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One Scared Elderly Man is About to Make the Country Safer

October 2, 2009
Otis McDonald, 76, who is suing the city of Chicago over its handgun ban

Otis McDonald, 76, who is suing the city of Chicago over its handgun ban

Does the Second Amendment give one the right to keep and bear arms (even allowing one to invoke that right against the government itself), or is it a freedom only as it concerns the federal government?

As Amy Goodman reported on her Democracy Now! program, that question will now be taken up by the United States Supreme Court, and the Court’s decision could have nationwide ramifications. Said Goodman yesterday:

The Supreme Court has decided to rule on whether state and local handgun laws violate the Second Amendment right to gun ownership, which it recognized last year, when the Court struck down a handgun ban in Washington, DC. Justices will now decide whether handgun rights also extend beyond federal districts to the state and local level.

Should the Court find Chicago’s gun ban unconstitutional, the decision will not only allow residents of that city to keep guns in their homes for personal protection, it will also open the door to challenge similar gun bans nationwide.

In last year’s Washington DC ruling, the Court affirmed that the Second Amendment prevailed over DC’s ban on handguns, but because the capital is a federal enclave, the decision did not extend to other bans in the rest of the country.  Many of those various state and city laws banning guns were imposed in the 19th century, at the close of the Civil War. Since then, Judges have been reluctant to challenge those restrictions.

In Chicago, Otis McDonald and three other local residents commenced their action against the city, in a case now known as McDonald v. Chicago, because of their fear of rising crime in their neighborhood. McDonald, a retired maintenance engineer, had been routinely threatened by drug dealers outside his home and was looking to protect himself:

I only want a handgun in my house for my protection. This lawsuit, I hope, will allow me to bring my handgun into the city legally.

The current law, argues McDonald, protects only the criminals:

We worked all our lives, paid taxes, did the right thing in life and here we are vulnerable to somebody who never went to school, is never going to go to school, and is living off of what they can get out of us — that’s what it’s all about.

Interestingly, in the afterglow of the Supreme Court’s decision in Washington DC last year, McDonald actually has a very good chance of winning this case.

And what’s happened in DC since the Court struck down the city’s gun ban?

Preliminary police statistics show that in the past year, violent and property crimes have gone down citywide. Since July 2008, 515 handguns have been legally registered with the police department, while 2,000 illegal weapons have been taken off the street. Of the 515 newly registered guns, not one of them has been stolen, used in a crime, or fired by its owner in defense of life or property.

A sensible law allowing sensible people the right to protect themselves is something that even the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has no problem with. Their spokesman, Peter Hamm, said of the new gun regulations:

We think the District has adopted sensible gun laws. If every jurisdiction in the U.S. had reasonable laws and common sense laws …we would be fine with that sort of system.

Most sensible people would agree.

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  1. jbtrevor permalink
    October 2, 2009 4:46 am

    I think one of the reasons violent crime is low in VT is because of our (lack of) gun control laws…and our swift and severe punishment for gun “accidents”.

    I shutter to think of the innocent victims of crimes in VT (few that they are) that might be alive today were they armed.

    • In the know permalink
      October 2, 2009 6:25 am

      And I’m sure most of those victims were killed with legally obtained weapons. (sarcasticly)

    • Swemson permalink
      October 2, 2009 9:38 am

      An armed society is a polite society !

      • jbtrevor permalink
        October 2, 2009 1:35 pm

        Good one.

  2. October 2, 2009 8:29 am

    This subject has been one of my pet “civil rights” issues for 30 years. I have railed against gun haters and banners on for years until they started charging for access. I have defined over and over for these lefty loons the principles behind the 2nd Amendment to no avail.
    It wasn’t until recently that I realized that the leftist louts don’t hate guns so much as they hate present gun owners. The left loves guns, but only in their hands, not ours! How do you think they are going to enforce their communist policies once they gain absolute control of the nation? The same way Che and Castro did, line up all your enemies against a wall and execute them by firing squad!

  3. October 2, 2009 6:58 pm

    Let’s not get giddy, yet. Remember the split in the Heller case was 5-4. This is Chicago we’re talking about now! One of the conservative justices could have an “unfortunate accident” before the case is heard by SCOTUS. Obama would then appoint an anti-gun, anti-freedom lib to replace him!

  4. October 2, 2009 10:25 pm

    I for one believe in gun control. That is to say that gun owners should control their guns. . .well. Better that private citizens control their guns than leave it to the state. That this is even a debate blows my mind.

