It’s Only New York, But The NRA Better Not Ignore A New Voter Poll About Guns.

This week New Yorkers Against Gun Violence released a survey they commissioned of 600+ registered voters in New York State.  It’s part of an effort to promote new legislation that seeks to add additional safety measures to the SAFE law, which provoked lots of ire on the pro-gun side when Andy crashed it through the legislature shortly after Sandy Hook. The campaign is focused on a safe storage act known as Nicholas’s Law, named after a twelve-year old whose friend shot and killed him with an unlocked gun.

According to the NYAGV press release, the survey shows strong majority support for a wide range of gun-control issues beyond safe storage, including seizing guns from persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, microstamping of firearms sold in New York State, increased regulation  of dealers and limiting gun purchases to one every month.  With the exception of the last provision, a majority of gun owners also backed all the proposals, albeit by smaller margins of course.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Along with the specific gun-control proposals, the survey also asked both gun owners and non-gun owners about general attitudes toward the regulation of firearms.  Here again, both groups agreed that gun violence was a serious problem and that government had the right to set “reasonable”  regulations on gun ownership and gun use.

I am not surprised by these survey results, for the simple reason that New York is not a particularly gun-rich state.  And even though gun owners are probably in the majority in upstate, rural counties, if you conduct a survey in which respondents reflect percentages of New York State’s population living in large cities and suburban zones, you’re going to get most of your answers from people who, even if they own firearms, certainly don’t have the degree of enthusiasm or loyalty to the gun culture that you find in the South or rural parts of the Midwest.

That being said, when I looked at the cross-tabs for every question which break down responses by age, gender and race, the results of this survey raised some serious doubts in my mind as to what the future of gun ownership is really going to be.  Because what was interesting about the cross-tab responses was the degree to which for virtually every question, the groups that the gun folks have been trying hardest to persuade to join their ranks are exactly the groups who appear to be least interested in owning or, to put it bluntly, having anything to do with guns.

For example, in answer to this statement, “Having a gun in the home makes the occupants of that home safer,” a slightly majority (52%) disagreed.  This runs contrary to recent polls which show that a slight majority nationwide would agree.  But in New York nearly two-thirds of the female respondents disagreed, as did the Black and Latino respondents, as did the respondents ages 18 to 34.  As to whether to support reasonable gun regulations, roughly three-quarters of Blacks, Latinos and women agreed with this statement, but for the 18-34 age group the number was a whopping 82 percent!

Again, it needs to be remembered that these numbers would be different In states where most people own guns.  But I don’t think the gun folks should just write these numbers off because everyone knows that New Yorkers  don’t like guns.  Marketing campaigns to the contrary, women and minorities still don’t appear enamored of guns. Moreover, the fact that younger respondents exhibited the highest degree of approval for gun control and the lowest degree of support for the notion that guns protect us from crime tells me that the NRA and the pro-gun community may not be reaching the next generation of gun owners with a message that really works.  But that still leaves open the question of whether the other side can double down on the views of women, minorities and millennials to advance their agendas in gun-rich states.  New York ain’t exactly Dixie, right?

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Noth Carolina Joins The List Of Dumb States In Trying to Keep Doctors From Talking To Patients About Guns.

Here we go again.  Another state legislature, in this case North Carolina, may be joining 3 other dumb states in enacting a law that will prevent physicians from talking to patients about guns.  The bill would prohibit physicians from mentioning guns on intake questionnaires and worse, prohibits physicians from telling authorities about concerns that arise from interviewing a patient about gun ownership.  This stupidity first began in Florida which passed such a law inaugurating a legal battle known as Docs Versus Glocks which eventually resulted in the law being upheld by the 11th Circuit in 2014.

