Swallowing Burger

If we are asked to accept what he said on one case because he said it, it’s fair to ask whether we ought to accept something else he said for the same reason.
If we are asked to accept what he said on one case because he said it, it’s fair to ask whether we ought to accept something else he said for the same reason.

Fayetteville, AR –-(Ammoland.com)- There is a meme floating around social media that quotes Warren Burger, former chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, saying:

“The Gun Lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word fraud, on the American People by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime. The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies—the militia—would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.”

Advocates of gun control love that quotation. It fits in like a trading card to their deck of authorities who support their position that there is no basic right to own and carry firearms.

If Burger were available to interview today, I’d ask him what the Constitution means when it uses the phrase, the people, but as a writer who has spent almost two decades teaching students how to compose and interpret writing, I must say that the Second Amendment could have been written better. My own method of reading our foundational document, however, is to find in it the broadest protection for individual rights that the text will allow, basing that method on the principles that the framers claimed to believe.

What I quoted above seems to have been cobbled together out of an article that Burger wrote for Parade Magazine in 1990 and a segment of PBS NewsHour in 1991, but it is at least consistent with the justice’s thinking. And gun control advocates treat it as if it is the last word in a debate.

But they should be careful how much they’re willing to accept without thinking—especially if they are committed to the protection of other rights. Consider a case decided in 1986, Bowers v. Hardwick, that found a law in Georgia banning specific sex acts called sodomy to be constitutional. In a concurring opinion in support of the ruling, Burger also wrote that “in constitutional terms, there is no such thing as a fundamental right to commit homosexual sodomy.” He quotes the English jurist William Blackstone’s opinion that homosexuality is an “infamous crime against nature” that is somehow worse than rape.

In other words, Burger is remarkably consistent in his philosophy that when Americans are minding their own business, that’s not a protected right, as if Roger Taney needed competition for justices who miss the point of the Constitution.

Burger’s comment on the Second Amendment came as a bit of musing in his retirement. He’s quoted as an expert by advocates of gun control, and I’d hope that a chief justice of the Supreme Court would know what he’s talking about with regard to the law, but expertise is no guarantee that the person is correct. It simply means that someone identified as an expert is worth listening to. Any arguments that the person makes must be weighed on the merits.

And this is the point I am making by citing Burger’s opinion on sodomy laws. If we are asked to accept what he said on one case because he said it, it’s fair to ask whether we ought to accept something else he said for the same reason. Or better yet, we should require him to make sense each time, and with regard to the two sets of rights discussed here, he fails to meet that standard.

The question that supporters of gun control have to ask themselves is how much they’re willing to overlook in their mission to dispose of gun rights.


About Greg CampGreg Camp

Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.

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RJL
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RJL

With Firearms, we are “Citizens”. Without them, we are “Subjects”.

Eric_CA
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Eric_CA

I’m really impressed with the posts. Well done.

Darren
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Darren

More important than the question do we have a right to our military weapons? is where does the CONstitution empower the govt to take them? Answer: nowhere. “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation and foreign commerce. … The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives and liberties, and properties of… Read more »

Marc DV.
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Marc DV.

He is a part of History I
wish they would get rid of .
He Changed His Opinion
as Much as His Shorts !

Johnnygun
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Johnnygun

Mr. Burger and the rest of the democratic party, Just who do you think the militia is it’s us the people of this great country. I think we need to get our history back in our schools and back in our Gov. so they know how and what our forefathers meant by producing our constitution and Bill of rights. Hell back when they made them for us in the 1800’s do you think we were going to have arms like we have now a days maybe so that’s why we are equal in arms so we come combat the enemy.

Tionico
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Tionico

Interesing you cite the Georgia sodomy law case, and the result of that. Move forward a decade or so to another SCOTUS case on the precise same matter.. Lawrence. In that case, a law initiated and retifiec by the People of Texas criminalising sodomy was strock down by SCOTUS. Their reasoning? Two bases were cited.. first, reference to international and some foreign nations and how THEY view the issue of sodomy. right there the “opiniom” is rendered null and void, because sich refrence as a BASIS for decision is illegal. Second, the nine lawmakers in black nighties pontificated when they… Read more »

Jim Macklin
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Jim Macklin

The Militia Act of 1972… Militia Act of 1792 Posted by David Hardy · 22 June 2005 05:02 PM https://armsandthelaw.com/archives/2005/06/militia_act_of.php RKV suggested a reference to the original militia statute adopted by the First Congress might be interesting, with regard to showing what “militia” meant to the framing generation. Here’s the Militia Act of 1792, and the Calling Forth Act. The former’s relevant portion is: “An ACT more effectually to provide for the National Defence, by establishing an Uniform Militia throughout the United States. I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America,… Read more »

Hank
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Hank

Every other Amendment referring to “The People” is stating an individual right, not collective. Why would the 2nd be any different?

BTW according to Burger’s misinterpretation – you know, the “militia” only model? The militia is defined as MALE. Does this mean that females are not allowed to be armed?

Just askin’.

