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1/07/2005

"Bush Lawyers Target Gun Control's Legal Rationale"

The Second Amendment states that "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." The memo's authors, Justice Department lawyers Steven Bradbury, Howard Nielson Jr. and C. Kevin Marshall, dissect the amendment's language, arguing that under 18th century legal conventions, the clause concerning "a well-regulated militia" was "prefatory language" without binding force. "Thus, the amendment's declaratory preface could not overcome the unambiguously individual 'right of the people to keep and bear arms' conferred by the operative text," they write. They write that the drafters of the amendment envisioned a militia consisting of "all able-bodied white men" in a state, and suggest that they would be expected to keep arms not only if called up by the government but also on their own initiative, perhaps to fight rulers who threatened their liberties. Robert Post, a constitutional-law professor at Yale Law School, said the new memorandum disregarded legal scholarship that conflicted with the administration's gun-rights views. "This is a Justice Department with a blatantly political agenda which sees its task as translating right-wing ideology into proposed constitutional law," he said.

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