Gun Control Zealots Await Democrat Victory
This week’s school shooting in Cleveland has again raised the illogical cry to take guns away from legal owners because a disturbed youth wielding illegal guns has done something crazy. One of the stupidest aspects of liberal philosophy (and one of Mayor Giuliani’s main handicaps) is the belief that our Founding Fathers made a mistake in enshrining in our Constitution the right of individuals to bear arms.
They intend to come at us again if they gain the White House and retain control of the Congress, conveniently ignoring all of the data that shows: 1. when states changed their laws to allow law-abiding citizens to have carry permits, gun crimes and violent crimes have gone down significantly, and, 2. the number of gun crimes and gun accidents involving permit owners is miniscule.
Some intelligent insights from a British observer (from a country where guns are banned, and violent crime is escalating):
Wouldn’t you feel safer with a gun?
British attitudes are supercilious and misguided
Richard Munday, September 8, 2007, From The Times (Excerpt)
“Despite the recent spate of shootings on our streets, we pride ourselves on our strict gun laws. Every time an American gunman goes on a killing spree, we shake our heads in righteous disbelief at our poor benighted colonial cousins. Why is it, even after the Virginia Tech massacre, that Americans still resist calls for more gun controls?
The short answer is that “gun controls” do not work: they are indeed generally perverse in their effects. Virginia Tech, where 32 students were shot in April, had a strict gun ban policy and only last year successfully resisted a legal challenge that would have allowed the carrying of licensed defensive weapons on campus. It is with a measure of bitter irony that we recall Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia, recording the words of Cesare Beccaria: “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
One might contrast the Virginia Tech massacre with the assault on Virginia’s Appalachian Law School in 2002, where three lives were lost before a student fetched a pistol from his car and apprehended the gunman.
Virginia Tech reinforced the lesson that gun controls are obeyed only by the law-abiding. New York has “banned” pistols since 1911, and its fellow murder capitals, Washington DC and Chicago, have similar bans. One can draw a map of the US, showing the inverse relationship of the strictness of its gun laws, and levels of violence: all the way down to Vermont, with no gun laws at all, and the lowest level of armed violence (one thirteenth that of Britain).
America’s disenchantment with “gun control” is based on experience: whereas in the 1960s and 1970s armed crime rose in the face of more restrictive gun laws (in much of the US, it was illegal to possess a firearm away from the home or workplace), over the past 20 years all violent crime has dropped dramatically, in lockstep with the spread of laws allowing the carrying of concealed weapons by law-abiding citizens. Florida set this trend in 1987, and within five years the states that had followed its example showed an 8 per cent reduction in murders, 7 per cent reduction in aggravated assaults, and 5 per cent reduction in rapes. Today 40 states have such laws, and by 2004 the US Bureau of Justice reported that “firearms-related crime has plummeted”.”
A liberal's lament: The NRA might be right after all
By Jonathan Turley, October 10, 2007, USAToday (Excerpt)
“Like many academics, I was happy to blissfully ignore the Second Amendment. It did not fit neatly into my socially liberal agenda. Yet, two related cases could now force liberals into a crisis of conscience. The Supreme Court is expected to accept review of District of Columbia v. Heller and Parker v. District of Columbia, involving constitutional challenges to the gun-control laws in Washington.
The D.C. law effectively bars the ownership of handguns for most citizens and places restrictions on other firearms. The District's decision to file these appeals after losing in the D.C. appellate court was driven more by political than legal priorities. By taking the appeal, D.C. politicians have put gun-control laws across the country at risk with a court more likely to uphold the rulings than to reverse them. It has also put the rest of us in the uncomfortable position of giving the right to gun ownership the same fair reading as more favored rights of free press or free speech.
The Framers' intent
Principle is a terrible thing, because it demands not what is convenient but what is right. It is hard to read the Second Amendment and not honestly conclude that the Framers intended gun ownership to be an individual right. It is true that the amendment begins with a reference to militias: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Accordingly, it is argued, this amendment protects the right of the militia to bear arms, not the individual.
Yet, if true, the Second Amendment would be effectively declared a defunct provision. The National Guard is not a true militia in the sense of the Second Amendment and, since the District and others believe governments can ban guns entirely, the Second Amendment would be read out of existence.
Another individual right
More important, the mere reference to a purpose of the Second Amendment does not alter the fact that an individual right is created. The right of the people to keep and bear arms is stated in the same way as the right to free speech or free press. The statement of a purpose was intended to reaffirm the power of the states and the people against the central government. At the time, many feared the federal government and its national army. Gun ownership was viewed as a deterrent against abuse by the government, which would be less likely to mess with a well-armed populace.
Considering the Framers and their own traditions of hunting and self-defense, it is clear that they would have viewed such ownership as an individual right — consistent with the plain meaning of the amendment.
None of this is easy for someone raised to believe that the Second Amendment was the dividing line between the enlightenment and the dark ages of American culture. Yet, it is time to honestly reconsider this amendment and admit that ... here's the really hard part ... the NRA may have been right. This does not mean that Charlton Heston is the new Rosa Parks or that no restrictions can be placed on gun ownership. But it does appear that gun ownership was made a protected right by the Framers and, while we might not celebrate it, it is time that we recognize it.”
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University and a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.