“Justice Stevens: Second Amendment is ‘no obstacle’ to banning automatic weapons”
…and that’s because to “liberal” Justices who practice a form of Living Constitutional textualism whereby the intent of the founders and framers can be ignored and the application of signifiers can legitimately be rewritten — that is, turned into new signs entirely, fundamentally altering the text and creating an entirely new text, one written by the interpreter — to meet new contexts or social goals, aren’t constrained by anything other than their own presumed cleverness and the massiveness of their egos as philosopher kings rather than Justices.
For instance, per retired Justice Stevens (my emphases):
[...] the Heller decision leaves the door open to banning the carry of weapons in public. “There’s a very powerful argument for saying it does not extend to disagreeing with local communities about decisions about which public places they should not be permitted to be carried [in],” Stevens said.
Allow me to clarify: per Stevens, and bracketing the text of the Second Amendment, because it is their own palimpsest of prior rulings that the Court treats as a replacement for the Constitution itself, the right to bear arms, not just own them — an essential part of their usefulness, incidentally, as if that needed to be pointed out — is not fundamental, and if a local jurisdiction wishes to take away that right, well, then of course they should be able to. That is to say, in a Q&A about the constitutionality of so-called gun-free zones — like, ironically and with a degree of brazen cognitive dissonance, the one in which the Batman killer went on his spree safe in the knowledge that he was entering a venue where law abiding citizens would not be carrying weapons for their own defense or the defense of their friends or families — Stevens argued that the conditions for those kinds of malevolent turkey shoots are just peachy, and quite possibly what the Supreme Court, in interpreting the Constitution, could construe the Second Amendment to mean: that you have a right to keep and bear arms, except where you don’t, and if that means you’re at the mercy of those who ignore our dictates, well, sorry, but such is the way we Olympians in Black Robes see the world.
Stevens also had a recommendation for people who keep a weapon in their homes for self-defense purposes. “Maybe you have some kind of constitutional right to have a cell phone with a pre-dialed 911 in the number at your bedside and that might provide you with a little better protection than a gun which you’re not used to using,” he said to laughter.
The National Rifle Association believes that President Obama will “stack the court” with anti-gun justices if he is reelected and Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kennedy leave.
“If those three left, he could stack the court with a 6-3 majority rule for the next 30 years,” Chris Cox, executive director at the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in April. “If that happens, the Second Amendment will be reduced to a government-granted privilege.”
Again, here we see the sneering liberal affection for credentialism and its fundamental distrust of the “masses” who can’t possibly train themselves to use firearms responsibly or efficiently. Instead, have a cell phone ready with 911, so that when an armed assailant enters your home, you can talk to police dispatch all the way up to the time where they have enough information to send out a squad car or other show of force. Which show of force, during the Columbine massacre, for instance, staged outside and waited to enter, unsure of the specifics of the attack.
Meanwhile, in the recent Sikh attack highlighted at the beginning of a video presentation on the gun violence Stevens thinks can be stopped by taking guns away from law abiding citizens and supplying them instead with quick access to armed agents of the state to come and save them, it was a citizen with a gun who ended the massacre before it got worse.
The reason why I continue to beat the drum of reestablishing a coherent hermeneutics is that it helps prevent these kinds of sneering dismissals of the Constitution in favor of the ego-driven social engineering of activist judges. What Miller or Heller say, for instance, should be largely irrelevant to such questions. The Second Amendment says, explicitly, that the right of the PEOPLE to KEEP AND BEAR ARMS SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED.
As our revolution began over attempts to confiscate cannons, we can assume from an originalist perspective that the Framers were not willing to concede a natural right of self preservation to temporary lawmakers with whatever agendas they may have — and more, to Justices whose job it was to read and apply the Constitution, not gradually change it until they force a deconstruction and inversion of its intent by a willful imposition of theirs.
Ironically, it would be the “living” constitutionalists on the Court–such as Stevens–who would feel free to interpret the word “arms” in the Second Amendment to encompass “cell phones.” Because after all, words–even constitutional words–are infinitely capacious.
