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Why Is The 2nd Amendment So Important?

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              Back in the 1980’s when the gun industry decided that being a patriot was a better way to sell guns than being a hunter, all of a sudden the 2nd Amendment became a big deal. Nobody ever cared about it or talked about it when I was growing up.

              Then a group of conservative lawyers decided to make a big deal out of pushing an ‘originalist’ approach to the Constitution, which means that the country should be run the way it was run before the Industrial Revolution. So, they got their buddy, Tony Scalia, to write an opinion about the 2nd Amendment in 2008 which said that Americans could keep a handgun around for self-defense.  Then the 2nd Amendment became a revered and iconic totem for Gun-nut Nation today.

              Is there any connection at all between the existence of the 2nd Amendment and the fact that Americans appear to be using guns to kill and injure each other right now at an extraordinary rate?

              In a word: Nope.

              Yet I keep getting emails from well-intentioned members of Gun-control Nation who believe that the way to reduce gun violence is to either rewrite the 2nd Amendment so that it no longer gives Constitutional cover to owning guns for self-defense or junking the whole thing altogether.

              Frankly, I think either approach would be a waste of time and here are the reasons why.

              `First, most of the guns that Americans own do not play any role in gun violence events. You don’t take Grandpa’s old shotgun off the wall and use it for a drive-by shooting at a bunch of people waiting to get into a club.

              Second, the 2nd Amendment lets you keep a handgun in your home, but it doesn’t say anything about what you need to do to buy that gun. And the courts have held again and again that jurisdictions can decide what kind of guns you can own in that jurisdiction, rulings that are challenged by Gun-nut Nation but are upheld every, single time.

              When the town of Highland Park passed a law requiring town residents who owned an AR-15 to either get rid of the gun or live somewhere else, the challenge went all the way up to the Supreme Court and the so-called ‘conservative SCOTUS refused to even hear the case.

              We passed our first federal law that defined the 2nd Amendment in 1934. This law (NFA34) allows the government to decide whether certain guns are too lethal to be sold without all kinds of regulatory constraints. Which is why there hasn’t been an injury due to the intentional use of a machine gun since 1946.

              If we stuck bottom-loading, semi-automatic pistols that shoot military-grade ammunition on the list of guns that are too lethal to be sold with just a background check, we’d get rid of gun violence right away. 

              The reason that countries like Italy, France and Spain don’t have gun violence is because you can’t just walk into a gun shop in Rome, or Paris, or Madrid and come out ten minutes later with a Glock. These countries all passed gun-control laws which copied our NFA34, but the reason they made handguns verboten is because they wanted to protect the government from armed political threats from the Left or the Right.

              Notice how many of the great patriots who stormed up the Capitol steps on January 6th were carrying guns. One? Two? For all the talk in Gun-nut Nation about the 2nd Amendment protecting us from government ‘tyranny,’ I notice that the Proud Boys and Three Percenters and all those other schmucks left their guns at home.

              Want to end or at least reduce gun violence? Get rid of the guns that are used to cause the violence. In fact, putting semi-automatic pistols on the restricted list that was created by NFA34 doesn’t even require a new law at all.

              When David Chipman takes over the ATF, he can publish such a directive in the Congressional Record, give Gun-nut Nation 60 days to bitch and moan, get Joe Manchin to shut up, and that’s the end of that.

Move Over Donald. There’s A New Defender of 2nd-Amendment ‘Rights.’

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              Back in 2015, a 60-year old Black man was sitting in his living room watching TV in St. Louis when he heard noises out in his back yard. Grabbing his gun, he went out on the back porch and saw someone jump out of his car and evidently start to run towards him. The man raised the gun, pulled the trigger and a 13-year old kid was dead.

              The would-be teenage car burglar was actually trying to run around the car so that he could jump the back fence and retreat. But under Missouri’s Stand Your Ground (SYG) and Castle Doctrine (CD) laws, the shooter who had committed a felony years ago, was found guilty only of possessing an illegal gun.

              Missouri has some of the most expansive SYG and CD laws of any of the 50 states. Basically, what their laws say is that if someone comes on your property and after being warned to retreat doesn’t immediately back away, you can presume you are facing a serious threat, pull out the old shootin’ iron and bang away.

