Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chicago gun case could restore other civil rights

Gun owners aren't the only ones who should pay close attention to the "McDonald" Chicago gun-ban case, which will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court March 2. If properly decided, the case could restore an important legal tool to protect the rights of small business owners and homeowners who face oppressive state and local government regulations.

Because the Supreme Court in McDonald may consider reinvigorating what is known as the "Privileges or Immunities clause" of the 14th Amendment, those engaged in civil rights battles nationwide may soon have a new arrow in their quiver to better defend the rights of homeowners and entrepreneurs. The clause states "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."

The phrase "privileges or immunities" may be unfamiliar today, but 19th-century Americans used it interchangeably with a term modern Americans know very well: rights.

After the Civil War, officials throughout the South systematically violated the rights of newly freed blacks and white abolitionists in their states and sought to keep them in abject poverty and terror. The whole point in amending the Constitution to add the 14th Amendment -- with its Privileges or Immunities clause -- was to end the pervasive culture of oppression and tyranny by state and local governments, thereby protecting through federal law those rights that are necessary to be a full and self-sustaining member of society.

Two rights the 14th Amendment was clearly intended to protect were armed self-defense and economic liberty. A federal constitutional amendment was passed to ensure that all Americans, regardless of which state they lived in, enjoyed these rights.

But in an infamous 1873 decision called the Slaughter-House Cases, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Americans' protection under the Privileges or Immunities clause protected only their rights as U.S. citizens, but not as citizens of a particular state. This signaled that states were free to run roughshod over the rights of citizens in their states without interference from federal courts.

The results were predictably disastrous: Those who were politically disenfranchised soon also became economically marginalized as well. Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has given certain constitutional rights, such as free speech, greater protection.

More here

TX: Navy veteran acquitted in shooting death: "A 27-year-old Navy veteran and corrections officer was acquitted Thursday of a murder charge in the 2008 shooting death of a man who was having an affair with his wife. A Tarrant County jury deliberated about two hours before finding Jerrill Christopher Dorton not guilty in the fatal shooting of Bruce McKinney, 24. McKinney died April 15, 2008, a month after he was shot at Dorton's north Fort Worth apartment. Investigators said McKinney and Dorton's wife had an affair, which Dorton believed had ended. When Dorton overheard McKinney calling his wife one day, he called him into his apartment and shot him, police said.. At his trial, Dorton testified that he shot McKinney in self-defense when he glimpsed the butt of a gun as the other man reached into a pocket of his hooded jacket. Defense attorney Dewayne Huston said Dorton's fear was justified because McKinney had repeatedly threatened him and others by flashing guns at them. Detectives said they thought that Dorton staged the scene to make it appear that he fired in self-defense. Witnesses, including Dorton's wife, told investigators that five to 10 seconds elapsed between the two gunshots they heard. Dorton said he recalled firing only one shot, striking McKinney in the face. Huston contended that the other shot was fired by McKinney. He said a .380-caliber bullet taken from the apartment wall was the same caliber as the gun found next to McKinney. Dorton had a .40-caliber handgun, he said."

PA: Witness says shooting was self-defense: "A Blair County man charged with attempted murder was acting in self-defense, said a witness to Wednesday night's shooting outside an East End bar. Police contend Alvin C. Zimmerman, 38, of 614 Third Ave., Duncansville, committed a crime when he shot one of two men who had followed him outside the Kettle Inn on South Kettle Street shortly after 10 p.m. Zimmerman and another man were leaving the bar after a pool match when two men began shouting homosexual slurs at them, court documents state. Minutes later, Zimmerman was in handcuffs and another man was headed to the Altoona Regional Trauma Center, where he remained in serious condition Thursday after emergency surgery to remove a bullet from his abdomen. Tony DeAntonio, who was there for his pool league, said he was leaving the bar at the same time and said the two men shouted obscenities as they followed Zimmerman and the other man outside. DeAntonio, 21, said the man who was eventually shot stood in front of his vehicle as he tried to pull out, yelled for him to "get out of your truck" and was even throwing chunks of ice at Zimmerman. "It was self-defense," DeAntonio said. "Al's just trying to get out of there. Nobody wanted to fight." Zimmerman and the other man tried to leave, but Zimmerman pulled out his .32-caliber Kel-Tec handgun from his front pocket after one of the two men punched his friend, who then also pulled out a gun, court documents state. "Go ahead and shoot me," is what one of the men allegedly shouted over and over as he walked toward Zimmerman, court documents state. Zimmerman was backing away and fired a warning shot at the ground, police said, but the man kept coming. So Zimmerman shot him."

U. of Tenn. Policy Strips Students’ 2nd Amendment Right: "The University of Tennessee’s newly announced policy banning all gun ownership by student-athletes is an extreme overreaction to the criminal acts of a few. UT’s athletic director, Mike Hamilton, said that under the new policy, the university will automatically dismiss any student-athlete found in possession of a gun — even those with permits and even those living off-campus. This over-reaching policy prevents law-abiding UT student-athletes from hunting and engaging in recreational and competitive shooting. More importantly, it also prohibits them from owning a firearm for self-defense, a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution".

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