The battle for the Second Amendment, in my lifetime, has turned nearly 180 degrees. When I was a kid (and a liberal), things were looking pretty bleak; US V. Miller was broadly (and mistakenly) accepted as a precedent; the media and big government culture largely regarded firearms as a social illness that needed to be controlled and then eradicated.
But in one of the greatest grass-roots political movements in American history, millions of law-abiding citizens have turned the tide, for now – vote by vote, state by state, and finally, even turning much of this nation’s bobbleheaded “legal elite” around, to the point where the forces of good prevailed in the Supreme Court two years ago, in the Heller decision. And with any luck, sometime in the next month or so, the McDonald case will incorporate Heller to all fifty states, causing the “individual rights” interpretation of the Second Amendment to become binding on all lower levels of government.
This is good.
One thing one can not say is that the human rights and civil liberties interpretation of the Second Amendment won because the broad sweep of the extreme “progressive” movement got especially better informed on the subject.
Because if this post at Mahablog is any indication, we have a long, long way to go.
Not content with merely supporting an individual right to own firearms, the National Rifle Association is hellbent on eliminating all restrictions on any citizens carrying guns anywhere he or she wants, including churches, workplaces, and now bars and restaurants. This is in spite of the fact that even in the most 2nd-amendment lovin’ red states a large majority of people think it’s a real bad idea for a bunch of drunken yahoos to be packing heat.
So many responses.
For starters: the term “packing heat” should be a signal that whomever is writing really knows nothing about the topic. I know – it’s a correlation that doesn’t equal causation, but there is an extremely high correlation between people who use the phrase (which has been otherwise absent from American English since the 1930s, except in old gangster movies) and abject ignorance on the subject.
Next – “Maha” claims that “big majorities” oppose the rights of legal permit-holders to carry in churches, bars and restaurants. I’m not sure where she gets this – I’d love to see a cite – but it reminds me of the polls the “progressives tossed about from the seventies through the nineties that claimed a huge majority supported gun control. The devil was in the details; the vast majority approve of some controls. Keeping guns away from criminals and convicted felons is “gun control”, and I favor it; I’d be part of that putative “vast majority”. It’s fodder for giggly statistical games, but it’s not really honest.
Because the only numbers that really matter are these; a law-abiding citizen with a carry permit (which proves, in 40 states, that he or she has no criminal record, no documented drug or alcohol problems, and in many of them has passed a skills course) is vastly less likely to harm you or anyone else than the general public – as in “two orders of magnitude” less.
Yes, the new Tennessee law that lifts all restrictions on where a citizen can carry a concealed weapon, including into bars, provides that the carrier must abstain from drinking.
I have to wonder – do these people either read, or talk with each other?
Because it was two years ago that this blog humiliated the Minnesoros “Independent” on this exact question. It’s been legal,l in überliberal Minnesota, to carry permitted guns in bars since 2005, provided one’s blood alcohol level is below .04 – half the level allowed to drive a car. This is true in many other “shall issue” states.
You don’t have to look very hard to find stories of people shooting people in bars. But you have to look long and hard to find any involving legal carry permit-holders.
The NRA pushed hard for the new Tennessee law:
The NRA’s argument is that while the militia may be “well-regulated,” any restriction on an individual citizen’s ability to carry a firearm amounts to an “abridgment” of the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. This assumes that all such rights are absolute and untouchable by law under all circumstances, but we certainly have never treated any other right that way.
And we don’t treat the Second Amendment that way.
“Maha” writes imprecisely – which is as good as most “progressives” can do on the subject, to be fair. The NRA is pretty absolutist about the rights of law-abiding individual citizens. The NRA has also led the way on laws to punish gun possession and use by criminals.
The rub, of course, is that “progressives” never, ever distinguish between the law-abiding and criminals when the topic is guns (or, for that matter, quite a few other topics as well) – which we see in the following clip:
Freedom of speech doesn’t include a right to publish and distribute hard-core pornography, for example. Freedom of religion doesn’t rubber stamp human sacrifice.
That “Maha” thinks my right as someone with a clean criminal record is on par with human sacrifice is almost as telling as the fact she thinks that there are any restrictions on hard-core porn.
The NRA is using bullying tactics to impose its will on lawmakers, even when a whopping majority of constituents (and probably the lawmakers’ consciences, if they have any) disagree with the NRA’s position. There are some cities and states in which a big majority would prefer some level of legal gun control, for safety’s sake.
If decades of statistic don’t show you that controlling the rights of the law-abiding in the interest of “safety” isnt’ a canard, the example of Chicago is probably lost on you.
Anyway – the issue is at a bit of a head, with the nomination of Elena Kagan to the SCOTUS, and with the high court’s upcoming McDonald decision.
Now the wingnuts are screaming that Elena Kagan is opposed to gun rights because –
Elena Kagan said as a U.S. Supreme Court law clerk in 1987 that she was “not sympathetic” toward a man who contended that his constitutional rights were violated when he was convicted for carrying an unlicensed pistol.
Note the “unlicensed” part.
We do. That’s the point; it is impossible, in DC, Chicago and other cities, for the law-abiding citizen to get the “license”. In other cities – New York is a great example, as was Minnesota until 2003 – it was entirely a matter of the applicant’s political clout and connections.
More recently she has said,
“There is no question, after Heller, that the Second Amendment guarantees individuals the right to keep and bear arms and that this right, like others in the Constitution, provides strong although not unlimited protection against governmental regulation,” she said.
And it’s the “…although not unlimited…” bit that we are watching closely.
A conservative’s idea of a “reasonable limit” is “keeping guns out of the hands of criminals”; a “progressive” thinks that putting a gun into anyone’s hands at all makes them suspect.
I don’t read Mahablog much. But I noticed she’d linked to me:
But that’s not good enough for the gun nuts, who predictably compared Heller to Third Reich Nazis.
Which is a rather “un-nuanced” view of what I actually wrote. Read it yourself; I criticize those who defend Kagan’s 1987 comments on the Second Amendment by saying “it reflects what the “elite bar” thought at the time”.
The “elite bar” once thought that a black man was worth 2/3 of a white man, and defended slavery with carefully-written, legally-scrupulous opinions – that were morally utterly vacant, since they abridged basic human liberties.
The “Nuremberg Laws” were perfectly acceptable law under German jurisprudence, too. The German “legal elite” said so.
There’s no comparing the results of the two; Slavery and the Holocaust were evil, while gun control is merely stupid and racist.
But my point wasn’t comparison; it was simply that a stupid opinion isn’t made correct because “the elites believed it was correct”.
The crazy part of this is that the basic position of the gun lobby — that the 2nd amendment protects an individual right to own firearms — is settled law at this point. And the issue of gun control isn’t even on the progressivist back burner any more, compared to, say, 15 years ago. It’s not even in the bleeping kitchen.
And how do you think it got that way?
Because millions of us schlumpfy, un-hip guys and gals in flyoverland – the ones that Bill Maher giggles at – made it that way, one vote and one state and, finally, one justice at a time.
And, by “Maha’s” leave, we’re going to make sure it stays that way.
About the only way gun rights are going to be seriously challenged in the foreseeable future is if there is a huge swing of public opinion in the direction of more gun control. A few shoot-outs in Tennessee roadhouses might do it.
And if you look at the statistics, you might wanna bring a water bottle. You’ll be waiting a long, long time.
Side note: Let’s see if Barbara “Maha” O’Brien is any better at allowing dissenting comments than she used to be.
UPDATE: Nope, she’s not. I’m told that several comments critical of her “position” have been removed.
Why are some liberal bloggers so utterly gutless?