“Listen, the CDC is there to look at diseases that need to be dealt with to protect the public health. I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease. And guns don’t kill people; people do. And when people use weapons in a horrible way, we should condemn the actions of the individual, not blame the action on some weapon. Listen, there are hundreds of millions of weapons in America. They’re there. And they’re going to be there. They’re protected under the Second Amendment.”
And who said that? Not Wayne-o of the NRA, not that bunch from Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, and certainly not one of the five SCOTUS justices who decided back in 2008 that the 2nd Amendment gave Americans the Constitutional right to own guns. It was, in fact, stated last Thursday by John Boehner, Speaker of the House, to explain why he and his colleagues voted against CDC-funded gun research for the thirty-eighth time since the CDC was first defunded back in 1998.
Now you can accuse John Boehner of lots of things, but being an expert on Constitutional law isn’t one of them. So when he makes a comment about what the Constitution protects and doesn’t protect, at best you have to take it with a grain of salt, at worst there’s a good chance that he’s dead wrong. In the case of what he said about the 2nd Amendment, it’s not so much that he’s right or wrong; it’s more that he’s just mouthing what he’s been told to say by whichever friendly NRA lobbyist told him to say it. And in this respect he’s saying what he and his colleagues have been saying ever since the NRA decided to use the ‘guns don’t kill people’ slogan as an unofficial tag-line on bumper stickers and other promotions, even though the phrase has been floating around popular culture since nobody knows when.
I happen to be writing a book on the 2nd Amendment at the moment, so I have read Scalia’s majority opinion more times than I can count. But in light of Boehner’s comment, I went back to the text once again, just to make sure that I hadn’t missed something or misunderstood what Scalia actually said. Because the fact that the SCOTUS decided that guns are “protected” doesn’t explain exactly what the 2nd Amendment actually protects, and for that explanation we have to go back and refer to the 2008 Heller decision again. And here’s exactly what it says: “In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.”
Now it turns out that in 2013, the last year for which we have complete data according to the FBI, 281 Americans were justifiably killed by other Americans, of whom 223 were killed with guns. Most of these killings occurred during the commission of another crime, usually but not always an assault. Which is exactly what the 2nd Amendment protects, namely, the justifiable use of a gun for self-defense. Now if someone would like to explain to me how the Constitution protects the 11,000 murders, 20,000 suicides and the 60,000 assaults that occur each year with guns, I’m all ears.
In 1980, only 11% of all motorists wore seatbelts, but by 2000 mandatory seatbelt laws probably saved upwards of 10,000 lives every year. This remarkable change in driving habits and safety laws occurred because of safety research conducted by the CDC. Did you ever hear the AAA say that “cars don’t kill people, people kill people?” Nobody would ever say something so stupid or dumb. But John Boehner gets away with it every time he and his colleagues cave in to pressure from the NRA and vote to defund CDC research on guns. Of course we all know that gun research is just a smokescreen for taking away all our guns. Ever notice how CDC research got rid of all those cars?