Checks and Balances; the Judicial Branch in Perspective

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 19, 2007 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Checks and Balances; the Judicial Branch in Perspective


When are Supreme Court justices interpreting the Constitution, and when are they simply amending it? The judicial-restraint crowd prefers a more denotative analysis relying on the actual words employed by the framers. Those opting for the living-document philosophy, or judicial activism, want the court to interpret our founding document in a way that accommodates their positions on laws that might not otherwise pass literal muster. Since their advocates cannot meet the written standard, they want the standard to meet them.

On Nov. 20, the Supreme Court granted the D.C. government's request to examine the constitutionality of its handgun ban, which was struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on the grounds that the law had violated citizens' Second Amendment rights.

The case, now called D.C. v. Heller, originally pitted six Washingtonians against city officials over the residents' right to own a handgun for personal protection and keep rifles loaded without the obligatory trigger-locks. It's scheduled to be heard in March.

At issue are two dueling perspectives: the collective right to own firearms, which is contingent upon the existence of a militia; and the individual right, which is reliant only upon the citizens' independent preference.

The highest court explained that it would assess whether the D.C. gun ban "violates the Second Amendment rights of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes."

Let us look at the Second Amendment: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Inarguably, a militia is an on-call citizens-army, and, if needed, becomes a recruitment of the already-armed. Given that dynamic, you must first have an ongoing right of the people to keep and bear arms in order to quickly form the militia upon which that free state's security is predicated. In short, the reference to a regulated militia is a parenthetical rationale - not a contingency.

Understanding that the free state in question might have a population needing to protect itself from a potentially rogue local government, its affirmed free-state entitlement would be endangered were the collective vs. individual right to gun ownership prevail as the standard. Unambiguously, it would subordinate citizens to the very threat against which they might theoretically have to fight in order to keep their freedom inviolate.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Checks and Balances; the Judicial Branch in Perspective


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?