The North Carolina law, however, goes further into the realm of stupidity because it not only enjoins physicians from asking patients about gun ownership unless the patient has expressed a desire to harm himself or others, but it also prohibits disclosing information about gun ownership to any authorities except in instances where the aforesaid patient – ready for this? – has been “adjudicated incompetent due to mental illness.”  Does this law actually forbid a physician from informing law enforcement about a potential act of gun violence because the patient in question hasn’t yet gone before a judge who decided that the guy happens to be crazy as hell?  That’s right.  That’s exactly what the bill which may be taken up by the House Appropriations Committee actually says.

docs versus glocks                This new law creates a rather interesting predicament for doctors even if they don’t feel compelled to ask their patients about guns.  Because let’s say that a patient tells a physician, for example, that he’s suffering from extreme depression and is thinking of taking his own life.  He then further tells the physician that he owns guns and he is planning to use one of the guns on himself because he knows that it’s the quickest and easiest way to get the job done.  Under this law, the physician can’t actually do or say anything at all.  The guy is depressed but he’s lucid and hardly mentally incompetent.  The doctor can ask the guy about what kind of gun he’s planning on using to blow a hole through his head, but all he can do is perhaps suggest that the patient rethink the whole idea.  He can’t even tell the patient to get rid of the gun because the law also says that an individual’s right to own a gun is a “private matter” over which the doctor has no authority or input at all.

I’m not totally surprised that such a law would be enacted when I consider the original source, namely a loony Republican State Representative named George Cleveland, who once stated that nobody in North Carolina suffered from ‘extreme poverty’ when, in fact, roughly 8% of the state’s residents have incomes that fall below the extreme poverty line, and overall North Carolina ranks as the 13th poorest state. This rock-red Republican, by the way, just happens to be a gun nut and you can get a sense of this from his home page on Pinterest which is covered with guns. Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think that Representative Cleveland is a bad guy because he likes guns.  I think he’s a bad guy because this is a bad law.

Cleveland’s bill stands the Hippocratic Oath on its head. The law basically says that a physician cannot do or say anything to reduce the possible harm caused by someone who admits wanting to use a gun to hurt themselves or someone else.  Of course this same physician would be free to pick up the telephone and call the cops if someone walked into his clinic and said he was going to stab someone else with a knife.  If anyone other than the NRA really thinks this law is an important step forward in protecting our 2nd Amendment rights, then I just hope you’re not the guy or gal in North Carolina whose spouse just told a physician that they are going to grab you, grab their gun and put a bullet through your ear.

Let’s Hear It For Antonin Scalia: The Best Gun Salesman Of All Time.

As the wheels start turning towards the 2016 election, I can’t figure out why the gun lobby continues to prattle on about the ‘threats’ posed by liberal candidates like Hilary, when everyone knows that the industry’s best friend is that arch-liberal Barack Obama, whose presence in the White House for nearly another two years means that guns will continue to sell like crazy until he departs from the scene.  And even though gun sales have slackened off since the halcyon days right after Sandy Hook and ammunition is once again appearing on at least some retail shelves, there’s no question that the only thing that really drives the gun business is the fear that gun owners won’t be able to buy or own any more guns.

Gun makers have never been able to convince a majority of Americans to go out and buy guns.  With all the recent efforts to attract new gun consumers like women, college students and Blacks, the profile of the average gun remains a blue-collar White male with a family and a truck who lives in one of the 13 Confederate states, the 3 border states and the rural parts of 5 Midwestern states. Most gun owners are politically conservative and, generally speaking, vote bright red. Looking for liberal gun owners is like trying to run a fundraiser for a politically conservative candidate in Silicon Valley or the Hollywood Hills. The fact that certain demographics sway one way and others sway in the opposite direction shouldn’t come as a big surprise.  We are a pretty diverse country, and diversity tends to create different points of view.

scalia                Yet despite these differences, the one thing that just about everyone believes is that the Constitution is truly the law of the land.  And while Republicans paint Obama as some kind of anti-Constitutional despot, anyone who would take such partisan nonsense seriously well…you can fill in the rest.  Which is why I find myself coming back to examine the 2008 Heller decision, because when all is said and done, this decision is more important for the future health and welfare of the gun industry than anything liberal gun-grabbers like Barack or Hilary could say or do.

