Is Kennedy’s Retirement A Win For The Gun-Rights Gang? I’m Not Sure.

Just when it looked like the storm that erupted after Parkland created the possibility of a shift towards more regulation of guns, the announcement was made today that Anthony Kennedy is retiring, which gives Draft-dodger Trump an opportunity to fill another SCOTUS seat. And since Trump has said again and again how much he wants everyone to be armed, or at least everyone who marches around with one of those ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags wrapped around their AR, he’ll probably nominate another pro-gun judge again.

kennedy              Not that Kennedy was such a staunch advocate for gun control. In fact, he was the 5th and necessary vote in the 2008 Heller decision which gave every God-fearing and law-abiding patriot the right to keep a loaded and unlocked handgun in their home. Note that when the city of Highland Park designated itself as being AR-rein, meaning that a town resident who owned an AR had to move somewhere else or sell the gun, Kennedy joined 6 other justices in refusing to hear an appeal of that case. So, the fact that Scalia was able to cobble together 4 other votes to dump the 1939 Miller precedent and detach handgun ownership from military service, doesn’t mean that a majority of the Court, even with a conservative replacement for Kennedy, would necessarily open the legal floodgates and let every cockamamie attempt to lessen gun regulations become a law.

On the other hand, Trump is such a jerk and a dope that for all we know, he’ll nominate Michael Cohen for the Court.  After all, I don’t think there’s anything in the Constitution which says that someone can’t be nominated who has been indicted, or convicted, or disbarred.  And when you stop and think about it, what better way could Trump demonstrate to his loyal, God-fearing base that he shares their complete hostility towards anything having to do with the practices and traditions of civil government or a government based on law?

Think I’m kidding?  I’m really not. And the reason I’m not kidding is that when you get right down to it, Gun-nut Nation’s increasing obsession with armed, self-defense, eliminating gun-free zones and teaching teachers how to use a gun resonates best with people who have decided that between gay marriage, LGBTQ rights, choice, and a few other loony, left-wing ideas like how vaccinations cause mental retardation, the best government is one that doesn’t exist at all.

And by the way, there are a lot of people out there who more or less share that point of view, or at least they take it seriously enough to believe that the only thing which stands between them and a complete breakdown of the social order is getting and keeping their hands on a gun.

Now I’m not saying that these folks represent a majority of Americans, nor do I believe that a New York Times reporter had his head anywhere other than up his you-know-what when he decided that the daily criticism of Trump was just making it easier for America’s Whiner in Chief to attend to the tasks at hand. In fact, without realizing it, Kennedy may have given the #resisttrump movement exactly the shot they need to show up in November and turn the Congress blue. After all, replacing Scalia with a like-minded jurist to keep the 5-4 conservative SCOTUS majority was a strong factor in bringing out the 2016 Republican vote. Why shouldn’t 2018 be a repeat in reverse?

Since the tragedy at Parkland, the gun violence prevention (GVP)  movement has certainly been out in front of the other side. Whether this energy could be sustained until November was a question in my mind, but the issue of replacing Kennedy could be exactly what the GVP needs. Because there is no issue which symbolizes the philosophical tilt of the Supreme Court more than the issue of gun ‘rights.’ Which puts our gun-control friends smack dab back in the center of the mid-term campaign. Which couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.

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Should Gun Violence Prevention Rely On Government In The Age Of Trump?

Until around 9 P.M. on November 8th, just about everyone in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community, myself included, thought that we would have a great ally moving into the White House on January 20, 2017. Then some disturbing and unanticipated results came out of Pennsylvania, and in short order Gun-sense Nation went from dreaming about the possibility of reducing gun violence during a Hillary Clinton presidency to figuring out how to keep the issue of gun violence prevention alive during the Age of Trump.

trump5            Let’s begin counting the numbers which don’t look so good.  The Senate is still held by the GOP, even if a pro-gun weasel named Kelly Ayotte got tossed out the door.  And in the House the GOP dropped a net of 6 seats, but a 241-194 majority is still a good score. At the state level there has never been a time when so many Governors or legislative chambers were colored red. In other words, the current political alignment doesn’t bode well for sensible gun reforms.