              You may recall that a year ago June, a man and his wife, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, stood on the front steps of their home in St. Louis and waved guns at a group of BLM protestors who were marching in the street. The McCloskeys both happen to be attorneys, so you would assume that they would defend their behavior by claiming their innocence under the SYG and CG laws. In fact, they claimed that they were protecting their home and themselves from a ‘mob’ that was about to storm their property and do them in.

              They were indicted for unlawful use of weapons an immediately became the poster children of the Trump campaign’s stupid attempt to make the 2nd Amendment a centerpiece of his failing re-election campaign, up to and including an appearance at the GOP convention when Trump was nominated for a second term.

              On Thursday, these two schmucks pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor which means they won’t do any jail time and can keep their licenses to practice law. Mark McCloskey is now running for Senate and here’s what his website says: ‘On June 28, 2020, and then again on July 3, 2020, Mark McCloskey and hie wife Patty, held off a violent mob through the exercise of their 2nd Amendment rights.”

As of today, contributions to the McCloskey campaign listed by the Federal Election Commission are – ready? – zero. Or as Grandpa would say – ‘gurnisht.’ Or better yet – ‘gurnisht helfen,’ which means it’s not going to work at all.

I think the Prosecutor in this case, Richard Callahan, got it right when he said, “We still have the Second Amendment rights. It’s just that the Second Amendment does not permit unreasonable conduct.”

On the other hand, when the President of the United States defends this kind of behavior, when he defends protestors who march up the steps of a State Capitol Building with their AR-15’s, when he says that a bunch of American Nazis marching around with their guns includes some ‘good people,’ he’s not just defending the 2nd Amendment.

He’s just pandering to the lowest, common mentality of all – the mentality which actually believes that walking around in a public space with an assault rifle is t he best way to protect yourself from the ‘tyranny’ of the Federal state.

Of course, somehow, don’t ask me how, the ‘tyranny’ of the national state only seems to appear when Democrats are in control or look like they may end up in control. When a Republican like Donald Trump or Mark McCloskey gets into office there’s nothing to worry about because they respect our 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

If we learned anything from the 2020 election, it’s that at least 81 million voting Americans don’t buy into such nonsense and are willing to help decide the country’s political stance on more realistic and honest terms.

I suspect this is also true of most voters who vote the Republican ticket whether they like the names on the GOP line or not.

The truth is that maybe, just maybe, all this nonsense about 2nd-Amdnement ‘rights’ may be ending up where it belongs. 

A New Book On The 2nd Amendment

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              For all the noise made by Gun-nut Nation about how they are always on the verge of losing their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ a new book by Carol Anderson, who runs African-American Studies at Emory University, focuses on the 2nd Amendment as a device which was stuck onto the Constitution to help maintain the slave system and is still being used to foster what she calls the ‘fatal inequality’ between Blacks and Whites.

              I am convinced, incidentally, that if Donald Trump hadn’t flipped three states – MI, PA, WI – by 3/10ths of one percent of the total votes cast in those three states, he wouldn’t have won the 2016 election and the growth of concern about endemic racism – BLM, The 1619 Project, critical race theory, Anderson’s book – would probably have never occurred. If Hillary had been President when George Floyd was killed, she would have rounded up the usual suspects, appointed a Presidential Commission to publish a report, and that would have been the end of that.

              The first half of Anderson’s book is a detailed discussion which tries to revise the standard explanation for the 2nd Amendment, which says that the existence of local militias comprised of citizens who carried their own weapons was designed to maintain the political and military supremacy of the individual states. Against this view, Anderson posits the thesis that the existence of the militia was primarily to maintain slavery by chasing down runaway slaves and suppressing slave revolts.

              As far as I’m concerned, you could have it either way.  The fact that the way gun ownership is regulated today is couched in legal terms that which dates from the eighteenth century and grows out of a legal tradition which nobody really understands, may be an interesting discussion-point for a seminar on Constitutional law, but really doesn’t enlighten today’s argument about gun violence at all. If the NRA and Gun-nut Nation want to believe that the Founders understood the necessity to maintain their vigilance against the ‘tyranny’ of the national state, good for them. The guys who commit 125,000+ gun assaults against themselves and others every year aren’t thinking about whether they have any kind of ‘right’ to walk around with a gun.