Not only did the Court decide 5-4 that owning guns was a Constitutional right, the majority justified the decision by claiming that the right of personal gun ownership actually pre-dated the Constitution, the 2nd Amendment simply codifying a long-established practice that existed even before the Framers met in Philadelphia in 1787 or, for that matter, before British troops fired on colonials at Concord Bridge in 1776. It turns out that George Washington owned more than 50 firearms, both long guns and handguns, which qualified him as a true gun nut for his day.  Thomas Jefferson, not only was an accomplished gunsmith, but invented some of the assembly-line techniques that later were used in the manufacturing of small arms.

The number one Constitutional gun nut, however, is none other than the author of Heller, Antonin Scalia, whose justification for claiming that we have a Constitutional right to own a gun is based on nothing more than his own needs.  Try as he might, Scalia was utterly unable to find any significant legal precedent which justified using a gun for self-defense against personal threats or crime.  Aside from a few vague statements from the anti-Federalist side, the overwhelming definition of self-defense in pre-Constitutional jurisprudence and commentaries involved defense against political threats from a national state.

Scalia is considered to be the foremost champion of centralized government authority sitting on the High Court.  But I’ll bet that when he sat down to write Heller he was thinking first and foremost about how to protect his own guns. The fact that he crafted a decision effectively limiting the authority of the federal government while giving him and the rest of us the right to always own guns makes him a much better salesperson for the gun industry than Barack or Hilary could ever hope to be.

Want To Defend The 2nd Amendment? Go Shopping.

Last week another idiot wearing a sheriff’s badge announced he would not enforce any law extending NICS background checks to private gun transfers in Oregon because keeping guns away from felons and other dangerous folks wasn’t on his list of priorities.  At least this particular lawman had the good sense to justify his enforcement concerns because of duty demands made on the deputies under his command; several weeks earlier an even bigger idiot with a sheriff’s badge in Oregon stated that he wouldn‘t enforce a new background check law because he considered it to be “borderline treasonous.”

I may be wrong, but I always thought that the role of law enforcement was to enforce the law, not to decide which laws to enforce.  Nobody’s arguing with the fact that when it comes to public safety you can’t take a cat down from a tree while the building across the street burns down.  And I happen to be 100% pro-cop, I really am.  I’ve seen cops and other first responders rush into dangerous situations while civilians like myself sat back and quietly gave thanks that we didn’t have to go in there ourselves.  But this nonsense about not enforcing gun-control laws is nothing other than a cynical, calculated ploy to build anti-government (read: anti-liberal, anti-Democrat) sentiment in red-leaning districts and gun-rich states.  The idea that we need to stand up against gun-grabbing Obama because he represents some kind of illegitimate power-grab is a recipe for talk among fools, and I’m being polite.

2A                The sheriffs in Oregon seem to be part of a national trend of lawmen allegedly protecting the 2nd Amendment whenever a state passes a new law restricting the purchase or use of guns.  A group of these sheriffs were particularly active in Colorado where expanded background checks were made into law; another bunch of 2nd-Amendment sheriffs met with Governor Jerry Brown in California while he was considering which gun bills to sign and which to reject; even in liberal New York State a couple of sheriffs publicly stated they would not enforce Andy’s SAFE Act after it became law.

Some of these disgruntled lawmen follow Oathkeepers, a group founded by a former Ron Paul staffer, dedicated to defending the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  With all due respect to the concern for foreign enemies, the group appears to be much more worried about threats from the Bureau of Land Management (you may recall the ongoing dispute with rancher Cliven Bundy) than anything being cooked up in Syria or Iraq.  The poster-boy for this crackpot bunch is a former Arizona sheriff, Richard Mack, who runs his own cabal called Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association which claims to be the “last line of defense” although I’m not sure against what.

The CSPOA claims to have enlisted over 500 sheriffs to “stand” with the 2nd Amendment and they have also “trained” 300 sheriffs in Constitutional rights.  What I find most interesting about this group is the endless array of ads for products and other commercial schemes that evidently help fulfill the requirements for Constitutional defense.  You can protect yourself in an “uncertain world” by stocking up on freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, or reach a new level of personal security by getting into a military-style body armor vest.  For those who want to make absolutely sure they won’t face threats in the most intimate and personal moments, you can register at the Patriot Date website and find the girl or guy who shares your Constitutional dreams.

The organizations worried about the erosion of our Constitutional rights are nothing more than commercial scams.  Which is fine when you stop to think about it, because if nothing else, the Constitution gives us all the unalterable right to buy and sell.  When it comes to threats to my Constitutional rights, the greatest threat would be if Amazon suddenly stopped debiting my Visa card. If that ever occurs, I’m sure Sheriff Mack will accept my payment for something he’s selling, no questions asked.

 

Book Review: A Restless Spirit – The Last Months of Manfred von Richthofen.

The books I like to read more than any others are works of historical fiction set in and around World War II.  Give me a new novel by David Downing, Joseph Kanon or Alan Furst, particularly Alan Furst, and everything else I need to do can go to Hell in a hand basket from the moment I crack the front cover until I finish every last word. I’m not saying that Marc Cirigliano is catching up to Furst in terms of style or output and in fact he’s writing about another war – World War I. But the book I just read, A Restless Spirit, The Last Months of Manfred von Richthofen, excited me and made me hope we will see more such treatments from a professor of art history who knows how to tell a good tale.

ace                It wasn’t until I started reading A Restless Spirit that I remembered that we are, in fact, in the middle of the centenary of World War I.  And while a few WWI memorial organizations  and events have sprung up here and there, you can wander around Washington, D.C. and easily miss the WWI Memorial which was erected in a secluded spot on the edge of the Mall to honor DC residents who died in that war.  Meanwhile, the National World War II monument sits between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, and if that’s not enough, you can always go across the Potomac and visit the splendid Marine Corps – Iwo Jima memorial which commemorates the great Joe Rosenthal photo of Mt. Suribachi as the men of Company E, 2nd Battalion unfurled the flag.

We only fought for 18 months in World War I and our total casualties, dead and wounded, were slightly more than 50,000 men. We had that many casualties of Confederate and Union fighting men in four days at Gettysburg, and between the British Isles and the Empire, the cost in dead alone from World War I was almost 2 million men.  That perhaps explains why the First World War holds just a sliver of the popular imagination when compared to World War II.  But in many respects, World War I may have been more important in terms of shaping subsequent events.  Both Hitler and Stalin were products of how their countries were ravaged between 1914 and 1918 and it’s doubtful that we would have had World War II if those regimes had not emerged from the chaos and destructiveness of what we now call the Great War.

The terrible cost of the war is brought home in vivid detail by Cirigliano’s descriptions of the air battles engaged in by Manfred von Richthofen, a.k.a the Red Baron, whose 80 combat victories not only made him the leading fighter ace of the war, but transformed public consciousness about the value of air technology both during and after the war.  Richthofen, who came from Prussian nobility, was in military service from the day the war began until he died in April, 1918.  He led by example, was fearless in combat and in one month alone was credited with more than 20 enemy kills.

The author nicely weaves portraits of air combat with the day-to-day soldiering duties on the ground; the text puts the reader onto the battlefield, behind the lines, whatever and wherever troops were encamped or making ready for the next attack or defense against the foe.  But within this stressful and dangerous narrative another portrait emerges, that of Richthofen the outdoorsman and hunter who got away from the strains and harm of war by taking his Mauser into the woods.

