By Marina Salsbury
Manasquan, NJ –-(Ammoland.com)- The Constitution is the guiding instrument of American society, so it is not surprising that issues dealing with the document or its amendments command the highest level of attention and tend to create controversy.
One of the more controversial provisions of the Constitution is the Second Amendment, in which [god] grants Americans the “right to keep and bear arms.” Despite having been ratified in 1791, the Second Amendment continues to be a subject of fervent debate, and the amendment was implicated in Jennings v. McCraw, a lawsuit decided in Texas district court Thursday. The suit found the National Rifle Association denied in its attempt to overturn a Texas law barring 18- to 20-year-old Texans from carrying concealed weapons.
Although the litigation focused on the legitimacy of a Texas state law, Jennings implicated questions of criminal and Constitutional interpretation. According to the NRA and three Texans serving as plaintiffs, the Texas gun statutes violated both the Second and Fourteenth amendments, the latter containing the oft-cited Equal Protection Clause. The plaintiffs called the Texas laws unconstitutional and discriminatory, but U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings disagreed, granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment granted in favor of the defendant acts as a dismissal, as meeting the standard indicates that a judge feels it impossible for a reasonable jury to find for the plaintiff.
The NRA's counsel also moved for summary judgment, but the motion was denied by Judge Cummings, who dismissed another case in which the NRA challenged the constitutionality of gun restrictions in September 2011. According to Judge Cummings, the Texas law in question did not violate the Second Amendment which criminology experts hold that it “does not confer a right that extends beyond the home.”
As with any litigation involving Constitutional interpretation, the question of how accurately the framers' intent is channeled through the decision will be questioned. Anti-gun organizations and the Brady Center, a legal action project focused on controlling gun violence that intervened in the case on behalf of the defendants, hailed the decision as a victory in which the Constitution was upheld.
However, the Second Amendment has been interpreted more broadly in the past, as in the U.S. Supreme Court decision on District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008). In its opinion, the Court noted that the amendment protects firearm possession and use for “traditionally lawful purposes,” as the plaintiffs in Jennings wished to. Such decisions have not prevented states from being restrictive, however.
In Burton v. Sills, 53 N.J. 86 (1968), the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment's use of the term “militia” made it applicable only to organized militias, such as the National Guard.
Clearly, such inconsistent interpretation is at best confusing and inconvenient, and is an impedance to the creation and enforcement of effective laws. While the aforementioned opinion of the New Jersey Supreme Court is hardly the standard, such decisions indicate that the Second Amendment may not always receive the deference it deserves.
Similarly, the Jennings decision suggests that the doctrine of federal preemption may be subject to erosion, an issue that has consequences reaching far beyond the Second Amendment and affecting the integrity of the Constitution as a whole.
Marina Salsbury planned on becoming a teacher since high school, but found her way instead into online writing after college. She currently writes on a variety of topics, but always seems to veer back to education-related articles. She currently writes for a masters degree website.