As the wheels start turning towards the 2016 election, I can’t figure out why the gun lobby continues to prattle on about the ‘threats’ posed by liberal candidates like Hilary, when everyone knows that the industry’s best friend is that arch-liberal Barack Obama, whose presence in the White House for nearly another two years means that guns will continue to sell like crazy until he departs from the scene. And even though gun sales have slackened off since the halcyon days right after Sandy Hook and ammunition is once again appearing on at least some retail shelves, there’s no question that the only thing that really drives the gun business is the fear that gun owners won’t be able to buy or own any more guns.
Gun makers have never been able to convince a majority of Americans to go out and buy guns. With all the recent efforts to attract new gun consumers like women, college students and Blacks, the profile of the average gun remains a blue-collar White male with a family and a truck who lives in one of the 13 Confederate states, the 3 border states and the rural parts of 5 Midwestern states. Most gun owners are politically conservative and, generally speaking, vote bright red. Looking for liberal gun owners is like trying to run a fundraiser for a politically conservative candidate in Silicon Valley or the Hollywood Hills. The fact that certain demographics sway one way and others sway in the opposite direction shouldn’t come as a big surprise. We are a pretty diverse country, and diversity tends to create different points of view.
Yet despite these differences, the one thing that just about everyone believes is that the Constitution is truly the law of the land. And while Republicans paint Obama as some kind of anti-Constitutional despot, anyone who would take such partisan nonsense seriously well…you can fill in the rest. Which is why I find myself coming back to examine the 2008 Heller decision, because when all is said and done, this decision is more important for the future health and welfare of the gun industry than anything liberal gun-grabbers like Barack or Hilary could say or do.
Not only did the Court decide 5-4 that owning guns was a Constitutional right, the majority justified the decision by claiming that the right of personal gun ownership actually pre-dated the Constitution, the 2nd Amendment simply codifying a long-established practice that existed even before the Framers met in Philadelphia in 1787 or, for that matter, before British troops fired on colonials at Concord Bridge in 1776. It turns out that George Washington owned more than 50 firearms, both long guns and handguns, which qualified him as a true gun nut for his day. Thomas Jefferson, not only was an accomplished gunsmith, but invented some of the assembly-line techniques that later were used in the manufacturing of small arms.
The number one Constitutional gun nut, however, is none other than the author of Heller, Antonin Scalia, whose justification for claiming that we have a Constitutional right to own a gun is based on nothing more than his own needs. Try as he might, Scalia was utterly unable to find any significant legal precedent which justified using a gun for self-defense against personal threats or crime. Aside from a few vague statements from the anti-Federalist side, the overwhelming definition of self-defense in pre-Constitutional jurisprudence and commentaries involved defense against political threats from a national state.
Scalia is considered to be the foremost champion of centralized government authority sitting on the High Court. But I’ll bet that when he sat down to write Heller he was thinking first and foremost about how to protect his own guns. The fact that he crafted a decision effectively limiting the authority of the federal government while giving him and the rest of us the right to always own guns makes him a much better salesperson for the gun industry than Barack or Hilary could ever hope to be.