The Big Day

The Supreme Court will be hearing arguments in DC v. Heller today, and people have been lining up since Sunday night to watch the show. Unlike camping out for a new Star Wars film or Harry Potter book, however, the lucky few who get a seat in Heller could very well be watching the case which will decide whether the Bill of Rights means anything anymore. Or, for that matter, the entire Constitution.

So how bad could a “collective rights” ruling really be? Well, put on your tinfoil hat, and join me as we examine how such a precedent could be used to gut other provisions of the Bill of Rights which mention “the people.”

Amendment 1

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

“The people” mentioned here in the First Amendment are the same ones found in the Second. Now, let’s assume the Supreme Court rules against Heller, and apply the District’s logic and write a bad law..


This Act may be cited as the ‘Ensuring National Salesman Livelihood And Vibrant Economy Act’ or the ENSLAVE Act.


Congress finds the following:

(1) Whereas the Supreme Court of the United States has found that “the people” is a legal term of art which means the governments of the several States;

(2) Whereas the governments of the several States have a right to peaceably assemble in State Assembly buildings;

(3) Whereas the assembly of groups of citizens in private dwellings affects interstate commerce by depriving shopping centers, restaurants, theaters, and other commercial enterprises of business;

(4) Whereas the health and safety risks of private assemblies in facilities which are not properly inspected and licensed affects interstate commerce by placing an undue burden on the national health care system.


Section ???? of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

‘(?) It shall be unlawful for five or more unrelated persons to assemble in any dwelling, building, or other venue which is not properly licensed by a Federal, State, or local agency to conduct business in a manner which safely accommodates visitors in accordance with OSHA guidelines except that–

[insert a bunch of exceptions for legislators, and Only Ones here]’

Tack on some definitions, criminal penalties, Federal carrot-and-stick funding rules, and perhaps some exemptions for public parks and you have yourself a nice foundation for a police state. You could also swap out the assembly bits, focus on the right to petition the Government for a redress of grievances, and make it illegal for anyone other than State representatives to contact members of Congress. After all, it’s not like Congress hasn’t tried to outlaw political speech before.

And, of course, redefining “the people” to mean the government would pretty much destroy the Fourth Amendment. But that’s already being eroded as well, so, umm, yea..