              Professor Anderson makes a convincing argument about how the 2nd Amendment has been used in the modern period to enfranchise Whites with gun ownership while denying the same enfranchisement to Blacks. In particular, she cites recent instances in which Blacks who were in legal possession of guns (Philando Castile, Jemel Robertson, Emantic Bradford) were shot by cops even though the cops weren’t in any way threatened by the behavior of these Black men.

              The author also notes that exceptions to 2nd-Amendment guarantees fall disproportionately on Blacks, in particular the whole idea that only ‘law-abiding’ citizens can own guns. And since the incarcerated population is overwhelmingly minority-based, obviously any withholding of the ‘right’ to self-defense from members of minority groups hurts more than helps these individuals protect themselves and their families once they get out of jail.

              On the other hand, what Professor Anderson does not want to acknowledge is the fact that even though 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ are seemingly reserved for members of the White race and denied to Blacks, it cannot be said that this particular type of discrimination makes Blacks more vulnerable to gun violence perpetrated by Whites. In fact, gun violence is overwhelmingly almost to the point of universality, an intra-racial event. When it comes to using a gun to hurt someone else, Blacks shoot Blacks, Whites shoot Whites. And it certainly can’t be argued that by restricting legal ownership of guns only to law-abiding Whites, that this practice has made it difficult for residents of inner-city, minority neighborhoods to get their hands on guns.

              Carol Anderson has written a lively book and there’s no reason to ignore the fact that there have been too many, much too many instances of Blacks getting shot and killed by cops, whether the victims were armed or not.

              I just don’t think the issue of gun violence will be better understood by viewing through the vortex of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

A 2nd Amendment Case Gets To The Court.

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              Uh-oh, sooner or later we knew it would happen. We elect a President who actually shows some concern about gun violence and the other side gets its conservative friends on the Supreme Court to expand gun ‘rights.’

              Here’s what the Giffords group had to say about yesterday’s announcement that the Court will take up a challenge to a New York State law which makes someone jump through a whole bunch of legal hoops before they can walk around the neighborhood carrying a gun: “Today’s announcement,” said Giffords, “is a warning sign that our nation’s highest court is poised to brush aside the will of the people and instead side with gun lobby groups seeking to eliminate even the most modest firearm laws.”

              Not to be outdone, our friends at Everytown made sure to link this threat to our safety to the threat posed by Covid-19: “Gun violence has only worsened during the pandemic, and a ruling that opened the door to weakening our gun laws could make it even harder for cities and states to grapple with this public health crisis.”

              The New York State law basically says that if you want to walk around town with a gun in your pocket, you have to apply for a license which is different from the license you need to buy or own a gun. While the latter license only requires that you pass a background check, the former requires that the applicant explain why he needs to use a gun for self-protection, and if the explanation doesn’t convince the issuing authority that there’s a good reason to be self-armed, the application can be denied.

              The problem raised by the plaintiffs in the New York case is not whether New York State can issue a separate license to allow someone to walk around with a gun. The alleged denial of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ is based on the fact that the cops have complete and arbitrary authority to approve or deny the concealed-carry license request.  How do the cops figure out whether someone has made a convincing argument for protecting himself with a gun? Whatever way they want to figure it out.

              Our friend David Hemenway published a study on this licensing procedure in Massachusetts, which is one of the eight states, along with New York, which grants police an arbitrary authority to decide who can and who cannot walk around with a gun. A large majority of the 121 police chiefs who answered David’s survey stated they were comfortable with the retaining discretionary authority over the issuance of concealed-carry permits, but only 2% of the permit requests were denied each year.

              Let’s say the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiffs in this case and says that New York State has to relinquish its authority to arbitrarily decide who can, and who cannot walk around with a gun. This would represent such an ‘elimination of modest firearm laws’ (to quote Giffords) that New York State would join the other 42(!) states which have already ‘eliminated’ this ‘modest’ firearm law.