And here is the basic dilemma facing GVP, namely, that the agenda for reducing gun violence, as sensible and modest as it is, calls for some kind of government intervention for just about every GVP effort likely to emerge.  Expanding background checks to secondary transfers requires a change in the law which established NICS.  Banning hi-capacity magazines and placing limits on the sale of assault rifles also requires action at the federal legislative level, although such initiatives have been implemented in a handful of states.

On the other hand, as the number of gun laws in any locality goes up, the amount of gun violence of all kinds goes down.  And let’s remember that the next election is now less than two years away.  Furthermore, GVP did pretty well last month in state-level ballot initiatives, winning three out of four.  So the fact that national legislation might not go forward doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to skin the proverbial cat.  I live in Massachusetts which was the first state to legalize gay marriage in 2004. Eleven years later the SCOTUS declared gay marriage to be law of the land.  If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes.

But no matter which strategy is employed to move the issue of gun violence forward, Gun-sense Nation is still going to have to figure out messaging which can be an effective response to the increasingly strident and extreme rhetoric being produced by the other side, in particular the idea that we all have some kind of God-given ‘right’ to protect ourselves and our communities with personally-owned guns.

The notion of lawful self-protection comes right out of British Common Law and is embodied in the ‘Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness’ clause of the Declaration of Independence.  But nowhere can you find any statute that gives citizens the freedom to make an unhindered decision about how they are going to exercise this ‘right’ to self-defense which, incidentally, isn’t mentioned in the vaunted 2nd Amendment at all.

But here’s the problem.  A majority of Americans, certainly more than a majority of the up-and-coming Millennials, simply don’t trust government and increasingly Americans are being drawn to considering alternatives to the government when it comes to deciding and regulating civic affairs.  You can see this in a recent Harvard poll, in numerous surveys conducted by Pew, and if there was one message that galvanized support for Trump it was the message that government is ‘no good.’

The idea that individuals rather than government should be responsible for protecting themselves has been basic NRA doctrine since the organization made a right turn in the late 1970s to support the gun industry’s industry shift to the sale of self-defense guns.  So if Gun-sense Nation is going to promote ‘sensible’ gun regulations that require government interventions, the wider issue of the role and value of government will have to be addressed. Unless, of course, we take on the much more difficult problem of creating a culture without guns.  Unless…

How’s Trump Going To Pay Back All Those Gun Votes? He Won’t.

Every four years the GOP trots out something from their ‘family values’ arsenal – abortion, school prayer, traditional marriage – to help define their electoral message and in 2016 they trotted out guns.  Not that these stalwart defenders of a pretended status quo ever really reward their supporters with anything beyond attempts to cut taxes for themselves and you would think that after thirty-five years of getting nothing that those legions of fervent followers would finally begin to realize that top-down, right-wing populism is nothing but a big, fat con.

trump5
           And in the aftermath of this election the biggest, single con job of all is the one which Trump sold at every, single campaign stop that he made, namely, the idea that he’s going to change the landscape when it comes to how America owns and uses guns.  I watched at least a dozen of his campaign rallies, and whenever the crowd got tired of yelling ‘lock her up,’ he would veer away from mumbling about some trade deal and remind the audience that: a) he would ‘defend’ their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights;’ and, b) he wanted a national, concealed-carry law, and, c) on his very first day in office he would eliminate all ‘gun-free’ zones.

So in the interests of giving my friends in the gun violence prevention (GVP) community some guidance on what to look for in a Trump presidency and what can be dismissed as nothing but a variation on the traditional GOP social-messaging mirage, I thought I would subject each of Trump’s claims to some degree of scrutiny to see what comes out.  And what comes out, as I suspect you may already know, is that none of those statements bear any resemblance to facts or the truth.

