The Supreme Court and the Battle for Second Amendment Rights
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Wine & Cheese Reception: 6:30 pm. Program: 7:00 pm
Admission: $15 $10 for Institute Members Reserve Tickets
$35 Special Admission includes one copy of Securing Civil Rights $30 Independent Institute Members
Location: The Independent Institute Conference Center, 100 Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621-1428
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Professor of Constitutional Law at Lincoln Law School of San Jose and a practicing attorney specializing in civil rights cases.
In June 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling on the Second Amendment individual right to keep and bear arms with its Heller v. District of Columbia decision. Two years later, in June 2010, a second historic decision squeezed through the highest court in the land, incorporating the Second Amendment with the Fourteenththe post-Civil War amendment intended in part to protect the Second Amendment rights of freed slaves. In a 5-4 vote, McDonald v. Chicago upheld the Fourteenth Amendment as the guarantor of civil rights at all levels of government, as its framers intended. Join Stephen P. Halbrook, constitutional scholar, attorney, and author of Securing Civil Rights: Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms, which both the Heller and McDonald decisions cited, and Donald E. Kilmer, Jr., Professor of Constitutional Law and attorney at law, as they discuss the Second and Fourteenth Amendments and what it means to take the Bill of Rights seriously.
Securing Civil Rights
What did it mean to take civil rights seriouslyespecially the right to bear armsin the years following the abolition of slavery? By quoting legislative debates, Congressional hearings on Ku Klux Klan violence, and newspapers and law books of the time, constitutional scholar Stephen Halbrook shows that both supporters and opponents of the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) believed that it protected all Bill of Rights guaranteesespecially the Second Amendmentfrom infringement by the states.
From the Freedmens Bureau Act of 1866 to the Supreme Courts decision in United States v. Cruikshank (1876), Halbrook paints a vivid portrait of a political and legal system grappling with the true meaning of civil rights.
Trusting ex-slaves to own firearms was, by any definition, the cutting edge in true belief in civil rights, Halbrook writes. It remains to be seen whether contemporary society will accommodate the same rights of the freedmen that the Framers of the Fourteenth Amendment sought to guarantee.
Although Halbrook concentrates on the right to keep and bear arms, he also includes a comprehensive analysis of the general topic of the relationship between the Bill of Rights and the state governments after the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Cited by both the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark Heller decision (2008) and the Washington Supreme Court in State of Washington v. Christopher William Sieyes (2010) as the leading account of the relationship between the Second Amendment and the states during Reconstruction, Halbrooks insightful narrative will help a larger audience better understand why earlier generations of Americans viewed the right to bear arms as essential for securing civil rights.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, there was an outpouring of discussion of the Second Amendment in Congress and in public discourse, as people debated whether and how to secure constitutional rights for newly free slaves. See generally S. Halbrook, [Securing Civil Rights:] Freedmen, the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Right to Bear Arms.
Halbrook provides indefatigable research into the Second Amendment, and all serious scholars will eternally be in his debt.
[Halbrook] provides overwhelming evidence that the Fourteenth Amendment was meant to protect the right of individuals to be armed and that this particular right was a major concern of its framers. He offers scholars in the field a wealth of quotations from the historical debates. . . . Above all, Halbrook helps restore the historical record of a badly served constitutional amendment.
[Securing Civil Rights] is a valuable book that should be useful to those who claim to take the Constitution seriously. . . . Halbrook is a talented and indefatigable advocate in the cause of firearms rights, who reads the evidence for all it's worth, and sometimes more. . . . Halbrook's evidence seems quite adequate to establish that if the Privileges or Immunities Clause was meant to incorporate the substance of any of the individual privileges and immunities in the Bill of Rights, it was certainly meant to protect the individual's right to keep and bear arms.