There’s a national law prohibiting the state of New Jersey from infringing on my right to free speech. If there weren't, given the State government’s history, I believe they’d have found some excuse to shut me up by now. They can’t possibly like the things I’m saying, but it was unpopular speech that the national law was specifically designed to protect. So I can confidently continue typing away, making a small but continual nuisance of myself, without fear of repercussions from the state.
It’s the US constitution which protects my right to free speech; the first amendment specifically. And "freedom of speech" may seem like a unique ans special right. It isn't really, but since the members of the mainstream news media are protected by the same law, they constantly talk up it's importance. There is no doubt about it ... the right to freedom of speech is highly regarded by those who make their living speaking freely, but there are several other rights in the constitution as well. And as of yesterday, the only difference between those other rights and the right of free speech is the volume and frequency with which the major media reminds us of them.
The legal reasons for this are a little tricky because the US constitution only limits the acts of the US government and doesn't specifically restrict the governments of the various states. But when it comes to laws that may infringe upon our rights, then the states are limited by it as well. The reason for that is called the “incorporation of rights” under the 14th amendment. The 14th amendment was adopted after the civil war to prevent former confederate states from drafting laws which would restrict the rights of newly freed slaves. In effect it made the US Constitution the last word where all individual rights are concerned.
And although you’re unlikely to hear much about it from the media, this is about to become a very big issue in New Jersey. Because like those confederate states, New Jersey would very much prefer not to allow its citizens the freedom to exercise their rights either. In particular the State of New Jersey would forcibly deny its citizens their most precious right, more important even that the right to vote or to speak one’s mind. The State of New Jersey would very much like to deny its citizens the right to defend their own lives.
Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the DC Gun Ban is unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. In the Majority opinion, Justice Scalia clearly stated that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. That means that the rights enumerated by the second amendment apply to individual citizens in the same way as those rights in the first amendment, like freedom of speech. Now that it's clear that they all apply to the individual, all those rights become the same under the law. And it would be unjust and illegal for the State government to infringe upon that right.
Until now, those who would deny Americans their rights have insisted that the second amendment was somehow different from the first and that the rights enumerated there only applied to the government or “the Militia”. Justice Scalia’s straightforward language has thoroughly dispelled that myth. But there still remain some questions as to what this really means for the citizenry. There are all manner or restrictions, licensing schemes, rationing mechanisms, and outright bans that apply to entire classes of “arms”, all of which Justice Scalia very specifically said that his ruling “did not address”. That doesn’t mean his ruling approved of any of those partial disarmamnt schemes, only that his ruling didn't specifically speak to them. It will take other cases for the court to address those points. So where does that leave the issue?
If tomorrow the NJ legislature enacted legislation which said that “only certain kinds of speech” were allowed, it would be judged to be unconstitutional under the 14th amendment. If they enacted another law which said that you may write only one political essay a month, or say that you couldn’t engage in speech that was potentially too “dangerous” or to ban discussions of entire topics all together, then it would clearly be unconstitutional. If they enacted laws that made it illegal for anyone but a professional politician to speak in public, or set a requirement for a license in order to speak on impassioned topics, all those laws would be in violation of the constitution. And yet the New Jersey government forces those very types of restrictions on its citizens today.
At present, the New Jersey government has an outright ban on a number of classes of semi-automatic weapons. Not machine guns which are covered by other laws, but firearms that operate the same as any hunting rifle. It has a bewildering array of licenses, permits, and permissions that must be obtained from the government and kept up to date before any citizen may purchase a firearm. Although it isn’t specifically illegal, procedurally, the State hasn’t issued a permit to carry a firearm to any private citizen in several decades, making anyone who feels the need to carry a weapon in self defense an instant criminal in spite of their constitutionally protected right to do so.
This is a right of the individual citizen that is being willfully and systematically infringed upon by a tyrannical government that insists that we remain disarmed. We are each of us entitled to “keep” a weapon in our homes, and “bear” it when we feel the necessity. It is our right to be able to defend our lives. And we must now find a way to compel the state of New Jersey to recognize that rights as well.
No tyrannical government has ever willingly granted the citizenry its rights, and I’m sure New Jersey will be no different. And because that’s so, we must compel the state legislature and courts to recognize that the law of the land also applies in New Jersey. We must all argue for “incorporation “of the second amendment under the 14th amendment. We must make it clear to those who would deny us that our rights under the second amendment are the same in every way as our rights under the first.
According to the Supreme Court of the United States, the right to keep and bear arms is a right which cannot be denied by the Federal government, just like the right to free speech, or freedom of assembly or freedom of religion. It is, like all the other rights, inalienable. And under the 14th amendment it’s a right that the state of New Jersey can no longer deny us.