December 19, 2012

Clever wording can’t take away an enumerated constitutional right

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 13:54

Megan McArdle on the pious hopes of those who hope to bring in draconian gun control regulation by abstruse and intricate verbal gymnastics:

Others are suggesting a de-facto ban, accomplished either through a huge tax, or a ban on ammunition. Oh, I’ve also seen calls to limit the amount of ammunition people can buy, but I don’t think those people have thought this through. For starters, the number of bullets used by a typical rampage shooter is about what a target shooter or hunter might go through in an afternoon or two of range practice. And most gun homicides are not rampage shootings; they have one or two victims, and a correspondingly small number of cartridges expended. Moreover, even a very strict per-purchase limit would permit people to accumulate ammunition over time.

No, the people who want to tax guns at 17,000%, or ban ammunition, or make cartridges cost $2,000 apiece, are the only ones hinting at something that might make a real dent in America’s unusually high rate of gun homicide. Except for one thing: you can’t do an end-run around an enumerated right with some sort of semantic game. Chief Justice John Roberts is not Rumplestiltskin; he is not bound by the universe to disappear if you can only find the correct secret word.

You cannot accomplish back-door censorship by taxing at 100% all profits of any news corporation named after a “carnivorous mammal of the dog family with a pointed muzzle and bushy tail, proverbial for its cunning.” You cannot curtail the right to protest by requiring instant background checks and a 90-day waiting period on anyone who wants to assemble with 500 of their friends in a public area. Nor can you restrict the supply of ink used to print Korans. If you pass a law like that, the Supreme Court will say “nice try, guys” and void all the painstakingly constructed verbal origami that was supposed to make civil liberties infringement look like an innocent exercise of the taxing power.

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