Why Do People Like Guns? Because They Like Guns.

              Earlier this week one of my readers sent me a link to the video of a debate I had at Northern Michigan University with John Lott.  The event was held in a large auditorium on campus and the place was filled with students, faculty and nearby residents, many of whom were gun nuts.  How do I know they were gun nuts?  Because at the beginning of my remarks I asked all the gun nuts in the audience to identify themselves by holding up their hands, and then I asked some of them to prove their gun-nuttiness by telling me and the audience how many guns they actually owned.

              As I recall, the guys who were willing to ‘fess up about the size of their gun collections said they owned somewhere between 10 and 30 guns.  I laughed in response to every single answer and then told the audience that I currently owned around 60 guns, give or take a few, and that at the moment my private collection was kind of ‘light.’

              I speak to pro-gun groups all the time. I’m something of a contrarian and I enjoy telling people what they don’t expect to hear. And when someone tells a group of gun guys that he owns 60 guns but would like to see a more serious effort made to reduce the 125,000 gun injuries we suffer every year, I can say without fear of exaggeration that this is an argument that Gun-nut Nation doesn’t often hear. I make it clear that I don’t buy into the nonsense about how all those ‘good guys’ with guns can protect us from all those ‘bad guys’ with guns. I also say that just because someone sits in a room for a couple of hours and falls asleep while someone else reads through some boring text about gun ‘safety,’ that this experience doesn’t meet even a minimal qualification for using a gun.

              What I don’t do in my public appearances is talk about the research on gun violence which has been published on both sides, for the simple reason that I don’t believe that the average person makes up his mind or even thinks about making up his mind based on data or facts. At least not the average person who owns a gun.  Why do I say this? Because I happen to have sold guns to more than 10,000 residents of Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont over the past 17 years; I have also taught the required gun-safety course to more than 7,000 residents in Connecticut and Mass., and I earn my living now by doing lethal-force certifications for local, state and federal law-enforcement agencies. So I know a heckuva lot more about how gun owners think about guns than anyone else in either Gun-control Nation or Gun-nut Nation, that’s for sure. And here’s what I know.

              People who buy and own guns do it for one, simple reason. They want to buy and own a gun. They may tell you that they need a gun to defend themselves, or they need a gun because it’s their 2nd-Amendment ‘right,’ or maybe they need a gun because pretty soon they won’t be able to buy a gun. I had a female customer, an educated business executive, come into my gun shop two weeks before the 2016 Presidential election who told me she ‘knew’ that if Hillary was elected, that she wouldn’t be able to own a gun.  How did such a crazy idea get into her head?  By the same token, I love how some gun-control advocates tell me about the ‘debunked’ research published by John Lott. As if they’ve ever read his research. Yea, right.

              I’m going to continue talking to pro-gun audiences and gun owners as often as I can. I wish that some of my dear friends in Gun-control Nation would spend a little less time talking to each other and try talking to the other side. Who knows? They might actually learn why people like their guns.  

Advertisements

Let’s Stop Being Afraid of the Second Amendment.

              I bought my first, real gun in 1956 when I was twelve years old. At a flea market on Route 441 somewhere in the Florida Glades. Now Route 441 is an endless collection of strip malls, condo developments and more strip malls. Then 441 marked the western edge of the Glades.

              Between 1956 and 2008, when the Supreme Court gave Constitutional protection for the private ownership of guns, I probably bought and sold 500 handguns and long guns. That’s ten guns a year which isn’t all that many for a certified gun nut like me. Every one of those transactions was legal (well, most of them were legal) and none of those transactions had any Constitutional protection at all.

              Whenever some well-meaning person who supports gun control starts off by saying that they don’t want to infringe on 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ I want to cringe. What’s so bad about infringing on all these 2nd-Amendment rights, particularly when most of these so-called rights don’t really exist? The 2008 Heller decision does not (read: not) give gun owners the ‘right’ to walk around with a gun. It does not (read: not) give AR-15 owners the ‘right’ to show up at Charlottesville with an assault rifle strapped to their backs. It does not (read: not) give gun owners the ‘right’ to wander all over the United States with their guns. It gives gun owners one ‘right,’ which is to keep a handgun in their home. Period. That’s the ‘right.’

              I want this issue to be clearly understood not because it will make any difference to how Gun-nut Nation talks about gun ‘rights.’ Want to know the latest Gun-nut take on gun ‘rights?’ Check out this spiel on NRA-TV by a noted foreign policy expert about how people in Venezuela are unable to fight back against the Maduro regime because they don’t have any guns. The country happens to have the second-highest murder rate in the world, but no doubt all those murders are committed with clubs and knives, not guns.

              So let’s not worry about how Gun-nut Nation promotes gun ‘rights.’ But we have an election next year. And every Presidential candidate lining up against Sleazy Don has announced their support of stronger gun laws. At the same time, all these candidates are steadfast in their desire to ‘respect’ the ‘right’ of Americans to own guns.

              As far as I’m concerned, my gun-control friends can pat themselves on the back as much as they want for supporting Constitutional guarantees, but by getting up on the barricades and proclaiming their fealty to the 2nd Amendment, they are giving away the argument before it begins. And they should stop doing it – right now!

              I just donated one hundred bucks to Moms Demand every month. I can guarantee you that I am the only donor to Moms who also happens to be a Lifetime Benefactor member of the NRA. Why do I swing both ways? Because I believe in an equal fight. But what I don’t believe is that Gun-control Nation levels the playing field by pretending that there’s no  disagreement with Gun-nut Nation when it comes to Constitutional ‘rights.’

              The reason we have a problem known as gun violence is not because all our guns aren’t safely stored. It’s not because we don’t require a background check every time we transfer every gun. It’s because we pretend that the 2nd Amendment only allows us to pass ‘reasonable’ gun laws. And if anyone out there really believes that a ‘reasonable’ gun law would prevent anyone from getting their hands on a concealable handgun holding 15 or more rounds of military-grade ammunition, you might as well follow Alice down the rabbit hole. Ending gun violence means ending the demand for guns which are used to commit gun violence, not ending the supply.

