Conservatives Have Won the Gun Control Argument

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 at 5:20 pm

Politico reports that Democrats are quietly pleased about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in McDonald v. Chicago, which overturned the city’s ban on handguns and strengthened the individual right to bear arms:

For them, the court’s groundbreaking decision couldn’t have been more beneficial to the cause in November. Now, Democratic candidates across the map figure they have one less issue to worry about on the campaign trail. And they won’t have to defend Republican attacks over gun rights and an angry, energized base of gun owners. “It removes guns as a political issue because everyone now agrees that the Second Amendment is an individual right, and everybody agrees that it’s subject to regulation,” said Lanae Erickson, deputy director of the culture program at centrist think tank Third Way.

I find this reaction a little odd. Gun control hasn’t been a major election issue since the 1990s, and outside of a few urban districts and some rural areas in the South and West, it’s not a particularly salient concern. Progressive organizations like the Center for American Progress have briefs on gun control, but they focus more on keeping criminals and the mentally ill from obtaining guns, and less on restricting the kinds of guns Americans can own.

Indeed, Democrats won’t even touch commonsense gun control legislation, like the assault weapons ban. During his campaign for president, Barack Obama pledged to reinstate the ban, but Obama has yet to approach the issue, and given the other challenges ahead of him, there’s little chance that he will. Simply put, gun control is one area of public policy where conservatives have all but won the argument, whether they realize it or not.

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Comment posted June 29, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

I'm a Democrat and pleased by the SCOTUS ruling for a host of reasons; this has long been a foolish and losing issue for Democrats as abortion has been a losing and foolish issue for Republicans. The BoR and Federalist papers are pretty clear on the 2nd amendment and it's nice to see it finally put in perspective by the SCOTUS.

On a separate note, there is nothing commonsense about the assault weapons ban…anyone who knows anything about firearms knows that this is among the silliest of laws: the law does not ban actual assault rifles (automatic weapons that have long been illegal), but rather semi-automatic rifles *styled* after military weapons; they are actually *less* dangerous than most hunting rifles as they use smaller, lower power cartridges and have shorter effective ranges. If you had to be shot by a rifle, you'd much prefer it be a .223 assault rifle than a .30-06 hunting rifle. Banning a weapon based on how it looks is the pinnacle of foolishness.

Comment posted June 29, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

” 'It removes guns as a political issue because everyone now agrees that the Second Amendment is an individual right… “

No, we don't.

The Supreme Court also says money is speech and that corporations are people. I don't believe that horsepucky either.

Comment posted June 29, 2010 @ 10:22 pm

As long as one can ignore the words “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…”

DDS -- NRA Life member
Comment posted June 29, 2010 @ 11:24 pm

No need to ignore anything. You need only look up the law defining “militia”. Because I'm such a nice guy, I'll save you some looking. USC Title 10, Subtitle A, Part 1, Chapter 13, Paragraph 311:

•(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

•(b) The classes of the militia are –
•(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard
and the Naval Militia; and
•(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of
the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the
Naval Militia.

Surprise! Surprise! You may be a member of the militia and didn't even know it.

Comment posted June 29, 2010 @ 11:39 pm

Pardon me raising this inconvenient issue, but how in hell do the Federalist Papers address the Second Amendment right to “keep and bear arms”?

The Federalist Papers were written and published in 1787 and 1788. The Bill of Rights wasn't even proposed until James Madison introduced it in the First U.S. Congress in 1789. In other words, the Federalist Papers are utterly silent as to the Second Amendment because, Mr. Logical, the Second Amendment hadn't been written yet.

You might want to do some reading about the history of the Constitution before you make such statements.

Comment posted June 29, 2010 @ 11:43 pm

O.K. So the only women who have a right to carry guns are those who are members of the National Guard. Can I expect to see the NRA defending that position in court soon?

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Comment posted June 29, 2010 @ 11:54 pm

Oh, and look at Section 313 of Title 32, regarding the age for National Guard service: basically it is from 17 to 45 years old, except that former members of the military are eligible up to age 64.

So the NRA takes the position that the Second Amendment does not protect the rights of women (unless they are in the National Guard) or men over the age of 64? Is that what you are telling us?

Neo Hippy
Comment posted June 30, 2010 @ 12:18 am

As a liberal I fully support an American's right to guns. Though I have never owned a gun and probably never will, I do believe criminals need fear citizens and not the other way around. By no means do I advocate violence of ANY kind. I simply and firmly believe people have the right to defend their homes and share a uniquely American heritage with kith and kin.

