July 2008

One Less Lie

by Bruce A. Clark

On the last day of its recent term, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision for the case of District of Columbia v. Heller. For those who have been living in a cave for the last six months, Heller is the case that challenged the 32-year-old D.C. prohibition of owning a handgun and mandating that long guns be locked up or disassembled. The Court of Appeals overturned the law, and the Supreme Court ruled in support of the Appeals court on June 26, 2008. To support its opinion overturning the law, the Court stated that the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights prohibited infringement of an individual right to keep and bear arms “unconnected with service in a militia,” and based that on the ancient right of self-defense.

To many, if not most of us, this decision was no surprise; we knew it all along. The problem was that the leaders of the gun control movement have been lying to society and saying that the Second Amendment was some kind of a “collective” right, or a right of a militia to be armed or some other foolishness. That lie won’t work anymore.

The Lie

Some would ask why I assume that it was a lie and not just a mistake or another “interpretation.” The answer involves another point made in the media both before and since this decision, that this was the first time that the Supreme Court has addressed the subject of the right to keep and bear arms. That’s baloney, too, because the Court has been addressing the Second Amendment in its various aspects repeatedly for over a century, at least.

The arm being in common use by the military at this time is the M-16.

In light of the fact that, in the last few decades, most newspaper articles, news broadcasts and, especially, the propaganda of the gun control movement has neglected to mention these (and other) rulings regarding the Second Amendment, what should we assume about all of those journalists, broadcasters and others? Should we assume that they are all stupid and/or ignorant? That sounds patently unreasonable. Neither can I agree that it was some different interpretation, because that would presume knowing and discussing the facts, and that wasn’t the case. The facts were the first casualty in the war against guns. I can only presume that they neglected all of this history by choice. Whether they chose not to look it up or or chose not to write about it after they did look it up, the distinction doesn’t really matter. They lied to mislead many other Americans about this constitutional subject and fundamental right. Not everyone has the time or education to research thoroughly every question that comes before them. It’s reasonable, therefore, that many people will rely upon those who are the professionals at informing society. Unfortunately, the journalists, have in large part betrayed their profession and those who relied on them.

It Continues

It has been sadly comical watching the media since word of the Heller decision came down. Journalists seem to be clinging to their deliberate ignorance or delusions. Instead of taking the case and all of the information presented in it as a learning opportunity, they get in a dither about what it means or what other laws might be overturned. It doesn’t enter their heads that the Court might have made a good decision. An opinion article in the Los Angeles Times made the point that

The city of Washington claimed its gun ban helped protect citizens. But the facts show how foolish it is to rely on gun control for safety.

Washington’s per-capita murder rate has exceeded the rate in 1976 (when the ban passed) every year but one since then. For 10 of the last 30 years, its murder rate was more than twice as high as in ’76. The ugliest aspect of D.C.’s law was its implication that your life is not worth protecting — given that police cannot, and don’t promise to, protect you in every life-threatening situation.

As the saying goes, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

The local television news was worse. The anchorperson mentioned the decision, showed a talking head that disagreed with it and then moved on to other things. Why doesn’t the utter failure of the law in fulfilling its stated purpose appear in the media, rather than bemoaning the fact the Supreme Court ruled that people do, indeed, have the right to defend themselves? Instead, most of the ink is devoted to those opposing the Court ruling. One L. A. Times article on its web site was accompanied by a reader survey. At the time I participated, 5557 readers had answered the questions. The questions were

They are probably not the answers the Times was looking for; they didn’t match the tone of the article at all! I doubt that the survey results will ever be mentioned in the Times.

Feeling Good

Most modern gun control laws are based upon some sort of irrationality. Some people get on the soap box, loudly proclaim their personal outrage about something, stir up the public and pass some law that makes them feel good. Such laws are not based upon facts; most are based upon illusions and lies. The so-called assault weapons ban passed under Clinton was not based upon any fact that criminals used them in crimes; their use was miniscule. It wasn’t even based upon the fact that “assault weapons” were really assault weapons; they are not. An assault weapon is a fully-automatic weapon, a machine gun. The law was not about machine guns, but about semi-automatic weapons.

