Monday, November 26, 2007

"The prohibition does not extend to weapons such as pistols that may be supposed to be needed occasionally for self-defense"

The plaintiff in error was an unnaturalized foreign-born resident of Pennsylvania, and was complained of for owning or having in his possession a shotgun, contrary to an act of May 8, 1909. Laws 1909, No. 261, p. 466. This statute makes it unlawful for any unnaturalized foreign-born resident to kill any wild bird or animal except in defense of person or property, and 'to that end' makes it unlawful for such foreign-born person to own or be possessed of a shotgun or rifle; with a penalty of $25 and a forfeiture of the gun or guns. The plaintiff in error was found guilty and was sentenced to pay the above-mentioned fine. The judgment was affirmed on successive appeals. 231 Pa. 46, 79 Atl. 928. He brings the case to this court on the ground that the statute is contrary to the 14th Amendment and also is in contravention of the treaty between the United States and Italy, to which latter country the plaintiff in error belongs.

Under the 14th Amendment the objection is two fold; unjustifiably depriving the alien of property, and discrimination against such aliens as a class. But the former really depends upon the latter, since it hardly can be disputed that if the lawful object, the protection of wild life ( Geer v. Connecticut, 161 U.S. 519, 40 L. ed. 793, 16 Sup. Ct. Rep. 600), warrants the discrimination, the means adopted for making it effective also might be adopted. The possession of rifles and shotguns is not necessary for other purposes not within the statute. It is so peculiarly appropriated to the forbidden use that if such a use may be denied to this class, the possession of the instruments desired chiefly for that end also may be. The prohibition does not extend to weapons such as pistols that may be supposed to be needed occasionally for self-defense. So far, the case is within the principle of Lawton v. Steele, 152 U.S. 133, 38 L. ed. 385, 14 Sup. Ct. Rep. 499. [Page 232 U.S. 138, 144] See further, New York ex rel. Silz v. Hesterberg, 211 U.S. 31, 53 L. ed. 75, 29 Sup. Ct. Rep. 10; Purity Extract & Tonic Co. v. Lynch, 226 U.S. 192, 57 L. ed. 184, 33 Sup. Ct. Rep. 44....

- Patsone v. Com. Of Pennsylvania, U.S. Supreme Court, Jan. 19, 1914


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Well, well, well, what have we here?

...Often during the months prior to April, 1923, the petitioner suffered losses through depredations by organized bands of robbers upon freight trains in and near Kansas City, Mo. It determined to make special efforts to frustrate further attacks by the culprits, and, if possible, cause their apprehension. To this end, on April 1, 1923, it employed David to act as a 'train rider' or guard for its cars. He had had experience in similar undertakings.

Also he was carefully advised concerning the probable danger. He was told that the robbers were desperate men who 'would shoot him just as quick as they saw him.' He carried a pistol and sawed-off shot gun* 'for the purpose of defending himself and the company's property.' When asked 'Whether you will fight these fellows or not?' he replied, 'I will fight them until I die.' ...

- U.S. Supreme Court, Missouri Pac. R. CO. v. David, Feb. 15, 1932.

A FULL SEVEN YEARS before the 'Miller' decision! Not one mention of him having to be in the 'militia' either. Hmmmmm.....


Monday, November 05, 2007

"...and to have intended what they have said..."

"Two propositions in our constitutional jurisprudence are no longer debatable. One is that the national government is one of enumerated powers; and the other, that a power enumerated and delegated by the Constitution to Congress is comprehensive and complete, without other limitations than those found in the Constitution itself.

"The Constitution is a written instrument. As such its meaning does not alter. That which it meant when adopted, it means now. Being a grant of powers to a government, its language is general; and, as changes come in social and political life, it embraces in its grasp all new conditions which are within the scope of the powers in terms conferred. In other words, [Page 199 U.S. 437, 449] while the powers granted do not change, they apply from generation to generation to all things to which they are in their nature applicable. This in no manner abridges the fact of its changeless nature and meaning. Those things which are within its grants of power, as those grants were understood when made, are still within them; and those things not within them remain still excluded. As said by Mr. Chief Justice Taney in Scott v. Sandford, 19 How. 393, 426, 15 L. ed. 691, 709:
"'It is not only the same in words, but the same in meaning, and delegates the same powers to the government, and reserves and secures the same rights and privileges to the citizen; and as long as it continues to exist in its present form, it speaks not only in the same words, but with the same meaning and intent with which it spoke when it came from the hands of its framers, and was voted on and adopted by the people of the United States. Any other rule of construction would abrogate the judicial character of this court, and make it the mere reflex of the popular opinion or passion of the day.'
"It must also be remembered that the framers of the Constitution were not mere visionaries, toying with speculations or theories, but practical men, dealing with the facts of political life as they understood them; putting into form the government they were creating, and prescribing, in language clear and intelligible, the powers that government was to take. Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, in Gobbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 188, 6 L. ed. 23, 68, well declared:
"'As men whose intentions require no concealment generally employ the words which most directly and aptly express the ideas they intend to convey, the enlightened patriots who framed our Constitution, and the people who adopted it, must be understood to have employed words in their natural sense, and to have intended what they have said.'"

- Mr. Justice Brewer deliver[ing] the opinion of the court, U.S. Supreme Court, [South Carolina v. US, 199 U.S. 437 (1905)]


Saturday, November 03, 2007

"Whatever the great principle of self defence in its reasonable and necessary exercise will sanction in an individual in a state of nature, nations may lawful perform upon the ocean. This principle, as well as most others, may be carried to an unreasonable extent; it may be made the pretence instead of the real ground of aggression, and then it will become a just cause of war. I contend only for its reasonable exercise."

- Justice [William] Johnson, U.S. Supreme Court, ROSE v. HIMELY, 8 U.S. 241 (Cranch), February Term, 1808.