The Supreme Court Rules 9-0: No Second Amendment, No First

By John Zmirak Published on June 3, 2024

Well, almost. (That headline was too good to resist.) In fact, the latest Supreme Court decision reaffirming the plain meaning of the U.S. Constitution proves that our First and Second amendment liberties are profoundly, even inextricably intertwined.

This crucial case concerned the efforts of the State of New York to crush the National Rifle Association via lawfare. As Reuters reports:

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday revived the National Rifle Association’s lawsuit accusing a New York state official of coercing banks and insurers to avoid doing business with the gun rights group in a ruling that warned public officials against wielding their power to punish speech they dislike.

The justices, in a 9-0 decision authored by liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor, threw out a lower court’s ruling that had dismissed the NRA’s 2018 lawsuit against Maria Vullo, a former superintendent of New York’s Department of Financial Services.

At issue is whether Vullo wielded her regulatory power to coerce New York financial institutions into cutting ties with the NRA in violation of protections under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment against government restrictions on free speech.

The NRA accused Vullo of unlawfully retaliating against it for its constitutionally protected gun rights advocacy by targeting it with an “implicit censorship regime” following a 2018 mass shooting in which 17 people were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

“Ultimately, the critical takeaway is that the First Amendment prohibits government officials from wielding their power selectively to punish or suppress speech, directly or, as alleged here, through private intermediaries,” Sotomayor wrote.

A Censorship End-Run Around the Constitution

New York was lawlessly using its enormous regulatory and financial power to bribe, bully, or otherwise strongarm banks, insurance companies, and other crucial vendors into cutting ties with the NRA. The Supreme Court rightly found that the state was violating the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, even though it did so indirectly — not by open censorship, but back-room coercion intended to crush the NRA as an organization. The Stream has already reported on how “debanking” and other private-sector modes of invidious discrimination against conservatives and Christians are both rife and proliferating.

If the state of New York could get away with doing that to the NRA, they could do it to any pro-life group or church (and indeed, is doing just that, on a dozen fronts). We see here how the Administrative State, run by unaccountable appointees insulated from voters, does end-runs around the Constitution in order to turn a free republic into a top-down, micromanaged anthill.

A Fascist State for Trousered Apes

That’s the kind of society sought by people who have renounced the Christian vision of the human person as free, responsible, dignified, and made in the image of God. That was the kind of person for whom our Constitution was made. If you don’t believe that such people even exist, but that instead we are merely trousered apes spat out by random mutation, then you won’t support our Constitution. That’s why leftists and other Darwinian materialists don’t. Aware of the disorder inside their own souls, and profoundly cynical about the value of human life itself, they gravitate toward dictatorship.

I argue at length in my new book, No Second Amendment, No First, that gun rights aren’t just some historical Anglo-American quirk. They are, in fact, the logical implication of the Christian view of the person to whom God granted inalienable rights, including the crucial right to rebel when all those other rights are attacked. James Madison, the main author of our Constitution, cited an armed citizenry as the crucial lynchpin, the last-ditch backup enforcement mechanism for the entire republic, should a tyrannical government arise. All our other founders agreed, which is why the Second Amendment passed unanimously.

First They Disarmed the Jews

Tyrants know that instinctively, which is why every time they seize power, the next thing they take is the citizens’ guns. As genocide scholar R.J. Rummel documented in his classic Death by Government, between 1914 and 1990, at least 170 million civilians (perhaps many more) were murdered by their governments. From Cambodia to Germany, from Russia to Cuba, those victims had only one factor in common: They had all been disarmed by their governments first.

So when New York seeks to trash the First Amendment in order to silence advocates of the Second, we shouldn’t be surprised. Instead, we should see a pattern, and learn from history so we aren’t doomed to repeat it.

The First and Second Amendments are key threads in a precious, Providential tapestry our founders carefully wove out of multiple traditions: Christian Common Law, English political tradition, and the biblical vision of the human person. Pull out any of these, and the whole thing disintegrates into filthy rags.

And that’s what the Left is doing, relentlessly, like an army of ravenous insects: gnawing, ripping, and shredding. We saw in the show trial of Donald Trump and the January 6 persecutions that our elites sneer at the impartial rule of law. We suffered through the lockdowns and George Floyd riots in 2020 the impact of anarcho-tyranny (anarchy for me, tyranny for thee), which scoffs at the notion of justice being blind.

Sowing Chaos for Its Own Sake

Building good things and conserving them in this fallen world is a slow and arduous process; destroying them is easy. Imagine all the words of the Our Father set in old-fashioned metal type for Gutenberg-era printing. There’s only one correct arrangement, which gets the spelling and grammar right. Imagine that some street thug looting the print shop (to protest “systemic racism” or “transphobia” or “unicorn privilege”) threw that tray of type into the air. It wouldn’t form coherent words, much less sentences, much less the prayer Jesus taught us. That looter could toss the tray a million times for a million years, and it wouldn’t produce any sense.

That’s what the Left is doing now: sowing chaos on purpose, from our bedrooms to our borders. They aren’t even trying (as the old-time Communists did) to impose some new and coherent — if unhinged and utopian — form of order. Instead, they’re just smashing and grabbing. The Left used to generate chaos in the pursuit of attaining power. Now, the principalities and powers goad our elites to do the opposite: They’re seeking power as a means with chaos as the goal. If you don’t believe me, steel yourself and ask some leftist what he actually wants for our country, and what his rational plans are for attaining it. Don’t expect him to be able to answer in anything other than canned slogans, threats, and primal grunts.

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This is the degeneration which Fyodor Dostoevsky predicted more than 100 years ago in his novel The Possessed. He depicted the degeneration of liberals into progressives, then their devolution into barely rational nihilists.

The same people who 10 years ago defended same-sex “marriage” using language about “tolerance” and “live and let live” now want the FBI infiltrating our churches and the authorities castrating our kids. They can’t even remember how they came to believe in totally open borders, 47 genders, and mass forced vaccination with untested experimental products. That’s because their rational minds were never the decisive factor in what they believed or thought. Something else — or someone else — is masterminding that operation. He is as old as time, and his Social Security number has only three digits.


John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or coauthor of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. His newest book is No Second Amendment, No First.

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