Pain in the ass though they might be, there's value in having at least one strict constructionist on the state high court. Who else is going to remind the misguided legal relativists to give the text of the law its deserved consideration?
Things were so much better when 16-year-olds could go to war, amirite?
But in trying to make a case for how the 2nd amendment justifies allowing acne scarred minors to pack heat, methinks Justice James Johnson of the Washington state Supreme Court is taking his whole "literal reading of the Constitution" bit a little too far.
Back in 2007, then 17-year-old Christopher Sieyes was arrested by Kitsap County Sheriff's Deputies after a search of his car turned up a loaded .380 automatic. He was eventually found guilty of 2nd degree firearms possession and sentenced to 10 days juvenile detention.
He later appealed the decision, arguing that the state law that restricts youth gun possession is instead an absolute prohibition against him or any other minor in Washington owning a firearm. His lawyers then claimed that the law violates the 2nd amendment. For those of you who didn't pay attention in Civics class, that's the one about the right to bear arms.
That same year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia's long-standing handgun ban, essentially ruling that in regard to city ordinances the 2nd amendment is absolute. As detailed in Rick Anderson's feature on the Washington gun activists who are eagerly anticipating the Court's next move, the question of how Heller vs. District of Columbia applies to state restrictions on handgun possession is set to be addressed later this year.
But Sieyes' appeal gave Washington high court the opportunity to beat the U.S. Supremes to the punch. Sieyes' lawyers asked the court to apply "strict scrutiny" in its review whether or not Washington's restrictions on youth gun possession violate his 2nd amendment rights.
"Strict scrutiny" calls for a literal reading of the Constitution, and the nigh absolutism of the rights that it provides. It's the method of judicial review preferred by people who believe that, yes, the 1st amendment does give you the right to yell "Fire" in a crowded movie theater.
But in a ruling handed down Thursday, the court did as the U.S. Supremes did in the Heller decision and balked at applying "strict scrutiny" in their review of Sieyes' case.
"We look to the Second Amendment's original meaning, the traditional understanding of the right, and the burden imposed on children by upholding the statute," writes Justice Richard Sanders in the majority opinion." The concept is called originalism. It's the scalpel to contructionism's blunt object.
"In sum appellant offers no convincing authority supporting his argument that Washington's limit on childhood firearm possession violates the United States or Washington Constitutions. Accordingly we keep our powder dry on this issue for another day," Sanders continues.
Enter Johnson, who in his dissent writes that the court erred in not applying strict scrutiny in its review, and then hearkens back to an era when you were a man by the age of 15, and if so inclined could proudly march your ass off to war.
So, by arguing for a "strict scrutiny" of the law, or if you prefer, the equal protection of the 2nd amendment, Johnson is also suggesting that anything less than the most literal reading of the law will increase the risk that the state legislature or some other boogeyman will snatch even more fundamental rights from said acne-scarred youth.
Unfortunately, Johnson's method would have the court set a precedent for striking down every restriction on gun possession in the Washington state code, including the one that prevents convicted felons from obtaining a firearm. And Johnson is apparently okay with that.
But it's cool. If Johnson had his way, Washington's jail-bait population would legally be able to carry as many guns as they can fit into their William Rast jeans. But Johnson, along with everyone who's on his bandwagon, is probably okay with that too.