              In 1986, there were exactly 7 states whose residents could apply for a concealed-carry permit without having to cite a particular need. That same year, the national homicide rate stood at 8.6, with 60% of all homicides committed with guns. In 2019, with 42 states giving just about every law-abiding resident the right to walk around with a gun, the homicide rate was 5.8, with 75% of all homicides committed with guns.

              What’s the connection between the so-called elimination of ‘modest’ gun laws and an increase in gun violence throughout the United States? Beats hell out of me.

              Know why our homicide rate keeps going down but more and more of the killings are committed with guns? Because we are the only country in the entire world which imposes ‘modest’ gun laws based on how we hope gun owners will behave, and not on what kinds of guns they can own.

              Want to get rid of gun violence? Get rid of the guns which are used to commit violence, okay?

www.bantheseguns.org

Does The 2nd Amendment Protect Gun Ownership? Depends On The Gun.

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              Yesterday I listened to Michael Smerconish interview CNN’s Joan Biskupic on the 2nd Amendment. Smerconish is an expert on everything, Biskupic is only an expert on law and legal affairs. If you think that either of these two experts knows anything about the 2nd Amendment, as Grandpa would say, oy zuch en vai (read: they don’t know sh*t.)

              They went on and on about how the 2nd Amendment covered guns that were kept at home but were used when the gun owner had to show up for militia duty. Since we no longer have a militia (except for the Proud Boys), the 2nd Amendment gives Constitutional protection to privately-owned guns kept in the home which have no connection to militia service at all.

              Smerconish and Biskupic are convinced that the 2008 Heller decision is definitive in protecting private gun ownership, hence, the only way we can control guns is either to get rid of the 2nd Amendment or change the ideological balance of the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, either strategy would take a long time to achieve its intended results.

              There’s only one little problem. Neither Smerconish nor Biskupic really understand what the Heller decision is all about. They spent an entire segment talking about issues which have little, if anything to do with why we suffer from 125,000 intentional gun injuries every year or what we should do to reduce those injuries so that we no longer refer to gun violence as a ‘public health threat.’

              The Heller opinion which allegedly protects private ownership of guns turns on how Scalia defined this phrase: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” He defines this phrase on Page 8 of his opinion: “The term was applied, then as now, to weapons that were not specifically designed for military use and were not employed in a military capacity.”

              Note the words, ‘military capacity.’ According to Scalia, guns that are used by the military do not (read: not) qualify for any Constitutional protection at all. Not when the 2nd Amendment was written, not since.

              I am still waiting for any of the so-called legal experts on either side of the 2nd-Amendment debate to demonstrate that they possess even the slightest degree of knowledge about guns. For that matter, I’m still waiting for any advocate on either side of the gun debate to demonstrate a shred of such knowledge at all.

              Because if such knowledge existed within or without the various groups, including all the so-called public health experts who do what they refer to as ‘evidence-based research’ on guns, they would have to confront the fact (note the word ‘fact’) that the guns which are used to commit 95% of all intentional gun injuries happen to be guns which were designed specifically for military use.

              And not only were guns manufactured by companies like Glock, Sig, Beretta, and Colt designed specifically for military applications, in fact (note again the word ‘fact’) they are carried today by military units throughout the world, in particular by troops deployed by the good, old, U.S.A.

              The United States is the only country in the entire world which gives law-abiding residents free access to bottom-loading, semi-automatic guns, which happen to be the design features incorporated into every military gun. We don’t suffer a gun violence rate 7 to 20 times higher than any other OECD country because we own 300 million guns. We suffer 125,000-gun injuries every year because we can buy, sell, and transfer guns which have absolutely no sporting use at all.

              And by the way, before you start ramping up your concern about 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ let me break the news to you gently, okay? There happen to be several jurisdictions which have passed laws which forbid ownership of military weapons, in this case the AR-15, and these laws have been upheld by that terribly conservative Supreme Court.

              I’m not a legal expert by any means. But I was taught to read English in the 3rd grade. So, I know what the Heller opinion written by Scalia says and doesn’t say.

I also know a little bit about guns, and I’d be happy to share that knowledge with Smerconish or Biskupic if they would like to drop by my shop.

