June 27, 2008
If you ask some Americans, the Second Amendment does not really mean what it says. They somehow think that the right to possess weapons is a collective right, ignoring our heritage as a society of free individuals. That is why it was so gratifying that the Supreme Court in effect "upheld" the constitutionality of the Second Amendment yesterday, by a 5-4 vote in the Heller case. The District of Columbia law banning handguns was thrown out, thus making it possible at long last for law-abiding citizens to feel secure from the threat of armed robbery in their own homes. It is a truly great day in Our Nation's Capital!
The Washington Post reported that the Court "decided for the first time in the nation's history that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual's right to own a gun for self-defense." It would be more accurate to say that this right was tacitly acknowledged by almost everyone until the early 20th Century, but there was never an occasion to make an explicit ruling on the issue until the wave of gangster violence during Prohibition. Justice Stephen Breyer is afraid that this may "throw into doubt the constitutionality of gun laws throughout the United States." Well, of course it does! Most of those laws are unduly restrictive, if not totally unwarranted.
I would make one caveat, however: Gun control advocates have a point when they say that the right to bear arms is not absolute. (But of course, very few rights are absolute.) The right to own a gun is, rather, conditioned upon what you might call good citizenship. That's what the preface in the Second Amendment about a "well-regulated militia" is all about. You don't have to belong to the National Guard to own a gun, but it would help the cause of domestic tranquility if you belong to some kind of local civic group such as the Kiwanis or a rescue squad. No one should complain about having to wait a day or two for a background check to go through, and sellers at gun shows should be held to the same standards as retail stores. Likewise, different states may apply different rules as far as where people can carry or use firearms, but everyone should have the right to defend their own home.
As expected, Bill Shirley was elected by a unanimous vote to become Chairman of the Augusta County Republican Committee last night. As a newcomer to the local political scene (as far as I know, and I should know), he will need some time to get acclimated to the rather turbulent situation in which the party finds itself. According to the News Leader, he "implored the group to unite and focus on the November elections." Well, it's easy to unite when only one faction of the party is allowed to participate! How many people in the general public are being fooled by what is going on? In that regard, I added the following comment to that News Leader story:
For purposes of unifying the party for the fall campaign, Mr. Shirley faces a huge task in reaching out to the mainstream Republicans who voted for Dr. Roller but have since been "left behind." If those in the majority faction who participated in the April 10 mass meeting in good faith continue to be excluded from the Augusta County Republican Committee, it will further hurt the party's image and make it harder to get Republicans elected this fall. The true test of leadership is the ability to act independently of any particular faction and foster a sense of broad common purpose so as to make the organization bigger and stronger.
After the first-round presidential elections in Zimbabwe failed to yield a majority winner, a second round was scheduled, though not without sharp disputes over procedures and heavy foreign pressure. (See May 2.) Unfortunately, opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew his candidacy after numerous acts of violence against his supporters. See Washington Post. As a result, President-for-Life Robert Mugabe will retain his position by default for another term. It's yet another example of a blatant, underhanded maneuver aimed at clinging to power.