Constitutional Rights?

Merriam-Webster defines “inalienable right” as “a fundamental legal entitlement which is incapable of being alienated, surrendered, or transferred.”

By Pat Merriman

Dunn Co. State’s Attorney

So on June 8, 2015, when the United States Supreme Court (USSC) refused to hear the 2nd Amendment case of Espanola Jackson, et. al. vs City and County of San Francisco, two important Constitutional issues facing legal gun owners’ inalienable rights (enumerated in the Second Amendment) remained unresolved and, by default, were denied. In short, San Francisco has an ordinance which requires any homeowner who possesses a firearm to either have the weapon on their person or, if not physically on their person, either locked in a safe or with a trigger “disabling mechanism” installed. Second, the sale of hollow point ammunition within the city and county is illegal.

Jackson would have specifically dealt with only the first 2nd Amendment issue cited above. Essentially, attempting to end-run two recent USSC rulings which decried eroding the unfettered possession of firearms, lower federal courts have begun to issue rulings that hold that since technology has improved to the point where it does not unreasonably restrict access to the weapon under duress, ordinances, like San Francisco’s, are not a violation of a gun owner’s Second Amendment rights. And, the same courts have also ruled that “hollow points” are a police officer safety issue, so, allowing their ban is permissible too. With the USSC’s refusal to hear the Jackson case, they are, effectively, allowing the 3rd federal Circuit’s handgun restrictions on personal protection to stand. Right or wrong, the USSC (by not taking a position) is actually taking the position that these restrictions are Constitutional and the complaints from the NRA and other gun owners rights groups has been long and loud. But, does logic ever prevail over posturing in Washington, DC?

USSC Justices Thomas and Scalia wrote a scathing dissent in Jackson stating that

“Self-defense is a basic right and the central compo¬nent” of the Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individ¬ual’s right to keep and bear arms.” A position that the USSC had already taken in McDonald vs Chicago in 2010. Therefore, ordinances, like San Francisco’s, requiring firearms in the home to be kept inoperable, without an exception for self-defense, they said, has already been declared a violation of the Second Amendment, per se, under the DC vs Heller ruling in 2008. Because San Francisco “made it impossible for citizens to use their firearms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense.” The dissenting justices also noted that the California ordinance applied to ALL residents “across the board, regardless of whether children are present in the home.” Logic dictated that requiring a gun safe or trigger lock, while the owner was sleeping, was ridiculous under McDonald and Heller because, “it is impossible to carry a firearm on one’s person while sleeping… effectively [denying the] right to self-defense at times when their potential need for that de¬fense is most acute.”

Those justices also noted that the San Francisco ordinance flatly violated the ancient right to effective self defense and, “a key component of which is the right to keep and bear arms for the lawful purpose of self-defense.” Again, applying logic, instead of emotion, they concluded that the USSC SHOULD have taken up the Jackson case because “San Francisco’s law allows residents to use their handguns for the purpose of self-defense, but it prohibits them from keeping those handguns operable for the purpose of im¬mediate self-defense when not carried on their person. The law thus burdens their right to self-defense at the times they are most vulnerable—when they are sleeping, bathing, changing clothes, or otherwise indisposed. There is consequently no question that San Francisco’s law burdens the core of the Second Amendment right.”

Think this is all an abstract concept in political correctness? A mere, esoteric debate about constitutional rights? Ask, tiny little Carol Browne of New Jersey. The media ignored this story last week but, Browne, a resident of New Jersey–another bastion of those who ignore the Second Amendment because they “feel” guns are inherently dangerous. Oops…you can’t! You see the petit 39-year-old woman was stabbed to death, at her home, by her thug, king-sized, ex-boyfriend Michael Eitel (an ex-con kidnapper) who had repeatedly threatened to kill her after she broke up with him. Carol obeyed the law, did all the politically correct stuff–installed security cameras and an alarm, obtained a civil restraining order and, exasperated because Eitel continued to threaten her, applied to her local Police Chief for a permit to purchase a handgun on April 21, 2015, as required by New Jersey law. She died on June 10th…50 days after applying for her permit to purchase…2 days after checking with her local police department to see what was holding up her gun permit…and too late for anyone to save her. Would a handgun have saved her? We’ll never know now but, it would have given her something she didn’t have last week in that politically-correct state: a fighting chance.

It should be noted that one of the petitioners in Jackson was an elderly women who lives alone in a very bad neighborhood and, to access her handgun in the middle of the night, she had to, first, retrieve her glasses, and then the key to her lockbox. By the time she accessed the weapon, she said (logically) she would have already become a victim. The argument fell on deaf ears. So, at the end of the day, the USSC did not take a position…or, did they? Rest in peace Carol

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