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White House reverses [decades old] stand on right to bear arms
Associated Press ^ | Wednesday, May 8 | Associated Press

Posted on 05/08/2002 11:57:58 AM PDT by Patriotman

White House reverses stand on right to bear arms

Associated Press

Washington — Reversing decades of Justice Department policy, the Bush administration has told the Supreme Court that it believes the Constitution protects an individual's right to possess firearms.

At the same time, the administration's top Supreme Court lawyer said the case need not test that principle now.

The administration's view represents a reversal of government interpretations of the Second Amendment going back some 40 years.

"The current position of the United States ... is that the Second Amendment more broadly protects the rights of individuals, including persons who are not members of any militia or engaged in active military service or training, to possess and bear their own firearms," Solicitor-General Theodore Olson wrote in two court filings this week.

That right, however, is "subject to reasonable restrictions designed to prevent possession by unfit persons or to restrict the possession of types of firearms that are particularly suited to criminal misuse."

Mr. Olson, the administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, was reflecting the view of Attorney-General John Ashcroft that the Second Amendment confers the right to "keep and bear arms" to private citizens and not merely to the "well-regulated militia" mentioned in the amendment's text.

Mr. Ashcroft caused a stir when he expressed a similar sentiment a year ago in a letter to the National Rifle Association.

"While some have argued that the Second Amendment guarantees only a 'collective' right of the states to maintain militias, I believe the amendment's plain meaning and original intent prove otherwise," Mr. Ashcroft wrote.

Critics accused him of kowtowing to the gun lobby and of undermining federal prosecutors by endorsing a legal view 180 degrees away from what has been official Justice Department policy through four Democratic and five Republican administrations.

At the time that Mr. Ashcroft wrote the letter, it was unclear whether he was expressing his personal view or stating a new policy position for the government. That question was mostly answered last November, when he sent a letter to federal prosecutors praising an appellate court's decision that found "the Second Amendment does protect individual rights" but noting that those rights could be subject to "limited, narrowly tailored specific exceptions."

That opinion by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals went on to reject arguments from Texas physician Timothy Emerson that a 1994 federal gun law was unconstitutional. The law was intended to deny guns to people under judicial restraining orders.

"In my view, the Emerson opinion, and the balance it strikes, generally reflect the correct understanding of the Second Amendment," Mr. Ashcroft told prosecutors.

Mr. Emerson appealed to the Supreme Court, putting the Justice Department in an awkward position. Although the government won its case in the lower court using the old interpretation of the Second Amendment, Mr. Ashcroft had switched gears by the time the case reached the high court.

Mr. Olson's court filing on Monday urged the Supreme Court not to get involved and acknowledged the policy change in a lengthy footnote. Mr. Olson also attached Mr. Ashcroft's letter to prosecutors.

Mr. Olson made the same notation in a separate case involving a man convicted of owning two machine guns in violation of federal law. In that case, the government also won a lower-court decision endorsing a federal gun-control law.

The Justice Department issued a statement Tuesday night saying its latest comments reflect the Attorney-General's position in the November letter to prosecutors.

"This action is proof positive that the worst fears about Attorney-General Ashcroft have come true: His extreme ideology on guns has now become government policy," said Michael Barnes, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which promotes gun control.

Mr. Barnes noted that other federal appeals courts and the Supreme Court have not found the same protection for individual gun ownership that the 5th Circuit asserted in the Emerson case.

The Supreme Court last ruled on the scope of the Second Amendment in 1939, when it said the clause protects only those rights that have "some reasonable relationship to the preservation of efficiency of a well-regulated militia."


TOPICS: Breaking News; Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: secondamendment
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1 posted on 05/08/2002 11:57:58 AM PDT by Patriotman
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To: Patriotman
Finally, something we can be proud of Dubya about. This, cloning, and the ICC withdrawl.

Now let's just hope Bush can go the rest of the year without doing more stupid liberal sh!t than he's already done.

2 posted on 05/08/2002 12:01:43 PM PDT by The Old Hoosier
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To: Patriotman
What's all this fuss about arming bears?

Well, confound it, I'm totally against that! Imagine if your Uncle George or Cousin Ned or some other friend or relative is mindin' their business, and because some know-nuthin' type from Washington says it's all right to arm bears, they get shot! Why I'll send one o'them armed bears right to Washington, and see how they like them apples...

Huh? Bear arms? Not arm bears?

Oh.

Never mind!


3 posted on 05/08/2002 12:02:09 PM PDT by mhking
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To: Patriotman
Rush mentioned this today...Good work by the Bush administration.
4 posted on 05/08/2002 12:06:00 PM PDT by Oldeconomybuyer
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To: Patriotman
Whew, you scared me--when I saw the title I was afraid the White House had reversed their position from yesterday! =:@

What a relief, it's only the same leftist bleat about the White House "reversing decades of policy" by insisting that the Second Amendment means the same thing today as when it was written.

