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Never would I have imagined that I’d spend half an hour today trying to get rid of a spider at work.

As I was sitting around this morning working my way through some of the paperwork that had accumulated overnight, I happened to notice a bit of movement out of the corner of my eye. I glanced over and didn’t notice anything except maybe a bit of dirt, so I didn’t really think too much about it. After a while, I saw some movement again and decided to go take a closer look. What I discovered was a much larger spider than anything I’d ever seen before. I had a wolf spider wandering around the floor.

In terms of pictures, the closest I could find was this shot, showing not only the size and markings, but also the two black front legs.

Knocking it out of the office was an interesting process that involved a sheet of paper and a bit of patience. With a tap of the paper, the spider would start charging off in some direction or other. With the paper as a wall, I could roughly direct its motion. Putting the paper in front of its running path made it come to a dead stop. Sometimes the thing would get stubborn and not run when tapped, which made matters a bit annoying at times. And then, of course, it occasionally decided to try running underneath something, and I wasn’t always fast enough to catch it with the paper, which also slowed things down.

Ultimately, I did manage to knock it out the door, at which point it ran away pretty quickly in search of shade.

Well, it took me long enough, but I think I finally made up my mind about DC v. Heller. Despite everyone on both sides of the issue being absolutely convinced of the correctness of their positions, I actually found this case to be pretty hard. Much to my pleasant surprise, both parties in the case did a wonderful job of describing the history of the Second Amendment. The parties’ briefs were obviously meant, first and foremost, as appeals to originalism.

The trouble with these competing histories is that each one contained a fatal flaw. On the pro-gun side, I was never able to find any argument which gave any effect at all to the prefatory clause of the Second Amendment, in severe violation of the rule that nothing in the Constitution should be read to have no meaning. Also on the pro-gun side was the problem, albeit a less severe one for me, of assuming that the Second Amendment confers some personal right to self defense with a gun; a right which has no textual basis whatsoever. On the anti-gun side, despite a lot of people saying that the Second Amendment provides an individual right, I found very little in their arguments which suggested that they actually believed it. Ultimately, I felt that the case came down to whose historical narrative was stronger, and that was an area which I was woefully unequipped to judge. And so, that’s where I got stuck.

What finally broke the logjam was when I realized that those historical narratives were completely beside the point. The only ground which must be surveyed to answer a Constitutional question is the territory of text and logic. If an answer is provided there, the case is over. I am now convinced that text and logic alone answer the question of what the Second Amendment actually means. And in my view, it isn’t exactly what either side has been saying.

As I’m sure we all know by now, the Second Amendment states:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

This does two things. First, it establishes that it is talking about a militia, which means that the militia must be part of any answer to questions of the amendment’s meaning. Second, it confers on every individual a right to keep and bear arms, which means that individuals acting alone must be the amendment’s beneficiaries. At first blush, an individual right that has something to do with a collective doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, which is, I think, why the very next step most people take is to seek out the amendment’s history. Since I’ve said that history doesn’t matter, I’m going to resist that temptation.

Instead, what I’m going to do is take a cue from Justice Stevens’ dissent. At one point, he likens the right to bear arms with the right First Amendment rights to petition and assemble, as rights which belong to “the people” but only make sense collectively. According to Justice Stevens, that means that the right, although it’s an individual one, can only attach to people who qualify into it by being part of a group. I think that is precisely backward. Both the right to petition and the right to assemble must attach before a petition or assembly have come into existence, otherwise, the government could, in principle, prevent either one before the collective forms by arresting the first individual involved. Put another way, both rights protect not just belonging to a group, but also forming up into one. In my view, the Second Amendment does the same thing: It protects not merely being in a militia, but also forming up into one.

