Stick to History Professor

I demand the arrest of Thomas William Heyck, professor of History at Northwestern University for this vicious and seditious attack on the Second Amendment. Because clearly the right to free speech only applies to goose quill and parchment! None of this newfangled Internets.

16 thoughts on “Stick to History Professor”

  1. “viscous”? Yeah, sort of. His discussion doesn’t really flow well.

  2. A “professor or history,” who should prehaps read the words of some of the writers of that constitution he’s belittling… seems the intent in their own words was to ensure the people had the means to stop a government from oppressing it’s people. Hardly meant those people should be armed LESS well than the forces of the opressive government. Should be “North EASTERN University” or maybe “North Manhattan University.”

  3. Northwestern University is in Evanston, a suburb of Chicago. That should tell you all you need to know about why he thinks that way.

    (Not that my history professors are much better.)

  4. The Chicago Tribune has an ample supply of these professors with stacks of anti-gun papers like this one.
    They even ran a straight editorial after the Heller decision calling for the repeal of the obsolescent Second Amendment.
    The really chilling op-eds are those from the next Supreme Court Justice Cass Sunstein.
    He make today’s essayist look like a putz.
    Be assured that on the Northwestern campus, the Second would indeed be repealed in a landslide.
    And the First effectively already has been.

  5. This got posted to the IllinoisCarry forums. There are two important things I wanted to tell the professor:

    1. That argument wasn’t fresh or innovative or clever 15 years ago when I first began shooting holes in it, although back then it was at least new to me.

    2. In your first line you mention that you’re an advocate of “making” the Constitution “fit” the present day’s circumstances. Before I bother discussing the rest of your nonsense, you can start by clarifying how we are to change the Constitution to suit your modern sensibilities. If it’s anything other than an amendment requested and ratified by the process set forth in Article Five of that document, we have nothing more to say to each other. Piss off.

  6. I picked up on that article too. I especially liked the way he pointed out that the Scalia logic ignores the first phrase about a “well regulated militia.”

  7. Yup. An argument that wasn’t persuasive for the previous hundred years . . . . and this professor just repeats it again as if it’s acquired some kind of force by magic in recent days.
    “the first phrase about a well regulated militia” is what English teachers like myself call a “dependent clause” or a “subordinate clause.” Because it cannot stand on its own as a sentence (hey, look, there’s another one,) it has no meaning independent of the clause that follows it. That one, which you might call “the second phrase about never infringing on the right of the people to keep and bear arms” is what English teachers call an independent clause, because it stands on its own even if you remove the dependent clause entirely. Check it out:

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,”

    Not a sentence. Not capable of serving as a sentence (that is, a complete thought) without a lot of additional information. Leaves the reader with the question “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, what?” This can explain some reasoning, but it can’t be used to nullify a declarative sentence or an independent clause. Speaking of which, check this out:

    “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    Capitalize the “T” and that’s clearly a complete sentence (and thus a complete thought.) It clearly states that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed (look, there it is again!) The dependent clause tells us why the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. You and the “professor” are arguing that since a reason for the command in the independent clause was given, that reason somehow justifies disregarding the actual command and disobeying it.

    That won’t fly. It’s a ridiculous argument. It’s a dead end. It failed to persuade American citizens for roughly a century, and then it got a hearing before the Supreme Court of the United States and failed there, too. You can try to throw U.S. v. Miller out there if you like, but there’s an important comparison to be made there, too. In Miller, only the ridiculous argument above was presented; no one even appeared for the other side, much less made any argument. Under those circumstances, the argument prevailed by default. But in Heller, both sides were presented by able advocates, and your argument crashed and burned. I wouldn’t be surprised if you pointed out that, from your point of view, the Heller court was biased in favor of gun rights before the case was brought. That was probably true of four justices. On the other hand, I could say the opposite about the Miller court and several since . . . and if you’re going to throw your lot in with crazy ostriches like Heyck, there’s no way I’m going to apologize for Scalia. At least Scalia’s grammatical analysis doesn’t require that I ignore the clear, simple rules of the English language.

    English doesn’t have very many clear, simple rules, and we should encourage it to keep as many as possible.

  8. Some History Professor. To claim that and not know the difference between an “Originalist” and a “Strict Constructionist”!