              There are still at least fifteen Presidential candidates who have yet to tell us what they would do about gun violence. Maybe one of them will figure it out.

Khal Spencer: How To Pass A Gun Law That Nobody Likes.

Laws work best when we believe in their fairness. It is advisable to build consensus when crafting legislation. In the case of New Mexico’s new universal background check (UBC) law, the opposite of consensus building occurred.  In an act that has been repeated elsewhere in the U.S., urban and rural constituencies have rejected each other’s thinking with polarizing results.

This latest round of discord has been covered in the Santa Fe New Mexican’s editorial page, to wit, the Attorney General’s admonishment to Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties to enforce the law. But I doubt more political posturing will bring people together. What, may I ask, could have? Here are several suggestions our legislators ignored.

Not all guns or gun transactions represent a credible threat. A recent Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows most guns recovered from criminals are handguns.  But the new law treats the exchange of a 22 rimfire rifle between country neighbors with the same gravity as selling a concealable Glock pistol to a perfect stranger in Albuquerque’s “War Zone”.

Its not clear that we even know how prohibited persons in New Mexico get their guns. National and state studies give us hints. In that same BJS report, and similar studies carried out by Prof. Phillip Cook and colleagues in Illinois, we see that the lion’s share of criminals obtain their guns from a combination of acquaintances, the underground market, or less likely, theft. The BJS report breaks it down into about a quarter from family or friends and almost half from the underground criminal market. Less than 1% get them from “gun shows” and a few from dealers.  The new law would work on that part of the market where law abiding citizens are exchanging guns only if we obtain buy in from the gun owning public. Instead, our legislative gun control advocates treated gun owners with disdain.

The bill was oversold.  Gun deaths often rise and fall independently of gun laws, most dramatically shown with century-long data in New York City, or when comparing recent trends in gun violence in New York City and Chicago, where enforcement and social networking differences far more than laws contribute to different trends in violence rates. Gun violence student Dr. Michael Weisser says that in Colorado, gun homicides rose after its 2013 UBC law went into effect. Judicial and sociological issues strongly influence violence rates.

Finally, one would hope your legislators care about your opinion. In 2017, I worked closely with my representative, Stephanie Garcia-Richards, trying to craft a background check bill with gun owner buy-in. I offered to do the same with my Santa Fe representatives this time and was met with studied silence or for the most part, cursory replies. I heard from a leader of the NM Shooting Sports Assn. that other gun owners met studied silence. Its not hard to figure out why. Although the NRA is the left’s boogeyman, Everytown for Gun Safety lavished almost $400,000 in campaign cash on our Legislature, dwarfing the NRA’s efforts, to ensure their voice drowned out everyone else’s.

A carefully written background check bill that hits the target of our violence problems while obtaining maximum buy-in from New Mexico’s gun owning public would be a great idea and could only help. What the bill’s supporters did instead was broaden the abyss between gun rights and gun control. The present political standoff was predictable and perhaps preventable.

What Causes Gun Violence? It’s The Guns.

              More than a quarter-century ago, two brilliant researchers, Fred Rivard and Art Kellerman, published research which definitively linked gun access to increased risk of suicide and homicide. Frankly, the entire corpus of gun-control research hasn’t really gone beyond what they said, because nothing more needs to be said. Either there’s a gun around or there isn’t, and if there is, to quote Walter Mosley,“it will go off, sooner or later.”

              This research resulted in the elimination of gun-research funds from the CDC budget, with Gun-nut Nation convincing a majority of Congress from the dumb states that this kind of research was being conducted not for science, but for partisan (read: liberal) political ends.

              Now that the House has flipped blue, Gun-control Nation and their medical, public-health allies are beating the drums for a resumption of CDC-funded research. Of course when and if such legislation comes up for a vote, you can bet the other side will argue that studies showing that guns are a risk to health are nothing more than politically-motivated research. The funny thing is, however, that public health research done since CDC funding ended is not only political in terms of topics and goals, but happens to be research that protects the ownership of guns.

              Huh? Am I saying that noted scholars like the folks at Harvard and Hopkins want to keep America awash in guns?  That’s exactly what I’m saying, and if my friends at the NRA home office in Fairfax would come back to their senses, they’ll realize that the best friend they have is a former New York City mayor whom Gun-nut Nation believes to be the devil incarnate when it comes to guns. Before you think that I’ve lost my sense, please read on.

              Here’s the policy statement from the Everytown website: “Support for the Second Amendment goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns away from criminals and other dangerous people.” As if the 2nd Amendment says anything about whether Americans have the ‘right’ to own a small, concealable handgun which holds 18 rounds of military-grade ammunition and happened to be the gun used by Seung-Hui Cho to kill 33 people on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007.

              The reason we are the only advanced country which suffers from gun violence is not because we only do background checks at the initial point of sale; it’s not because we have 350 million guns floating around; it’s not because we don’t have PTP licensing; it’s not for any of the reasons that my friends in public health research have decided requires yet another study to figure out how to reduce violence caused by guns.

              The reason is because we let the gun industry determine which guns are safe enough to be sold, while the regulators try to figure out ways to keep the most lethal consumer products imaginable out of the ‘wrong hands.’ And this naïve and foolish view, which pervades virtually every aspect of gun research, flows over into the medical community as well. Doctors are advised to show more ‘respect’ for gun culture, counseling their patients not to get rid of their guns, but to store them in a safe way. Note that the studies by Kellerman and Rivara don’t distinguish between stored and unstored guns.

