Trump May Believe That The 2nd Amendment Protects Gun Ownership, But He Happens To Be Wrong.


It only took about two minutes Wednesday night for the Hillary Clinton – Adolph Trump debate to get to the question of guns. And it was Adolph who raised the issue when he said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would uphold the 2nd Amendment because it was ‘under siege.’  So Wallace then flipped he question to HRC and asked her to explain her comment that the 2008 Heller decision was ‘wrong,’ to which our candidate gave a fairly sensible and cogent response:

     “You mentioned the Heller decision. And what I was saying that you referenced, Chris, was that I disagreed with the way the court applied the Second Amendment in that case, because what the District of Columbia was trying to do was to protect toddlers from guns and so they wanted people with guns to safely store them. And the court didn’t accept that reasonable regulation, but they’ve accepted many others. So I see no conflict between saving people’s lives and defending the Second Amendment.”

2ALet’s not waste our time with Adolph Trump’s rejoinder because it was an incomprehensible ramble about how he was going to do this and that. The bottom line is he said what he needed to say, namely, that if she won the election, guns would be taken away.  Because to Gun-nut Nation, saying that the 2nd Amendment is ‘under siege’ is just code for saying that private gun ownership won’t be allowed.

Incidentally, I don’t care if anyone reading this column gets offended because I refer to Trump by the first name of a certain Fascist dictator who’s ass we finally kicked in 1945. This new guy has done everything he can to demean the democratic process, to pander to the worst, most violent and extremist elements of the far Right, and his narcissism and arrogance knows no bounds. So screw him, the horse he rode in on and the whole cavalry behind him.  I’m done being polite.

Anyway, as I was saying above.  So what we got from Hillary Wednesday night was a reasoned and sober attempt to balance the constitutionality of private gun ownership against the government’s need and legitimate interest in regulating safe behavior with guns.  But why is it necessary to worry about abiding by the 2nd Amendment?  Whose constitutional ‘rights’ are even threatened if the 2nd Amendment is ‘under siege?’

I bought my first, real gun in 1956 when I was 12 years old.  I was walking around a flea market in the Florida Glades, old boy had a Smith & Wesson blue box on the table with a 38-special banger inside, wanted 50 bucks for the gun which sounded like a good deal to me.  I wasn’t a Florida resident so for some reason that wasn’t explained, give the fifty dollars to ‘nuther ol’ boy standin’ down yonder at the end of the table and he gives me the gun. Things were much simpler in those days.

Between 1956 and 2008 I probably bought and sold 500 personally guns.  Sound like a lot? Hell, it’s less than ten guns a year.  That’s not a lot of buying, selling and trading if you’re a gun nut like me. Know how many of those transactions were protected by the 2nd Amendment?  Not one.  Know how many of those transactions made me legally vulnerable because I didn’t have the blessed 2nd Amendment protecting my back?  Not one. The Supreme Court ruled in 1939 that I did not have any constitutional protection for any of my personally-owned guns, and that ruling remained law of the land until 2008.

The truth is that all this crap about the 2nd Amendment is nothing more than a cynical and nonsensical attempt by pro-gun noisemakers to persuade gun owners like me to fork over our $30 annual dues to the NRA.  And while I’m at it, I can send a few bucks to the Adolph for President campaign. After all, without Adolph running things, maybe all my guns will be taken away.  Like all my guns were taken away before the Court handed down Heller in 2008.


Can Gun-nut Nation Push Trump Over The Top?


So now Shlump-o has gone from the bizarre to the absurd, and brought in the real lunatics from the asylum to run his campaign.  I’m referring to the appointment of the head of Breitbart, a former Goldman-Sachs banker, who will now make sure that the Shlump doesn’t fall prey to anyone who even quietly suggests that maybe Americans are just getting sick of all the insults, cursing and rhetorical flailing-about that is claimed to be a political campaign.

trump2            When I go to the internet to look at news blogs I spend most of my time reading stuff on the Right, first of all because I know what the liberals are saying because I happen to be a liberal; but also because in keeping with the maxim of don Corleone, it’s important to keep my enemies closer than my friends. So I read Breitbart and Drudge and listen to Rush who is really becoming boring as hell.  At least Drudge is basically an aggregator promoting for the most part right-wing mush, but Breitbart pretends to be a real newspaper, with op-eds and reporters and headlines and even an occasional exclusive.

