In today’s Washington Post, Eugene Robinson posts his reflections on The Supreme Court’s recent declaration that gun ownership is an individual right. In essence, Robinson says that The Supreme Court interpreted the second amendment correctly but that he would nevertheless favor restrictions on the right to bear arms. The meaning of the Constitution is clear on this point, he says. Robinson just disagrees with the Constitution.
What caught my eye about Robinson’s column, however, was the last two paragraphs. He writes:
‘I believe the Constitution is a living document that has to be seen in light of the times. I believe the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, was right to infer an implicit right to privacy, even though no such thing is spelled out. I think the idea that the Founders’ “original intent” should govern every interpretation of the Constitution is loony — as if men who wrote with quill pens could somehow devise a blueprint for regulating the Internet.
‘But I also believe that if the Constitution says yes, you can’t just blithely pretend it says no. Yesterday’s decision appears to leave room for laws that place some restrictions on gun ownership but still observe the Second Amendment’s guarantee. If not, then the way to fix the Constitution is to amend it — not ignore it.’
Robinson calls the Constitution a “living document,” which means that the interpretation of its meaning needs to change with the times. He calls it “loony” to rely on the framers’ “original intent” as the proper guide for interpreting the Constitution. Yet he still concludes that “if the Constitution says yes, you can’t just blithely pretend it says no.”
Does he realize that by removing “original intent” as the ground and guide of proper interpretation he cannot object to anyone who would make the Constitution say “no” where it clearly says “yes”? After all, how does one know what the Constitution says apart from what its framers’ intended?
I am becoming more and more of the opinion that all readers need to take a basic course in hermeneutics. The fallacies of this editorial are so apparent, and such illogic is surprisingly common in the public discourse about Constitutional interpretation.