Barack Obama is a good case in point. He was never a leader of the gun control movement, but he went along. He has been supporting a philosophy that would not now pass muster after the Heller decision. He supported “gun control” measures

Like most of the rest of the Democratic Party, he has mostly stopped talking about such things in his campaign, because he could see which way the wind was blowing in the Heller case and is aware of the damage the Party has suffered over the years from its gun control policies. (Over the decades, the Democrats have forced their potential supporters into the position that if they wanted to protect one of their foremost fundamental liberties, they had to vote Republican.) Obama’s stance is just opportunism — nothing has changed. Should he be elected and should members of his party pass legislation supporting this bankrupt philosophy, I have no doubt that he would sign it into law. (He had the opportunity to join 55 other members of the Senate and 250 members of the House of Representatives in their amicus curiae brief supporting Heller in his case before the Supreme Court. Obama chose not to do that.)

These days, Obama is taking the position that he recognizes the right to keep and bear arms, but also supports “common sense” firearms restrictions. Something as vague as that coming from a politician just means “I’ll do what I please.” But anyway, who needs a “common sense” approach when there is so much real research about what works and what doesn’t, much of which shows that Obama’s “common sense” is nonsense?? Obama, like so many others, is trying to support laws that might make folks feel good that they are addressing some social problem, while they are actually either doing nothing or are actually aggravating the problem.

In a letter to the editor on a different subject in the Los Angeles Times of June 27, 2008, the writer captured the essence of this “feel good” problem (although his statement is a little harsh). He wrote “If … voters … can’t make the distinction between what is right versus what makes them feel good, I believe they are not sufficiently adult to vote. The ability to make this distinction is a primary characteristic that distinguishes between adults and children.” (John McCain has not historically been very good vis-à-vis the 2nd Amendment, either. However he, unlike Obama, is making some sort of public effort to show that he has learned something over the years.)

Live and Let Live — Otherwise Known as Tolerance — Is an American Ideal

We don’t have a state church in the United States. Neither do we have an official party line, nor official guidelines for film, books, magazines or newspapers. Rules regarding personal behavior are very loose, only coming into effect when one individual is actually causing harm to others. People can speak or write ain’t, wanna, gonna, gotta, shoulda, woulda, double negatives and split infinitives, and no language police officer will knock on the door. These things and the other ones explicitly protected in the Bill of Rights are Americans’ liberties, and are the things that make this country different from every other country on the planet. But make no mistake, there is someone in this country (never mind in the rest of the world) who is trying to abridge or infringe every one of them. There is always someone who thinks he or she knows better than the rest and wants to impose a point of view instead of convincing people.

There is no part of the political spectrum that is immune from bigotry. That’s what is at the root of the great polarization that has divided people in this country. Furthermore, there is no section of the body politic that can justifiably say that it is all someone else’s fault. Why would a person give up trying to force religion into the classroom when others are trying to force him or her into conformity on the issue of global warming? Why would anyone want to try to “live and let live” and recognize another person’s right to have an abortion if the other person won’t recognize someone else’s right to protect him or herself from crime with a firearm? All of these practices are connected, and it’s totally unreasonable to expect the other person just to knuckle under to one’s own ideals.

The Supreme Court did us all a favor by deciding as it did in the Heller case. It squelched an ongoing attempt by some people to impose a point of view on everyone else, at least on one subject. You are free to like guns or not. If you don’t like them, don’t buy one or use one. If you want, you can put a sign in your window that reads “Gun-Free Household” so that criminals will know that they will be safer robbing you than your neighbors. But if you choose to try to pass laws that criminalize people just because of things they own that you happen to dislike, you become one of the imposers, and will be helping to dismantle the suite of freedoms that define this country.

Which side are you on?