Close The Charleston Loophole? We Need To Ban Assault Weapons – Now!

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              So Joe goes on TV yesterday, gives a very strong, sober and brief address about the Colorado shooting, and tells the Senate to act on the two gun-control bills already passed by the House. One of the bills, H.R. 8, would expand background checks to most private sales. The other bill, H.R. 1446, would close what is referred to as the ‘Charleston loophole,’ a problem with the current NICS system which allegedly let Dylann Roof buy a gun, then walk into a church in Charleston, S.C. and kill 9 Black members of a Bible study class.

              Under current law, the FBI has 3 days to respond to a background check request, but if the necessary information isn’t given to the FBI within 3 days, the sale and transfer of the gun can proceed. H.R. 1446 would extend the time that the FBI would need to complete a background check to 10 days, the theory being that 10 days would provide time for more background information to be accessed and a final ‘proceed-don’t proceed’ decision to be made.

              There’s only one little problem, however, with the narrative which promotes the idea that Dylann Roof wouldn’t have been able to buy the gun he used in his assault on the church in Charleston if the FBI had been able to take more than 3 days to check him out.  In fact, what happened was that Roof had pleaded guilty to a drug charge which should have disqualified him from owning guns, but the information somehow never got forwarded from the local cops to the FBI.

              The people working for the FBI-NICS operation could have been given a year to decide about Roof’s legal fitness for gun ownership and they still wouldn’t have come up with anything that would have disqualified him from buying that gun. Somehow, and nobody has ever figured this out, the information about Roof’s drug arrest simply got lost.

              But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there had been a proper referral of information about Roof from the local cops to the Feds. And let’s say, for the further sake of argument, that Roof had been told by the dealer that he couldn’t buy the gun.

              How difficult do you think it would have been for Roof to get his hands on a gun without going through a background check?  I lived in South Carolina. In South Carolina everyone has a gun.

              The problem with both bills waiting for Senate action is that they are responses to gun violence which regulate the behavior of people who own or ant to own guns. We use laws to regulate all kinds of behavior, but when it comes to regulating how someone behaves with a gun, all you need is one crazy nut to walk into a movie theater, a school, a night club, a concert, a supermarket, or any other place where there are a lot of people and the carnage can be beyond belief.

              The only way to prevent such horrendous events from happening on a regular basis is to regulate the products which are used to create these unspeakable tragedies again, and again, and again.  

              Of course, the moment we start talking about regulating the guns, the other side starts screaming about protecting their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.” Ever hear of a legal doctrine called ‘negligent entrustment?’ It means that a seller of any product is liable for the damage caused by that product if he knows that what he is selling is too dangerous to be sold.

              This doctrine is the basis for the lawsuit against Remington on behalf of the families of the children who were murdered at Sandy Hook. And the Federal courts have held this lawsuit to be valid not once, but twice. So, we have a clear recognition that banning assault weapons because it’s simply too dangerous to give anyone the opportunity to kill 20 human beings in 4 minutes or less, has nothing to do with so-called 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ at all.

              Please sign our petition to ban assault weapons and please send it to all your friends.

              Thank you:  http://chng.it/pHTVCLJqjr

Gun Violence And The 2nd Amendment Aren’t Connected At All.

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              Now that our friends in Gun-control Nation have helped Joe Biden become the 46th President of the United States, it’s time to get back to figuring out how to reduce the deaths and injuries caused by the misuse of guns.

              Of course, the moment that groups like Everytown and Brady start making noise about gun violence, the other side will ramp up its campaign to defend 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ And first and foremost, in the arsenal of pro-gun narratives will be the phrase, ‘the right to bear arms.’

              Once Gun-control Nation begins reminding everyone that the 2nd Amendment and the ‘right to bear arms’ is just as important as anything else in the Bill of Rights, the gun-control organizations and public health researchers will fall all over themselves pledging total and unquestioned fealty to gun ‘rights,’ as long as some way can be found to reduce the deaths and injuries caused by all those guns.

