Sunday, July 29, 2012

My Reply to Bill Press

Mr. Press,

This is in reply to your column in The Metrowest Daily News, “Praise the Lord – and stockpile the ammunition”. I have posted this as a comment to the column, as article on my blog Left Coast Conservative, directly to you in an email message.

You write:

Don't get me wrong. I believe in the Second Amendment.”

and then later in your column you write:

There is no need for anyone, outside the military, to own an assault weapon. There is no need for anyone, outside of law enforcement, to have a handgun.

I submit to you, sir, that nobody who writes the above sentence really believes in the 2nd Amendment, nor would that person really understand the purpose of the 2nd Amendment in our system of ordered liberty.
But that is okay, because we, us gun owners of America, we understand the 2nd Amendment, and we understand the state of guns in society much better than you do, sir. If I may, let me enlighten you a bit. You write:
Such is the power of the NRA, the most dangerous lobby in Washington. By standing in the way of any sensible gun control measure, they have blood on their hands. Worse than the NRA, however, are the politicians afraid to stand up to them.
From where do you suppose the NRA gets the power to be the most dangerous lobby in Washington? The collective will of some four million members, Americas who believe that guns are an overall positive force in society, is the power of the NRA. Sure, gun manufacturers support the NRA, but are are not gun company owners and stock holders also citizens, free to support any cause and invest in any company that they see fit? Not all of the anti-gun organizations combined has even a tenth of the resources that the NRA can marshal in support of American gun owners, and as a membership organization, the NRA acts to support membership goals. And the chief goal is that no new gun laws are necessary in the United States.

You will find that gun owners in America support restrictions on firearm ownership by certain prohibited classes of people, convicted felons and mentally ill people. What we oppose is the imposition of gun laws that we see only restricting law abiding gun owners, and failing to accomplish the task for which they are intended. Indeed, even the current regulations on the books often fall short of the goal. We have now learned that James Holmes was under treatment by a psychiatrist, but for some reason that did not trigger a flag on the background check Mr. Holmes had to pass to obtain his weapons. And there is not legal requirement to pass a background check to purchase ammunition in any quantity. The 6000 rounds that is not at all an unusually amount of ammunition. Many recreational shooters buy ammunition in bulk to save money, and they can easily go through 1000 round per day, or more, if they shoot in a competitive match.

There is another thing which you may be ignorant of, but which you must be cognizant of it if you are going to comment intelligently about 2nd Amendment issues: since 2008 gun ownership is a civil right, one that cannot be abridged without the government having a compelling reason, and since 2010 that new civil right has been applied to limit municipal, county, and state action as well as Federal action. While the limits of the new civil right are still being defined in the courts, there is one thing that I can tell you, and which may make you sad, there is no way to prevent any non-prohibited person from owning a handgun. Handgun bans are completely off the table since the 2008 Heller decision. You're just going to have to get used to it.

Another thing you might have to get used to is the realization that a renewed Assault Weapon Ban may be unconstitutional as well. How could that be? Well, compare the AR-15 rifle that Mr Holmes, reportedly a Smith & Wesson M&P15, and another rifle, the Ruger Mini-14. Both fire the same ammunition: 5.56mm NATO. Both have detachable magazines. Both are reliable and accurate. Large capacity magazines are available for both rifles. They are equally deadly weapon in the hands of a monster like the Aurora shooter, and both are reliable self-defense and sporting rifle in the hands to a citizen. So, what is the difference? Cosmetics. The pistol grip, muzzle brake, adjustable stock, and overall military appearance does not make the M&P15 a more dangerous rifle than the Mini-14. Another difference is that the Mini-14 never fell under the previous Federal Assault Weapon Ban, and it would not fall under the one proposed by anti-gun politicians. The inconvenient truth of the matter is that the AWB is arguably unconstitutional in its previous form, and broadening it to include rifles like the Mini-14 would make the unconstitutionality argument much easier to make. The Supreme Court of the United States also held in the 2008 Heller decision that the 2nd Amendment protected the right to own firearms “in common use”. Many gun-right activist actually want the AWB to come back so that they can sue in Federal court; it is an argument that they dearly want to make. They think that they will win, driving a stake through the heart of the AWB now and forever. Smart politicians like Dianne Feinstein know this, so I would not expect them to seriously push for a renewed AWB.

There is more bad news for the gun control side, and that is the proliferation of liberalized concealed carry laws in the United States. The nature and scope of concealed carry laws is described in this GAO report, Gun Control: States' Laws and Requirements for Concealed Carry Permits Vary Across the Nation, released just a few weeks ago. 7,787,000 people hold licenses to carry concealed weapons in the United States. Of the states that have enacted shall-issue permitting laws, not one has repealed the law after it went into effect, which seems to confirm that people in these states like these laws. If you consider NRA members to be the “hard core” of the gun-rights movement, think of the concealed carry licensees to be the middle ground. These people run the gamut of society, class, and politics, but they are all people to whom the right to keep and bear arms is very important. So important that they have gone to the time, expense, and effort to purchase a weapon, obtain the required training, and complete the application process. These people do not want to give up their right to carry defensive firearms in public while they go about their daily business, so while the political Independents and Liberals among this group may support other Liberal causes, they will split from you on the more radical anti-gun solutions, especially your assertion “There is no need for anyone, outside of law-enforcement, to have a handgun.” These 7 million would disagree.