  5. Marylou permalink
    October 3, 2009 12:48 am

    I hope and pray this gentleman wins his/ our case.

  6. "gunner" permalink
    October 3, 2009 1:49 am

    thank you neighbor, for a good post. i’ve lived in vermont for 40 years, just over half of my life, and what i’ve seen matches your observation. in conversation with a more recent “immigrant” he commented on how polite he found folks here, in contrast to new jersey where he formerly lived. in reply i quoted heinlein, “an armed society is a polite society”. we mind our own business and keep the peace, and do not live in fear.

  7. Michael permalink
    October 3, 2009 5:39 am

    The correct answer to the opening question of this essay, “Does the Second Amendment give one the right to keep and bear arms (even allowing one to invoke that right against the government itself), or is it a freedom only as it concerns the federal government?” is NONE OF THE ABOVE.

    The 2nd Amendment doesn’t give anyone rights. It prohibits the government from infringing on our rights. In America, all of our rights come from God, not government.

    To facilitate this conversation, it is worth doing a quick recap of what constitutes American Principles. These principles are clearly defined in America’s historical and legal documents which serve as an indisputable reference for this conversation, and can be summarized in a single sentence.

    The Declaration of Independence is succinct in stating the fundamental principle of all that is American: All rights come from the Creator, and “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    The proper role of American government is not to give or take, but rather just protect what you already have in the natural state. To think otherwise is provably un-American.

    If one must reference the Constitution to reveal the source of our personal liberties, look not to the Bill of Rights, but to the Preamble. The Preamble is clear that the Constitution was “ordain[ed] and establish[ed]” to “secure the blessings of liberty.” Blessings do not come from government, but from the Creator.

    Considering the Bill of Rights; the First and Second Amendments are unambiguous. They are not granting any liberty, but clearly prohibiting government from interfering with those liberties which we each already posses in the natural state. Furthermore, the Ninth Amendment is clear that there are many other rights we also posses, which are not enumerated in the Constitution. Finally, the Tenth Amendment is clear in limiting the federal government to those specific powers granted it, and nothing else.

    The fundamental problem in America today is that most Americans are ignorant of these indisputable facts. This ignorance will be the downfall of the Republic, as the masses permit our politicians to continue to play the role of God and create rights and entitlements; something tyrants do, not Americans.

    This ignorance should come as no surprise to readers of David Horowitz’s web sites. For the past hundred years, billions of dollars have been spent targeting America’s educational institutions with Marxist doctrines in order to ideologically subvert them, and the students they produce. Mission accomplished! America’s schools are now self-sufficient factories of dysfunction, funded with your taxes.

    Of interest in any gun rights discussion is the US Court of Appeals’ majority decision that preceded DC vs. Heller (originally appealed as DC vs. Parker, it was upheld in the Supreme Court as DC vs. Heller because Shelly Parker dropped out of the Supreme Court appeal, leaving Heller as the plaintiff). The appeals decision was decided on March 9th, 2007 (c.f.: ).

    One paragraph (on page 46) in the majority opinion, written by Senior Circuit Judge Laurence Silberman, is especially worthy of examination:

    “To summarize, we conclude that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government (or a threat from abroad) [emphasis added]. In addition, the right to keep and bear arms had the important and salutary civic purpose of helping to preserve the citizen militia. The civic purpose was also a political expedient for the Federalists in the First Congress as it served, in part, to placate their Anti-federalist opponents. The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty. Despite the importance of the Second Amendment’s civic purpose, however, the activities it protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual’s enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia.”

    Consider what this paragraph acknowledges:
    1. The right to keep and bear arms is an “individual right”;
    2. The “right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution.” This is no minor point. In America, our rights are blessings from God and the Constitution was established to secure those blessings, not to provide blessings.
    3. The arms are for use in armed resistance against “the depredations of a tyrannical government (or threat from abroad).” The Constitution (and the complete historical record associated with its framing) clearly acknowledges that individual citizens possess the right to legitimately use firearms against the US Government if it should become tyrannical. None could deny that it would indeed be a horrible situation if domestic affairs degenerated to this condition. But the horror can be avoided not by disarming citizens, but by ensuring that our government does not become tyrannical;
    4. Finally, if each citizen has a right to keep and bear arms to resist the modern military of a “tyrannical government (or threat from abroad),” shouldn’t the arms citizens keep be modern military weapons?

    This is sitting case law, referenceable as a matter of legal fact. We should not be ashamed to recognize this.