              I would like to end this column on a hopeful note. I am not trying in any way to denigrate the work of my many public health friends who conduct research on gun injuries and, it goes without saying, would like to see such injuries eliminated or at least reduced. But as long as this research community continues to avoid figuring out why some people deal with their fears by buying guns, telling these folks that guns represent a ‘risk’ is to tell them nothing at all. Either we get rid of the guns that are responsible for gun violence or we don’t. And until/unless  we get rid of those kinds of guns, there will be plenty of gun violence to serve as topics for gun research.   

I’m Not So Sure The Court Will Expand 2nd-Amendment ‘Rights.’

              Why do I get the feeling that some of my gun violence prevention (GVP) advocacy friends can’t wait for the Supreme Court to expand 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ beyond the boundaries set by the Heller decision in 2008? You may recall that Scalia’s opinion in that case ratified the idea that Americans who wanted to keep a handgun in their home would now be exercising a Constitutional ‘right.’ Period. Did this decision create Constitutional protection for walking around the neighborhood with a concealed gun? No. Did it create Constitutional protection for walking around the neighborhood with an openly-carried gun? No. Did it prevent localities from making all kinds of rules and regulations that had to be met before you could keep a handgun in your home? No. The decision simply said that as long as sooner or later you could be given permission to keep a handgun in your home, you were not being deprived of your 2nd-Amendment ‘right’ to ‘keep and bear arms.’

              The case which has the GVP advocacy folks worked up into a tizzy doesn’t actually question the constitutionality of New York City’s onerous gun-licensing process at all; a process known as the Sullivan Law which has been in effect since 1912 and is, simply put, the most restrictive licensing system ever devised anywhere on the planet. The case in question deals only with a regulation which is not, in fact, part of the licensing process itself, but only comes into effect after a gun owner spends a lot of money and a lot of time getting licensed to own a gun. The regulation in question forbids any resident of New York City to carry his licensed gun outside the five counties which comprise the city’s geographic limits. If, for example, you want to take your licensed gun to any location outie the city, the moment you drive from da city into Joisey or Rockland or some other place, you’re violating the NYC licensing law.

              The case in question basically argues that by requiring a city resident to keep his licensed gun within the city limits is to deprive that resident of his 2nd-Amendment ‘right’ to keep a gun in his home if he happens to have another home. And what is now going on within the GVP world is the great fear that if this regulation is struck down, it opens the way for all those crazy gun owners to go anywhere and everywhere they want with their guns.

              Which happens not to be true. What?  Hey Mike, are you saying that maybe, just maybe the GVP noise machine is making a big deal out of something that may turn out to mean little, if anything at all? That’s exactly what I am saying, and here’s the reason why.

              Let’s say I have an apartment in Manhattan and a house out at the beach, maybe in one of the Hampton high-crime towns like Southampton or Quogue. The moment I drive my car out of the city and cross the border between Queens and Nassau Counties, I’m actually not just violating one law, I’m, violating two. Because I can’t have a gun in my beach house without getting a gun license from the Suffolk County where the beach house is located, unless the address of my other home is in a jurisdiction which has no gun licensing at all.

              Could the Court rule that no jurisdiction has the authority to determine whether guns represent a threat to public safety and therefore strike down every gun-licensing law in every state? They can rule whatever they want to rule, but on this one I wouldn’t take the short odds. The whole point of the Heller decision was to protect private ownership of handguns but also to protect the government’s authority to uphold the ‘compelling interest’ of keeping communities safe. And even a court with a nut-job like Clarence Thomas wouldn’t uphold the notion that when it comes to public safety, armed citizens should be our first line of defense.

Want To Contribute To This Blog?

Last year I began posting content on this website written by people other than myself. To date, readers have been able to enjoy columns by 14 men and women who can all be seen on the Contributing Editors page. I wanted these contributions to reflect my commitment to listening to voices on both sides of the gun debate because until and unless we learn how to communicate across the great divide between pro-gun and gun violence prevention (GVP) communities, we won’t get anywhere at all.

I believe that my website is the only online venue which gives visitors an opportunity not only to read commentary which agrees with what they believe, but to also access commentary which disagrees with their beliefs. Which is exactly the point.

For all the talk within the GVP about how they are committed to ‘reasonable’ solutions to gun violence, I have never seen a GVP venue which hosts a single, ongoing discussion between the two sides about what the word ‘reasonable’ really means. Or what it should mean. Every time that GVP advocates jump for joy when a survey shows that a majority of gun owners support comprehensive background checks, I wonder how the GVP would react if they knew that these same gun owners also support eliminating gun-free zones.

On the other hand, the pro-gun movement has certainly never demonstrated any interest in hearing from the gun-control crowd. At best, the 2nd-Amendment gang usually dismisses all talk about gun controls of any kind as nothing more than a Bloomberg-Soros hoax. At worst, I won’t bother to mention the worst, okay?

I am not only very pleased that 14 writers have contributed to my blog – the purpose of this column is to reach out and solicit more commentary from people on both sides. I do not make editorial judgements of any kind, the writer can discuss any subject he/she likes, there is no limit as to length and I ask only that the content does not contain any profanity or personal attacks. Otherwise, what you send to me is what you will see posted on this blog.

By the way, of the 14 contributing editors whose work has been published here so far, I would consider 8 of them to be from the pro-gun side and 6have views are aligned with the GVP. That’s an interesting breakdown, insofar as the majority of my readers tend to be more pro-GVP than not.

Anyway, please feel free to become a Contributing Editor on Mikethegunguy.com.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ 2nd Amendment.

              Now that H.R. 8 has been filed, I am beginning to see the outlines of the campaign narrative that Gun-nut Nation will employ in an effort to beat back any attempt to implement universal background checks, a.k.a. UBC.  Judging from the emails that have come flying in plus comments on various pro-gun blogs and forums, the anti-UBC strategy will embrace two, basic ideas:

              (1). Giving the government the power to control what I do with my private property is a violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments, which protect private property against unlawful seizure.

