In his Nov. 13 op-ed article, National Rifle Association General Counsel Michael K. McCabe suggests "remedial instruction" on the Bill of Rights for Erwin Griswold, who was dean of Harvard Law School for two decades. Apparently Mr. Griswold disqualified himself as a constitutional scholar because he dared to question the NRA's view of the Second Amendment {op-ed, Nov. 4}.

Before we decide who needs remedial work on the Constitution, it is worth noting Mr. McCabe's own misunderstanding of the process of constitutional interpretation. Mr. McCabe's argument rests primarily on the conclusions of a congressional subcommittee and a law professor. Under our system, however, the meaning of the Constitution is determined not by congressional subcommittees or law professors but by the federal courts and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. McCabe does not deny (nor could he) Mr. Griswold's assertion that no federal court in history has declared a firearms statute unconstitutional on Second Amendment grounds. And he mysteriously dismisses as not "on point" two decisions of the Supreme Court (Burton v. Sills and Lewis v. United States), which as Mr. Griswold explained, are inconsistent with any idea that the right to bear arms is a fundamental personal liberty.

The NRA's absolute right to bear AK-47s may be a potent rallying cry for its members. As a matter of constitutional law, it is a dead letter.


Director, Legal Action Project

Center to Prevent Handgun Violence Washington