    There are millions of individuals who have taken an oath to defend the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. These individuals, especially those with statutory power for violent force, need to have read, studied and rigorously understood our Declaration and Constitution, since the Constitution, not the individuals running government, is what all have taken an oath to defend.

    Americans are in desperate need of education regarding our fundamental principles. At a minimum, all gun-carrying agents of government need to be periodically certified in their knowledge of the fundamental American principles to which they have sworn an oath; no some Marxist perversion of America.

    • Swemson permalink
      October 3, 2009 1:20 pm

      Great post Michael…

      You made an astute observation when you said the following:

      “4. Finally, if each citizen has a right to keep and bear arms to resist the modern military of a “tyrannical government (or threat from abroad),” shouldn’t the arms citizens keep be modern military weapons?”

      Absolutely !

  8. Elaine permalink
    October 3, 2009 7:14 am

    Michael: Beautifully stated. It should be required reading by Obama, all members of Congress and all public school children.

  9. Saoirse permalink
    October 3, 2009 8:22 am

    Again another saddening issue comes out of this regime. Not to sound like a tinfoil hat wearer but I fear that it is only a matter of short time before this amendment is going to be ratified into something extremely constricting or it is abolished all together.
    Everytime I hear the words from the WH that the POTUS says this and that, and then changes his mind or we hear the words “Obama is not going to let you go back to the way you used to live” (paraphrasing his lovely wife), I shudder in fear! I remember stories from my German grandparent about the rise of AH, pre WWII Germany. We have seen in world history, that a regime that takes total control of every aspect of their citizen’s lives, is soon a dictatorship. AH had a platform of “change and hope” for the impoverished German citizens….jobs and govt health care..a socialist platform. The only thing missing is the brownshirts.
    Taking the right to own/possess a gun legally from the citizens will make us all more vulnerable, not just to the criminals on the street but to the criminals in W.DC!

  10. Carole permalink
    October 3, 2009 8:37 am

    Well, I think we will definitely need to have a firearm, but more to protect ourselves against the radical muslims. They are determined to take over the West by Jihad and biblical prophecy and the news confirms this.
    We need to get rid of our complacency and begin to take steps to clamp down on what they are trying to do before it`s too late. Read “GOD`S WAR ON TERROR” for the facts!

  11. Bob permalink
    October 3, 2009 3:47 pm

    What is the ultimate question? ……….”How much ammo do you have left?” See stats regarding ammunition manufacturing for further understanding.

    • Nash permalink
      October 5, 2009 3:28 am

      That is a very interesting statement Bob.
      It occurs to me that the left is very clever tactically. Instead of going after your guns, how much simpler it would be to just control the distribution of ammunition. Looks like a classic leftist end run to me.

  12. marineseabee permalink
    October 3, 2009 5:22 pm

    “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” To me, this means that ANY law telling us what firearm we can and cannot buy, own, use for self defense, use for hunting, and use in target practice, is one law too many. Having said that, if a law abiding citizen can buy a semi automatic rifle, he/she should be able to buy, own, and shoot a fully automatic weapon.
    I realize that cetain people in the country (convicted felons and the mentally unstable) should not be able to perform any of the above listed applications of any firearm.
    Because the person I met at a gunshow in 1989, who was selling an M-60 machinegun on a tripod and with 1000 rounds of ammo, did not accept credit cards, I would have owned that since then. All I would have had to pay extra was the federal tax stamp in order to own an automatic weapon. I contend that having to pay that tax is the same as a gun control law.

    • October 3, 2009 6:00 pm

      Does the 2nd amendment include nuclear weapons and VX poison gas?

      • Swemson permalink
        October 4, 2009 1:17 am

        Don’t be silly David…

        We’re talking about “ARMS” here, not WMD’s or ICBM’s

        I don’t want my neighbors to be storing military explosives in their home, because if they screw up they could take my home pout along with theirs… And tanks are also out because they chew up the neighborhood’s streets…

        I consider “ARMS” to include virtually all firearms that a man can carry… & that does include the M60, Uzzi’s, Thompsons, BAR’s, & the M79 … & although I wouldn’t go hunting with them, they’re ideally suited to fighting a tyrannical govt

        • October 4, 2009 5:36 am

          Explosives aren’t “arms”? So citizens shouldn’t be able to own dynamite? Should he be allowed to own grenades? Where does one draw the line?

          Are bazookas and grenade launchers acceptable?

          And as was made on the other thread, how effective is the principle that a “well-armed populace is the best defense against tyranny” if the tyranny is better armed than the populace?

