Vin Suprynowicz

The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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I wrote recently on uniformed cops shooting undercover cops (one such incident having occurred at a college football game last fall in Orlando, Fla.) -- and the bizarre proposal that to solve this problem undercover cops must stop carrying guns so their uniformed brethren can continue to feel free to shoot any “plainclothes” black man who’s seen to have a gun.

This drew a scattering of the usual recycled nonsense from the eager bootlickers of the state, but also this more thoughtful reply, from Paul in Huntington, W.Va.:

Hi, Vin -- Today’s is one of your best. I went to Marshall University in the ’60s and heard quite a bit about the shooting at Marshall’s game in Orlando. There were some revealing photos and discussion here:

Apparently, If I read the article correctly, the undercover officer had already shot the tailgater when he was shot. In the spirit of the crazy headline, “ ‘Something went wrong,’ observers say after plane crash,” we can certainly say that uniforms serve a purpose and an undercover cop takes an extraordinary risk because of just this kind of situation.

The situation was probably made worse because according to the operation was part of an ATF sting operation on underage drinking at the tailgate party. We might wonder whether the tragedy would have occurred at all if they had not insinuated themselves into what was obviously a local matter.

Here in Huntington, W.Va., we have an open container law. You can’t have an open container of an alcoholic beverage, even beer, in public. That is, unless you’re at the Marshall tailgate party. Money talks louder than community standards when the money is as big as Marshall games. ... II read your column regularly and appreciate your work. -- Paul in Huntington.

# # #

As to the (unfortunately) more typical replies: I’m tired of giving space to a certain brand of smug and self-important, recycled lawyerly double-talk. We’ve all heard it: The Second and 14th Amendments don’t really guarantee any pre-existing, God-given individual right to keep and bear arms; they were only intended (in 1789) to guarantee the right of the states to have their National Guards (established in 1917), blah blah blah.

No room here to recite my thorough evisceration of this nonsense from pages 321-349 of “The Ballad of Carl Drega.” (In fact, all of Chapters 6 through 8 of that book deal with these issues.)

Space also prohibits me from reprinting here all the relevant chapters of Prof. Akhil Reed Amar’s 1998 book “The Bill of Rights,” demonstrating that this long-discredited nonsense will no longer fly even at the reliably leftist Yale Law School.

Instead, herewith the necessarily abbreviated, “Cliff Notes” version:

Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, primary author of the Second Amendment as well as the rest of the Bill of Rights, rose in 1788 to advise us that “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves. ...To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”

In his aforementioned book “The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction,” Professor Akhil Reed Amar of the Yale Law School notes, “Several modern scholars have read the (Second) amendment as protecting only arms bearing in organized ‘state militias,’ like SWAT teams and National Guard units. ...

“This reading doesn’t quite work. The states’-rights reading puts great weight on the word militia, but the word appears only in the amendment’s subordinate clause. The ultimate right to keep and bear arms belongs to ‘the people,’ not the states. ...

“In 1789, when used without any qualifying adjective, ‘the militia’ referred to all citizens capable of bearing arms,” Professor Amar continues. “The seeming tension between the dependent and main clauses of the Second Amendment thus evaporates on closer inspection -- the ‘militia’ is identical to ‘the people’ in the core sense described above. Indeed, the version of the amendment initially passed by the House, only to be stylistically shortened in the Senate, explicitly defined the militia as ‘composed of the body of the People.’ ”

Let us now turn to the Oct. 16, 2001 decision of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in New Orleans, in the case United States v. Emerson.

“We have found no historical evidence that the Second Amendment was intended to convey militia power to the states ... or applies only to members of a select militia while on active duty,” the appeals court ruled in the Emerson case, docket No. 99-10331. “All of the evidence indicates that the Second Amendment, like other parts of the Bill of Rights, applies to and protects individual Americans.

“We find that the history of the Second Amendment reinforces the plain meaning of the text, namely that it protects individual Americans in their right to keep and bear arms whether or not they are members of a select militia or performing military service or training.”

In the Emerson decision, the Fifth Circuit Court specifically rejected any reading of the Second Amendment’s preamble -- “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state” -- as meaning anything other than a simple directive that the entire body of the people, capable of bearing arms, must continue to be allowed to bear arms of current military usefulness, “such as the pistol involved here,” without requiring any additional government permission, paperwork, license, or authorization.

The court even cited as its authority no less a personage in the history of the Constitution than James Madison, who wrote in Federalist No. 46 that the proposed power of the Congress “to raise and support armies” posed no threat to liberty, since any such army, if misused, “would be opposed (by) a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands,” and then noting, “the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation,” in contrast to “the several kingdoms of Europe,” where “the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

And I don’t think he meant BB guns.

These boot-lickers of the oppressor, groveling in obeisance to the trolls who would turn us into a cowering kitchen herd of disarmed Eloi, stained yellow from rolling over on their backs and peeing themselves in terror that this might again become a nation of proud, armed, independent and freedom loving men, had better get themselves some new lies. The one that starts, “You forgot the introductory clause about the militia, nyah nyah nyah,” is starting to wear a little thin.


Folks occasionally ask me what became of one character or another who show up in my non-fiction books.

In “The Ballad of Carl Drega” (2002) I wrote about San Leandro, Calif., the little town 20 miles southeast of San Francisco which the California Legislature in 1997 named the “Sausage Capital of California,” and of Stuart Alexander, proprietor and great-grandson of the founder of the 78-year-old Santos Linguisa factory.

By June of 2000 Mr. Alexander had obviously had all he could stand of state and federal food inspectors coming around, demanding that he change the temperatures at which he handled his meat, and so on.

“To all our great customers,” read the most prominent sign he had posted in his store by June 22, 2000, “The USDA is coming into our plant harassing our employees and me, making it impossible to make our great product. Gee, if all meat plants could be in business 79 years without one complaint, the meat inspectors would not have jobs. Therefore, we are taking legal action against them.”

In fact, the facility had just reopened that June 22, after having been shut down for “health violations,” when two state and two federal food inspectors decided to pay Mr. Alexander another visit.

I’d lost track of what had become of Mr. Alexander, another misguided soul whose journey “over the edge” should nonetheless generate some contemplation of the relentless excesses of the modern regulatory state, when I stumbled on a Jan. 11 Associated Press dispatch that “Self-proclaimed ‘sausage king’ Stuart Alexander died Tuesday morning in San Quentin State Prison while on death row for killing three meat inspectors.

“Alexander, 44, was held in a suicide watch cell and was found unresponsive by a guard conducting a routine check,” Sgt. Eric Messick told The AP.

The cause of death was not immediately known, but Messick said there were no signs of suicide or foul play, adding “Alexander’s mental health had deteriorated since being sentenced to death in February on three counts of first-degree murder for the 2000 shooting deaths of two federal meat inspectors and one state inspector at his Santos Linguisa factory in San Leandro.”

The convict had gained a lot of weight; there’s some speculation he effectively ate himself to death.

“The entire incident was captured on Alexander’s surveillance videotape. ... Defense lawyers had argued that Alexander simply snapped and killed the inspectors only after months of harassment. ...”

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