training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress." I observed before, that, if the power be concurrent as to arming them, it is concurrent in other respects...May we not discipline and arm them, as well as Congress, if the power be concurrent? so that our militia shall have two sets of arms, double sets of regimentals, &c.; and thus, at a very great cost, we shall be doubly armed. The great object is, that every man be armed. But can the people afford to pay for double sets of arms &c.? Every one who is able may have a gun. But we have learned, by experience, that necessary as it is to have arms, and though our Assembly has, by a succession of laws for many years, endeavoured to have the militia completely armed, it is still far from being the case. When this power is given up to Congress without limitation or bounds, how will your militia be armed? You trust to chance; for sure I am that nation which shall trust its liberties in other hands cannot long exist. If gentlemen are serious when they suppose a concurrent power, where can be the impolicy to amend it? Or, in other words, to say that Congress shall not arm or discipline them, till the states shall have refused or neglected to do it? This is my object. I only wish to bring it to what they themselves say is implied. Implication is to be the foundation of our civil liberties, and when you speak of arming the militia by a concurrence of power, you use implication. But implication will not save you, when a strong army of veterans comes upon you. You would be laughed at by the whole world for trusting your safety implicitly to implication.

Additionally, even though Story is cited as being for an individual right, we find him bemoaning the "growing indifference to any system of militia discipline"
And yet, though this truth would seem so clear, and the importance of a well regulated militia would seem so undeniable, it cannot be disguised, that among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline, and a strong disposition, from a sense of its burthens, to be rid of all regulations. How it is practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see. There is certainly no small danger, that indifference may lead to disgust, and disgust to contempt; and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause of our national bill of rights. Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution 3:§ 1890

Again, we find that when we use the primary sources to examine the quotes used to show an "individual right" we find a distinct civic tone. Why would one need "some organization" if the right belongs to individuals for non-common defence purposes?

Anyway, there are loads of examples of a guarantee of arms for private purposes in State Constitutions. Although, I find it interesting that some of these personal rights are recently granted, such as Delaware's from 1987, Nebraska's from 1988, and the change in language between Idaho's provision from 1978 compared to the language from 1889.

Colorado: The right of no person to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person and property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall be called in question; but nothing herein contained shall be construed to justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons. Art. II, § 13 (enacted 1876, art. II, § 13).
Delaware: A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use. Art. I, § 20 (enacted 1987).
Georgia: The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but the General Assembly shall have power to prescribe the manner in which arms may be borne. Art. I, § 1, ¶ VIII (enacted 1877, art. I, § XXII).
Nebraska: All persons are by nature free and independent, and have certain inherent and inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the right to keep and bear arms for security or defense of self, family, home, and others, and for lawful common defense, hunting, recreational use, and all other lawful purposes, and such rights shall not be denied or infringed by the state or any subdivision thereof. Art. I, § 1 (right to keep and bear arms enacted 1988).

Idaho: The people have the right to keep and bear arms, which right shall not be abridged; but this provision shall not prevent the passage of laws to govern the carrying of weapons concealed on the person nor prevent passage of legislation providing minimum sentences for crimes committed while in possession of a firearm, nor prevent the passage of legislation providing penalties for the possession of firearms by a convicted felon, nor prevent the passage of any legislation punishing the use of a firearm. No law shall impose licensure, registration or special taxation on the ownership or possession of firearms or ammunition. Nor shall any law permit the confiscation of firearms, except those actually used in the commission of a felony. Art. I, § 11 (enacted 1978).
1889: "The people have the right to bear arms for their security and defense; but the Legislature shall regulate the exercise of this right by law." Art. I, § 11.

I find the more research I do with primary sources on this subject, the more it becomes apparent that the founders saw a difference between civic and personal uses of firearms. The Civic right was that covered by the Second Amendment with the private uses being subject to common law and the police power of the States.