– to which I’d add only this, if Glenn would be so kind as to permit me a small criticism: in addition to putting quotes around “living” and “arms” and “cell phones,” I’d add one more set of quotation marks — to me, the most important of all: the idea that one is “interpreting” the word “arms” by resignifying it as cell phones, (or a frying pan, or a sharpened pencil, or a stiletto heel, etc) is linguistically incoherent and a bit of hermeneutic sophistry meant only to privilege the interpreter over the author/ratifier: to legitimately interpret — as opposed to “interpreting” — one must be interested in what was meant at the moment the signifier “arms” was attached to its signified / referent by some intending agency, then ratified into law by those sharing a similar understanding of what the word, what that sign, was intending to mean. That is, to interpret at all, we must be convinced that, in the first place, we are looking at language in need of interpreting; and what makes language language, rather than mere scribbles (the signifiers that make up our linguistic code) that can come to look like language, even by accident (for instance, conceive of egret scratchings on a beach that accidentally appear to produce a phrase of some sort; do we then believe the egrets were trying to send us a message? Or do we recognize that what we see is an accidental simulacrum of language rather than language itself?), is our recognition that some agency turned those signifiers into signs by adding to them their specific signifieds.
At that moment of sign creation — or in corporate intention, at the moment when the signs are agreed upon — those signs mean what the mean, having become fixed by the intentions of those who created them and intended them to be understood as a second-order linguistic representation of their intent.
To those who engage in so called “living constitutionalism” — or even those who engage in true textualism, and defend it as a legitimate methodology for interpretation (rather than understanding that they are merely agreeing to work within a specific set of legal conventions) — what is removed as a matter of course is the intent of those who created the signs, often to be replaced by the willful, creative intent of those who are charged with “interpreting” the signs to bend the signifiers they are confronted with to meet some pre-decided conclusion.
Intentionalism just is. Either we privilege the intent of those who constructed the text we are charged with interpreting — and to do so we must first acknowledge that it is a set of signs, that it is language, and therefore carries in it the codified intent of its author(s) or ratifiers, that it means, and it means to have its meaning respected and faithfully reconstructed; or we surrender interpretation to “interpretation,” which merely legitimates the position that whatever some set of “interpreters” can do with the signifiers — while bracketing the signifieds added by the authors responsible for creating the language and the text in the first place; that is, disregarding what was meant by what it is they are now charged with interpreting, and deciding that they can now claim ownership of the text by rewriting it within the parameters of what they can make seem plausible based on the signifiers they have to work with — comes to count as a legitimate form of meaning transference.
Or, to put it more succinctly, either we believe the function of interpretation is to uncover what the author(s) were trying to say to us through a message fully intended by them; or we believe the rewriting of that original intent by those motivated on the receiving end of the message to ignore original intent and replace it with their own is a legitimate form of “interpretation.”
It isn’t. It is intellectual theft. It is sophistry. It is an arrogant will to power. And it completely destabilizes both language and law, making them mere tools of control for those willing to wield such a fundamentally dishonest, cynical, and incoherent conception of language function to their own political and social advantage.
The sooner we begin to concentrate on what it is we think we’re doing when we claim to be interpreting — and investigating the spurious and malignant assumptions that have become, to a large extent, institutionalized — the sooner we’ll escape the traps set by those wishing to diminish the autonomy of individual meaning and replace it with the will and consensus of some interpretive community that is more often than not politically motivated.
These are not fundamentally unserious issues. They are paramount.
And I’m going to keep shouting it until someone out there takes heed and begins to listen. Otherwise, even when we win we continue to lose: because the theft of individual meaning “legitimately” replaced by consensus rewritings of that meaning — which in many cases is then attributed back to the original author, despite it being a complete and intentional mischaracterization of his intent (RACIST! DOG WHISTLE!) — is a concrete example of the epistemological ascendancy of collectivism over individual sovereignty, of mob rule over protection of individual property.
This is about more than just your guns. It’s about the systematic diminishing of you, a function of turning you from citizen to subject.
Face it. Or don’t. But it’s happening.