I really liked the descriptions of Richthofen tramping through the forests around his native Schweidnitz and other spots.  The author tells us that he writes to illustrate “cooperation, self-development, conflict resolution and peace as essential components of the human experience,” and he ties this all together in fulsome descriptions of Richthofen hunting elk and boar. As you can tell, I really enjoyed reading this work and you’ll like it too.

 

Who Owns The Argument About Guns And Crime? We All Own It.

When a major player in the world of political messaging gets involved in the gun debate, we should all read what he has to say.  That’s because Danny Franklin from the Benenson Group isn’t about to waste precious space in The Washington Post talking about something that isn’t near or in the middle of the public opinion radar scope.  And Franklin knows a little about public opinion, having conducted political polls for guys named Barack Obama and Cory Booker, to name a few.  His op-ed piece in The Post appears to have been occasioned by a poll he conducted which showed that a majority of respondents believe that a house with a gun is safer than an unarmed home; in fact similar results have cropped up here and there in recent years.

conference program pic                What I like about Franklin’s piece is the linkage between reducing gun violence and public health which, if nothing else, confirms again what we all know; namely that gun violence has an epidemiology that has to be studied and treated on its own terms.  We can talk all we want about strengthening or passing laws to keep guns out of the ‘wrong hands,’ but when all is said and done, getting shot usually means a major commitment of medical resources, extended psychological trauma for the victim, family and friends, and costs in the millions for apprehending, convicting and punishing the dope who pulled the trigger of the gun.

These costs – financial, psychological, cultural – might be somewhat more acceptable if it were the case that guns in private hands serve any positive civil function at all.  In fact, if you are a gun hobbyist who collects guns or uses them for hunting or sport,  guns do serve an enjoyable end in and of themselves.  But the nonsense peddled by the NRA and pro-gun politicians about how armed citizens protect us from crime in not only nonsense, but dangerous nonsense at that.  The odds that the average middle-class person will be the victim of a violent crime are about the same as the odds of that person getting run over by a rhinoceros; on the other hand, a gun in the home of that same person possibly considering suicide poses a real threat.

The data which demonstrates the indisputable risk of gun ownership comes from research produced by scholars in the field of public health.  And Franklin is on solid ground when he uses this data to advance the argument for viewing gun violence in public health terms.  Where I want to raise a comment, however, is when he evaluates public health strategies that will reduce gun violence because I think he identifies an interesting issue whose importance for the safe-gun movement has been ignored or not fully understood.

Franklin notes that public health measures were sometimes successful not just because of changes in the law but because of a growing public awareness which developed a momentum of its own.  By the time the Federal Government put health warnings on cigarette packs, for example, the number of adult smokers had already dropped from one out of three to one out of four.  And Franklin claims that the drop in gun crimes over the last twenty years might provide a similar degree of public awareness and momentum in the gun debate as well.

Every year when the FBI publishes its crime data the gun lobby seizes on the continued decline in violent crime as ‘proof’ that an armed citizenry is keeping us safe.  The truth is there’s absolutely no evidence showing any linkage between gun ownership and rates of violent crime.  I think the gun-safe movement should jump on these numbers to help promote their point of view, namely, that Americans clearly understand the risks posed by guns and should welcome everyone’s help to reduce gun violence even more. Why should the pro-gun community own the argument about guns and crime? If we are all concerned about gun violence, then we all should take credit when the numbers go down.

 

 

The New York Times Thinks The NRA Has Won. I’m Not So Sure.

It’s official.  The NRA has won the battle for the hearts and minds of the American people. The victory has been announced by none other than The New York Times in an editorial from Charles Blow, reporting on a report from Pew Research, which shows that more Americans favor “gun rights” than favor “gun control.”  The margin is narrow, 52 to 46, but in surveys conducted since 1993, the gun-control folks held a substantial lead over the pro-gun gang in every poll.  Now for the first time, the positions have “flipped,” leading Blow to announce that “The NRA appears to be winning this round.”

