In today’s America, the United States Constitution is too often treated like the Queen of England – a powerless and non-binding relic of an earlier age. And just as Queen Elizabeth is in the States this week leading up to the 400th anniversary celebration of the settlement of Jamestown colony, the Constitution will occasion the obligatory nod from time to time.
But the Constitution is not like the monarchy, which long ago gave up all real authority. The Constitution, along with its Bill of Rights and other Amendments, remains in effect. Not that you would know that by the way our government leaders – including members of both major parties – so often ignore it and do what they are not constitutionally permitted to do.
So, for those of us who still think the Oath to abide by and protect the Constitution means something, we are grateful for articulate defenses of the Constitution from wherever we can get them.
Very few people are consistent when it comes to their view of the Constitution, often in word or action elevating those portions they personally favor, and ignoring or redefining what they don’t. It therefore comes as a great and welcome surprise that some of the most persuasive defenders of the individual’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms – long a bane to the political left – are prominent and liberal law professors.
I’ve long been grateful for the principled and correct stances of professors Akhil Reed Amar at Yale and Sanford Levinson at the University of Texas on this issue. Today, the New York Times of all places – that bastion of protecting the church of liberal orthodoxy – reports on the contributions of these and other liberal minds in helping sway the federal judiciary in recent years to take a more strictly constructionist view of the Second Amendment.
The earlier consensus, the law professors said in interviews, reflected received wisdom and political preferences rather than a serious consideration of the amendment’s text, history and place in the structure of the Constitution. “The standard liberal position,” Professor Levinson said, “is that the Second Amendment is basically just read out of the Constitution.”
But no longer, for Levinson and others:
If only as a matter of consistency, Professor Levinson continued, liberals who favor expansive interpretations of other amendments in the Bill of Rights, like those protecting free speech and the rights of criminal defendants, should also embrace a broad reading of the Second Amendment.
The recent Virginia Tech Massacre and last year’s mass murder at an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania have, thus far, not lead to the usual chorus of Democrats calling for aggressive (but counter-productive) gun control measures in response. They know that the courts are growing increasingly disposed to strike down such unconstitutional measures. We can thank a small but highly-influential cadre of liberal minds for this fact.
Perhaps the Constitution still warrants our obeisance, after all. The Queen must be jealous.