What would you do if a Federal judge ruled it was constitutional to require you to show a “justifiable need” to practice your religion outside of the home? What if you were required to show a “good and substantial reason” before you would be awarded a jury of your peers? What if you were forced to show “good cause” for why government soldiers shouldn’t be quartered in your home?
This line of logic may sound ridiculous, but this assault on constitutional rights is currently happening with regards to your Second Amendment rights.
October 15, 2013 marks another unfortunate setback for the preservation of Constitutional rights in America. On this day, the United States Supreme Court denied to hear the Maryland Second Amendment case of Woollard v. Gallagher. For those not versed in this particular court case, Woollard is a civil suit brought on behalf of Raymond Woollard against the State of Maryland for refusing to grant the plaintiff a concealed handgun license.
Mr. Woollard was prohibited from carrying a handgun outside the home on the basis that he “…ha[d] not demonstrated a good and substantial reason to wear, carry or transport a handgun as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger in the State of Maryland.” While Mr. Woollard originally won his case in the lower court, it was eventually overturned on appeal. The Supreme Court has unfortunately refused to hear the case.
A similar case has been making its way through the courts in New Jersey. On August 1, 2013, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that it is constitutional for New Jersey residents to be forced to show a “justifiable need” to exercise a Second Amendment right outside the home because the “standard is a longstanding regulation that enjoys presumptive constitutionality.” There are also cases making their way through the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as Hawaii and California residents have filed suit over restrictive permits and unreachable benchmarks. But as you would expect, these cases have received significant setbacks on the Left Coast.
This is not about gun control. It is about rights control. The idea of being forced to show a “justifiable need” or “good cause” or “substantial reason” is exactly the reason the words “shall not be infringed” appear in the Second Amendment’s text. There is a reason that the first ten amendments to the constitution are called the “Bill of Rights” and not the “Bill of Needs.” Our rights originate from our creator, not from a 221 year-old piece of parchment. These rights are what the founders believed to be so self-evident that they shouldn’t even need to be vocalized. But in their infinite wisdom, the founders anticipated that a day would come when the tyranny they had fought for so long might once again rear its ugly head on the North American continent. There is not a single right within the Bill of Rights that is not currently under assault. That’s right, even the Third Amendment has come under assault this past year.
The Second Amendment isn’t about hunting or target shooting. It is about the individual right to defend oneself against enemies both foreign and domestic. I am also, according to the law, a member of the well-regulated, albeit unorganized, militia (though the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment is an individual right removed from militia membership). As the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller, at the time of the nation’s founding, to ‘bear’ arms meant to ‘carry’ them. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals notwithstanding, nearly every Federal appeals court that touched on this issue has ruled that this right to carry can be subject to an inquisition regarding the individual’s need to carry. No one asked Rosa Parks why she needed to sit at the front of the bus and no one asked Oliver L. Brown why African-American children needed to attend the White schools in Topeka, Kansas. It would be unconscionable to apply a “justifiable need” or “substantial reason” test to any other part of the Constitution. It shouldn’t matter what side of the Potomac or Delaware Rivers someone lives on. The right to keep AND bear arms is a natural right enumerated within the constitution that applies to all citizens regardless of who they are or where they live.
The idea that I cannot exercise my Second Amendment right outside the home without showing a “justifiable need” is absolutely ludicrous. It is equally disturbing that the constitutional reasoning behind this restriction is the fact that in being a longstanding regulation, it enjoys “presumptive constitutionality.” Essentially if an unconstitutional law is on the books for a long enough time, it enjoys presumptive constitutionality despite all evidence to the contrary. Yet under this same argument, only White male property owners should be allowed to vote today, and I think everyone can agree that would be ridiculous.
The minute it is acceptable to require a justifiable need to exercise one’s Second Amendment rights, the entire Bill of Rights is in jeopardy. You do not need to show a “good cause” to defend yourself, just like you require no explanation for how and why you worship the way you do. Yet time after time, the courts are deciding quite the opposite. Whether or not you believe in the Second Amendment is up to you. But these recent court cases should be a shot across the bow for anyone who believes in individual liberty and it would be a grave mistake to think that this line of logic will only apply to the right to keep and bear arms.
Max McGuire is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Political Science at Villanova University. He graduated from Boston College, majoring in Political Science and minoring in Arabic Studies. Follow him on Twitter @SanityPolitics