5 posted on 05/08/2002 12:07:23 PM PDT by hellinahandcart
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To: The Old Hoosier
Well said!

g

6 posted on 05/08/2002 12:07:36 PM PDT by Geezerette
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To: Oldeconomybuyer
Style over substances, but still a nice bone to toss those who are wondering where the ship is heading.
7 posted on 05/08/2002 12:08:02 PM PDT by JohnGalt
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To: gieriscm
ping
8 posted on 05/08/2002 12:08:12 PM PDT by Bigg Red
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To: Patriotman
...That right, however, is "subject to reasonable restrictions designed to prevent possession by unfit persons or to restrict the possession of types of firearms that are particularly suited to criminal misuse."

Yeah, that's what the "shall not be infringed" part means... you have to, like, read between the lines, and stuff.

9 posted on 05/08/2002 12:10:14 PM PDT by Sloth
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To: Patriotman
Already numerous threads on this one.
10 posted on 05/08/2002 12:10:45 PM PDT by ctdonath2
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To: Oldeconomybuyer
The key case involved a Texas man named Timothy Joe Emerson who was indicted for possession of a Beretta pistol while he was the subject of a domestic violence restraining order obtained by his wife. A federal district judge dismissed the indictment on the grounds that it violated Emerson's Second Amendment rights, but the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court judge and ordered Emerson to be tried on the charge.

In its ruling, the appeals court included a lengthy discussion of the Second Amendment, concluding that the amendment "protects the rights of individuals, including those not actively a member of any militia . . . to privately possess and bear their own firearms, such as the pistol involved here, that are suitable as personal, individual weapons." It was this view that Olson's briefs explicitly endorsed.

But the appeals court also ruled that the Second Amendment is subject to "limited, narrowly tailored specific exceptions or restrictions . . . that are reasonable and not inconsistent with the right of Americans generally to keep and bear their private arms as historically understood in this country." It said the prohibition on gun ownership by someone subject to a domestic violence restraining order was such a reasonable exception, a view that Olson also endorsed in urging that the Supreme Court not to review the case.

11 posted on 05/08/2002 12:10:58 PM PDT by Patriotman
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To: ctdonath2
not this one
12 posted on 05/08/2002 12:11:35 PM PDT by Patriotman
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To: Oldeconomybuyer
Rush mentioned this today...Good work by the Bush administration.

That must have hurt Rusho.

13 posted on 05/08/2002 12:11:50 PM PDT by arkfreepdom
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To: Patriotman
Previous Threads:

U.S. Backs a Right to Bear Arms
Ashcroft affirms individual right to bear arms
Bush Administration Backs Individual Right to Bear Arms
Bush backs right to bear arms

14 posted on 05/08/2002 12:12:41 PM PDT by ironman
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To: ctdonath2
Yeah, but I don't mind.
15 posted on 05/08/2002 12:18:42 PM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
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To: The Old Hoosier
Personally, I believe that this was an attempt by the Justice Department to derail Emerson vs. The United States before it's heard by the Supreme Court.

Notice that the attorney for the US Government told the USSC 'Hey, no need to rush to judgement. Never mind that we changed our opinion. These aren't the droids you're looking for...'.

I'd rather hear the United State's Supreme Court's opinion on the Second Amendment rather than John Ashcroft's, thank you very much.

16 posted on 05/08/2002 12:25:26 PM PDT by The KG9 Kid
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To: hellinahandcart
same leftist bleat about the White House "reversing decades of policy" by insisting that the Second Amendment means the same thing today as when it was written.

You hit right on the head. Why, however, does the Bush Administration not want the US SC to review the Emerson decision? Is it because they (as well as the whole damn US Senate) know that the court might actually have to address the "meaning" of "...shall not be infringed."?

What bothers me is that while they say, "yes, there is an individual right to arms", they also want to maintain, on the books, every rotten unconstitutional infringment of the second amendment ever legislated into place on both state and federal level. They know damn well that if the correct interpretation of "shall not be infringed" was arrived at by the SC, then 99% of these laws would be rendered null and void. What I want to see from Pres. Bush on the RKBA issue is a firm statement that the 1994 federal assault weapons ban is unconstitutional and will therefore not be enforced until it sunsets in 2004.

17 posted on 05/08/2002 12:28:25 PM PDT by 45Auto
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To: Patriotman
an individual's right to possess firearms.
At the same time, the administration's top Supreme Court lawyer said the case need not test that principle now.

Wouldn't a test help the cause better?

Why this choice?