At some point during the campaign Trump released a list of judges from whom he would choose a SCOTUS nominee, and he made the point of saying that every, single candidate would ‘defend’ 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ This was nothing more than political hyperbole nonsense since the NRA decided long ago that every registered Democrat represents a ‘threat’ to those rights, but the fact is that the only post-Heller 2nd-Amendment case decided by the SCOTUS while Scalia was alive was a case in which a majority said that the law which gave the government full and complete regulatory authority over gun sales was as fully constitutional as any law could be.  So much for a ‘conservative’ SCOTUS defending 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’

As for a national CCW law, no doubt the NRA and its Congressional allies will once again run this one up the legislative flagpole, but like the veritable monkey who wrapped his tail around that same flagpole, such a law would require reconciling the state-level CCW regulations of all 50 individual states because unlike local driving laws, local gun laws from state to state are not the same.

Finally, when Trump says he’ll ‘immediately’ get rid of gun-free zones, maybe someone might remind him that Executive Orders apply only to the actions of Executive agencies, but cannot be used to change laws.  And there happens to be not one, but two federal laws that establish K-12 schools as gun-free zones, neither of which are going to be eliminated just because Trump wants to get up in front of a crowd or go on Twitter or YouTube and play his version of Macho Man.

I’m not saying that Gun-sense Nation has a friend in Trump.  We don’t.  Make no mistake: as long as he panders to the Right, and I’m not about to bother distinguishing between the Right and the Alt-Right, he’s an opponent of any, even the most benign attempts to reduce gun violence to any degree.  And going forward, Gun-sense Nation needs to respond forcefully to every effort by Trump and Gun-nut Nation to legitimize the violence caused by guns. Trump may have a loud voice, but it’s not the only voice in town.

A New Video Explains What The 2nd Amendment Is All About.

Sooner or later I knew that the attempt by a student-led coalition at the University of Texas campus to protest the law allowing guns on campus would lead to efforts by various factions of Gun-nut Nation to remind everyone that walking around with a gun is a good thing. And the reason that we should allow guns to be carried anywhere and everywhere is that we all know that guns protect us from crime. After all, a majority of Americans now believe that a gun makes you safer than if you don’t have a gun, so it must be true.

campus           Back in 2008, you may recall that there was a little Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia vs. Heller, which defined the 2nd Amendment as giving Americans the Constitutional protection to keep a handgun in their home.  But the reason I call this s ‘little’ decision is that from the moment the opinion was announced, Gun-nut Nation has been trying to pretend that anything and everything they want to do with a gun comes under the protection of 2nd-Amendment rights.  Want to walk into a Starbucks with an AR slung over your shoulder? You’re just exercising your 2nd-Amendment rights.  Want to walk around with a pistol in your pocket without having to demonstrate that you even know how to load the damn thing, never mind actually use it?  You’re just exercising your 2nd-Amendment rights.

In fact, you aren’t exercising any 2nd-Amendment right at all.  You may be doing what the state you live in lets you do, but there are all kinds of state and local laws covering all kinds of things which let you do this or that, but nobody has ever seen fit to figure out whether such laws are covered by any Constitutional guarantee at all.  But when a group of conservative attorneys decided to test the definition of the 2nd Amendment by using the fact that the District of Columbia wouldn’t let a security guard named Dick Heller keep a handgun in his apartment, the SCOTUS said he could because the 2nd Amendment, as a majority of the Court defined the text, granted him and everyone else Constitutional protection for this specific type of behavior and nothing else. 

One of the areas in which Gun-nut Nation has been particularly busy trying to expand the definition of the 2nd Amendment to go beyond what it means is carrying guns on college campuses.  And the reason for this, hare-brained nonsense to the contrary about how college campuses are rife with crime, is because the gun industry has noticed that the up-and-coming consumer generation – Millennials – don’t seem particularly enamored of guns.  Droids? Yes. Kayaks? Yes. Guns? No.  But if you can get the kids to understand the value of a gun for self-defense, then maybe the gun industry will survive beyond the time that Gun Nuts of my generation disappear.

