During the 9th GOP debate on CBS, the candidates were all asked to remark on Justice Antonin Scalia’s untimely death. Scalia was one of the most conservative members of the Supreme Court, and made that clear in many of his votes and opinions. One ruling, on Heller v. District of Columbia, was a major moment in Scalia’s career because it was the first court case that actually affirmed an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. Because he wrote the majority opinion for that case, Ted Cruz considers him one of the greatest SCOTUS justices of all time, but he has no clue what Scalia actually said in that opinion.
Ted Cruz had no idea what he was talking about through an awful lot of the debate, but one particular point stuck out, which was early on, when he said:
“We are one justice away from a Supreme Court that will reverse the Heller decision, one of Justice Scalia’s seminal decisions that upheld the Second Amendment right to keep and to bear arms.”
Scalia may have voted in favor of Heller, and he may have written the majority opinion, but he didn’t believe in “more guns everywhere” like the NRA and its ilk seem to. Despite that, Cruz, who should speak like the Constitutional scholar he’s supposed to be, spoke like he thinks Scalia upheld the idea of an unfettered right to bear arms. That is patently false.
Scalia may have believed that the 2nd Amendment applied to an individual’s right to bear arms, and dismissed the idea that a “well-regulated militia” was necessary for the 2nd Amendment to apply, however, Scalia also believed that our rights were not without necessary limits – the 2nd Amendment included. In his opinion on the Heller case, he said:
“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose
We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.'”
Whether assault weapons are “dangerous and unusual” seems to be a matter of interpretation, but the Supreme Court has upheld local assault weapons bans, like that of Highland Park, Illinois, by refusing to hear the cases. However, in his “guns everywhere” zeal (which probably goes along with his need to maintain his A+ rating from the NRA), Ted Cruz believes an assault weapons ban is akin to banning certain books. He thinks it’s like censorship, which just defies words.
Scalia, despite being one of the most conservative judges on the bench, knew that rights and freedoms must necessarily come with limitations to avoid infringing on other people’s rights, like rights to life and safety (e.g. you can’t yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater). Today’s Tea Party, including Cruz, is likely to twist what sanity there was that came from Scalia the same way they’ve twisted the sanity of Reagan. It suits their agenda to do so, truth and facts be damned.
To say so in a debate that took place before Scalia’s body was even cold, though, was beyond the pale. No doubt Cruz thought he was honoring Scalia, but all he did was badly misinterpret some of what Scalia stood for. Watch him make a fool of himself over Scalia below:
Image via screen capture from embedded video