18 posted on 05/08/2002 12:28:35 PM PDT by flamefront
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To: Patriotman
This is good news. But what's so extreme about Ashcroft's stance? Clearly it is those who wish to ban guns and eliminate the right to own them are the extremists. Enforcing a plain reading of the Constitution, while accepting that certain limits exist is a very moderate approach.

To the leftists, black is white and right is wrong. They are insane. Ashcroft's view is obviously a moderate one.

19 posted on 05/08/2002 12:29:02 PM PDT by monkeyshine
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To: 45Auto
Right.
20 posted on 05/08/2002 12:30:00 PM PDT by flamefront
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To: Patriotman
Notice the lie embedded in this paragraph:

Mr. Olson, the administration's top Supreme Court lawyer, was reflecting the view of Attorney-General John Ashcroft that the Second Amendment confers the right to "keep and bear arms" to private citizens and not merely to the "well-regulated militia" mentioned in the amendment's text.

The amendment's text does not mention the "well regulated militia" to the exclusion of the people as implied.

21 posted on 05/08/2002 12:30:35 PM PDT by spqrzilla9
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To: 45Auto
Let me guess your favorite caliber... .38, right?
22 posted on 05/08/2002 12:32:20 PM PDT by ricer1
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To: The KG9 Kid
Yeah, more smoke and mirrors.
23 posted on 05/08/2002 12:33:13 PM PDT by Scarlet Pimpernel
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To: Patriotman
Bump
24 posted on 05/08/2002 12:34:25 PM PDT by PRND21
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To: Oldeconomybuyer
Hollow rhetoric. It is also apt to change with every new administration. Let look at the most telling statement:

That right, however, is "subject to reasonable restrictions designed to prevent possession by unfit persons or to restrict the possession of types of firearms that are particularly suited to criminal misuse."

So if the government grants itself the authority put restrictions on it, then it is not truly a right. Agree? Next they want to restrict certain firearms that are particular to criminal use. I'm guessing they are talking about the NFA. So the implication is that criminals prefer these weapons. The only time I see these weapons on the news they are in the hands of the ATF, FBI, DEA, etc. So in essence they have labelled their own alphabet soup JBTs as criminals.

Bottom line, if they can regualte it, it is not a right. "Shall not be infringed" must have meant something else a couple hundred years ago.

25 posted on 05/08/2002 12:37:48 PM PDT by Hard Case
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To: Patriotman
Good news!
26 posted on 05/08/2002 12:37:54 PM PDT by ppaul
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To: Patriotman
What is this "decade old stance"? Eight miserable years does not a decade make!
27 posted on 05/08/2002 12:38:14 PM PDT by caisson71
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To: Patriotman
That right, however, is "subject to reasonable restrictions designed to prevent possession by unfit persons or to restrict the possession of types of firearms that are particularly suited to criminal misuse."

Uh... And "reasonable" would mean.....?

28 posted on 05/08/2002 12:38:19 PM PDT by Lancey Howard
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To: Hard Case
Darn.
Now I guess it wasn't such good news after all.
29 posted on 05/08/2002 12:38:50 PM PDT by ppaul
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To: Patriotman
Hurrah for W!!!
30 posted on 05/08/2002 12:39:13 PM PDT by RWCon
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To: Patriotman
"subject to reasonable restrictions designed to prevent possession by unfit persons or to restrict the possession of types of firearms that are particularly suited to criminal misuse."

Right...just like it says in the Bill of Rights.

31 posted on 05/08/2002 12:40:03 PM PDT by Wolfie
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To: Hard Case
Hollow rhetoric.

Wrong! Its rhetoric that's full of it.

32 posted on 05/08/2002 12:41:25 PM PDT by Wolfie
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To: The KG9 Kid
Its unlikely that you will get a Supreme Court opinion on the Second Amendment in the Emerson case, the 5th Circuit gave the US S.Ct. an out to affirm their ruling without ruling on the Second Amendment claim.
33 posted on 05/08/2002 12:44:21 PM PDT by spqrzilla9
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To: Patriotman
There really cannot be any "collective" rights, as a collective cannot think, act, or be, except by definition. Rights can only exist for people, which is the word actually used in reference to them in the Constitution. "The right of the people" always meant each and every person, as that is the only "collective" whose definition and membership criteria is not in doubt. Only an individual can exercise a right. Only an individual can have his or her rights either defended or taken away.

I shudder to think that for decades it was official policy that a common right of the people was viewed as a "collective" right, not an individual right. I am glad that the Bush administration has reversed this long-standing policy, but worry how long it will last.

