Supreme Court Justice Scalia Makes Way for Gun Rights Limitations
United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia sat down with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. The longest serving member of the court explained his approach to making decisions as outlined in his new book “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts” which was written with law professor Bryan Garner. Scalia told Wallace that using the approach of originalism means to give the Constitution “the meaning that it had with respect to those phenomena that were in existence at the time.”
For things that weren’t in existence at the time, like for instance the Internet, Scalia says, “you have to decide what the meaning ought to be, but the criterion for deciding what the meaning today ought to be is what was the understood meaning as applied to criteria at the time. For example, in the death penalty
, when the electric chair comes in it’s a new phenomenon. What did the framers think of the electric chair – who knows, there wasn’t any electric chair. But they did have the death penalty and they did impose death by hanging. So what the originalists would say is … is the electric chair more cruel and unusual than hanging was? And of course it isn’t because it was adopted to be less cruel.”
In the justice’s book, he outlines 57 principles for judging, including, “A statute should be interpreted in a way that avoids placing its constitutionality in doubt.” Regarding ObamaCare, Scalia voted to strike the law down and in his dissent he criticized Chief Justice John Roberts for finding that the individual mandate is a tax. Wallace pointed out that Roberts followed the principle by finding a way to avoid striking down the law.
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Scalia disagreed, “You don’t interpret a penalty to be a pig – it can’t be a pig, and what my dissent said in the … Affordable Care Act was simply that there is no way to regard this penalty as a tax. It simply does not bear that meaning. You cannot give, in order to save the constitutionality you cannot give the text a meaning it will not bear.”
Wallace asked Scalia how this applies to the right to bear arms. Scalia said there are undoubtedly some limits to the Second Amendment because, “What the opinion in Heller said is that it will have to be decided in future cases what limitations upon the right to keep and bear arms are permissible.”
Scalia said "we'll see" what those limitations are as it applies to modern weapons. He continued, “Obviously the amendment does not apply to weapons that can be hand carried, it’s to keep and bear. So it doesn’t apply to cannons, but I suppose there are handheld rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes that will have to be – it will have to be decided.”
Watch the full interview below: