Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Finally, the Supreme Court Gets One Right

After two recent horrible and incomprehensible decisions by the United States Supreme Court, it got one right. One of those bad decisions awarded enemy combatants at the Guantanamo detention facility—read “terrorists”—the “privilege of the writ of habeas corpus,” which has left millions of Americans scratching their heads.

This decision was arrived at by the thinnest of margins, 5-4. Perhaps that should be of some comfort. Justice Antonin Scalia noted in dissent: “America is at war with radical Islamists. The enemy began by killing Americans and American allies abroad,” and he then listed the the incidents and the numbers of victims, including the Khobar Towers and September 11.

“It has threatened further attacks against our homeland; one need only walk about buttressed and barricaded Washington, or board a plane anywhere in the country, to know that the threat is a serious one. Our Armed Forces are now in the field against the enemy, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last week, 13 of our countrymen in arms were killed.

“The game of bait-and-switch that today’s opinion plays upon the Nation’s Commander in Chief will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”

Never before in the history of armed conflict against the United States have we given our enemies the right to our court system and the protections of our Constitution, as if they are citizens or mere criminals.

They are a vicious enemy that commits cowardly large-scale acts of violence against innocent men, women and children.

In a second bad decision the Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to execute someone who rapes a child, saying that the death penalty is reserved for murderers and those who commit crimes against the state.

Another narrow 5-4 decision; another heavily divided Court.

This decision is one more in a series that narrow the circumstances under which capital punishment is allowed, even for the most disgusting and intolerable behavior that society condemns.

Opposition to the death penalty often revolves around the Constitution’s prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.” But in the case of a sadistic crime like the rape of a child, one must ask, “cruel and unusual, as compared to what?” What can be more cruel and unusual than a sub-human maggot forcing a defenseless child to have sex with him? Is it possible that living with the memories of that horror can be a worse fate than dying at the hands of some evil moron?

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the most powerful man in America, wrote in the court’s decision, “There is a distinction between intentional first-degree murder on the one hand and non-homicide crimes against individual persons, even including child rape, on the other.”

Really, Mr. Justice Kennedy? And exactly which hair will you split to illustrate that distinction?

Many people are dismayed that the United States imposes the death penalty under any circumstance. But many supporters would abandon the practice in exchange for true punishment of the guilty, instead of the mollycoddling prison environments we have today.

Finally, however, the Court got one right when it upheld a lower court ruling striking down Washington, DC’s 1976 ban on handgun ownership by yet another 5-4 margin, saying individuals have a right to keep handguns for lawful purposes.

The DC city council claimed the ban was needed to help keep violence and murder rates down, but that concept is flawed. It presumed that by banning handguns in the District, criminals would obey the law and not use handguns in the commission of their crimes.

The reality is, of course, that under this idiotic law only criminals would have handguns, and law abiding citizens would be defenseless in their homes against handgun-wielding criminals.

Debate over the exact meaning of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms has raged for years, despite the fact that the Framers of the U.S. Constitution were compelled by their good character to say what they meant in straight-forward language when they wrote the Second Amendment to the Constitution. The language was unambiguous: “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.”

The language is plain enough, so now a little history.

The militia was made up of individual citizens who used their own guns when called to help defend their country, and in those days, nearly every male old enough to shoot had at least one gun.

Does anyone seriously believe that in that day and time the Framers would even have considered restricting gun ownership? Of course not.

Perhaps we ought to be grateful that the Court got one out of three decisions right. After all, in baseball if you get a hit every third at-bat, you’re a star.

But efforts to reinterpret the Constitution based upon personal opinion and societal fad is a dangerous and dishonest business.

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