              (2). Making every gun transfer subject to a background check will create a national gun registry which will lead to confiscation and is a violation of the 2nd Amendment.

              As to the first argument, that people should be able to do whatever they want to do with their private property, I only wish that this had been true when I sold my house in South Carolina but first had to shell out four thousand bucks to Harold and Willy. Who were Harold and Willy? They were two guys who showed up after the house was inspected and informed me that the house couldn’t be sold until they went around and killed all the termites in the walls and the floors. In other words, we have long accepted the idea that you can’t just sell your private property to someone else if in so doing, the sale creates a risk. And even the nuttiest of all gun nuts agrees that selling a gun to someone who has committed violent crimes creates a risk. That was the easy one. Now here comes the hard one.

              Incidentally, I’m hoping that my friends in the gun-control movement will use what follows to prepare themselves for the arguments they might get from the other side. I still have a survey on my website which asks gun-control advocates 12 simple questions about gun laws (there is the same survey for people who considers themselves pro-gun advocates) and to date, I have received 87 responses and the average score of correct answers is 6. So I hope you’ll read what follows here.

              The 2nd Amendment means what the SCOTUS said it meant in the 2008 Heller decision, the majority opinion written by a dear, departed friend. And what it means is that keeping a handgun in the home is a Constitutional ‘right.’ Which means that a state government can pass any gun law it wants, as long as it does not prevent someone from owning a handgun, assuming they are not considered a risk to themselves or to anyone else. Who determines whether someone’s ownership of a handgun might create a risk?  The government. Who determines whether the existence of a particular type of handgun might create a risk?  The government. And that’s it. That’s what the 2nd Amendment means.

So, for example, if you live in New York City and a handgun is found in your home and you cannot produce the requisite paperwork which takes the NYPD Licensing Division about six months to issue on your behalf, you will be convicted of a felony because New York City decided back in 1912 that you can’t keep a handgun in your home for self-defense, or any other reason, until the NYPD says it’s okay. If you go into Court the day of your sentencing and tell the judge that New York City is abridging your 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ because you would have to wait six months to get a permit, I strongly urge you to bring your toothbrush because you ain’t going home.

Between 1966, when I bought my first gun, and 2008 when Heller was decreed, I probably bought and sold at least 500 personally-owned guns. Not one of those transactions had any Constitutional protection at all. So what? My friends in the gun-control movement should stop worrying about whether something as timid and non-intrusive as UBC is a violation of any kind of rights, Constitutional or otherwise. It’s not, and you can take that one to the bank.

Should Social Media Play A Role In Letting People Own Guns?

A friend who labors for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (send them a few bucks) sent us the text of a new bill just introduced in the New York State Senate that would amend the process of issuing handgun licenses in a rather interesting and unique way. The bill, NYS09191, would require that anyone applying for or renewing a handgun license give the cops approval to review the following social media accounts – Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram – and search engines – Google, Yahoo and Bing. The purpose of this review, according to the text of the bill, would be to “ascertain whether any social media account or search engine history of a licensee presents any good cause for the revocation of a license….”

              The bill was introduced by Kevin Parker, who represents the 21st Senate District, which happens to cover Flatbush but borders on two other neighborhoods, Brownsville and East New York, which remain serious contenders for suffering from high rates of gun violence every year. Since Parker is the Democratic Whip, and since both chambers of the Legislature are now controlled by the blue team and the author of the state SAFE law is still the executive in charge, what do you think are the odds that this new bill will become law?  I’d say the odds are good to better than good. Which means that using social media as a criteria to determining the issuance of gun licenses in ‘may issue’ states will probably spread beyond the borders of the Empire State.

When and if this law gets to a public hearing, you can bet that Gun-nut Nation base their opposition to this law on their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights,’ because they oppose every gun law based on their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ But I’m willing to bet that America’s ‘oldest civil-rights organization,’ the NRA, will also oppose this law based on their fervent belief in the 1st-Amendment’s protection of free speech. After all, isn’t that what social media’s all about?

Putting aside the rantings and ravings of the gun-nut lunatic fringe, the fact is that this amendment to New York State’s gun-licensing process really does move the issue of gun control into uncharted waters that will certainly need to be explicated by an appellate court.  The courts have held again and again and again that government has a ‘compelling interest’ in public safety, which means that the cops can always be asked to decide whether any particular individual might be a threat to public safety, and then take steps to reduce or eliminate the threat.  But until now, the authorities have based such decisions on overt acts of potentially threatening behavior, as in ‘I’d like to shoot that m-f,’ or other such declarations of intent.  That being said, does the fact that some guy goes on Google to search for ‘mass shootings’ mean that the guy has any intention to precipitate such an event?

The kid who walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012 and shot the place apart had access to an AR-15 that his mother kept in their home.  The kid also spent much of the previous year compiling a large, digital library on mass shooting events.  But there is no evidence that he ever said anything about committing such an act himself. The Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people in 2011 used the internet to share and spread hatred-filled remarks about the Muslim threat, but again, never made any specific mention of wanting to gun people down.

I have no problem with cops using social media to determine my fitness to own a gun; more than 150 jurisdictions have spent nearly $6 million to equip themselves with social media tools which are used to deal with crime. But giving law enforcement carte blanche to create a profile of me based on how I meander around the World Wide Web raises all kinds of issues which need o be sorted out.

That being said, I think Senator Parker is onto a good thing.

Gun Control in America: A Historic Guide on Major State Acts.

Original Content Posted at Ammo.com

The Second Amendment guarantees American citizens the right to bear arms, but both federaland state governments determine how citizens may legally exercise that right. And while both federal and state gun control laws regularly change, laws at the state level change more frequently and often without the media coverage that surrounds changes at the federal level.

ammo  This results in a constant challenge for gun owners to keep up with the latest state laws, especially for those who carry their weapons across state lines. Because while some states have more restrictions than others, state gun control policies across the country are diverse and can change quickly – too easily putting responsible gun owners on the wrong side of the law.

This guide is a timeline of major state gun control acts throughout the history of the United States – not only to help gun owners understand the state laws that have influenced our nation, but also to showcase how one state’s gun laws can set an example for others, creating a domino effect of gun control policy for the entire country.

Colonial America: Slavery Versus The Second Amendment

Pre-Constitution, the original Articles of Confederation established that “every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia.” The Bill of Rights’ Second Amendment holds that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” However, those rights were at that time granted specifically to white males.

Fear of slave and Native American uprisings prompted many colonial states to establish laws banning “free Mulattos, Negroes and Indians” from having firearms. By the antebellum period, southern states like South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi and even Delaware all had various laws denying guns to people of color and allowing search and seizure of weapons as well as punishment without trial. Crucial to all of this was the Supreme Court case Dred Scott v. Sanford.

Previously a slave, Dred Scott sued for freedom based on the fact that he’d lived in the free state of Illinois and a free area within the Louisiana Territory for a decade. When his suit was unsuccessful in Missouri, he appealed to the federal courts. The contention was whether “a free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves,” was a citizen with protections under the Constitution. The Supreme Court decision on Dred Scott v. Sanford in 1857 denied “a free negro of the African race” citizenship – a milestone its issuer cited as “the most momentous event that has ever occurred on this continent,” excluding the Declaration of Independence. In that moment, those denied citizenship were also excluded from any of the rights associated with it.

After The Civil War: The Postbellum Era, Emancipation, Reconstruction, and the Black Codes

While President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves, President Andrew Johnson’s failing leadership brought with it all the struggles of the Reconstruction Era. Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Dred Scott decision still denied people of African descent citizenship.

Former Confederate states enacted Black Codes to define and restrict freedmen’s positions within society. Along with mandating legal responsibilities, land ownership rights, contract labor wages and harsh criminal laws, nearly all the Black Codes effectively and pointedly banned “persons of color” – anyone “with more than one-eighth Negro blood” – from possessing firearms. Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, Alabama, North Carolina, Texas and Tennessee all enacted Black Codes, attempting to maintain the status quo and deny weapons to people of color.

The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments banned slavery, provided all citizens equal protection under the law and ensured voting rights for all citizens. The 14th Amendment was particularly important, as it defined citizenship as “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” overturning the Dred Scott decision, establishing people of color as citizens and overriding state statutes denying them the right to possess firearms based on their heritage.

Jim Crow South: The Supreme Court Cedes Gun Control to the States

In the following decades, a second civil war ensued as freed slaves sought to embrace their citizenship and formed freedmen militias to protect black communities and maintain political footing. The Jim Crow South, however, was equally intent on keeping firearms out of the hands of black Americans. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was founded in 1866 as a “social club,” and the Knights of the White Camelia and the White Brotherhood quickly followed. These white supremacist groups swept the South, their foremost demand that freedmen surrender their firearms.

Despite attempts to pass a federal law making the specific seizure of firearms “without due process of law, by violence, intimidation, or threats” a felony, the language of the resulting Enforcement Acts was instead diluted to encompass obstructing civil rights, and the terror continued.

Tensions came to a head in 1873 in Louisiana, when armed white Democrats overpowered Republican freedmen militia at the Grant County Courthouse in what came to be known as the Colfax Massacre. Three whites died, but estimates indicate as many as 150 freedmen were killed – possibly more – most in the hours after they’d surrendered. Initially, three white men were prosecuted under the Enforcement Acts. But in 1876, the Supreme Court decision on the case – United States v. Kruikshank – dropped all charges, ruling that the power to protect citizens from private actions like those of the KKK resided with the states, not the federal government.

Southern states were quick to pass Saturday night special laws limiting handgun ownership through financial requirements that retained a racial bias. Tennessee had already enacted “An Act To Preserve the Peace and Prevent Homicide” in 1870, but simply reworked it for 1879’s “An Act to Prevent the Sale of Pistols.” It set the precedent by banning all handgun sales except expensive Army and Navy model handguns.

Arkansas followed in 1882 with an identical law, while in 1893, Alabama placed a heavy tax on handgun sales. In 1902, South Carolina limited handguns to law enforcement – often Klan members – while Mississippi followed a subtler path, requiring firearms dealers to maintain records available upon demand for handgun and handgun ammunition sales (with the intent to allow race-based confiscation). In 1907, Texas, like Alabama, decided to adopt a tax aimed at preventing both poor whites and blacks from being able to buy handguns.

Prohibition Era: Immigration, Organized Crime and Concealed Carry Laws

Concealed weapons of any kind have long been a controversial issue. As early as 1813, Kentucky law controlled concealed weapon carry, to include Bowie knives, sword canes and pocket pistols. Laws in Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee, for example, also retained language to control “how arms may be borne.” In 1897, the Supreme Court case Robertson v. Baldwin determined that laws controlling concealed carry did not violate the Second Amendment, stating “the right of the people to keep and bear arms (Art. II) is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons.” Recently, the Ninth Circuit Court once again confirmed that ruling in Peruta v. County of San Diego.

The New York City of the early 1900s had no such laws, but was marked by European immigration, Tammany Hall, extensive organized crime and gun violence of all kinds. A newspaper article from the time cited the example of a grief-stricken Italian father fatally shooting the truck driver who’d accidentally run over his son. However, January 23, 1911, proved the tipping point when Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough used a concealed .32-caliber automatic pistol to assassinate novelist David Graham Phillips midday in Gramercy Park for an imagined slandering of his sister.

Supported by the Tammany Hall apparatus and effective August 31, 1911, the resulting Sullivan Act of 1911 mandated discretionary police-issued licenses to possess a handgun and made carrying an unlicensed concealed weapon a felony. While gun violence in fact escalated right into Prohibition, these two criteria formed the basis for many other states’ “may issue” gun laws requiring discretionary police-issued licenses to restrict gun ownership.