The problem with Breibart, however, is that you really can’t tell if anything you read is even remotely based on facts, which is why I guess the management gets it on so easily with Shlump, who seems to have something of a problem distinguishing between facts and fiction as well. And if there’s one issue above all where the line between true and false doesn’t exist, it’s the issue of guns. Here’s a few doozies randomly picked off the Breitbart site

  1. On June 9th there was a story about whether a Clinton-appointed 9th SCOTUS Justice would reverse the Heller and McDonald decisions which give Americans Constitutional protection for keeping a gun in the home for self-defense. The article says that the 2nd Amendment guarantees that citizens should be able to carry a weapon outside the home (which it doesn’t) in order to defend against a ‘tyrannical’ government.
  2. On August 15 they ran a column which blamed universal background checks for the mass shootings in California, Colorado, Paris and Munich – “all sites of some of the highest profile and deadliest shootings of the last 18 months.” I thought that the Aurora movie shooting occurred in 2012, and what does Paris or Munich have to do with FBI-NICS?

Breitbart has been pimping for the NRA since it first appeared back in 2007 and declared itself to be the ‘Huffington Post of the Right.’ And if there is one voting bloc on the Right that Shlump has assiduously courted, it’s the gun-owning voter who, it is assumed, might make the difference in swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, not to mention keeping him above water in Southern states like Georgia where his ship is beginning to tilt.

I don’t want to imagine that someone running to be the CEO of the world’s largest corporation could be a captive of such delusions, but I’m beginning to think that from the very beginning, Shlump believed that he could ride a pro-gun wave into the White House if he could just find a way to motivate gun owners to vote.  His panderings about concealed-carry (“…if someone in the Orlando nightclub had been armed…”,) his positive allusions to gun violence (“… I could shoot someone down in the street…,”) and his latest not-so-veiled invitation for 2nd Amendment supporters to ‘deal’ with Hillary, there has never been a Presidential candidate who has so openly and continuously promoted guns as a positive and necessary political stance.

So now it’s time to roll out what I hope is a bit of delusional thinking of my own, except I’m not so sure that I’m wrong.  In the last three Presidential elections, the winner polled more than 60 million votes.  That’s about half the number of adults who live in households which contain guns.  There are 82 days until November 8th. Get it?

Do You Really Think The NRA Supports The 2nd Amendment To Keep Us Free? Think Again.

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One of the reasons often advanced to explain the success of the NRA in promoting pro-gun attitudes and laws is something known as the “intensity gap.”  According to this argument, the NRA wins because their supporters are more committed, more dedicated and more fiercely loyal to the organization and its goals, as opposed to the GVP movement whose supporters are only driven to express their support for more gun control after a mass shooting or other high-profile violence involving guns.

The latest iteration of this argument is the handiwork of Professor Gary Gutting, whose op-ed appeared today in The New York Times.  Gutting, who teaches philosophy at Notre Dame, claims that the GVP movement should borrow the energies and viewpoints of recent anti-racist efforts like Black Lives Matter who have successfully enlisted black and white support by pointing out the basically racist nature of police (and civilian) shootings of inner-city blacks.  He further argues that white antipathy towards racism would counteract the intensity that gun owners exhibit whenever they feel that the 2nd Amendment is being attacked, an intensity based on America’s fear of ‘tyranny’ which explains the strong support for 2-A rights.