              There’s only one little problem, however, which is that for all the attempts to explain how and why the 2nd Amendment came to give Constitutional protection to personally owned guns, the discussion invariably talks about the legal and historic meanings and precedents of the words ‘keep’ and ‘bear,’ while the word ‘arms’ gets no attention at all.

              My late friend Antonin Scalia’s 2008 Heller opinion which redefined 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ runs toughly 20,000 words. Know how many words are devoted to the issue of ‘arms?’ Try less than two hundred. And what Scalia says is that the 2nd Amendment refers to handguns that are traditionally found in the home, not the guns designed for the military, i.e., ‘weapons of war.’

              What Scalia doesn’t say, nor is it ever mentioned by anyone who has contributed verbal or written hot air to the gun debate on either side, is that the guns whose use is responsible for at least 80% of all gun violence, maybe more, happen to be weapons of war. Try Glock, try Beretta, try Sig, try Colt, – these are all guns that were designed for military use and are carried by troops everywhere.

              Now the fact that we are the only country which lets civilians have free access to those weapons of war doesn’t mean that such guns should be covered by Constitutional protection just because they happen to be in the home. You can also buy and keep a full-auto machine gun in your home, except you need to go through a much more intensive and expensive licensing process, which is why the last time someone was murdered with a full-auto gun was 1947 or so.

              Not only did Scalia totally misunderstand and mis-state this issue, but the other side, the Gun-control Nation side, gets it wrong too. Why do we have so much gun violence? Because according to our friend David Hemenway, we own so many guns, perhaps as many as 300 million, perhaps even more.

              But if David would take the trouble to do a slight amount of research into what kind of guns actually are used in fatal and non-fatal assaults, he would quickly realize that most of the guns sitting in the American civilian arsenal have nothing to do with gun violence at all. I own a Remington 700 bolt-action rifle chambered in .270 Winchester caliber, the Remington factory has probably produced and sold more than 20 million of these guns over the years.

              How many Remington 700 rifles mow someone down in the street? None. Ditto the fabled Winchester Model 70 rifle or the Browning Auto-5 shotgun which has taken millions of high-flyers out of the sky. The only person who ever got injured with a semi-auto shotgun was the guy that Dick Cheney shot by accident, okay?

              If my friends in Gun-control Nation would stop obsessing about the 2nd Amendment and learn a few quick facts about how guns are designed and used, maybe just maybe they could sit down and come up with a strategy that would have a real impact on how many Americans are killed and injured each year with guns.

It’s The Ammunition, Stupid.

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Was it Jeff Cooper who said, ‘there’s nothing as useless as an unloaded gun?’ Maybe it was Bill Jordan. Anyway, I have never really understood why my friends in Gun-control Nation get all hot and bothered about regulating guns but almost never seem to be concerned about the ammunition which goes into the gun.

This issue came home to me yesterday when a judge in California stopped the state from enforcing a law requiring gun owners in the Golden State to pass a background check before purchasing ammunition for their guns. He said the law violated 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ The head of the Brady Campaign said the ruling was ‘contrary to what the Framers intended.’ And I thought the daily CONOVID-19 briefing from the White House was a lot of hot air. The statements by Judge Benitez and Kris Brown from Brady are just as far off the mark.

When the law called Proposition 63 was passed in 2016, it did some good things. It banned high-capacity gun magazines, it also contained a provision penalizing anyone who didn’t report a lost or stolen gun. But the law also exempted reloaded (i.e., home-made) ammunition from any controls, which basically nullified the law’s intent.

If you are going to require that someone pass a background check to buy ammunition, all you are doing is telling the bad guys to go out and make their own ammo, or go to a shooting range and buy reloaded rounds. For that matter, anyone in California can drive to a neighboring state and buy all the ammunition they need. My state, Massachusetts, requires a background check for purchasing ammunition, but I can drive into New Hampshire and load up with ammo (and fireworks), no questions asked.

That being said, I nevertheless don’t understand how Judge Benitez could find Prop. 63 to be an infringement on the 2nd Amendment when the government has always been given authority to regulate the ownership and sale of explosive devices, which is what ammunition happens to be. Now maybe the explosion that occurs when the firing pin of a gun hits the primer of a 9mm round doesn’t create the same degree of noise or destructive power caused by a stick of dynamite going off, but it’s an explosion, nonetheless.

