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For anti-gun Northwestern professor, Constitutional ignorance is no excuse


Dr. Heyck says it does . . . but only because he says Supreme
Court Justice Antonin Scalia says it does . . . well, not that he says
it does, exactly, but that Scalia should say that it does so he would
be wrong and . . . . is this confusing yet?
(Photo used by permission of Oleg Volk)

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It would be irresponsible and bizarre to suggest that the Professor Emeritus of History at Northwestern University, Dr. Thomas William Heyck, is in fact a ruthless flying monkey. The only reason the topic comes up at all is that it's one logical explanation for Dr. Heyck's strangely gleeful and unprovoked assault on a straw man in the Chicago Tribune last week. When Heyck was finished, scattered straw and old farm clothing were the only testament to the spot where an unfortunate straw man met his demise.

It's understandable why Dr. Heyck chose to fight a straw man rather than the genuine arguments against Chicago's Soviet-style gun registration system (You want register handgun?  You fill out Party Handgun Registration Form.  We stamp three times, make five copy, throw all in trash.  Is gun, tovarisch.  Is not for you.)  Setting up his own straw man argument to knock down is much easier, especially within the Tribune's word limits. But understanding the weakness of his position doesn't make it any more convincing. Heyck's main argument is that if Scalia wants to take the words in the Constitution at face value, he must then accept that whatever conclusions he reaches are only valid when dealing with 18th-century technology.  Thus the right to keep and bear flintlocks is strongly protected, but the right to keep and bear an AR-15 rifle is completely outside the Supreme Court's notice.  If that sounds stupid, that's because Heyck intends it to be stupid.  It's not his position, he says, but Scalia's.  Don't blame him if you can't own a 1796 Light Cavalry Saber--it's all Scalia's fault, because that sword was still eight years from adoption when the Constitution was ratified. Stupid Scalia and his stupid ideas about "plain meaning!" Of course, the problem with that message is that Antonin Scalia did not invent the "Plain Meaning Rule," which requires that judges give the words in any law their plain, ordinary meaning.  Dr. Heyck does not argue against this rule--or even mention it--for one very good reason: if you told the average Tribune reader that you were against the idea of interpreting the law according to what the words actually mean, and proposed instead to ignore the actual meanings of the words in favor of new meanings which would fit your personal opinion of what is "relevant to modern society," you'd have a whole lot of explaining to do. 

Dr. Heyck presumably has decided that he doesn't care to do all that explaining, so he has to make a few changes.  Scalia argues that words must be interpreted in their plain meaning, so that "arms" is synonymous with "weapons."  But that's too simple, too straightforward, and far too persuasive, so Dr. Heyck ascribes the opposite position to Scalia: rather than arguing that "arms" means "weapons," he says, Scalia's argument really means that "arms" means "arms popularized prior to the Year of Our Lord 1791."  Now there's an argument worth fighting against!  Why, the man who opposed that kind of nonsense would practically be a hero! And after all, if he had to invent the argument himself in order to oppose it heroically, well, no straw man is perfect.

 For more info: See Part I: "There's only one way to 'make the Constitution relevant to modern society,' Professor!"  Or discuss the professor's piece at . . . .

And don't miss the St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner's feature today: "ICHV exploits 'Hutaree' hysteria to gin up support for 'assault weapon' ban"


  • rk 5 years ago

    "It would be irresponsible and bizarre to suggest that the Professor Emeritus of History at Northwestern University, Dr. Thomas William Heyck, is in fact a ruthless flying monkey."

    ...and insulting to ruthless flying monkeys!

  • Carl Bussjaeger 5 years ago

    And Professor Monkey-Boy wrote that on parchment with a quill pen and had it sent on horseback to the paper, where where the type was handset on the muscle-powered press.

    Guess our history teacher missed the part where the Supremes found that the arms protected by the Second Amendment are those in current common usage: Miller. Of course, by rights, that should mean that we can own regular assault rifles without getting government permission.

  • straightarrow 5 years ago

    Another over schoolified under educated academic proving that failure as a human is not limited to people who haven't gone to college, but has been perfected by people who have.

  • Chicago Gun Rights Examiner 5 years ago

    Carl, he didn't miss it. He disagrees with it. And in his world, I suspect that often means that it's clearly wrong . . . but in the big world, if the Professor Emeritus of History disagrees with five Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States on a point of constitutional law, he loses.

    He's not saying that this kind of ridiculous "originalism" is right--though you can't help but notice a sort of admiration for it in his tone--but that it's the logical conclusion of Scalia's originalism, taken to ridiculous extremes. The catch is that he's badly mischaracterizing Scalia's principles.

  • Jack Burton 5 years ago

    You can't get into a discussion on the 'net without some jackass bringing up the identical argument, and the funny thing is each and every one of them think it is totally original with them.

  • Otter 5 years ago

    The Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment after realizing that citizens needed the most modern firearms of the times in order to maintain their freedoms. With that in mind, the citizens of today need the same thing, the most modern firearms of today. So much for this supposedly educated professor.

  • Chicago Gun Rights Examiner 5 years ago

    Oh, come on, Otter. It can't be that simple! How many Ph.Ds do you have, anyway?

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