This latest ruling by SCOTUS can perhaps be a fair middle road most can abide by. Personally, I don't mind gun control laws outside of the home but inside the home the 2nd Amendment should prevail.


Comment posted June 30, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

So your point is what? That the framers never considered the question of the right to keep and bear arms prior to the introduction of the bill of rights? That these concepts magically appeared in 1789 with no discussion leading up to it and no one had ever considered it before?

“If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government” Federalist #28

“To oblige the great body of the yeomanry, and of the other classes of the citizens, to be under arms for the purpose of going through military exercises and evolutions, as often as might be necessary to acquire the degree of perfection which would entitle them to the character of a well-regulated militia, would be a real grievance to the people, and a serious public inconvenience and loss….Little more can reasonably be aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped…” Federalist #29

“Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation…” Federalist #46

The Bill of Rights doesn't grant rights. It is not a list of permissions for the people. It is a list of restrictions on the government. It precludes the government from infringing rights that were commonly recognized as existing prior to their introduction…and prior to the drafting of the Constitution itself.

In other words, the date that the BOR was introduced has nothing to do with how the framers viewed the right protected by the Second Amendment.

Comment posted June 30, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

Fortunately for us, the Supreme Court has taken the matter out of your hands so it basically doesn't matter what you believe.

Back in the 1800's and into the 1900's many believed that blacks were inferior beings and didn't deserve the rights that whites enjoyed. That belief was the origin of many of the gun control schemes still being pursued today.

Thankfully, someone's fervent belief that something is true (or false) isn't a legitimate foundation for public policy.

Comment posted June 30, 2010 @ 3:13 pm

Interestingly, that phrase, when standing alone, has no meaning.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…WHAT?

The second part, however, does stand on its own as a complete concept: “…the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Any honest reading of the full amendment, without conveniently leaving out either part based on your particular agenda, makes it abundantly clear what the founders intended.

The operative clause…the actual statement of the right…is not limited by or dependent upon the prefatory clause. In fact, the exact opposite is true: The right to keep and bear arms is not predicated upon the existence of the militia; the existence of the militia is predicated upon the right to keep and bear arms.

In other words, the right to keep and bear arms is a pre-existing right. This right exists for many purposes including the taking of game, defending one's self, family and home, sporting purposes etc, but because it is so important to have a body of people that are properly armed and proficient in the use of those arms, in order to provide security to society at large, the founders chose to include that right as one of the basic, “fundamental” rights protected against government infringement…the prefatory clause just explains their reasoning for including it.

In fact, the Second Amendment is more broad and sweeping than even the First Amendment.

The First Amendment specifically states that the restriction is limited to the Federal Government: “Congress shall make no law…”; whereas the Second Amendment is a blanket prohibition that is not limited in scope. The right simply “shall not be infringed”…by ANY level of government.

As the Supreme Court correctly ruled two years ago in the Heller case, the Second Amendment protects an individual right that is not predicated upon any type of militia service; and as they correctly ruled just a few days ago in the McDonald case, the Second Amendment protects citizens from infringement of the right by any level of government, not just federal.

Next step: getting a ruling declaring that the words “and bear” in the Second Amendment have as much meaning as the word “keep”. Coming soon to a Supreme Court near you.

Comment posted June 30, 2010 @ 3:48 pm

Sailorcurt put it well (thank you!), but I'll add that I have done quite a bit of reading about the history of the Constitution; your response suggests that you have not. For a quick overview of the Federalist papers, see here:

The Federalist papers are particularly relevant to understanding the Framers' intent for the Second Amendment because the Federalist articles reveal the discussions and thinking that led up to the Amendment. If you read the salient articles and would like to discuss this further, I'd be happy to. If you can point to reputable sources that show other intent on the part of the Framers, I would be very interested in seeing those as well. However, I believe you will find that their intent was clear and that they wrote the Second Amendment to enshrine an individual right to keep and bear arms; the Framers were broadly concerned about excessive government authority and disarming the populace was not something they would have considered reasonable having just staged a popular rebellion against a tyrannical government.

People of good will make the argument that the intent of the Framers is no longer relevant and that times have changed, but the argument that they did not intend the 2nd Amendment to be an individual right does not stand up to scrutiny.

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Comment posted July 22, 2010 @ 2:16 am

The Federalist papers do address the Founders' thoughts on the issue of the right to keep and bear arms, which ideas were subsequently enshrined in the Second Amendment. For the first 150 years of this Republic the right to keep and bear arms was accepted law. It was not until the second half of the Twentieth Century that the fiction of a “collective right” was intruduced by people who came to the realization that they had no chance in hell of amending the Constitution, as required by the Constitution, to try to eliminate the Second Amendment.

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