Like herding cats
Sunday, April 22, 2018
In a recent letter to the Daily Reflector, pharmacologist Ken Soderstrom cited the 2015 Friedman case to bolster his view that Justice Scalia would have extended Second Amendment protection to semiautomatic rifles.
In Friedman, the Supreme Court refused to review a federal appeals court decision upholding a city’s ban on semiautomatic rifles and magazines. Scalia joined a dissent by Justice Clarence Thomas in which Thomas charged that the ban was “highly suspect” and argued that semiautomatic rifles were constitutionally protected “under our precedents.” For Soderstrom, Thomas’ dissent meant that Scalia, “in writing,” thought any “arms in common use for lawful purposes are protected under the second amendment.”
With all due respect, Thomas’ opinion was his writing, not Scalia’s, and Scalia might have joined Thomas’ dissent for many reasons other than full agreement with Thomas. Anyone familiar with Supreme Court decision-making knows that. What Scalia wanted, I suspect, was a full review of the appellate decision and the opportunity to stake out his position more fully than he had in the 2008 Heller case. The 5-4 Heller Court struck down an absolute ban on handguns, not semiautomatics, and held, for the first time in over 200 years, that the Second Amendment does anything more than empower states to maintain a militia.
Elaborating on the Reflector website, Dr. Soderstrom claimed that “the right to bear arms is THE sentinel right. As it goes, so do all others.” If he is contending that the amendment guarantees private citizens the right to arm themselves for the protection the Constitution confers on government, he apparently wishes to return us to a state of nature. Thomas Hobbes gave the final word on life in a state of nature -— “It is nasty, brutish, and short.”
Tinsley E. Yarbrough