The anti-gun protest at UT didn’t do anything to reverse the new campus-carry law, but it did generate gobs of publicity because the event organizers cleverly decided to distribute sex toys like dildos as a way of pointing out the stupidity of walking around a college campus with a gun.  And the response to this event took the form of a video which shows a young woman who comes home from participating in the protest, suddenly finds herself confronted by a home invader, whereupon she points the dildo at him in order to defend herself, whereupon the guy pulls out a pistol and shoots her in the head.

The video has been criticized by Students for Concealed Carry as being offensive, but let me break the news gently to that bunch.  If you’re going to promote something as stupid and dangerous as guns on college campuses, then you should hardly be surprised when your argument is taken to the extreme.  After all, aren’t you saying that every law-abiding’ citizen should have the 2nd-Amendment ‘right’ to shoot someone else in the head?

What Will Happen If Hillary Abolishes The 2nd Amendment? Nothing Will Happen.

Every time that Schmuck-o Trump-o gets up in front of one of his Ku Klux Klan rallies, sooner or later he promises the crowd that he’ll  ‘protect’ their 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’ And lately, this seems to be about the only thing he can say without getting into trouble, so he makes sure to say it every time out.  Of course he always gets a response from the crowd because if we know one thing for sure about Hillary, we know that she’s an enemy of the 2nd Amendment and if she becomes Number 45, then 2nd Amendment goes bye-bye.

K38           I bought my first real gun in 1956 when I was 12 years old.  It was a Smith & Wesson 6-inch revolver in one of those blue cardboard boxes and it was sitting on a table in the middle of a big flea market somewhere in the Glades outside of Fort Lauderdale near Highway 441. Old boy wanted fifty for the gun, I had fifty on me, he got the fifty, I got the gun.  Of course thirty minutes later my great-uncle Nat grabbed the gun away from me and probably sold it in a pawn shop the next day.  But it was still and always will be my very first gun.

Between 1956 and 2008, that’s more than fifty years, I probably owned more than 500 different guns.  That may sound like a lot but actually it’s only ten guns a year which is pretty light for a gun nut like me. I also probably sold 450 guns over that same period because, on average, I usually kept around 50 guns at any one time. Always had a couple of Colt 1911s, a Smith 39 and a Smith 52; I was also partial to Walther, particularly the P-38 and never passed up the opportunity to own a Browning Hi-Power, aka the Model P-35.  Those are for starters.

Between 1956 and 2008 I probably bought, sold and traded one thousand guns, and not a single one of those transactions was protected by the United States Constitution at all. Because when I first started fooling around with guns the 2nd Amendment was defined as only protecting guns that could or would be used for military service of one kind or another; this was the gist of the 1939 United States vs. Miller decision which basically said that the 2nd Amendment only protected the ownership of guns that would be used in a militia-type of activity like the National Guard.  And of all the guns I had owned since 1956, not one of them could have been regarded as useful only for military or militia service, not one.

The 2008 District of Columbia vs. Heller decision changed all that.  Because for the very first time the SCOTUS gave Constitutional protection to civilian gun ownership, but also explicitly gave Constitutional protection to a very specific kind of civilian ownership, namely, the ‘right’ to keep a loaded, unlocked handgun in the home. Meanwhile, in the years since I bought and briefly owned that S&W revolver in Florida, virtually every state began issuing licenses to carry a concealed weapon outside the home, and some states even now allow guns to be carried openly in the public space.

I hate to break the news to Schmuck-o and his band of merry followers, but carrying a gun outside your house, concealed or in open view, is not protected by any Constitutional ‘right’ at all.  And when various jurisdictions have been challenged for limiting the carrying of guns outside the home, these challenges (e.g., Peruta vs. San Diego) haven’t gone anywhere at all.