          My main point: these lines are drawn in an arbitrary fashion.

          • Swemson permalink
            October 4, 2009 10:11 am


            They’re not arbitrary, or at least they shouldn’t be…

            Pistols, rifles, machine guns, & even grenade launchers don’t go off on their own… but explosives are very volatile materials. There happens to be lot’s of idiots here in America, and when idiots mess with explosives, things can go wrong…

            And I’m not sure explosives ARE “arms”… I’ll have to give that some thought..

            So I draw the line at the point where the weapons that my neighbor possesses pose a direct threat to my home and my family…

            If he has dynamite, as long as it’s safely and properly stored, I have no problem with it, however even when properly stored, a really large cache of explosives, can be a threat to my home regardless of how it’s stored… So I guess there has to be a bit of common sense here if we’re to lay out a precise set of rules..

  13. Joy permalink
    October 4, 2009 8:41 am

    In a sort of flip reply to our Devil’s advocate here (Swindle), if one takes your argument to the logical/illogical conclusion of matching weapon for weapon, I guess nothing short of a nuclear bomb for the folks to launch against DC will smugly make your point. Of course, MAD is not quite what we’re arguing when trying to hold on to the basic premise of the 2nd Amendment. Obviously, if the gov’t needs to use all its military arsenal against “we the people,” then it looks like a lost cause anyway. We’re just talking, first, the basics of owning a handgun for protection against home invasion and other forms of property violation (up to & including protecting one’s own life). As for an armed citizenry, well, should it ever tragically come to the point when it’s us vs. them, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that, were they so determined, they COULD wipe us out. I don’t think Armegeddon is what is being argued here; but I can see your point – if taken to its logical/illogical conclusion.

  14. ExSoldier permalink
    October 4, 2009 6:39 pm

    “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state; the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

    Speaking as a veteran (20 years) social studies teacher in a public high school and as a former social studies Teacher of the Year (for my school), AND as a former US Army Officer, let me address this one:

    “Well REGULATED MILITIA” A lot of folks seem to think this is referring to some sort of national guard as we understand that organization today. Yet that organization wasn’t even created until right before our involvement in WWI. In the days pertaining to the American Revolution, MILITIA meant ALL the people, bearing their own weapons. This fact is currently reflected in the state constitutions of several states. For example my home state of Florida has the organized militia and the UNORGANIZED militia ready for call up in the Constitution. This was actually used unofficially after Hurricane Andrew when it was a common sight to see citizens patrolling their own neighborhoods with slung AR15s or AK47s to deter looting and often chatting with local police — the cops took no action. WELL REGULATED doesn’t refer to a legal term of art, it is concerned with military logistics: Similar arms and ammunition.


    “ARMS” is a phrase that is quite interesting and it is no accident that it is used by the Founding Fathers. Do you think that the FIRST rifles were flintlock rifles or the sort used in the American Revolution? In face firearms technology had been evolving for over 300 years by that point. It would evolve again during the course of the war as the first rifled barrels started showing up, offering vastly increased range and accuracy. A new kind of soldier appeared with this new wrinkle: SNIPERS. That kind of marksman still makes his presence felt on today’s battlefields. This is why the UZI, the M4, the M60 and SAW and other types of military firearms fall under the 2nd Amendment. If you refer to the writings of the Founding Fathers, even in the Federalist Papers (#46) you will see clearly that if the infantry has it, the PEOPLE must have it too but in greater numbers! Does this include things like artillery or armed aircraft? Probably not under the 2nd Amendment. It seems clear that the weapons probably must be limited to those that can be handled by a single man rather than those requiring a team like a mortar. This why I am certain the 2nd covers my 1911A1 45 pistol today AND my hand PHASER tomorrow.

    However, the artillery and other weapons of military might are covered under the Constitutional letters of Marque. Back in those days, this is what allowed the formation of the Privateers to prey upon British shipping. Just how do you think the private military companies (PMCs) like BLACKWATER get to operate helicopter gunships and much heavier weapons like vehicle mounted (electric) mini-guns? It’s all constitutional and I’m certain these so called PMCs all agree to not operate in regions or under employment conditions that are inimical to US interests. A Letter of Marque.

    Where do you draw the line? I’m guessing nuclear weapons, nerve agent or biotoxins. But under one guise or another everything else is allowed. Using a letter of Marque, a company like BLACKWATER (or as they’re currently known in the military or merc community: THE KNIGHTS WHO SAY XE! If you remember Monty Python) could operate an aircraft carrier if they could afford one. Including all the aircraft and ordnance of said carrier.

