June 29, 2000
I received this bit in the e-mail today from the Liberator Online, and had been hearing about it for a couple of weeks. No comments needed; this stands on it's own.
The Clinton Justice Department has made its position on the Second Amendment shockingly plain and clear: there is no Constitutional right to buy, sell or own any firearm, and the government can take weapons away from you any time it chooses. The astonishing remarks came on Tuesday June 13, during oral arguments in the case of U.S. v. Emerson in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case involves a routine restraining order placed on Dr. Timothy Emerson, issued while he was going through a divorce. Since 1994, federal law has prohibited possession of a firearm by a person under a restraining order -- even if, as in this case, there is no threat of violence. Dr. Emerson - who was totally unaware of this obscure federal statute, as was the judge who issued the restraining order - was subsequently arrested for owning a pistol. He challenged the law. On March 30, 1999, U.S. District Judge Sam R. Cummings of Lubbock, Texas declared that the statute, because it prohibited gun ownership without finding any threat of violence, violated Dr. Emerson's Second Amendment right to own firearms and was thus unconstitutional. The U.S. Justice Department appealed, and the result was one of the most dramatic gun rights court arguments in U.S. history. According to witnesses, Judge William L. Garwood, the senior judge, seemed startled by the government's statist interpretation of the Second Amendment. Here are some excerpts from the oral arguments, as recorded by observer (and radio talk show host) Tom Gresham: Judge Garwood (to U.S. Department of Justice attorney Meteja): "You are saying that the Second Amendment is consistent with a position that you can take guns away from the public? You can restrict ownership of rifles, pistols and shotguns from all people? Is that the position of the United States?" U.S. Department of Justice attorney Meteja: "Yes." Metaja argued that the Second Amendment only applied to members of the National Guard. Judge Garwood: "Is it the position of the United States that persons who are not in the National Guard are afforded no protections under the Second Amendment?" Meteja: "Exactly." Meteja added that even members of the National Guard had Second Amendment protection only for guns issued or used in the Guard. Judge Garwood: "Membership in the National Guard isn't enough? What else is needed?" Meteja: "The weapon in question must be used in the National Guard." Metaja further argued that the federal government had the right to regulate guns and gun ownership because of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution. Because a firearm may have once traveled across state lines, the government presumes a gun is somehow involved in "interstate commerce," thus giving the federal government regulatory power over it. In response, Judge DeMoss asked, "I have a 16-gauge shotgun in my closet at home. I have a 20-gauge shotgun. I also have a 30-caliber rifle at home. Are you saying these are 'in or affecting interstate Meteja: "Yes." Witnesses say the judges seemed very unimpressed with the federal government's arguments. At one point, Judge Robert M. Parker commented: "You shouldn't let it bother your sleep that Judge Garwood and I, between us, own enough guns to start a revolution in most South American countries." A ruling can come any time this year, with the potential to propel the issue -including the key question of whether the Second Amendment does in fact protect an individual right to keep and bear arms -- into the Supreme Court. (Sources: Neal Knox/Shotgun News; Tom Gresham; WorldNetDaily.com) "The Constitution shall never be construed..." "[T]he said Constitution shall never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the press or the rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms..." -- Samuel Adams, 1788.
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