So when Schmuck-o Trump gets up there and says he’s going to ‘protect 2nd-Amendment rights,’ he’s just embellishing a noisy fiction that without the 2nd Amendment, we would all fall prey to gun-grabbers like Hillary who would quickly and easily take away our guns.  It’s not true, it never was true, but since when is truth a defining criteria for what tumbles out of Schmuck-o Trump’s mouth?

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Training To Carry A Gun. No Stinkin’ Brains, Either.

This week the ‘show me’ state, a.k.a. Missouri, found itself embroiled in a major debate over gun violence because a bill known as SB 656 was sitting on Governor Jay Nixon’s desk awaiting his signature.  What the bill got was a veto, and while this immediately provoked calls for an attempted override, right now thanks to the Moms Missouri chapter, efforts by Gun-nut Nation to introduce ‘Constitutional carry’ into Missouri may be dead.

moms           Not that the NRA won’t try to explain Governor Nixon’s behavior as just another example of how out-of-state money (read: Bloomberg) surged into Missouri to help defeat what otherwise would have been a sensible effort to give the state’s citizens a little help in defending themselves against terrorism and crime. In fact, the NRA immediately issued a statement after Nixon’s veto, stating that “if events in Orlando and San Bernardino have taught us anything it’s that the need for self-protection can occur anywhere at any time.”

But the Governor’s refusal to sign the bill had nothing to do with making a pro or con judgement about the right to self-defense.  The real issue in this instance had to do with whether or not people who want to go around armed can prove that they possess even the slightest ability to defend themselves or others with a gun.

There’s a Youtube character named Yankee Marshal who shoots his mouth off about various gun issues and he’s an entertaining sort of fellow if you like to be entertained on a third or fourth-grade level, and he’s put out a video in which he claims that training to use a gun is a waste of time: “I think that most people with common sense and average intelligence can figure out how to safely operate a firearm.”  And he then goes on to say that if you want to carry a gun, you should also be able to exercise that ‘right’ without getting any training at all.

Which brings us back to the 2008 Heller decision that defined the 2nd Amendment – clearly and explicitly – as a Constitutional ‘right’ to keep a loaded handgun in the home for personal defense.  Not in the street, not in a holster or fanny pak as you walk around – in the privacy of your home. And what Heller unleashed was a torrent of nonsense from Gun-nut Nation, Yankee Marshal to Donald Trump, that everyone also has the ‘right’ to walk around with a gun.

Now the good news is that the judiciary hasn’t seen it that way.  We have the Peruta decision in California which upheld the ‘right’ not of the gun owner but of the county government to decide whether or not someone who owned a gun could also carry it outside his home. And back in 2014 the Supreme Court with Antonin Scalia alive and still well refused to review a New Jersey decision which basically said the same thing.

But those decisions haven’t stopped a growing movement known as ‘Constitutional carry’ which basically says that anyone who is qualified to own a gun is, ipso facto, entitled to carry it around not just within their home, but any place they damn well please.  There are now 10 states that do not require any special licensing to carry a gun outside the home, and Missouri would have been the 11th had Jay Nixon not shown some common sense and political backbone by vetoing the bill.

I would love to see whether idiots like Yankee Marshal or Donald Trump, for that matter, could actually pull a gun out of their pants and hit the broad side of a barn. The Police Foundation estimates that half the active law enforcement officers can’t do it, but why should we impose gun training requirements on civilians that we don’t even require for cops?

OK Moms.  You know what you have to do. Won a big one in Missouri but make sure it sticks.

 

The Gun Violence Prevention Community Has Something Much More Important To Worry About Than 2nd-Amendment Rights.

