"Repeal the Second Amendment," The Chicago Tribune editorialized.
"The Supreme Court on Thursday all but ensured that even more Americans will die," said The New York Times.
"[T]he Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms only in relation to service in a state militia." added The Washington Post.
Those are a few of many editorial expressions of disgust from the mainstream media over the Supreme Court's ruling that when the Bill of Rights says that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," it includes the right to possess guns for self-defense, and not merely a right to be armed as a member of the National Guard.
What has caused so much confusion about the Amendment is its preface: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state ..."
In striking down Washington, D.C.'s three-decade-old handgun ban, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the preface merely "announces the purpose for which the right was codified: to prevent elimination of the militia" by the new national government. "The prefatory clause," he continued, "does not suggest that preserving the militia was the only reason Americans valued the ancient right; most undoubtedly thought it even more important for self-defense and hunting."
But for the four dissenters, the preface limits the right to keep and bear arms to military purposes. In their view, if the Framers of the Second Amendment wanted private individuals to have guns for hunting and self-defense, they would have said so.
Justice John Paul Stevens points to "the Second Amendment's omission of any statement of purpose related to the right to use firearms for hunting or personal self-defense."
I suppose one could argue that the omission indicates the Framers of the Constitution didn't mean to protect that right. But I find that hard to believe. The right of self-defense -- against homegrown tyrants as well as common criminals -- was much on the minds of Americans in the late 18th century. Thomas Jefferson said, "[W]hat country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."
But there is something else that many analysts of the decision have missed.
The Bill of Rights did not create rights. It acknowledged them. Right before the July 4 holiday, it shouldn't have been necessary to remind the four Supreme Court dissenters of what Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence:
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