March 26, 2010
Heyck on Originalism and the Second Amendment
Thomas William Heyck (Northwestern, professor emeritus of history) satirizes originalism as applied to the Second Amendment in an op-ed in today's Chicago Tribune. Heyck argues that Justice Scalia's form of originalism absolutely protects "the right to keep and bear muzzle-loading flintlock arms." (It also protects hatchets, tomahawks, swords, pitchforks, and other weapons known to the founders.) But originalist advocates of Second Amendment protection for modern weapons--necessary, they say, to protect against an over-reaching government--commit the "original intention" fallacy: They focus on the ever-ambiguous intent of the framers, not the more determinate original meaning of the text, and thus open the text up to anything anybody wants it to mean.
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