Guns and Words
One day, I was consulting at Envision’s Washington, D.C. offices when Rossi announced that following our meeting, a car and driver would take us to the Supreme Court, where Justice Antonin Scalia would be fielding questions from several hundred of Envision’s high schoolers who wanted to be lawyers.
I was thrilled, having never seen the inside of the Supreme Court, let alone seen and heard one of the justices in action and in person.
We walked into the magnificent Court chamber with its raised bench where the nine justices sit and its 44-foot ceilings. In the middle of the room, Justice Scalia stood at a small portable lectern taking questions from a roomful of incredibly smart teenagers.
One student asked him about the possibility of gun control. In its long history, the Court has heard only five Second Amendment cases, the most recent being Lewis v. U.S. in 1980. Since that time, gun control has become a “red meat” issue for conservatives, liberals and everyone in between. I felt truly blessed to have the opportunity to see this hallowed place and to get a sense of how the current Court might rule if such a case came up.
“The Constitution is very clear on the subject,” Scalia told the group. “ ‘The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’ These are words of one and two syllables with no shades of meaning or ambiguities.”
“But what about the first part,” the student countered, “about maintaining a militia?”
Scalia replied, “‘A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,’ is how the Amendment starts. But that in no way negates or alters the second clause that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.’”
“But times are different now,” the young man persisted.