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Posts Tagged ‘Bill of Rights’

Back in March, I explained that the coronavirus pandemic showed why it’s so valuable for people to have the right of gun ownership.

Let’s revisit the topic and we’ll start with the bad news. As illustrated by this Reason video, Senator Elizabeth Warren wants to exploit the crisis by imposing sweeping limits on our civil liberties guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment.

The good news is that the Trump Administration has been working to make it easier for people to exercise their right to gun ownership.

Licensed gun stores can do drive-thru sales of firearms or sell them out of their parking lots, the Trump administration said…in new guidance designed to facilitate purchases without forcing buyers to enter confined establishments during the coronavirus pandemic. …The only demand is that the required records from transactions still be stored safely inside the building. …Firearms sales have been one of the flashpoints of the crisis. A number of liberal jurisdictions have deemed gun stores to be “non-essential” businesses, which makes them subject to the same shutdown orders as shopping malls, theaters and hair salons. …Lawsuits have been filed against a number of those shutdown orders, arguing they violate the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Gun owners say they can’t exercise that right if they can’t purchase a firearm or ammunition. Those complaints got a boost from the Homeland Security Department, which has issued guidance deeming firearms dealers essential.

And the best news is that many Americans have responded to the coronavirus by stocking up on weapons.

Here are some excerpts from a report by the U.K.-based BBC.

With the death toll climbing every day and most of the country under some form of lockdown, many Americans seem to be turning to guns as part of their response. …The FBI conducted 3.7m background checks in March 2020, the highest total since the instant background check programme began in 1998. …Gun shops across the country report that they are unable to re-stock shelves quickly enough to cope with the rush. …According to Georgia State University law school professor Timothy Lytton, …most new gun sales are being motivated by two factors that have been spurred on by the coronavirus crisis. The first is the concern that civil society – fire, police and health services – could be severely “eroded” someday, leading to a breakdown in law and order. In such a case, a gun can be viewed as a “self-help” survival tool, he says. The second reason is concerns over so-called big government infringing on American freedoms such as gun ownership, which is enshrined in the US constitution. “Many of the public health measures, such as shelter-in-place, restricting peoples’ movements, restricting what people can buy,” Mr Lytton says, “raises fears among many groups of the potential for government takeover and tyranny.”

Here’s a tweet from March showing long lines at a gun store.

A local TV station in the state of Washington reported on the surge in gun sales.

Local firearm stores have been all but emptied out. The response we got from several gun stores in numerous counties showed how overwhelmed they are with business. Many said they barely had time to take our call and compared the demand to that of toilet paper. …We heard from several employees of local gun shops who say it’s undeniable that the massive surge is attributed to people’s fear during this time. Jason Cazes, owner of Low Price Guns in Bellevue, says three weeks ago, the boom in business hit like a ton of bricks. …Cazes found himself flooded with new customers with an urgent request. “Hey I need a hand gun, I need a shot gun. All the sudden they’re interested in having something for protection,” he said. …”It’s a lot of first time buyers,” says Cazes

A newspaper in Pittsburgh reported on the same phenomenon.

After standing in line at a Pittsburgh-area sporting goods store for more than an hour, not knowing what he would say to the sales clerk, the self-described “liberal Democrat from New York City” bought a gun. …His purchase last week occurred during a nationwide rash of firearm sales to people who had never considered gun ownership until becoming rattled by concerns about COVID-19’s impact on America’s social infrastructure. …On Wednesday at Keystone Shooting Center in Mars, Butler County, owner Ty Eggemeyer said the percentage of customers buying their first gun was “extremely high.” “Most of what’s selling is for self-defense and protection,” he said. “Mostly handguns. Our home-defense shotguns, wiped out.”

Stephen Gutowski writes for the Washington Free Beacon about the potential political implications of expanded gun ownership.

