The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 7/30/12, 8:00 PM ET

Scalia could help Rewrite gun laws?

In the Rewrite, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell explains that the most important thing said about gun and ammunition control in America after our most recent mass murder was said on FOX News by America's most conservative Supreme Court Justice.

A surprise for the NRA? Justice Scalia may be open to tighter gun control laws

Updated

The National Rifle Association vowed to fight back against the aggressive gun control measures proposed by President Obama on Wednesday. After the president unveiled a sweeping plan paired with a separate 23-point executive order to curb gun violence, the NRA released a statement: “Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation… our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”

The fierce pro-gun lobbying group dubbed their mission “the fight of the century.” In a fundraising letter sent to the group’s four million members, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre fanned fears that Obama would take away all guns in violation of the Second Amendment. “I warned you this day was coming and now it’s here,” he wrote. “It’s not about protecting your children. It’s not about stopping crime. It’s about banning your guns … PERIOD!”

But a vision of a future with stricter gun laws isn’t Obama’s alone. The unlikeliest of sources suggested it could be a possibility under the Constitution: the biggest conservative on the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia.

While not explicitly arguing in favor of stricter regulations, the judge suggested there’s room for more gun control legislation in relation to “modern weapons” of the 21st century during an interview with Fox News Sunday on July 29, 2012, shortly after the deadly theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado:

CHRIS WALLACE: You wrote in 2008, the opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, the majority opinion that said the Second Amendment means what it says, people have a right to bear arms. Question: how far does that constitutional right go? Can a legislature ban semiautomatic weapons or can it ban magazines that carry 100 rounds without violating an individual’s constitutional right to bear arms?

ANTONIN SCALIA: What the opinion Heller said is that it will have to be decided in future cases. What limitations upon the right to bear arms are permissible. Some undoubtedly are, because there were some that were acknowledged at the time. For example, there was a tort called affrighting, which if you carried around a really horrible weapon just to scare people, like a head ax or something, that was I believe a misdemeanor. So yes, there are some limitations that can be imposed. What they are will depend on what the society understood was reasonable limitation. There were certainly location limitations where –

CHRIS WALLACE: But what about these technological limitations? Obviously, we’re not talking about a handgun or a musket. We’re talking about a weapon that can fire a hundred shots in a minute.

ANTONIN SCALIA: We’ll see. I mean, obviously, the amendment does not apply to arms that cannot 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.

CHRIS WALLACE: So, how do you decide if you’re a textualist?

ANTONIN SCALIA: Very carefully. My starting point and ending point probably will be what limitations are within the understood limitations that the society had at the time. They had some limitation on the nature of arms that could be born. So, we’ll see what those limitations are as applied to modern weapons.


msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell said that statement gives “hope that we will someday, not soon but some day, be able to rewrite gun and ammunition laws in this country to bring us a step closer to sanity and a step closer to what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment.”

A surprise for the NRA? Justice Scalia may be open to tighter gun control laws

Updated