By 1987, only one state had unrestricted concealed carry – while eight were “shall issue,” 25 “may issue” and 16 “no issue.” In 2016, 10 states have unrestricted concealed carry, while 32 are “shall issue” and eight “may issue.” New York remains one of the few “may issue” states, and the Sullivan Act remains on the books as New York Penal Code Section 400.00 after more than a century.

Civil Rights Movement: The Black Panthers and Loaded Carry Laws

Ironically, the event that is ultimately credited as the cause of banned loaded carry took place in California without a single shot being fired. In 1960s America, civil rights issues were escalating. The assassinations of both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X in 1965 left black communities fearful, and torn between peaceful resistance and self-defense “by whatever means necessary.” Abusive, racially motivated policing practices in Oakland, California, gave rise to the Black Panther Police Patrols and their mission to monitor and challenge that brutality. Since citizens were by law permitted open loaded carry of registered guns, the Black Panthers patrolled armed.

When a predominantly white jury ruled the police killing of Denzel Dowell a justifiable homicide, it was perhaps the last straw. The first issue of The Black Panther Black Community News Service on April 25, 1967, focused not only on the killing of Denzel Dowell, but also other police atrocities. It questioned how a previously injured Denzel could have fled a police officer who knew him well enough to call him by name, why he was shot 10 times, and why the newspaper announced the verdict two hours before the jury did. It also listed three other police murders of black men and two police-administered beatings of a black woman and a 14-year-old black girl.

Meanwhile, dubbed the Black Panther Bill, the Mulford Act sought to ban loaded carry specifically to end Black Panther armed patrols. However, on May 2, 1967, 30 Black Panthers – 24 men and six women armed with a written manifesto and loaded weapons – gathered on the California State Capitol steps and entered the building, their destination the General Assembly to protest the impending legislation. They were admitted only to the legislature’s official viewing area and then were asked to leave, but they left with their guns still loaded.

While the event remained nonviolent, cities across the nation were experiencing intense race riots. The California legislature fast-tracked the Mulford Act, and then-Governor Ronald Reagan signed it into law on July 28, 1967, as California Penal Codes 25850 and 142-181. It prohibited individuals from publicly carrying a loaded firearm on their person or in a vehicle in an incorporated city or other prohibited areas. The act authorized peace officers to examine any firearm to determine whether it was loaded and deemed any refusal to comply as probable cause for arrest. It also prohibited anyone but law enforcement from possessing loaded firearms or deadly weapons within the Capitol.

The Cold War and the Advent of “Assault Weapons”

The latter half of the 20th century brought with it global conflicts – Vietnam, Korea and Iraq – and assault rifles. The easily recognizable AK-47s, AR-15s and Uzis became the weapons of choice for military forces around the globe, their characteristics highly desirable to firearms enthusiasts.

While the guns take a lighter caliber bullet and typically fire with less range and power than a rifle, they offer valued traits like folding stocks, pistol and forward grips, large-capacity removable magazines and the capability of switching firing modes. With time, semi-automatic rifles have appeared as many different makes and models, often surprisingly affordable. Most notable is that with each ban and limitation, semi-automatic rifles become more popular.

The 1989 Stockton Massacre and California’s AWCA Response

Out of all the states, California is recognized as having the most restrictive gun laws. One of the primary catalysts was the Cleveland Elementary School shooting on January 17, 1989, during which Patrick Purdy used an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle to spray a playground full of children, killing five and wounding 32 before killing himself. Despite former weapons and robbery offenses, Purdy had easily bought the assault weapon in Sandy, Oregon, and brought it across state lines to the Stockton, California, schoolyard.

The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 (AWCA), effective January 1, 1990, was California’s response and the first assault weapons act. It ultimately defined assault weapons within three categories, banned any transfer of the listed prohibited assault weapons, and required registration of any already in possession by the end of 1992. Any weapons not registered by that date were to be surrendered to law enforcement.

The 1993 101 Massacre and California’s Firearms Safety Act

Despite the legislation, on July 1, 1993, Gian Luigi Ferri entered the law firm of Pettit & Martin on 101 California Street in San Francisco to avenge his alleged loss of $300,000 in a land deal. Armed with two 9mm semi-automatic machine pistols, a .45-caliber semi-automatic handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, Ferri killed eight and injured six in a 16-minute rampage before killing himself.

While the event was the impetus for the 10-year Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 to 2004, in California, the effects have lasted much longer. Seeking to end gun manufacturer workarounds like changing model numbers, the state amended the Roberti-Roos Act’s assault weapons categories in 1999 by banning the manufacture, import or sale of semi-automatic rifles or pistols with certain characteristics as well as the transfer of magazines able to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, effective January 1, 2000.

That same year, California limited handgun purchases to one during any 30-day period; Maryland, New Jersey and the District of Columbia have similar laws. It also passed the Aroner-Scott-Hayden Firearms Safety Act of 1999 to require child-safety locks on all guns, set handgun safety standards that dealers must meet, and repealed the immunity previously protecting gun manufacturers from victim lawsuits.

The 2012 Sandy Hook Massacre and New York’s SAFE Act

Reminiscent of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, appalled the nation as an armed gunman once again took out his rage on school children. Adam Lanza killed his mother at home and then fatally shot 20 children and six staff members at the school before killing himself. He was armed with his mother’s AR-15 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and two of her handguns – a Glock and a Sig Sauer.

On January 16, 2013, New York became the first U.S. state to act after the shooting when its legislature passed the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act. It required universal background checks for all firearms purchases, expanded its definitions of assault weapons, created a state database for handguns, and banned the sale or purchase of magazines that could hold more than seven rounds of ammunition.