Scott Kane went 38 years without ever touching a gun. That streak would have continued had it not been for the coronavirus. In March, fearful of the harassment his wife and child experienced over their Asian ancestry, Kane found himself in a California gun shop. His March 11 purchase of a 9mm would have been the end of the story, were it not for a political standoff over shutdown orders and background checks. Now Kane, a former supporter of gun-control measures and AR-15 bans, is frustrated by the arduous process that has denied his family a sense of security. The pandemic has made the soft-spoken software engineer an unlikely Second Amendment supporter. …Kane is not alone. An influx of new gun owners has the potential to permanently alter the politics surrounding guns in the United States. …Brian, a 40-year-old Floridian, used his savings to buy a Smith & Wesson M&P Shield in March after being laid off—the experience changed his entire approach to Second Amendment issues. …Andrew, a federal contractor who, along with his wife, bought a Heckler & Koch VP9 on March 21 in Virginia, said the state’s Democrat-controlled legislature pursuing a package of gun-control laws this winter in the face of unprecedented opposition directly contributed to his purchase.

And Kira Davis, in a column for Red State, also suggests that the coronavirus has led to new-found appreciation for the 2nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

My friend’s father owns a gun range near me and she said he’s seen a huge amount of liberals coming in to purchase weapons in recent weeks. How does he know they’re liberals? “They’re shocked to discover they can’t just walk out of the store with a gun.” …Not only are many liberals suddenly learning to love their Second Amendment rights, many of them are finding out that the gun control narrative in this country — as repeated loudly and often by Hollywood and the mainstream media — is a complete lie. …As a gun-owner who formerly abhorred the Second Amendment, …I find this whole situation fascinating. …There are a lot of people like me out there right now — first-timers and Second Amendment haters who feel like a hypocrite for wanting a gun for protection. …now they are navigating our convoluted gun laws for themselves… As these revelations begin to spread among our liberal brethren in the state of California, will we see a shift in gun laws and support for anti-Second Amendment legislators? Only time will tell

Aaron Tao, in an article published by the Foundation for Economic Education, summarizes the case for gun ownership.

In the United States, depending where you live, police response time ranges from nine minutes to over an hour. Right now, one in five New York police officers are currently out sick due to COVID-19. Police in multiple states have announced they will no longer respond to theft, burglary, and break-ins. Given the current climate, it’s not unreasonable to assume police will take much longer to arrive, if they do at all, should someone dial 911. Furthermore, Americans need to understand there is no legal obligation for the police to protect you, which is affirmed by the Supreme Court and multiple lower courts. (See Castle Rock v. GonzalesWarren v. District of Columbia, and Lozito v. New York City). Should the police fail to arrive or protect you when needed, you can’t even sue for neglect. …Should an even deadlier natural or man-made catastrophe take place, if the authorities haven’t been incapacitated, displaced, or destroyed completely, whatever personnel and resources are left will be prioritized to protect high-ranking government officials, their inner-circle, and critical government facilities and infrastructure. …ruling elites will be evacuated to a secure bunker in some undisclosed location while John Q. Public will be left to fend for himself. …Many Americans, especially minorities, have realized the need for self-protection in times of social upheaval and breakdown. It is unfortunate that it took a tragedy as extreme as the COVID-19 pandemic to remind people that we should never take peace, prosperity, and freedom for granted. But millions have now taken the first steps to defend themselves and their loved ones.

I don’t pretend to know whether the new surge in gun ownership will change the political landscape, but I know it’s good news when more people learn about the issue. Especially folks on the left. Not only the ones mentioned in the stories above, but also these articles that I’ve shared.

  • In 2012, I shared some important observations from Jeffrey Goldberg, a left-leaning writer for The Atlantic. In his column, he basically admitted his side was wrong about gun control.
  • Then, in 2013, I wrote about a column by Justin Cronin in the New York TimesHe self-identified as a liberal, but explained how real-world events have led him to become a supporter of private gun ownership.
  • In 2015, I shared a column by Jamelle Bouie in Slate, who addressed the left’s fixation on trying to ban so-called assault weapons and explains that such policies are meaningless.
  • In 2017, Leah Libresco wrote in the Washington Post that advocates of gun control are driven by emotion rather empirical research and evidence.
  • Last but not least, in 2019, Alex Kingsbury confessed in the New York Times that his long-held dream of gun confiscation was utterly impractical.

P.S. If you want some humor that combines coronavirus and guns, click here (next-to-last item), here (third item), and here (first item).

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I don’t own an AR-15. I’m not a “gun person,” whatever that means. I hardly ever shoot. And I never hunt.

But I’m nonetheless a big supporter of private gun ownership. In part, this is because I have a libertarian belief in civil liberties. In other words, my default assumption is that people should have freedom (the notion of “negative liberty“), whereas many folks on the left have a default assumption for that the state should determine what’s allowed.