Here’s how the ATF defines explosive device: “Explosive materials are any chemical compound, mixture, or device, the primary or common purpose of which is to function by explosion. The term includes, but is not limited to, dynamite and other high explosives, black powder, pellet powder, initiating explosives, detonators, safety fuses, squibs, detonating cord, igniter cord, and igniters” Now take a look at the bottom of a handgun round, let’s say 9mm or 45acp. The little, round cap in the middle of the shell’s base is called the primer, and it happens to be an igniter because when it is struck by a firing pin it explodes inside the casing, ignites the powder and the round goes – boom!

Has anyone ever said that the ATF’s regulation of igniters is a violation of 2nd-Amendment ‘rights?’ For that matter, is there any mention anywhere in the Constitution about any kind of ammunition at all? Last time I looked at the 2nd Amendment it says something about keeping and bearing ‘arms.’ Doesn’t say anything about ammo – not a single word.

There is nothing in the Constitution that gives any guidance about whether or not ammunition should be regulated the way we regulate guns. But the courts have been very clear over the years in defining governmental authority to set limits on how we behave and what we can buy based on the compelling state interest doctrine, otherwise known as keeping the community safe. El Schmuck-o Trump learned that one in spades last week.

Next time my friends in Gun-control Nation run one of their surveys to see whether gun owners like or dislike ‘reasonable’ gun laws, maybe they should throw in a question about whether background checks should be carried out for all purchases of ammunition as well. I know the answer to that one.

There Ain’t No Such Thing As Gun ‘Rights.’

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Our good friend Eric Foner has just published a book, The Second Founding, which gives a concise and compelling explanation for how the Federal Government got into the business of defining our basic rights. Which makes this book required reading for everyone who wants to have anything to say about guns and gun violence, since so much of this debate turns on the issue of gun ‘rights.’ If you don’t believe me, just read any of the news accounts of the demonstration which took place in Richmond, VA on MLK Day to protest a new law that Trump claims is an infringement on gun ‘rights.’

The Federal Government first started defining Constitutional rights following passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments following the end of the Civil War. These Amendments ended slavery (13th), defined citizenship as a birthright (14th) and granted universal suffrage to all male Americans. Foner refers to the passage of these Amendments as a ‘second founding’ because these laws (to quote a Republican Senator from Missouri) “made the liberty and rights of every citizen in every state a matter of national concern.”

 Foner points out that none of these fundamental Constitutional changes would have taken place were it not for the fact that Southern legislatures were dominated by Black officeholders from 1867 through 1877 when Reconstruction came to an end. But precisely because Reconstruction ended only ten years after it began, the Civil Rights laws passed in 1866 and 1875 to give some legal teeth to the Amendments, were either watered down in court decisions or simply ignored.

Both civil laws were attempts to define what ‘rights’ would be protected under the Constitution once the founding document contained protections which applied to every male citizen in the land. The 1866 Act enforced the implementation of laws that covered the following rights: “to ‘make and enforce’ contracts, own property, testify in court, sue and be sued, and ‘enjoy the full and equal benefit of laws for the protection of persons and property.’” (p. 64.)

See anything here about self-protection?  See anything here about armed, self-defense? You won’t find any reference whatsoever to that terminology in the entire text of the Constitution or any of its Amendments, not even in the blessed 2nd Amendment from which all gun ‘rights’ allegedly spring forth. When the NRA proclaims itself to be the ‘oldest civil rights organization,’ is it referring to the rights embodied in the 14th Amendment and enumerated in the Civil Rights Act of 1866?  No. It’s not referring to anything other than what a clever advertising agency figured out would help promote the sale of guns.

In fact, if you take the trouble to read the 2008 Heller decision where our late friend Tony Scalia propounded his view of gun ‘rights,’ you will note that it is not only a very narrow definition of what the 2nd Amendment says a gun owner can do with his guns (he can keep one handgun in his home) but it’s far from being an uninfringeable right because the government has great leeway in determining who can and cannot own guns.

