Even though there are a lot of people lining up for concealed-carry permits in California, Illinois and other places where more lenient guidelines for issuing CCW is no longer the exception but has become the rule, the Supreme Court on Monday let stand a federal appellate decision in New Jersey which upheld the state’s restrictive guidelines for carrying a concealed weapon outside the home. The case had been brought by the owner of a string of ATM kiosks, who argued that the necessity to carry large amounts of cash to run his business met the state’s requirement that he show an “urgent necessity” for self-protection, even though the New Jersey law doesn’t specifically mention that protection should extend to cover a business rather than a personal need for self defense.
The plaintiff’s case, of course, drew support and briefs from the usual 2nd Amendment suspects, including the Cato Institute, the 2nd Amendment Foundation and, of course, the NRA. I didn’t notice, incidentally, that the NRA’s website that carries daily stories about laws and legislation of interest to gun owners went out of its way to discuss this case. In fact, today’s headline on the website was all about the “weakness” of the anti-gun movement, while the failure of the SCOTUS to extend 2nd Amendment protections to CCW was barely mentioned on an inside page. Frankly, I don’t blame the NRA for doing its best to ignore the Court’s action; if I were in the business of trying to convince America that carrying a gun around outside the home is as patriotic as can be, I’d also try to ignore court rulings to the contrary, particularly rulings that fly directly in the face of an expansive fantasy about what the 2nd Amendment really means.
This fantasy is expressed most clearly by a comment about the SCOTUS denial found on the Cato website, which states that: “regarding the right to self defense, the Supreme Court in Heller declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual constitutional right.” But that’s not exactly what the Court said. What Scalia said was this: “In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment , as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.”
Now I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that if the Supreme Court states that the 2nd Amendment grants the right of using a gun for self defense within the home, and bases this decision both on legal precedent and historical references, then you may not like it, you may want to see it changed, but the definition of the 2nd Amendment as giving people the right to self-defense with a gun in their home is what the Constitution allows you to do. There is nothing in the New Jersey law that SCOTUS upheld that makes it difficult for any resident of New Jersey to buy a gun and keep it ready for use in their home. To state that the Constitution gives us the ‘right’ to gun ownership without any strings attached is a cynical and deliberate twisting of what the the Supreme Court and Antonin Scalia actually said.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against concealed carry and I have trained more than 2,000 residents in my state in the required safety course which allows them to apply (and usually receive) CCW without having to justify it on any special grounds. But the attempt by the NRA and its friends like Cato to pretend that Americans have a non-existent ‘right’ to walk around with a gun is made up of whole cloth. But creating a good argument out of nothing more than what you want to believe is hardly a novel exercise on both sides of the gun debate. After all, why should facts ever get in the way of a strongly-held opinion, right?