Not surprisingly, this opinion piece caught the attention of the gun-sense community, and not in a particularly positive way.  After all, the Times has published numerous editorials calling for stricter gun licensing, and the paper went out of its way to highlight the news that none of the guns displayed at the recent NRA show in Nashville could actually be made to shoot.  Want to get someone on the pro-gun side to quickly lose his cool?  Mention Mike Bloomberg or The New York Times.  Take your pick.

nyt logo                After announcing the results of the Pew survey, Blow gave his best guess as to why public opinion appears to be favoring less gun control.  I’m being polite by characterizing Blow’s explanations as being a ‘best guess.’  The truth is that nobody really knows whether anyone who is asked a question about something as politically insignificant as guns has spent more than two seconds thinking about the issue before they picked up the phone.  Guns only register as an important issue in polls that are conducted immediately after a high-profile shooting (Gabby Giffords, Sandy Hook), and with all due respect to Mr. Blow, I have never been convinced that we should take public opinion all that seriously about an issue whose significance rises and falls following random events.

Be that as it may, I want to offer a counter-argument to the Times and Charles Blow, and I want to make it clear that neither am I looking for some kind of silver lining in what otherwise might be seen from the gun-sense side as a depressing state of affairs, nor am I suggesting that the survey question no longer captures a valid view of what the gun argument is all about.  Because no matter what people who want to see an end to gun violence might think, changing public policy on gun ownership means making changes in the law.  And even if the laws are only changed to make it more difficult for guns to get into the ‘wrong hands,’ (e.g., domestic abusers, violent misdemeanors), this still means extending the reach of government as to whom should be able to own guns.  If that doesn’t qualify as new or additional controls, no matter how you dress it up, then perhaps I need a refresher course in English 101.

One thing I do know is that the mortality and morbidity resulting from the use of guns amounts to more than 100,000 Americans every year.  And it doesn’t matter whether it’s intentional or unintentional, whether it’s self-inflicted or inflicted by someone else, the one thing that all this mortality and morbidity shares is that it involved a gun.  And the other thing we know is that changing anything that results in this kind of behavior takes a very long time.  Tobacco was proven harmful fifty years before warnings appeared on cigarette packs.

Widespread advocacy about gun violence is really only twenty years old.  And let’s not forget that the survey used by Charles Blow was actually conducted and published last December, with public opinion about all progressive issues in the doldrums after the mid-term election results of 2014.  The fact that the NRA continues to marginalize and sensationalize its own message is not symptomatic of strength, but of a failure to attract new demographics (women, minorities, etc.) to its fold.  I wouldn’t be so quick to move the NRA into the winner’s circle.  Not just yet.

 

Want To Support The 2nd Amendment? Visit The NRA Tactical Store

When I was a kid growing up in the 1950s, there was very little talk about guns that didn’t in some form or another relate to Cowboys, Indians and the Old West.  Actually, the Old West wasn’t really that old, because it was only in 1890 that the Census Department stated that the frontier was now ‘closed.’  But the West was old enough to be featured in Shane, the very first movie I went to see, I never missed an episode of weekly television shows like Gunsmoke starring James Arness, and I chased plenty of make-believe Indians with the Colt Single Action Army plastic revolver strapped around my waist.

The kids growing up today continue to see lots of guns on video and tv, but the context has changed from Westerns to soldiers, with the guns now symbolizing our overseas military adventures in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.  And there doesn’t seem to be a single gun maker who doesn’t try in some way to tie his products to the military, and I’m not just talking about the obvious connections between Bushmaster or Colt black guns and the battlefield; take a look at how Glock is pushing its military product line or the soldier-like images behind Smith & Wesson’s online rebate form.

