When the Supreme Court handed down the Heller decision affirming the Second Amendment as an individual right that trumps any and all local or state laws, I called it a Pyrrhic victory. The problem: Justice Antonin Scalia’s declaration that, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited” and “nothing . . . should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill.” Responding to letters kvetching about the Wall Street Journal article “The Progressive Gun-Control Charade,” commentator Paul Cooper sets them straight on Scalia’s misinterpretation of the Second Amendment . . .
Antonin Scalia is wrong on both the Constitution and his interpretation of it. The Second Amendment does not “secure” any right. It places a specific, and absolute, restriction on the power of government to infringe upon that right. These may sound like the same thing, but they are not. The right to keep and bear arms may or may not be absolute, but the denial to both the state and federal government of any authority to infringe on that right is indeed absolute. We failed as a nation when we accepted the idea that “shall not be infringed” actually means “may be infringed under certain circumstances.”