We now come, Mr. Press, to the most inconvenient truth of all for you: there will be no more new gun laws passed in this country without the cooperation of gun owners. Think about this for a while. Besides the hard-core 4 million NRA members, and the 7.7 million concealed license holders, there are roughly 70 to 80 million people who own firearms, perhaps as many as 40 million of those owning handguns. Gun control advocates used to be able to propose and pass restrictive legislation because many people thought that guns were the root cause of violence. That argument has completely fallen on its face with the FBI reporting ever decreasing violent crime rates in the United States at the same time as the NSSF reports ever more robust firearm sales. The old arguments are hollow, so you must compromise with us to get anything accomplished.

What kind of compromise might be possible? Take you idea about background checks for all firearm transfers. With the current state of the NICS system, this would be not too onerous, and quite a few gun owners would be fine with this, but we would demand something in return, like national concealed carry reciprocity. If the idea of trading differing regulations for more freedom to carry firearms frightens or disgusts you, then I say get used to being perpetually frustrated and disappointed with the state of gun laws in this country. As you admitted in your column, the NRA is the most dangerous lobby. The gun control lobby must compromise with us, or we will block everything that they propose, and we'll probably win what we want in the courts anyway, killing their ability to negotiate compromise legislation. The time window for that is short, ten years or less, so instead of blaming the NRA for everything, why not try to talk some common sense into the gun control lobby?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Great Article by Dan Baum

Dan Baum has written a great editorial in Harpers entitled "The Price of Gun Control".  Here is the money quote:

"In 2010, I drove 11,000 miles around the United States talking to gun guys (for a book, to be published in the spring, that grew out of an article I wrote for this magazine), and I met many working guys, including plumbers, parks workers, nurses—natural Democrats in any other age—who wouldn’t listen to anything the Democratic party has to say because of its institutional hostility to guns."
I think that the institutional hostility to guns of the Democratic Party is simply one facet of an institutional parochialism with which  the Left imbues the Democratic Party.  Far from being intellectual, tolerant, and diverse, the modern Democratic Party doctrinaire, intolerant, politically homogeneous, and increasingly resembles an ideological echo chamber of urban elites, labor union officials, and urban minorities that reinforce their prejudices against traditional American values.

Outstanding Article on Pro-Gun Rights Views

Vince Warde, on his blog Reasoned Politics has written an outstanding article about the current state of gun control in the United States with the wake of the Aurora, CO, shootings: An Open Letter to A Gun Control Advocate in the Wake of the Colorado Shootings.  IT is as good as anything I have read about gun control, the state of the laws and court cases, and the likelihood of new laws passing in the aftermath of the recent mass shootings.  My favorite quote:

Both sides in the gun debate must stop thinking that they are going to get everything they want without giving up anything.  Frankly, the gun rights movement is holding ALL the cards at this point - both politically and legally. No new laws are going to be passed unless they agree.  Gun control advocates need to recognize this reality. 
Spot on!  He goes on to describe some of the ways that gun control and gun rights sides might compromise.  I am skeptical that the gun control side will compromise because most of them are True Believers who, while they might deny it, would prefer to eliminate all guns and think of tightening gun control laws as incremental steps to that end. 

I encourage everyone to visit the blog and read the entire article. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Congressional Report on the 2nd Amendment

In 1982 Senator Orrin Hatch commissioned a study on the history of the 2nd Amendment.  The results of this study were published in The Right To Keep and Bear Arms. I have never heard of this report before, even though I have been paying attention to 2nd Amendment issues for some time, and I only learned of it in this article by Jill Lapore in the New Yorker, where she writes:
"The assertion that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to own and carry a gun for self-defense, rather than the people’s right to form militias for the common defense, first became a feature of American political and legal discourse in the wake of the Gun Control Act of 1968, and only gained prominence in the nineteen-seventies. A milestone in its development came when Orrin Hatch, serving on Strom Thurmond’s Senate Judiciary Committee, became chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution. Hatch commissioned a history of the Second Amendment, resulting in a 1982 report, “The Right to Keep and Bear Arms,” which concluded, “What the Subcommittee on the Constitution uncovered was clear—and long lost—proof that the second amendment to our Constitution was intended as an individual right of the American citizen to keep and carry arms in a peaceful manner, for protection of himself, his family, and his freedoms.”
This makes the report an important historical document in the development of social and legal  thought about the right to keep and bear arms in America, and it helps place in context the RKBA in America today.