I also support private gun ownership because I want a safer society. Criminals and other bad people are less likely to engage in mayhem if they know potential victims can defend themselves. And I also think that there’s a greater-than-zero chance that bad government policy eventually will lead to periodic breakdowns of civil society, in which case gun owners will be the last line of defense for law and order.

I’m sometimes asked, though, whether supporters of the 2nd Amendment are too rigid. Shouldn’t the NRA and other groups support proposals for “common-sense gun safety”?

Some of these gun-control ideas may even sound reasonable, but they all suffer from a common flaw. None of them would disarm criminals or reduce gun crime. And I’ve detected a very troubling pattern, namely that when you explain why these schemes won’t work, the knee-jerk response from the anti-gun crowd is that we then need greater levels of control. Indeed, if you press them on the issue, they’ll often admit that their real goal is gun confiscation.

Though most folks in leadership positions on the left are crafty enough that they try to hide this extreme view.

So that’s why – in a perverse way – I want to applaud John Paul Stevens, the former Supreme Court Justice, for his column in the New York Times that openly and explicitly argues for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment.

…demonstrators should…demand a repeal of the Second Amendment. …that amendment…is a relic of the 18th century. …to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option. …That simple but dramatic action would…eliminate the only legal rule that protects sellers of firearms in the United States.

The reason I’m semi-applauding Stevens is that he’s an honest leftist. He’s bluntly urging that we jettison part of the Bill of Rights.

Many – if not most – people on the left want that outcome. And a growing number of the are coming out of the pro-confiscation closet. In an article for Commentary, Noah Rothman links to several articles urging repeal of the 2nd Amendment.

They’re talking about repealing the Second Amendment. It started with former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley. …Turley and Stevens were joined this week by op-ed writers in the pages of Esquire and the Seattle Times. Democratic candidates for federal office have even enlisted in the ranksvvvvvvvv of those calling for an amendment to curtail the freedoms in the Bill of Rights. …anti-Second Amendment themes…have been expressed unashamedly for years, from liberal activists like Michael Moore to conservative opinion writers at the New York Times.  Those calling for the repeal of the right to bear arms today are only echoing similar calls made years ago in venues ranging from Rolling Stone, MSNBC, and Vanity Fair to the Jesuit publication America Magazine.

But others on the left prefer to hide their views on the issue.

Indeed, they even want to hide the views of their fellow travelers. Chris Cuomo, who has a show on MSNBC, preposterously asserted that nobody supports repeal of the 2nd Amendment.

It’s also worth noting that Justice Stevens got scolded by a gun-control advocate at the Washington Post.

One of the biggest threats to the recovery of the Democratic Party these days is overreach. …But rarely do we see such an unhelpful, untimely and fanciful idea as the one put forward by retired Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens. …Stevens calls for a repeal of the Second Amendment. The move might as well be considered an in-kind contribution to the National Rifle Association, to Republicans’ efforts to keep the House and Senate in 2018, and to President Trump’s 2020 reelection bid. In one fell swoop, Stevens has lent credence to the talking point that the left really just wants to get rid of gun ownership. …This is exactly the kind of thing that motivates the right and signals to working-class swing voters that perhaps the Democratic Party and the political left doesn’t really get them.

The bottom line is that the left’s ultimate goal is gutting the 2nd Amendment. Not much doubt of that, even if some leftists are politically savvy enough to understand that their extremist policy is politically suicidal.

But let’s set aside the politics and look at the legal issues. There’s another reason why I’m perversely happy about the Stevens oped. Even though he was on the wrong side of the case, he effectively admits that the 2008 Heller decision enshrined and upheld the individual right to own firearms.

And the five Justices who out-voted Stevens made the right decision. I’m not a legal expert, so I’ll simply cite some people who are very competent to discuss the issue. Starting with what Damon Root wrote for Reason.

One problem with Stevens’ position is that he is dead wrong about the legal history. …For example, consider how the Second Amendment was treated in St. George Tucker’s 1803 View of the Constitution of the United States, which was the first extended analysis and commentary published about the Constitution. For generations of law students, lawyers, and judges, Tucker’s View served as a go-to con-law textbook. …He observed the debates over the ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as they happened. And he had no doubt that the Second Amendment secured an individual right of the “nonmilitary” type. “This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty,” Tucker wrote of the Second Amendment. “The right of self-defense is the first law of nature.” In other words, the Heller majority’s view of the Second Amendment is as old and venerable as the amendment itself.