Gutting may or may not be correct in asserting that Black Lives Matter has tapped into a concern held by white liberals about violence and racism directed at blacks, but his attempt to build a case for the NRA’s anti-tyranny argument through support of the 2nd Amendment is just dead wrong.  The NRA doesn’t promote itself as an anti-tyranny organization pari passu, it promotes the anti-government position only when the government is in the hands of what Fox News calls ‘the Left.’ Ever hear Dana Loesch, Sarah Palin, Wayne LaPierre or any other pro-gun noisemaker talk about the gun-control law that Governor Ronald Reagan signed that mandated, among other things, a fifteen-day waiting period for the purchase of handguns in the Golden State?

Know which members of Congress voted against GCA68?  Virtually the same southern federal office-holders who voted against GCA68 also voted against the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  And they voted the same way for the same reason: both were instances in which Northern liberals passed laws to teach Southern whites how to behave.  If anyone believes that the current opposition to gun control is anything other than a reprise of the conservative-liberal battle over states’ rights as it originally played out during the struggle over civil rights, think again. The NRA can tell you that gun control today leads to gun confiscation tomorrow, but from 1939 (Miller v. United States) until 2008 (District of Columbia v. Heller) we had plenty of liberals running the federal government and passing gun-control laws. Meanwhile, not a single gun was ever confiscated from a law-abiding gun owner.  Not once.

2A             I’m also confused, frankly, by Gutting’s pronouncement that the GVP movement lacks the intensity that’s found among followers of the NRA.  That’s a rather shop warn view of things lately owing largely to a bunch of street-wise, energetic and savvy woman both in leadership and grass-roots positions who have levelled the advocacy playing field to a degree not previously seen.  If there’s an intensity gap about gun violence nowadays, I perceive it more as a gender gap within the GVP movement itself.  But as in so many other things, the men (like myself) tend to sit back, watch the sports on a widescreen, pop a few tops and let the women do the work.

What moved America on civil rights were pictures of blacks being hosed, beaten or worse when they sat at segregated lunch counters, enrolled in all-white schools or stood fast against Sheriff Connor at the Selma Bridge.  What has moved Americans to rally against gun violence is the carnage at San Bernardino, Umpqua and Sandy Hook. Racism and gun violence are cut from the same cloth. There’s no reason why we need to borrow the outrage against one to be outraged at the other.


Does the 2nd Amendment Guarantee A Right To Self Defense? The Courts Disagree.


The NRA keeps referring to the 2nd Amendment as a “sacred” right, but I always thought that anything sacred was usually somehow given to us by God.  But in fact, the right of Americans to own guns without any connection to some kind of military unit didn’t come from God at all. It came down from a 2008 Supreme Court decision that was decided by one vote.  And in fact, the NRA was reluctant to push the Heller case to the Supreme Court because it looked probable, if not likely, that Justice Kennedy would swing over to the liberal side of the nation’s highest tribunal and that would be the end of that.

scalia                Immediately after Heller, various pro-gun groups began challenging state and local laws which allowed for private ownership of guns, but made the licensing process so onerous or arbitrary that owning a gun was difficult enough, using it for self-defense, particularly self-defense outside the home, was basically a non-existent right.  In Washington, D.C., the U.S. District Court ultimately found the city’s license requirements unduly restrictive, but in California, a fairly restrictive process in San Diego County for the issuance of concealed-carry licenses was upheld.

This past week another California gun case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, but by a 7-2 margin, Kennedy, Alito and Roberts all moving to the other side, the Court refused to hear a case from San Francisco whose law states that “no person shall keep a handgun within a residence owned or controlled by that person unless the handgun is stored in a locked container or disabled with a trigger lock.” The law was challenged by, among others, an “elderly lady” who believes that she could never defend herself against an intruder if she had to “find her glasses, turn on the light, find the key to the lock box, open the lockbox….”  If this isn’t a civilian version of the Keystone Cops, I don’t know what is.

