Archive | Militia


Bill Clinton’s invocation of Timothy McVeigh in connection with the Tea Party movement caused me to recall my review of a book on the Waco massacre that was a motivation for McVeigh.  The book under review was Reavis, The Ashes of Waco, and it appeared in the Times Literary Supplement in 1995.  Re-reading it for the first time in many years, I was struck by this section:

[T]here is the post hoc justification for the use of CS tear-gas in the raid offered by the US Justice Department and senior Clinton administration officials. The public generally, and even the Congressional hearings, seem to have accepted that the children at Waco were gassed and then died as, in effect, “collateral damage” in the course of a raid aimed at their parents.

This is not quite the case, however, by the Clinton administration’s own admissions. CS gas was used at the compound, in order, as senior White House adviser George Stephanopoulos said, echoing senior Justice Department statements, to “try and pressure” those in the compound. It was hoped, he said, that as this “pressure was increased, the maternal instincts of the mothers might take over and they might try to leave with their kids” (Washington Times, April 23, 1995).

But the FBI knew beforehand that adults in the compound had gas masks; the gas therefore would not put pressure on them. On whom, then? If the FBI knew that the adults had gas masks, but went ahead with the gas attack anyway, it is plain that this “pressure” was brought directly against the children because, as the FBI knew, they could not fit into adult- size gas masks. “Maternal feelings”, the FBI hoped, would be unleashed in the mothers by watching their children choking, gasping and blistering from the gas.


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Destroying the Constitution’s Structure is not Constitutional

Thus far, the argument among law professors over the constitutionality of Obamacare has been well represented by scholars who have made pro and con arguments over particular clauses in the constitution, such as the interstate commerce clause, or the tax power. In this post, I would like to examine an insight by Jonathan Turley, which points the way to strong, recent, and repeated precedent suggesting that Obamacare is unconstitutional.

Let’s begin by getting rid of the red herring that questioning the constitutionality of Obamacare requires denying the constitutionality of the New Deal and the Great Society. Orin asks:

In your view, which of the following federal programs or agencies are constitutional?

(a) Social Security
(b) The Federal Trade Commission
(c) Medicare/Medicaid
(d) The Securities and Exchange Commission
(e) The new Health Care mandate

In my view, (a), (b), (c), and (d), are constitutional, but (e) is not. My answer is based on using “constitutional” in the normal sense of the word as it appears in most modern public dialogue. That is, “Should a judge who accurately applies existing precedents, and other sources of legal authority, find the law to be constitutional?” This is the question that federal district judges and circuit court of appeal judges will have to answer, since they have no authority to reject Supreme Court precedent. The Supreme Court can change its own precedents, but for for purposes of argument, I am presuming that the Supreme Court would not overrule any precedents.

As Jack Balkin, Sandy Levinson, and others have ably pointed out, “constitutional” can be used in a different way, in that people express aspirations about what the Constitution should mean, even if that meaning is contrary to current precedents. For example, a person in 1946 might say “Discrimination against women is unconstitutional.” That person would […]

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State court standards of review for the right to arms

That’s that title of a forthcoming article in a Santa Clara Law Review symposium, by Clayton Cramer and me. We examine, in detail, scores of important cases, from Bliss v. Commonwealth in 1822 up to the present. We explain which cases can provide useful guidance to modern courts which must interpret the Second Amendment (and which cases use an approach is plainly inapplicable to Second Amendment analysis, post-Heller).

Our Article also addresses Adam Winkler’s influential and well-written 2007 Michigan Law Review article, which surveyed post-WW II state cases. Our article studies a broader range of cases, and gets into more depth on those csases, so it’s 93 pages long. It was even longer until the editors changed the typeface from Century Schoolbook to Times New Roman. Here’s the abstract:

Cases on the right to arms in state constitutions can provide useful guidance for courts addressing Second Amendment issues. Although some people have claimed that state courts always use a highly deferential version of “reasonableness,” this article shows that many courts have employed rigorous standards, including the tools of strict scrutiny, such as overbreadth, narrow tailoring, and less restrictive means. Courts have also used categoricalism (deciding whether something is inside or outside the right) and narrow construction (to prevent criminal laws from conflicting with the right to arms). Even when formally applying “reasonableness,” many courts have used reasonableness as a serious, non-deferential standard of review. District of Columbia v. Heller teaches that supine standards of review, such as deferring to the mere invocation of “police power,” are inappropriate in Second Amendment interpretation. This article surveys important state cases from the Early Republic to the present, and explains how they may be applied to the Second Amendment.

The article is founded on the tremendous research on state cases which Clayton […]

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New article on the right to arms in early Pennsylvania

The Keystone of the Second Amendment: Quakers, the Pennsylvania Constitution, and the Questionable Scholarship of Nathan Kozuskanich, 19  Widener Law Journal (forthcoming 2010). By Clayton Cramer and me. Abstract:

Historian Nathan Kozuskanich claims that the Second Amendment-like the arms provision of the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution-is only a guarantee of a right of individuals to participate in the militia, in defense of the polity. Kozuskanich’s claim about the Second Amendment is based on two articles he wrote about the original public meaning of the right to arms in Pennsylvania, including the 1776 and 1790 Pennsylvania constitutional arms guarantees.

Part I of this Article provides a straightforward legal history of the right to arms provisions in the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution and of the 1790 Pennsylvania Constitution. We examine Kozuskanich’s claims about constitutional language and history.

Part II investigates Kozuskanich’s analysis of Quakers who objected to serving in the militia. According to Kozuskanich, the  Quaker’s protests against being forced to “bear arms” in the  militia demonstrate that “bear arms” is exclusively a military term; therefore the “right to keep and bear arms” is only about owning and carrying militia weapons.

But as it turns out, the Quakers were not as pro-gun as Kozuskanich acknowledges. Some Quakers refused to use firearms for personal defense, or even to carry arms ornamentally. Moreover, a review of Kozuskanich’s citations of writings by Quakers and other pacifists reveals that not a single one expressed any willingness to possess arms outside the militia. Several of the cited sources have nothing to do with pacifists’ arms.

Finally, Part III looks at some astonishing assertions made by Kozuskanich that cast doubts about the accuracy of his characterization of the work of other scholars. […]

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