Well stated.

Though the real hero of this story is probably Joyce Lee Malcolm, the scholar whose work was instrumental in producing the Heller decision. John Miller explains for National Review.

Malcolm looks nothing like a hardened veteran of the gun-control wars. Small, slender, and bookish, she’s a wisp of a woman who enjoys plunging into archives and sitting through panel discussions at academic conferences. Her favorite topic is 17th- and 18th-century Anglo-American history… She doesn’t belong to the National Rifle Association, nor does she hunt. …She is also the lady who saved the Second Amendment — a scholar whose work helped make possible the Supreme Court’s landmark Heller decision, which in 2008 recognized an individual right to possess a firearm.

Ms. Malcolm started as a traditional academic.

For her dissertation, she moved to Oxford and Cambridge, with children in tow. …Malcolm’s doctoral dissertation focused on King Charles I and the problem of loyalty in the 1640s… The Royal Historical Society published her first book.

But her subsequent research uncovered some fascinating insights about the right to keep and bear arms.

At a time when armies were marching around England, ordinary people became anxious about surrendering guns. Then, in 1689, the English Bill of Rights responded by granting Protestants the right to “have Arms for their Defence.” Malcolm wasn’t the first person to notice this, of course, but as an American who had studied political loyalty in England, she approached the topic from a fresh angle. “The English felt a need to put this in writing because the king had been disarming his political opponents,” she says. “This is the origin of our Second Amendment. It’s an individual right.” …Fellowships allowed her to pursue her interest in how the right to bear arms migrated across the ocean and took root in colonial America. “The subject hadn’t been done from the English side because it’s an American question, and American constitutional scholars didn’t know the English material very well,” she says. …The Second Amendment, she insisted, recognizes an individual right to gun ownership as an essential feature of limited government. In her book’s preface, she called this the “least understood of those liberties secured by Englishmen and bequeathed to their American colonists.”

And it turns out that careful scholarship can produce profound results.

…in 2008, came Heller, arguably the most important gun-rights case in U.S. history. A 5–4 decision written by Scalia and citing Malcolm three times, it swept away the claims of gun-control theorists and declared that Americans enjoy an individual right to gun ownership. “…it gave us this substantial right.” She remembers a thought from the day the Court ruled: “If I have done nothing else my whole life, I have accomplished something important.” …the right to bear arms will not be infringed — thanks in part to the pioneering scholarship of Joyce Lee Malcolm.

Let’s close with a video from Prager University, narrated by Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA. He explains the legal and historical meaning of the 2nd Amendment.

In other words, the bottom line is that the Justice Stevens and other honest leftists are right. The 2nd Amendment would need to be repealed in order to impose meaningful gun control.

And I suppose it’s also worth mentioning that it won’t be easy to ban and confiscate guns if they ever succeeded in weakening the Bill of Rights. But hopefully we’ll never get to that stage.

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With apologies to the original Superman TV show…

Given what’s happened to the First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, and Fifth Amendment in recent years, and considering what the President would like to do to the Second Amendment, let’s enjoy some humor.

Faster than a writ of habeas corpus! More powerful than the Tenth Amendment! Able to leap the enumerated powers clause in a single bound! (“Look! Up in the sky!” “It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane!” “It’s SuperPresident!”)… Yes, it’s SuperPresident … strange visitor from corrupt Chicago, who came to Washington with powers and hubris far beyond those of the Founding Fathers! SuperPresident … who can change the course of the Constitution, bend the Bill of Rights in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Barack Obama, mild-mannered uniter who stops the rise of the oceans and heals the planet, fights a never-ending battle for redistribution, statism, and the French way! And now, another exciting episode, in The Adventures of SuperPresident!

And look what SuperPresident is doing now!

In the interests of full disclosure, I can’t take credit for the image, which showed up in my inbox. But I did concoct the parody of the opening of the Superman show, so I’ll take 10 percent credit for any humor in this post.

What isn’t funny, though, is how far we’ve drifted from the system created by our Founding Fathers.

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