If you really want to see a consumer-products company that’s gone whole hog for the military look, take a gander at the new tactical online store of the NRA.  Wait a minute.  I thought the NRA was a gun-advocacy organization that promoted gun safety, sport shooting and, most of all, the protection of our civil rights (a.k.a  the 2nd Amendment which the NRA claims to be the most important civil right of all.) Since when did they become involved in promoting, never mind selling tactical gear to guys and gals?

tactical gear                Actually, from as long as I can remember, the NRA always sold products that promoted its own brand, like books on shooting and training, decals for the back of the truck or the side window of the car, and caps, shirts and other garments that proclaimed one’s support of gun rights, freedom and the American way.  There’s nothing wrong with any organization securing its financial base by selling items that both increases the bottom line as well as getting the logo and the message out in front of the public eye.  But what I find interesting about the new tactical product line is that for the first time, as far as I can remember, the organization is selling products that are actual accessories for guns.  It’s one thing for an organization to sell a shirt embossed with a logo which can be worn at a shooting range but can also be worn anywhere else.  It’s another thing to sell hi-cap magazines for AR-15s, or universal gun magazine reloaders, or instant concealment kits which can, according to the advertising, convert  “ordinary” packs and bags into “extraordinary” gun concealment systems.

The NRA isn’t selling these products because they are trying to start a new trend.  The fact is that promoting guns and gun gear has become part-and-parcel of the general militarization of our culture since the horrific events of September 11, 2001. After all, if we are going to let the local cops ride around in armored personnel carriers and carry bayonets on their AR-15s, why should we be shocked when the NRA sells tactical-style boots for only $129.95?

The great irony in the NRA’s attempt to make common cause with the military is the whole point of the 2nd Amendment was to give citizens the right to defend themselves with guns because liberties might be threatened by a central government that had a monopoly on armed force.  Of course the Framers couldn’t imagine a central government run by a liberal who also happens to be Black. For that matter, I can’t imagine that any of the stalwart defenders of our civil rights who happen to be selling goods in the NRA tactical store know or even care what the 2nd Amendment really means.

 

 

Does Ted Cruz Understand The 2nd Amendment? The NY Times Says No; I Say Yes.

I never thought I would agree with anything that Ted Cruz says about guns, or anything that he says about anything else, for that matter.  But I have to admit that I entirely agree with a statement he made about the 2nd Amendment in a fundraising appeal that he sent out last week.  According to Daily Kos, the email quoted Cruz as saying that “the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution isn’t for just protecting hunting rights, and it’s not only to safeguard your right to target practice. It is a Constitutional right to protect your children, your family, your home, our lives, and to serve as the ultimate check against governmental tyranny — for the protection of liberty.”

As soon as this statement hit the internet, the usual scions of liberal respectability and proper discourse demonstrated their usual pique and concern, not the least a statement by the Editor of the New York Times Editorial Page, Andrew Rosenthal, who accused Cruz of promoting the “ridiculous” and “silly” idea that the 2nd Amendment was the handiwork of Framers who, according to Rosenthal, wanted to “encourage the idea of armed rebellion against the government.”  And this guy’s running for President?

cruz                I have something to tell the Editorial Board of The New York Times. The fact is that what Crazy Cruz said about the 2nd Amendment is not only true, it happens to be the foundation upon which the Supreme Court based the 2008 Heller decision which gave Americans the inalienable right to keep a gun in their homes for self-defense. The law which came before the SCOTUS basically said that a resident of the District could only keep a handgun in his domicile if it were locked at all times, thereby not allowing the gun’s owner to use it for self-defense.  Heller challenged this statute based on the idea that if he couldn’t use the weapon for self-defense within his domicile, then the 2nd Amendment right to private gun ownership was basically null and void.

What had always created confusion among jurists and scholars regarding the 2nd Amendment was the strange wording which divided the Amendment into two parts: the prefatory clause which says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,” and the operative clause which continues, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  One side had always argued that the wording tied, indeed qualified private gun ownership to be a function of military service; the other side argued that owning a gun was a fundamental right that was not in any way dependent upon military service at all.  The 5-4 majority opinion in Heller written by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, came down on the side of a private right.