A militia, it may be obviously said, is useless without arms. A militia is also useless without the individuals that compose it. In my one and only concession to history, I’ll note that even the formal militia was a rather fluid body built up from the general populace. As a result, we have a militia, we have a bunch of people, and we have a very fuzzy line distinguishing the two. For this to make any sense at all, people must be able to arm themselves for service on a moment’s notice. And, because going to the garrison would take too long, people need to be able to have their weapons with them. Thus, to allow a militia, people must have some reasonable means of arming themselves; or, conversely, that the government may not make it unreasonable to own a usable weapon.

With that said, I now turn my attention to the facts at issue in Heller. DC, like the rest of the country, is subject to federal laws regulating and prohibiting the ownership of certain types of weapons. On top of those laws, the District added two additional laws, one prohibiting hand guns and the other regulating away the keeping of usable forms of other standard civilian weapons. Standing alone, it is highly doubtful that any of these laws interfere with the reasonable ownership of a usable weapon. A ban on handguns, for instance, still allows for the purchase and use of shotguns and other weapons of the sort. A regulation that shotguns must be disassembled still allows for having a handgun at the ready. There is also nothing in the Second Amendment which suggests a right to keep and bear the arms of the owner’s choice (and, indeed, history seems to indicate that the government could tell you what kind of gun to buy; if you wanted a different kind of gun, but couldn’t afford to buy more than one, then that was simply too bad for you). Taken together, however, there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of choice left for what type of usable weapon an individual can reasonably own.

Without a reasonable alternative, an individual’s ability to form up into a militia is impacted, and the Second Amendment right is thereby infringed. Something needs to give way; in a case asking about the handgun ban, where striking down the handgun ban would bring the right back to life, the choice to be made is obvious. The handgun ban cannot survive. However, that is not to say that striking down the handgun ban is the only choice; merely that it is the only one that the case at hand permits. If the District wishes to legislate the handgun ban back into effect, it may do so, as long as it eases enough other regulations that the overall right remains intact.

Although it is my view that the above discussion resolves the case, I think it worth talking a bit more about the personal right to self defense with a gun, because of how serious an issue that is for the pro-gun movement. To reiterate what I said above, that right is nowhere to be found in the Second Amendment, and the Court was wrong to invent one there. That doesn’t mean that no such right exists. The right to defend yourself by a means proportional to a reasonably perceived threat is a right as old as the common law and is well recognized both by the courts and by statute. Given that the Second Amendment tells us that people are entitled to guns of some kind, the average person will select a type of gun which is useful both for militia service and for self defense. Nobody has suggested that an individual has a gun in a situation where its self-defensive use is warranted should be afraid of prosecution. The Second Amendment is not at all required to guarantee that.

For the reasons outlined above, I would hold that the DC handgun ban is unconstitutional to the extent that it tips the entire body of District law against giving effect to the right to have a weapon at the ready for forming up into a militia. I would, therefore, concur in the judgment of the Court.

Opened up the mail today and saw a cardboard envelope from the Registrar’s Office at Michigan State University. Contained within the envelope was a very fancy folder and inside the folder was four things. The first was a brochure telling me that I should join the alumni association. The second was a letter from the Registrar. The third was a copy of my official transcript. And the fourth was a bit of parchment paper with some fancy lettering on it.

Seems I really am an MBA now. I even have the piece of paper to prove it.

It is finished. I walked tonight. It was pretty awesome actually getting there and doing that. The prelude sucked.

So, ok, the pre-prelude was actually pretty awesome. I get there and there are a bunch of us hanging around. I spot Kara sitting up by Sumaru and decide to go up and say hello. Kara lays into me mildly for not showing up to a thing earlier in the afternoon to get a team (less Simon) picture. Uh, whoops. >.>

Anyway. Stacy shows up, so does Greg, eventually the whole group migrates to the back row where Kris and Meighan are all sitting. Samira eventually also shows up there, and so does Paul. It’s pretty much the awesomest group of people to be sitting by, honestly. We probably talked way more than we should have, but what were they going to do, deny us our degrees?