Not only are gun ‘rights’ not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, nor in any of the federal laws that have been passed to define or enforce Constitutional texts, there is also no mention of the other hallowed Gun-nut Nation ‘right,’ i.e., the ‘right’ to self-defense. When the Constitution talks about being protected from harm, the reference is to equal standing in the courts, not to passing a background check so that you can walk around with an AR-15 on your back.

There’s also the non plus ultra for carrying your Glock, which is that self-defense is a ‘God-given right.’ I hear this all the time from my Gun-nut Nation friends and my answer is simply this: If you want to live in a country where laws are first and foremost the handiwork of Almighty God, move to Iran, okay?

Foner’s book isn’t about guns. It’s a solid work about how the word ‘rights’ should be defined and used in any important discussion about current events. In this respect, the way our friends in Gun-nut Nation use the word fails both historical and legal tests.

Thank God for the 2nd Amendment. How Else Would The Militia Keep Us Safe?

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In case you’ve forgotten, the revered 2nd Amendment requires that every male citizen own a gun in order to serve in the militia and thus protect our country from harm. While of late the term ‘militia’ has become synonymous with crazy, government-resistance strategies promoted by dummies like Cliven ‘let me tell you about your Negro’ Bundy, the idea of para-military citizen’s groups defending themselves, their families, their friends and their communities remains central to Gun-nut Nation’s messaging about guns.

It just so happens that we actually possess a first-person accounting of how one of these citizen-militia groups behaved back in the good old days long before enemies of the ‘right to bear arms’  like Mike Bloomberg or Pete Buttigieg reared their ugly heads. The narrative is found in a book, The Pine Barrens, written by John McPhee. The author has been teaching writing at Princeton University for more than forty years, and has contributed more than 100 pieces to The New Yorker magazine since 1963.

 To many of my readers, the Pine Barrens is associated with a great episode from The Sopranos, where Paulie and Christopher drive into the area in mid-Winter to bury a guy they have killed who then turns out not to be so dead. Their victim runs off, the two North Jersey gumbahs quickly find themselves in the middle of millions of acres of semi-wild woodlands, they end up spending the night cursing at each other inside their semi-frozen car.

What McPhee explains in his brief and beautifully-written book, is that the Pine Barrens weren’t so barren in times past. In fact, the woodlands provided all kinds of raw materials used before and during the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, such as iron ore, charcoal and wood. But as new technologies and modern modes of transportation emerged, the villages in the Barrens began to disappear and the whole region reverted to a semi-natural state, a process still occurring in many areas that were settled in the pre-industrial period and are now lacking in human presence again.

I live less than 30 miles from an area in my state (Massachusetts) called the Monroe Plateau. The Plateau used to be a farming zone, then it saw the development of water-powered mills, now it basically supports beavers, bears, moose and deer. Walk a half-mile into the woods from one of the roads that runs through the Plateau and you better know how to get out or you won’t get out.

McPhee spends a chapter discussing life in a town called Martha, which had an industrial furnace that started operating in 1793. There were 50 houses in the town, a school, a central main house and a hospital. The town also had a militia which, according to the records studied by McPhee, enrolled all the able-bodied men in the settlement  who had to turn out for drills on something called Training Day.

The militia officers wore uniforms and ‘barked out’ orders which ‘nobody obeyed.’ In fact, according to the town register which listed all events between 1808 and 1815, the training days invariably ended up in drunken brawls. On April, 1, 1814 a militia captain named Townsend was court-martialled for being too drunk to give orders; the trial took place in Bodine’s Tavern, which was also the public space used whenever the town put any issue to a vote.

Note that the description of the militia’s activities were written while the United States was just coming out of the War of 1812. Note how what went on in the town of Martha was really no different than what happened when Cliven Bundy’s son and his buddies organized themselves into a citizen’s militia and took over the Malheur Forest Range. They sat there for a few days, ate some pizza brought up by their wives, then turned themselves in because they forgot that the building which they liberated didn’t have heat.

Whenever my friends in Gun-nut Nation extoll the virtues of a citizen’s militia it sounds rather quaint. Better they should spend a weekend tramping around and defending the 2nd Amendment in a picnic grove; at least that way they won’t get hurt.

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