In recent memory, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in two related 5-to-4 decisions, that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.
You would think this was an unremarkable conclusion. For one thing, the constitutional text expressly guarantees the right “to keep and bear arms.” For another, the right is specifically enumerated — not implied — and applies to “the people.”
In other words, unlike many of the individual rights that the Supreme Court has recognized — some would say invented — you can actually find the right to bear arms in the literal text of the Second Amendment.
The Constitution guarantees a “right of the people” only two other times, both clearly describing individual rights. The First Amendment protects the “right of the people” to assemble and to petition the government, and the Fourth Amendment protects the “right of the people” against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Even so, the dissenting liberal justices in the Second Amendment cases decried “the Court’s announcement of a new constitutional right to own and use firearms for private purposes.”
This claim, without a hint of irony, comes from the crowd that finds fundamental individual rights hiding within — I am not making this up — “penumbras” that are “formed by emanations” from “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights.”
The liberal justices maintain that the Bill of Rights generates these “penumbral emanations” from which we get assorted individual rights. But, when the conservatives enforce an individual right actually spelled out in black and white in the letter of the Constitution, the liberals call it the “announcement of a new constitutional right.”
Let’s see here. Shadowy secretions reveal the hidden meaning of rights secretly embedded in the Constitution and simply awaiting judicial divination, but a specifically enumerated guarantee in the Bill of Rights is “a new constitutional right.” Okay, got it.
But that’s not all. The liberal justices claimed that it’s perfectly fine for a local law to ban private possession of any form of operable firearm because “the adjacent states do permit the use of handguns for target practice, and those states are only a brief subway ride away.”
They called this a “minimal burden” on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Facing down an attacker? Not to worry! Just coax him onto the subway and take a brief ride to the adjoining jurisdiction’s nearest target range.
You can bet your bottom dollar that these same liberal justices would take only a few nanoseconds to reject any local law infringing on one of their judicially invented rights — even if “a brief subway ride” would transport aggrieved citizens to another jurisdiction where the penumbral emanations flow freely.