If you read Scalia’s decision closely, however, it turns out that the idea of using guns for personal defense appears in many local statutes and legal commentaries contemporaneous with the drafting of the Bill of Rights.  It also turns out that there was considerable concern in the post-Revolutionary period about whether the national government should raise and support a standing army or whether the national defense should be left to citizen’s militias raised by the individual states.  But what comes out in reading the numerous sources cited by Scalia to justify gun ownership on the basis of self-defense is that, overwhelmingly, the notion of self-defense was considered first and foremost to be defense against government tyranny, not using a gun to shoot the thug who tries to break down your back door.

Not only is Cruz correct when he says that the folks who wrote the 2nd Amendment were looking for a way for citizens to protect themselves from governmental abuse; the writings and commentaries of the period bear him out.  The fact that Scalia took those writings and gave them a modern twist says a lot more about his agenda than whether Ted Cruz understands the Constitution or not.

Wayne LaPierre Wasn’t The Only Person At Nashville Talking About Guns.

Now that the NRA annual big deal has come and gone, there will be the usual post-mortem as to whether the show was the biggest and the best, which Republican candidate gave the best speech and, of course, whether the Donald is still looking for that birth certificate.  You can get a taste of all this and more on the NRA website where most of the celebrity speeches have been posted, but what I found interesting was a comment made by Wayne-o in his annual attempt to scare gun owners into buying more guns.

The appeal to fear first started with Wayne’s predecessor, Harlon Carter, who ran the NRA from 1977 until 1985. It moved into high gear when Charlton Heston was featured in a series of anti-crime television ads that showed the former Hollywood liberal walking down back alleys in Washington, D.C. while saying that the streets were “ruled by criminals” and that criminals should be “banned” rather than guns.

moms logo                Unfortunately for the NRA, the problem with using crime as a rationale for owning guns is that violent crime in the United States keeps going down.  For that matter, so does the percentage of older, White men, who just happen to be the demographic that buys and owns most of the guns.  So sooner or later, if these trends continue, the NRA is going to have to craft a new message and find a new reason for all those guys and gals walking around armed.

They began to take a new approach last year before the mid-term elections with a series of cable ads that featured the “five million NRA members” standing up for honesty, truth and various so-called core values, while at the same time swiping at you-know-who in  the White House and the elitist culture that is undermining everything we hold dear.  The problem with this ad campaign, however, is that it doesn’t do what the NRA has been most successful at doing for the last twenty years, namely, ginning up fears about something that can only be overcome if you go out and buy a gun.  But Wayne-o and his PR staff have evidently come up with their latest scare technique, which came at about the 4th minute of his speech to NRA members when he mentioned that “terror cells” were operating in cities all across the United States and that a major terrorist attack was about to take place.

At last year’s meeting Wayne-o told the audience that terrorists were just one of a large group that were threatening America, a group which included home invaders, drug cartels, campus killers, airport killers, power-grid destroyers – it was quite a list.  This year he got his act somewhat more focused, pulled the ‘terror cells’ out of his hat, and then reminded his listeners that only a national CCW law and every NRA member renewing their dues would truly make Americans safe.

Meanwhile, outside the NRA meeting, Shannon and the Moms held a rally to promote a different idea about whether guns make us safe.  Immediately after the rally, various pro-gun bloggers went out of their way to assure their readers that the small attendance at Shannon’s rally showed that the anti-gun forces would never be a match for the NRA.

I have gone to more than 20 NRA meetings and for people who like guns, the exhibit hall is a cross between a swap meet and a Scout jamboree.  As for core values, just wander into the sales area and see how much the NRA charges for a t-shirt or a hat.  In all the years I went to the annual meeting, the only person demonstrating outside the hall was some old guy with a ‘Prey To Jesus’ placard, and not the Moms who have chapters in all fifty states. The NRA’s attempt to use terrorism as a bogey-man to sell more guns is a new riff on an old strategy that sooner or later will wear out.  Shannon and her Moms are truly new, different and here to stay.