34 posted on 05/08/2002 12:44:23 PM PDT by Jay W
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To: Patriotman
I'm too much of a cynic to read motives of deep conservative principle into this. They've paid enough attention to the polls to realize that the dems have lost seats in the house and senate just about every time they've pushed gun control in election years.
35 posted on 05/08/2002 12:46:41 PM PDT by Harrison Bergeron
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To: Patriotman;Snow Bunny; Billie; FallGuy; JohnHuang2; Mama_Bear; Victoria Delsoul; daisyscarlett...
Washington
Reversing decades of Justice Department policy, the Bush administration has told the Supreme Court
that it believes the Constitution protects an individual's right to possess firearms.



36 posted on 05/08/2002 12:46:43 PM PDT by 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub
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To: Patriotman
LOLOL and predictably, Chuck the Schmuck Schumer is not happy about this......sputter sputter sputter......LOL
37 posted on 05/08/2002 12:48:29 PM PDT by OldFriend
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To: Wolfie
Wrong! Its rhetoric that's full of it.

I stand corrected. But I don't walk funny....anymore.

38 posted on 05/08/2002 12:52:49 PM PDT by Hard Case
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To: Patriotman
My God! I think I'm gonna pass out!! FReepers actually praising the Bush Administration!!! Never thought I'd see the day.
39 posted on 05/08/2002 12:53:01 PM PDT by Destructor
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To: 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub
I'm pleased- already the radio news is filled with reports that, aw, what are they spinning themselves as now? "Gun Safety Groups?"- are denouncing it, so it must be beneficial!
40 posted on 05/08/2002 12:53:54 PM PDT by backhoe
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To: Patriotman
Ted Olson & Ashcroft make me happy and proud that Bush is in the White House.
41 posted on 05/08/2002 12:54:34 PM PDT by 1Old Pro
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This is great, but some spare tires and hairy bellies make me wish there wasn't a right to bare midrifts.
42 posted on 05/08/2002 12:58:38 PM PDT by Diddle E. Squat
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To: caisson71
Does if you are a liberal, they really can't count, don't think it is even important!
43 posted on 05/08/2002 12:58:57 PM PDT by Ernest_at_the_Beach
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To: 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub
Can't be. Bush ain't no conservative! < /sarcasm>
44 posted on 05/08/2002 12:58:58 PM PDT by rdb3
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To: ppaul
Of course. You should know by know, Bush can do no right. The marxists (shh) Constitutionalists on this forum will continue to straighten you out about this fact.
45 posted on 05/08/2002 1:00:53 PM PDT by stands2reason
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To: 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub
....the Bush administration has told the Supreme Court that it believes the Constitution protects an individual's right to possess firearms.

I could have told them that 50 years ago.

46 posted on 05/08/2002 1:01:04 PM PDT by Brownie74
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To: caisson71
It's "decades" old stance. That means it has been official government position for about 40 years. Even under Reagan. Only under "liberal" Bush has it now changed.
47 posted on 05/08/2002 1:05:12 PM PDT by stands2reason
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To: Jay W
"... I am glad that the Bush administration has reversed this long-standing policy, but worry how long it will last."

At the longest, it will last until the next Attorney General of the US rescinds the policy or until the current Attorney General changes his mind.

At the briefest, it will last until the next US citizen is prosecuted by the US Justice Department for non-violent firearm-related crimes -- namely, sometime this afternoon.

This 'change in position' by Ashcroft that we're all supposed to be celebrating to the heavens means absolutely nothing.

48 posted on 05/08/2002 1:05:22 PM PDT by The KG9 Kid
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To: flamefront
What worries me is the same thing: why NOT bring it to the SC, if in fact the official policy is to agree with Emerson (and us)?

Unfortunately the effect is to take a case which was on its way to the SC and, correctly ruled, would have overturned many unConstitutional laws, and derail it. Or, the effect of a pro-2nd official stance is that anti-2nd laws shall remain in effect; and later, if an anti-2nd administration gets in, the structure of bad law will remain on which more bad law can be built.

The Administration (an ethical one, anyway) is not entitled not to enforce the law; that duty is only removed if the law is removed. Only the SC (effectively; since lower rulings are appealed) or the Congress can remove these bad laws, and we certainly know that Congress is not going to help us here. Even if we get some repeals through the House there is no glimmer of hope from the Senate.

Wish I was more optimistic; I hope only that the SC will choose to hear the case anyway and that since both sides (Emerson and the administration) agree now that the ruling would then be overwhelming and decisive.

49 posted on 05/08/2002 1:05:44 PM PDT by No.6
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To: ppaul
Anything firearm related legislation that came out of the government after the Bill of Rights would not ever be good. You know people praise it when conceal-carry passes in a certain state but any laws a state passed on the restriction of conceal-carry in the first place violates the 2nd Amendment. Essentially they are doling out priveleges, with restrictions, that should should never have been taken away from our rights in the first place.
50 posted on 05/08/2002 1:10:35 PM PDT by Hard Case
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