On April 4, 2013, Connecticut and Maryland both enacted new restrictions to their existing gun laws: An Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety and the Firearm Safety Act of 2013, respectively. Connecticut, too, required universal background checks for firearms purchases and banned magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Maryland banned assault weapons and magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The 2012 Aurora Massacre and Colorado’s Response

On July 20, 2012, James Eagan Holmes fired into an Aurora, Colorado movie theater showing of The Dark Knight Rises premier, killing 12 and injuring 70 amid tear gas from grenades he’d launched. He was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, a Smith & Wesson M&P15-22 semi-automatic rifle fitted with a 100-round magazine, and a .40-caliber Glock. Holmes had bought all three guns legally between May 22 and July 6, from three different firearms stores – two Gander Mountains and One Bass Pro Shop.

Following other states’ earlier actions, on March 20, 2013, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper also signed into law three bills to prevent another mass shooting event. HB 13-1224 banned large-capacity magazines that can hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition. HB 13-1229 required universal background checks for all firearms sales, and HB 13-1228 directed that applicants pay for the cost of the checks.

2013: 10 New California Gun Control Laws

Also in 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed 10 more different firearms-related bills:

  • AB-500 Firearms: DOJ checks.
  • AB-48 Firearms: Large-capacity magazines.
  • SB-683 Firearms: Firearm safety certificate.
  • SB-140 Firearms: Prohibited persons.
  • AB-1131 Firearms: Mental conditions.
  • SB-127 Firearms: Mentally disordered persons.
  • AB-231 Firearms: Criminal storage.
  • SB-363 Firearms: Criminal storage: Unsafe handguns: Fees.
  • AB-170 Assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles.
  • AB-539 Firearm possession: Prohibitions: Transfer to licensed dealer.

These bills extended weapon transfer waiting periods, added storage safety conditions and strengthened storage negligence laws, banned conversion kits for large-capacity magazines, required safety certificates for long guns, extended mental health-related prohibitions for firearms from six months to five years, made assault weapon permits individual-issue only, and prohibited individuals denied firearms from storing them with dealers.

SB-140 also appropriated $24 million to the Department of Justice to address the backlog in the Prohibited Armed Persons File database tracking more than 20,000 individuals prohibited from owning firearms.

2016: California’s “Gunpocalypse”

As 2015 drew to a close and the holidays approached, the tragic San Bernardino shooting stunned California residents and the nation. Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people and injured 22 more at a Christmas party thrown by Farook’s employer at the Inland Regional Center on December 2.

Farook and Malik were armed with two .223-caliber semi-automatic rifles – a DPMS A-15 and a Smith & Wesson M&P15 – two 9mm semi-automatic pistols, at least four high-capacity magazines, well over a thousand rounds of ammunition and a pipe bomb. The incident ended with the homegrown terrorists’ sworn loyalty to ISIS’ leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a police vehicle chase, and a final shootout that left both perpetrators dead.

While Farook had legally purchased his handguns, another individual, Enrique Marquez, had purchased the rifles legally in 2011 and 2012, as Farook had reportedly feared he wouldn’t pass the background check needed for them.

The two rifles, however, were altered after the purchase in flat violation of California law: the Smith & Wesson for automatic fire and the DPMS to accept large-capacity magazines. Investigation of the couple’s home yielded a stockpile of another 4,500 rounds of ammunition, a dozen pipe bombs, and tools for making them.

Almost immediately, California assemblymen and senators introduced a packet of legislation. On July 1, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed six new gun control bills into state law, each seeking to close a firearms loophole: Assembly Bills 1695, 1511 and 1135 as well as Senate Bills 880, 1446 and 1235.

AB 1695

AB 1695, also known as “The Stop Illegal Gun Sales Act,” was an effort to stop the practices of “straw purchasers” – individuals able to pass background checks who procure guns for ineligible individuals, then report the firearms as lost or stolen to avoid accountability.

California’s penal code already listed falsely reporting to a member of law enforcement as a misdemeanor or felony. However, the bill specifically makes falsely reporting a firearm as lost or stolen a misdemeanor and imposes a 10-year ban on firearm ownership for those convicted of the offense. Violation of the 10-year period carries up to $1,000 in fines and up to a year in prison.

AB 1511

While the vast majority of firearms loaned from one person to another must go through a licensed dealer under AB 1511, prior to this bill Californians could lend a firearm to individuals they knew personally for infrequent periods of less than 30 days. The new bill has the same loan period limitations, but it restricts the lending of firearms to “a spouse or registered domestic partner, or to a parent, child, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild” related by “consanguinity, adoption, or steprelation.”

SB 880 & AB 1135

California passed two bills, SB 880 and AB 1135, that are substantively the same with minor wording differences like “specified attributes” as opposed to “several specified attributes.” Essentially, the new law closes the bullet button loophole. First, it redefines a “fixed magazine” as “an ammunition feeding device” that “cannot be removed without disassembly of the firearm action.” Then, it extends the definition of assault weapons banned to any “semiautomatic centerfire rifle or a semiautomatic pistol that does not have a fixed magazine,” and has at least one of the previously established assault weapon attributes – such as a thumbhole stock for rifles or a second handgrip for handguns.

Much like previous legislation, the law prohibits the sale or transfer of assault weapons lacking a fixed magazine and mandates that all weapons already in possession up to and including December 31, 2016, must be registered with DOJ by January 1, 2018, for up to a $20 fee. Violation of the law is a felony punishable by up to one year in jail.

SB 1446

While the previous law prohibited the sale, gift or loan of large-capacity magazines, SB 1446 bans them altogether. Any manufacture, sale, transfer, gift or loan of a magazine able to hold more than 10 rounds is punishable by up to a year in jail. Possession of a large-capacity magazine entails a $100 fine for the first offense, $250 for the second and $500 for the third.