    Obviously, he has acquired his degrees through being an Equal Opportunity poster-child.

  9. Prior to Heller, Evanston was actually worse than Chicago, which at least allowed residents to register and retain handguns they already owned prior to the ban. Evanston had no grandfathering, no registration, no nothing – just a flat out ban on all handguns. I have no doubt that Hale DeMar’s case would have gone exactly as it did if DeMar had lived in Evanston rather than neighboring Wilmette. [Technically, it COULD have happened that way in Chicago, too, but methinks the Chicago authorities would have found better things to do.]

    The only thing about Evanston’s gun ordinance that was not having to register long guns. That, plus the fact that Evanston, along with Wilmette, Moron Grove and every other suburb except Oak Park, had the good sense to repeal its handgun ban after Heller rather than join up with Chicago in defending it. I think that was more of an economic decision than anything else; if McDonald goes wrong they’ll re-enact their ban in record time.

    As bad as NU and environs are on the Second Amendment, though, I’m not sure the same can be said about the First. I attended as a grad student in the early to mid-1990s, and at that time, at least, their position on speech was to voluntarily subject themselves to the First Amendment as though they were a public institution. Is anyone aware of that having changed (I left in 1996)?

  10. One of the wonderful things about the Heller decision is that the Supreme Court directly addressed those who make the same frivolous argument as Professor Heyck:

    “Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not interpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications, e.g., Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U. S. 844, 849 (1997), and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search, e.g., Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27, 35-36 (2001), the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”

  11. To read this guy’s article, you’d think that the whole gun rights argument emerged Athena-like from the head of Antonin Scalia. No reference to the scholarship of Dave Kopel, Clayton Cramer, et al, that was convincing enough that even Lawrence Tribe had to give it some merit. Nope, some right-wing judge appointed by Reagan just thought it all up himself.

  12. He apparently started this as an attack on Justice Scalia’s logic. For three of the first four sentences. Then, without explaining his objection, spends a few thousand words on an idiotic attack against doing what he claims to want, interpreting the Constitution as it applies to life today.

    Apparently, he thinks Scalia, and most of the rest of us, would not interpret Shakespeare’s “A rose by any other name” as being applicable to, say, tulips.

  13. Something else has occurred to me:

    As I posted above, the Heller decision directly addressed the bogus “flintlock only” argument. Yet in presenting himself as an expert critic of the Heller decision, Professor Heyck repeats the “flintlock only” argument with no indication at all that the Court had directly addressed the issue in the decision. The most logical conclusion is that Professor Heyck is presenting himself as an expert critic of the Heller decision…without having read it!


  14. He doesn’t actually mean to have the flintlock argument taken seriously . . . he’s using it as a sort of double strawman. He’s saying that Scalia’s “originalist” argument (a strawman, since he defines that argument in a radically different way than Scalia does) is as ridiculous as the flintlock-only theory, and thus one is the same as the other. Then he goes through the flintlock-only theory to get people to react: “That’s crazy!”
    When they do, in his mind, they are admitting that Scalia’s argument is just as crazy. There are a couple of problems:

    1. As stated above, Scalia’s reliance on original intent is nothing like simply deciding that anything that hadn’t been invented and widely popularized before 1788 exists in some kind of legal n-space outside Constitutionality. The two concepts are not related, and conflating them is wrong.

    2. Scalia’s reliance on original intent takes into account changes made by the ONLY legitimate method of “making the Constitution relevant to modern society”–that is, amendments offered and then ratified by three-fourths of the states, according to the process laid out in Article V. Thus it does not ignore changes in society, it simply fails to acknowledge changes to the document itself that Heyck thinks should have been made by illegitimate means.

    3. OK, one more than a couple. The third problem is that I suspect this is one of those “I was kidding unless you say yes” moments. Heyck advances this ridiculous and outdated theory as a way to advance his strawman argument . . . but if anyone agrees with him, and says “You’re right! They didn’t have semi-automatics back then!” what happens next? Would he stop that person and explain that he only argued that point as a rhetorical device, or would he cackle right along?

    Professor Heyck studies “radical” politicians in the last two centuries or so of British history. I wonder whether he wishes our own politicians could be as radical as the leftists who took over Britain during that period.

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