The Ninth Circuit admitted in its ruling upholding the law that it was creating a “burden” on the core right of the 2nd Amendment, but it found this burden to be outweighed by the evidence presented by the City of San Francisco that “guns kept in the home are most often used in suicides and against family and friends rather than in self-defense and that children are particularly at risk of injury and death.”  Uh-oh, here comes all that public health research by Kellerman, Hemenway and others about the risks of unlocked guns rearing its ugly head in a federal court.  The pro-gun folks have lavished no end of expense and energy trying to discredit such research, and what they got for their efforts was the research was used to justify a limitation on their most sacred right.

The plaintiffs in this case, of course, produced some research of their own, which consisted of data from the Department of Justice showing that 60% of all home robberies take place between 6 P.M. and 6 A.M., precisely the period when people might be sleeping and their need for self-defense is “most acute.” But there’s only one little problem with this data because it also shows that only 1-2% of all forcible home robberies resulted in serious injury to someone present in the home, which means in terms of real numbers that only 10,000 individuals nationwide might have needed to defend themselves against a criminal assault.

The next case which might be reviewed by the SCOTUS involves a challenge to the San Diego law which makes it difficult for anyone to carry a concealed gun for self-defense.  Let me give the plaintiffs in that case a little free advice:  I wouldn’t push the self-defense argument too far even if Scalia used it as the basis for Heller in 2008. What the SCOTUS recognized in that decision was the fact that 300 million guns are floating around in civilian hands.  But that’s not the same thing as saying that every pair of those hands can walk around with a gun.



Let’s Hear It For Antonin Scalia: The Best Gun Salesman Of All Time.

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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.

scalia                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.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Laws To Carry A Gun. It’s A Constitutional Right, Right?

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Before the ink was even dry on the 2008 Heller decision, the gun lobby began to agitate for an extension of this 2nd-Amendment right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense to carrying concealed weapons outside the home as well.  The CCW movement, as it is called, spread throughout the United States but with the exception of five states – AK, AR, AZ, VT, WY – the residents of all the other 45 states must receive a permit for CCW that is separate from any licensing required simply to own a gun.

concealed                It’s estimated that somewhere around 10 million people now have CCW permits, or roughly 10% of the people who admit to legal ownership of guns.  To listen to the gun lobby you would think that armed citizens are responsible for the continued decline in violent crime, even though it’s anyone’s guess as to how many people are actually walking around armed each day.  In 2013 roughly 450 people used guns in what is referred to as “justifiable homicide,” while that same year at least 500 people accidentally killed themselves or others with guns.  The FBI and CDC numbers may be a little off, but this is the only apples-to-apples comparison that can be made about whether guns help us or hurt us and please don’t waste my time with the nonsense about how millions of crimes are prevented each year by people walking around with guns.

Which hasn’t stopped the NRA from endlessly screaming that “good guys” with guns will always stop “bad guys” with guns to the point that the movement to issue everyone a CCW license has now begun to shift to the idea that we should be able to walk around with guns, concealed or unconcealed at our option, with no licensing required at all.  Called “constitutional carry,” as opposed to “concealed carry,” the loudest and most active proponents of this new credo can be found in the Lone Star State where this nutty idea sprang from a group of dissident NRA members who took issue with the gun organization’s refusal to back the open carry of handguns.  And the result was a series of guerrilla-theater events at which these dopes paraded outside and inside stores and fast-food franchises toting their ARs and AKs to show that they had the Constitutional right to behave like jerks.

To their credit, Shannon Watts and her ladies have begun a social media campaign about this idiocy with the target being the Raising Cane fast-food chain, which seems to be a particular favorite venue for the crazies who want to show off both their guns and their lack of brains. The leader of this lunatic fringe appears to be Kory Watkins, who briefly posted a video showing him taunting a gun-owning state legislator, accusing the lawmaker of treason and then stipulating that treason was punishable by “death.”