Now that the Gun Violence Prevention movement appears to have a Presidential candidate who is hell-bent on restricting/modifying/revising (take your pick) the so-called 2nd-Amendment ‘right’ of Americans to own guns, the conversation has naturally turned to a discussion within GVP over exactly what those 2nd-Amendment ‘rights’ should be. Should law-abiding, responsible gun owners be allowed more or less unfettered access to guns, perhaps with a slight nod in the direction of more regulation via expanded background checks?  Or should we go to the other extreme, simply say ‘to hell with it,’ and get rid of all the guns?

trump2Now of course nobody but the Area-51 crowd actually believes that the government can come along and confiscate 300 million guns.  But with a blue Congress, Hillary could make it substantially more difficult for gun owners by placing a heavy tax on ammunition, or by requiring registration of guns, or by reapplying the assault weapons ban, or a combination of all three.  Incidentally, all those regulations would be affirmed by a 5-4 liberal SCOTUS, because none conflict with Scalia’s approval (in the 2008 Heller decision) of maintaining “longstanding regulations” governing the commerce in guns.

Which brings us back to the issue of the GVP stance as regards 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’  Because I happen to think, and I’m a died-in-the-wool gun nut, by the way, that the GVP community shouldn’t be concerned about the 2nd Amendment at all.  And the reason I believe this is because I also happen to believe that what the GVP should be doing is talking and messaging about one thing and one thing only, namely, the intrinsic lethality of guns.

This issue of lethality, i.e., the medical risk posed by a gun, has been validated again, again and again by peer-reviewed medical and public health research which has been appearing for at least the last twenty years.  There’s a reason why Gun Nation has been trying to push physicians out of the gun debate and silence gun research funded by the CDC.  It has to do with the fact (note the word ‘fact’) that possession of a firearm correlates with a substantially increased risk of physical harm either to the gun owner or to someone else.  And in case you want to challenge me on this point, by way of reply let me quote the Marxist economist Paul Baran who once said, “I do not debate human affairs with people who behave like beasts.”

To me, the issue is very simple.  Guns are pathogens and like any pathogen, we need to prevent its spread.  We did this with cigarettes, which happen to be legal commerce and therefore is protected by the Constitution as well.  And if you want to smoke and get cancer or heart disease you can still do it, but only in the privacy of your own home.  Which, by the way, is what the SCOTUS said about guns: you can keep them in your home.  Period.  End of story. End of 2nd Amendment debate.

If my friends in the GVP community want to be concerned about something, I’ve got something for them to be concerned about that’s much more important than 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’  And that happens to be the fact that there’s a Big Apple street thug who is hell-bent on hijacking the government on November 8th.  And if you don’t believe me, pay particular attention to what he says about violence and about guns.  He likes violence.  He likes guns.  He exhorts people at his rallies to engage in both.

The courts have held again and again that government has a ‘compelling interest’ in public safety. Which means that we expect government to keep our communities safe.  You don’t promote public safety by claiming that the 2nd Amendment gives you the ‘right’ to walk around with a gun.  What you are doing is undermining the rule of law.  There are now 152 days until November 8. Get it?

Scalia’s Pro-Gun Views Didn’t Hurt The GVP Community At All.

Back in 2006 I happened to be a guest at a law school dinner, and before the dinner Antonin Scalia gave a talk. He later told me that it was ‘the same talk I give a hundred times a year,’ and then we all sat down for a meal.  At some point someone told him I was a gun dealer, and he jumped up, grabbed his plate of food, came running over to my table, pushed the guy next to me out of the way and sat down. For the next hour he talked animatedly about different guns, different calibers, was particularly interested in my thoughts about the differences between a 338 Winchester Magnum and a 300 Weatherby; I told him it didn’t matter since if he was more than 150 yards away he wouldn’t hit the mulie anyway. We went on and on.

It hardly came as a surprise that he authored the Heller opinion in 2008 because he was not only a certifiable gun nut, but was probably the only member of the Court who knew anything about guns.  In fact, if you read Steve Breyer’s dissent in Heller, you’ll discover that Breyer evidently doesn’t know a rifle from a musket, which when it comes to how much any of the other SCOTUS justices knows about guns, is probably about par for the course.