    “Ordinary citizens” shall not be debarred the use of any squad level military weapon under the 2nd Amendment. Some folks have mentioned the inherent instability of military explosives. I myself have cooked food using a small square of military C4 plastic explosive. Not unstable. AT ALL. What about so called “napalm?” Easily concocted using TIDE detergent and gasoline. The military uses the M110 fuel thickener, but it amounts to the same thing.

    The real purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to keep our own government from gettin’ too big for their britches as seems to be the case, currently. No wonder the liberals are all exercised over the 2nd Amendment. They want to hang onto their power. Armed citizens are definitely a threat to tyranny.

    • October 4, 2009 7:22 pm

      This was an extraordinary comment and I thought it deserved more attention:

      I hope you’ll stick around and continue to grace us with your thoughtful commentary.

      • ExSoldier permalink
        October 5, 2009 6:39 pm

        Sure, when something catches my eye or I can express an INFORMED opinion.

    • Swemson permalink
      October 5, 2009 2:52 pm

      Ex Soldier writes:

      “Some folks have mentioned the inherent instability of military explosives. I myself have cooked food using a small square of military C4 plastic explosive. Not unstable. AT ALL.”

      In the hands of people who know what they’re doing, any explosive is safe and stable… But what about those people who DON’T know what they’re doing ? We can’t outlaw stupidity.. and there are plenty of idiots around… and I don’t want them playing around with this stuff in a residential area where my kids could be the victims of what I’m sure was fun to them…

      There are plenty of things that are outlawed because they pose a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the community. While it’s true that the govt does tend to go overboard here, protecting my kids is indeed one of their PROPER functions…

      Is that unreasonable ?

      It’s not you that I’m worried about sergeant !

      • ExSoldier permalink
        October 5, 2009 6:39 pm

        Ummmm SORRY, I was never a sergeant. Try Infantry CAPTAIN.

        • Swemson permalink
          October 5, 2009 7:17 pm

          LOL 🙂

          No offense SIR !

          ( But you do of course understand that as a Marine Corporal, I still outrank you 🙂 Unless you were a MARINE Captain that is… )

    • Michael Pelletier permalink
      October 6, 2009 3:15 am

      The government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed (us). The government has the power to build, possess, and detonate nuclear weapons. Where did the government derive that power? From us.

      The Heller case touched on regulations on safe storage of explosives from the colonial era, making it a crime to store it on the second floor of a building due to the severe fire hazard. It struck the court that similar regulations on safe storage and proper use of any other weapon and ammunition can be constitutionally enforced.

      No storing your Raytheon SM-3 missile in your garden shed, and no firing it in your suburban back yard, in other words.

      What cannot be constitutionally enforced is criminal penalties for _simple possession_ of arms of any type.

      The Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Vin Suprynowicz discussed this point in his June 15, 1997 column. I encourage everyone inclined to throw out the “nuclear weapons” red herring to read it:
      “How about the president of France? He has nuclear weapons. Do you or I know for a fact that he isn’t some kind of secret, unbalanced speed freak? Didn’t they just elect a bunch of giddy Socialists, over there? How about the president of the Ukraine?
      “We don’t know these guys from Adam, yet we implicitly trust them, because they ‘work for a government.’
      “What nonsense. ”

  15. judith permalink
    October 4, 2009 6:50 pm

    Gun control means using both hands — so said the bumper sticker on the truck of a NH man who ended up defending his family with his handgun from a crazed, lunatic home-invader (the truck was parked in the driveway when the idiot barged in the front door). As the saying goes, when the tigers in the living room, animal rights go out the window. Well, when the criminal is in your house, you’re gonna want that 9mm.

  16. GBArg permalink
    October 5, 2009 5:55 am

    It’s no wonder the Brady Anti-Gun Bunch approves of the new DC regulation: It’s still unconstitutional.

    If the Second Amendment says “. . . shall not be INFRINGED,” WHY do citizens need to REGISTER their guns with the Police Department?

    All to make it easy to collect guns from citizens in the future, as was done in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina.

    The fight isn’t over.

  17. Michael Pelletier permalink
    October 5, 2009 12:35 pm

    “A sensible law allowing sensible people the right to protect themselves …”

    If it is something that can be “allowed” or “prohibited” for law-abiding citizens by operation of the law, then it’s not a “right.”

    How about a sensible law allowing sensible people the right to be secure in their homes from warrant-less searches by police? They don’t need to pass a law to “allow” that, the right exists independent of any laws.


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