Most of the talking happened while our commencement speaker, Peter H. Raven, gave a commencement address which all of us found to be remarkably inappropriate to the venue. Normally, I expect graduation speeches to be a bit of stuff about the speaker’s past experience, how he overcame obsticles, charted a new path, basically did things that can be construed as inspiring, and, in so doing, hopefully inspire the graduates to future greatness. Instead, what I got was a rant about God and Global Warming. Yes, that’s right, God and Global Warming. With explicit references to Jesus and The Bible, no less. At a public university. What the heck? He eventually sat down to a thunderous applause, and I’m seriously not sure how much of the applause was for his speech or just for the fact that he was done talking; I know I was applauding the latter.

But be that as it may, the rest of the ceremony went off without a hitch. The doctoral students all got hooded and degreed. I was a little disappointed they didn’t read off the dissertation titles like they did for the UMich CoE ceremony, but given the number of students there, it probably would have taken way too long if they’d tried.

Dean Duncan of the business school, I should mention, was hilarious. He alternated between completely lost in his own little world to fiercely attentive to everythng going on. He brought some binder thing and spent most of the ceremony taking notes. When he wasn’t taking notes, he was just laying back kinda spaced out, or staring really intensely at the PhD students walking past the stage. Basically, whenever things got boring, we just looked over at the dean, and laughed a bit.

Also got to shake the hands of a few of the professors I had. Dr. Sedatole was there, followed by Dr. Closs and Dr. Swink. Dr. McCarthy, who I had for one of my IT classes, came out of the big pool of assembled faculty to shake my hand, which was nice.

I can certainly come up with better ways to have spent my graduation, but I guess it was pretty ok overall. I’m glad to be done, though. No doubt about it.

Well, it took nearly a week, but the happy part of my birthday finally got here. My parents brought my grandpa up to East Lansing yesterday to celebrate our birthdays. The result was a fun night of talking, eating, and hockey watching. The only problem was the loss that MSU handed to U of M; but even at that, the game was certainly not short on excitement.

For my birthday, I got some pants, tools, and books. The tools consist of saw blades and drill bits, part of my parents’ continuing effort to make sure I have a well stocked toolbox before I move to who knows where when school ends. The book is The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism, which I sincerely hope is better than its series-mate about the Constitution which I found to be rather bad. My parents also delivered Rachel’s present to me, Jeff Toobin’s The Nine, which is one of two prominent books on the Supreme Court that came out last year.

And of course, I now have cake. And left over food from the restaurant. And free tacos at Taco Bell. Yay!

All that’s left is to figure out which book to read first.

I probably should have thought to start writing this entry sooner. It would have given me something to do earlier this afternoon as I sat in a Verizon Wireless store on campus waiting for someone to take a look at my slightly defective phone. I hadn’t really expected to spend an hour of my life trying to get a slightly annoying little glob of orange pixels fixed, but that’s apparently the price to pay for service on Grand River.

The good news, I guess, is that the annoying amount of waiting actually paid off. Even though it took about 45 minutes to get to talk to someone, despite being the second name down on the waiting list, I did finally get the chance to show someone the odd decoration that had appeared. From there, the girl at the counter looked up my phone, saw that it was under warranty, and set about doing whatever it is they do there to get me a new one. Naturally, they didn’t have a new phone of that sort in stock, so she had to place an order to get one shipped my way by FedEx. Theoretically, I’ll get it Friday.

Assuming that happens, I’ll be back up there on Friday in order to get them to activate the phone for me and also to see if I can get them to transfer my phonebook for free. I’m hoping that because I’m replacing defective hardware rather than buying something new, I won’t have to pay whatever absurd fee it is they charge for transferring information from an old phone to a newly purchased one. With a bit of luck, that whole process will also only take an hour or so, and I can go back to having a phone that actually works correctly.

I wouldn’t mind service times involving waiting less than 45 minutes to talk to someone, though. Chatting with some of the others in there, I get the sense they would appreciate a quicker turnaround, too.