Posting and then quickly deleting controversial messages is a favorite tactic employed by the folks who like to lecture America about their Constitutional right to own and carry a gun.  Last year the NRA posted a statement that called the Texas crazies ‘weird’ and asked them to keep their guns out of plain sight.  The text was then quickly deleted and in its place appeared an apology to open carry activists in Texas for any ‘confusion’ that the original statement may have caused.

Let me break the news gently to my friends at the NRA.  You have only yourselves to blame for spending the last twenty years angrily denouncing anyone who dares to challenge your belief that guns represent a social good.  You have only yourselves to blame for shamelessly pandering to imbeciles like Kory Watkins who is probably too much of a nitwit to understand the damage he causes people who genuinely want to legally own and use guns.  You accuse Shannon Watts of not representing gun owners when she asks Raising Cane to make their venues gun-free zones.  And whom exactly do you represent?





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The NRA Loses Another One

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There have been rumors floating around DC that some kind of gun-control legislation may come back to the Senate later this year.  And if this proves to be the case, it will probably involve another attempt to widen federal background checks to include private gun transactions, a move that was defeated in the gun control debate that broke out in 2013 after Sandy Hook. But a case was decided by the Supreme Court yesterday which, had the 5-4 vote gone the other way, might have made the whole background check system null and void.

Elena Kagan

Elena Kagan

I am referring to Abramski vs United States, which involved a Virginia resident, Bruce Abramski, who was convicted of committing a “straw” purchase of a Glock 19 because he answered ‘yes’ on the background check form 4473 when asked if the gun was being purchased for himself.  In fact, he purchased the gun for his uncle, a resident of Pennsylvania, who sent him the money because Abramski was able to pay a discount price for the gun at a store near his own home.  Abramski then took the gun to Pennsylvania, gave it to his uncle who gave him a receipt.  The receipt turned up in Abramski’s possession when his home was searched by police investigating an unrelated offense and it was this receipt that led to his ultimate conviction for lying on the 4473.

Abramski based his appeal on the idea that he had not committed a “straw” purchase because his uncle could have passed a background check had the uncle chosen to purchase the gun.  The statute covering the background check system, after all, was designed to keep guns out of the hands of people who could not pass a background check, which was not true in this case.  Abramski also contended that it really didn’t matter what he did with the gun, as long as he could pass a background check at the point of sale.

The Court majority, in an opinion written by Elena Kagan, found that Abramski’s entire argument rested on only one true fact, namely that he was able to pass a background check at the point of sale.  But to find in favor of Abramski’s larger argument, according to Kagan and the majority, “would undermine—indeed, for all important purposes, would virtually repeal—the gun law’s core provisions.”  In other words, this case really was about whether or not the government could regulate firearm transactions at all, not just about the behavior of a particular individual at the time he purchased a gun.

The minority dissent, written by Scalia, was very interesting insofar as it dealt with the entire issue only in the most narrow terms.  Rather than take on the larger question of whether the government has the right to regulate gun ownership, Scalia chose to argue about whether the 4473 (and the statute behind it) properly defined both the intent and the legal sanctions involved for making a false statement on the form.  And even though Abramski’s appeal was joined by 26 states and, of course, the NRA, there was little in Scalia’s dissent that could give them cause for hope.  I’m hardly surprised that Justice Scalia refused to challenge the government’s authority to regulate the ownership of small arms, because he acknowledged and approved such regulatory power in the Heller decision of 2008.

Last month the DC District Court upheld the District of Columbia’s tough gun registration law, aka Heller II.  And now the SCOTUS upholds the law that created the whole background check system as it was first developed in 1968.  On its own website, the NRA didn’t even bother to make a statement about the Abramski case, other than to link readers to a story about the decision in the, of all places, Washington Post!  I don’t know the extent to which Court decisions necessarily reflect the prevailing mood, but if a new gun control bill comes back to Congress later this year, I’m not quite ready to declare it dead.

SCOTUS Reaffirms The 2nd Amendment – In The Home.

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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.

scaliaThis 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?

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