In addition, regardless of when the magazine was purchased, the owner cannot keep it in California. The magazine must be moved out of state, sold to a licensed dealer, destroyed or surrendered to law enforcement.

SB 1235

An interim and supersession measure prior to voter adoption of the Safety for All Act of 2016, SB 1235 is legislation to control all ammunition through an Automated Firearms System. Starting July 1, 2019, all sales and transfers of ammunition will be subject to checks of the purchaser’s presented identification against the Prohibited Armed Persons File as well as the Automated Firearms System, and must be reported to the Attorney General.

The legislation also requires, with some sporting club exceptions, a vendor license for all ammunition sales. Prior to this, controls – including mandatory face-to-face transactions – had been limited to handgun ammunition. However, handgun ammunition was changed to ammunition, and ammunition was redefined to be all-inclusive with “one or more loaded cartridges consisting of a primer case, propellant, and with one or more projectiles.” Any person or business who transfers ammunition to someone ineligible to receive it is subject to $1,000 in fines and up to a year in prison.

Vetoed Bills

Governor Brown did, however, veto four submitted bills:

  • AB 2607 would have expanded the pool of individuals able to petition for a gun violence restraining order.
  • AB 1674 would have applied the 30-day handgun delivery limit to all firearms.
  • AB 1673 would have redefined firearm as any “frame or receiver blank, casting, or machined body” clearly part of a functional weapon.
  • SB 894 would have tightened reporting regulations for lost or stolen firearms.

The Second Amendment Stands Strong

Since 2013, successful federal gun legislation has been limited to the renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act, and states have taken note. While more restrictive states have continued to identify and attempt to close every loophole, many others have instead passed laws to strengthen the Second Amendment.

In 2015, the Law Center To Prevent Gun Violence tracked “1,323 bills related to firearms in the states.” Many of these laws related to hotbed social issues of today: domestic violence, background checks, guns in schools and on campuses, and concealed carry.

Domestic terrorism is another serious concern driving the debate about gun control. If history is any guide, attacks by “homegrown” terrorists will lead to stricter gun control measures as legislators try to calm the nation’s outrage and sense of vulnerability with more laws – despite terrorists already breaking existing laws.

The challenge for lawmakers at all levels is to ensure that rational wisdom prevails over emotion. We can close every loophole. We can regulate and litigate. But ultimately, unbalanced malcontents or violent terrorists may still win simply because they don’t play by any rules. And even the most well-intentioned laws may have unintended consequences.

Meanwhile, the Second Amendment, crafted by America’s Founding Fathers, stands quiet and powerful, with 27 simple words worthy of defining billions of others in our nation’s Supreme Court:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

 

What The 2nd Amendment Means And Doesn’t Mean.

Yesterday this website carried an op-ed by one of our Contributing Editors, Greg Gibson, whose son was murdered on the campus of the college he was attending, a terrible story that became a book written by Gibson, Gone Boy, which has become something of a small classic in the literature about violence caused by guns. Greg has gone on to do some important gun-advocacy work, he also has a rather unique perspective on the issues of gun violence and gun control, and his comments about the 2nd Amendment created quite a storm on several Facebook pages where I posted what he wrote.

2A              Basically, Greg was defending the 2nd Amendment based on the assumption that the Framers didn’t intend to give gun rights to the kind of people who shouldn’t have guns:  criminals, nut-cases, or what Gibson refers to as “teenagers with still-developing brains.” Most of the comments about his piece came from activists who, for various reasons, don’t believe that gun owners should get any kind of Constitutional protection at all. Here was a typical comment that I received: “militia means a standing army not right wing nut jobs carrying assault rifles and terrorizing communities.”

The 2008 Heller decision, which said that Americans could keep a handgun in their home for self-defense, was decided by looking at the historic and legal precedents of two words: ‘keep’ and ‘bear,’ as in ‘to keep and bear arms.’ And even though many of the examples advanced on both sides of the SCOTUS debate were only marginally connected to the 2nd Amendment. Scalia was able to cobble together enough instances of early statutes and events to make his case.

What is most interesting about the Heller decision, however, is not what the majority and minority opinions say about the historical and legal meaning of the relevant text, but what isn’t said. And what isn’t said is any discussion about the word ‘arms,’ because Scalia dispensed of this issue in less than 100 words out of his 20,000-word opinion, by noting that Constitutional protection of private gun ownership only covers weapons that are commonly found in the home, and not “unusual” weapons like the kinds of weapons designed for use in war.

There’s only one little problem with Scalia’s formulation however, an argument that was unstintingly accepted by the minority opinions as well. The reason we suffer 125,000 gun injuries each year is because we give ourselves free access to these self-same weapons of war. Americans aren’t killed or wounded in large numbers by the millions of shotguns lying around in basements here and there. The 12 people killed in Chicago last weekend didn’t die because the shooters used several of the millions of hunting rifles manufactured by Remington, Winchester, Ruger or Savage Arms.

We suffer gun violence because legally or illegally, lots of our fellow citizens are walking around with handguns made by Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig, Ruger, Colt, etc., all of which were designed and used as weapons of war. Gaston Glock designed his pistol for the Austrian army; his gun is now carried by armed forces worldwide, including the armed forces of the United States. Sig just landed the contract to supply their pistol to the U.S. Army, and celebrated this financial whirlwind by releasing 50,000 of the guns for civilian sale.

We are the only Western country which has decided that handguns, which are designed for only one purpose (to kill human beings) should be allowed to be purchased and owned with no greater degree of regulation than what we impose on someone who wants to buy and take a  shotgun into the woods.

The issue isn’t whether or not we should keep the 2nd Amendment. The real issue is whether the 2nd Amendment should protect the ownership of guns whose design and lethality has nothing to do with anything other than committing an act of violence in the extreme. You can be an Originalist all you want, but the Framers couldn’t have meant to enshrine murder as a Constitutional ‘right.’