MB
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MB

The 2nd does not mention any specific weapon, arms are any weapon, rock, RPG, bow & arrow, AR-15, Sherman tank, musket or Kentucky rifle . The framers of the Constitution intended for citizens to be armed equally to government. I don’t know how anyone could see it any other way.

joe martin
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joe martin

All anyone has to do is read the comments by the authors of the Constitution. They clearly state what their intentions were for each Amendment and how it should be interpreted, but shysters and ambulance chasers and 2-bit hack judges at all levels fall back on the “letter of the law” so they can put their own “spin” on interpreting it. Go back to the original document and the comments of the writers and it is easy to see how they wanted the Amendments (all of them including the 2nd) to be understood and applied. Federalist Papers by Madison, Hamilton… Read more »

RJL
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RJL

Strictly an opinion, and dead since 1995, 5 yrs. before the towers came down. A lot has changed since then.

TJ
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TJ

Burger ‘s position is clearly refuted by the written and recorded statements made by those who crafted the Constitution and championed its ratification. One can easily find numerous quotations supporting this, and I have never seen a single one to support Burger ‘s position.

terry Swinney
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terry Swinney

One Million Moms are a tool for Bloomberg and Soros who want nothing more that to destroy this country from within. They figure if we all fight against one another, they will win and we will become a 3rd world country so they can woo in and take over.

The “MOMS” need to wake up and smell the roses before they too get steamrolled in to oblivion.

Joseph Rodrigues
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Joseph Rodrigues

Totally agree. Don’t count on the “courts” to uphold, nor defend the Constitution or the Bill of Rights.

Pat
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Pat

First of all the guy is a misinformed misguided idiot.. THe 2nd amendment is in the US Constitution and NOT a state constitution.. The militia he refers to would be the people as a whole as NO STATE at the time had a standing army of it’s own. The states AND the nation as a whole relied upon the civilian polulation to draw from to raise an army IF needed. The founders were scared to death of having a standing army as it could be used against the people by whomever was in command at the time. That is one… Read more »

Doug Wallace
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Doug Wallace

Well said!
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 right of “THE PEOPLE”!

Jim Macklin
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Jim Macklin

In 1788 the U.S. Senate rejected including the words “for the common defence” to make the amendment read A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms for the common defence shall not be infringed. [defence was their spelling at the time]. The militia was not a standing national or state uniformed army, uniformed armies were feared and militia such as the Minutemen were what was trusted. If I can explain try this re-write that does not change the intent of the Second Amendment. A well… Read more »

Wayne Clark
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Wayne Clark

Jim, that is a good re-write.
I have always considered the phrase, “to the security of a free State”, to mean other than a geographical location. Rather, I see it as meaning a free State of being, a condition of the mind, heart & body…i.e., “so the people can remain free.” In order for that to remain true, we must be armed, otherwise, we’re sitting ducks.

Jim Macklin
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Jim Macklin

Thank you. Keep in mind that the Founders wrote everything by hand and thus tried for brevity. They also had recent history, from 1765-1788 when the ideas of a republic all came together.There a great deal to learn from the Declaration of Independence. It wasn’t a simple document. The Declaration is a blueprint for the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The oppression of the King and His Army is detailed, the attempts at peaceful resolution and finally the formation of citizens into an armed revolution. Obviously the Patriots could not ask the King to approve and charter their militia so… Read more »

MarkPA
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MarkPA

“. . . and NOT a state constitution.” In point of fact, several of the original 13 States incorporated in their respective constitutions a right-to-arms; i.e., in constitutions that PRE-dated the Federal Constitution. The text of the 2A was derived from the texts of these State constitutions. We error in overlooking this fact. We are being asked to suppose that We the People understood the purpose of the 2A to secure the power of the several States to maintain their respective militias. I.e., that the 2A is unique in NOT referring to We the People as individuals, but rather to… Read more »

Wild Bill
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Wild Bill

@Pat, I like what you are writing! But we all know that elitists are not stupid. The are following an agenda. They just can not see ordinary folks being equal to them. They see themselves hungry for wealth and power. Ordinary folks are just an asset to be used to get wealth and power.
A single individual with a gun can take away all their wealth and power, in an instant. Now, we can not let that happen can we.

Herb
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Herb

The more power and money , the more stupid they get . He’s been eating the Pink Cotton candy from the Attic again .

Uncle Buck
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Uncle Buck

If the 2nd amendment was not intended for the “the people” why have people been armed since the founding of the Constitution to this day? It’s not a hard concept to understand and today never more important to uphold the way progressives are interpreting this document which has kept us free for so long.

Tionico
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Tionico

the only reason we are a nation today is because there were armed individuals long before the Constitution was ever even conceived. READ about the eariest days of colonisation.. 1607 in Virginia, 1620 in what is now Massachussetts. Those men brought arms with them, KNOWING they would be useful for preserving “the security of a free state” (state here meaning civil sociiety) When General Gage, of Boston, got orders from ol’ King George Three to disarm the colonials, it was because George feared that the PEOPLE< were they armed and skilled, could resist his growing tyranny, and he didn't lke… Read more »

Kimberwarrior45
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Kimberwarrior45

Control the language and control the arguement-Definitions from the 1828 Webster Dictionary “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.” A-An adjective, commonly called the indefinite article, and signifying one or any, but less emphatically. well-Suitably to one’s condition, to the occasion, or to a proposed end or use; suitably; abundantly; fully; adequately; thoroughly regulated- Adjusted by rule, method or forms; put in good order; subjected to rules or restrictions Militia- In the widest sense, the whole military force of a… Read more »