In the aftermath of the Heller and MacDonald decisions, Gun Nation has been diligently trying to get more gun cases before a right-leaning Court, and the possibility that Obama might appoint a liberal to the bench will no doubt be used by the NRA as the theme of their weekly pitch for dough.  The fact is (I really enjoy using the word ‘fact’ when I write about guns) that the SCOTUS has heard exactly one 2nd-Amendment case since 2008, a case in which the Court, in a majority opinion written by Justice Kagan, effectively upheld the entire ATF regulatory system as not infringing on 2nd-Amendment rights.  And just this past December, the Court declined to hear a case, Friedman v. City of Highland Park, in which a man sued because the town in which he lives won’t let him own an AR-15, a.k.a. an assault rifle, a.k.a. what we call a ‘black’ gun.

Just as I wasn’t surprised that Scalia wrote the Heller opinion, so I wasn’t surprised that he based the opinion not on history, not on precedent, but on simple common sense. Because when it came to guns, what Scalia knew and what other SCOTUS justices probably didn’t know, was that in the fifty years since the Court had previously handed down a 2-Amendment ruling (U.S. v. Miller), the United States had gone from a country in which most firearms were long guns owned for hunting to handguns owned for personal defense.  So when Scalia stated in Heller that keeping a loaded, unlocked handgun in the home had become an American ‘tradition,’ maybe the tradition was only thirty years old, but it had become standard lexicon for defining gun ownership nonetheless.

If you think that the Heller decision has unleashed a spate of 2nd-Amendment legal tests in the lower courts, just imagine what would have happened if Scalia and the SCOTUS had followed Miller and other precedents and declared that the 2nd Amendment didn’t protect private gun ownership at all.  Such a decision would have unleashed a torrent of gun laws at the local and state levels reflecting the second big change that has occurred and has now also become an American tradition when we talk about guns.

What I am referring to is what I call the GVP tradition, which has become, for the first time in my long lifetime, a grass-roots, broad-based effort to bring some sanity to America’s love affair with guns. The GVP movement is stronger and more sustained than anyone could have imagined just a few years ago, and it will continue to develop momentum regardless of who sits on the High Court.

 

 

 

Could Gun Control Be The Defining Campaign Issue In 2016? Don’t Bet Against It.

I can see it now.  The tumultuous last night of the 2016 Republican Convention.  The newly-nominated Presidential candidate strides up to the podium flanked by family members and whomever is going to be the VP.  Then he bends down, can’t be seen for a second stands back up and  raises an AR over his head.

You think it can’t happen?  You think that gun control couldn’t be the defining issue of the next Presidential campaign?  I beg to differ with you and frankly, I even wish this little fantasy would come true.  Why?  Because if the election does turn on the gun issue, the folks who agree with the New York Times about banning assault rifles might just win.

heston              Before explaining, I have to mention the decision by the SCOTUS that denied certiorari to the appeal of the 7th Circuit’s decision that upheld the assault weapons ban in the town of Highland Park, Illinois.  The ban was passed after Sandy Hook, as were similar bans enacted (and upheld) in Connecticut and New York.  What was interesting about the denial of certiorari in the Highland Park case was the margin was 7 to 2; in other words, when it comes to protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of assault-rifle owners, as of now the usual 5-4 conservative majority that ruled in favor of Heller in 2008 has collapsed.

Given what just happened in San Bernardino, this decision should come as no great surprise.  And luckily for all the Republican candidates, the news that the slaughter did constitute a real, ISIS-inspired terrorist attack, gave them all some way of responding without having to spend much time or verbiage on what has become the standard, red-meat rhetoric about the virtues of an armed citizenry, the dangers of gun-free zones, and all that other crap.  This time around, defending the gun industry was left to Jerry Falwell, Jr., whose father, you may recall, blamed gays and lesbians for the World Trade Center attacks.

But let’s get back to which party would be helped and which would be hurt if an assault weapons ban was the driving campaign issue in 2016.  And make no mistake about it, ISIS or no ISIS, there’s every good chance that between now and next November, at least one idiot will bring out his Bushmaster or his DPMS and try to even some real and/or imagined score. And I’ll take the short odds right now that the Republicans will make “defending the 2nd Amendment” the Number One plank in the GOP Platform next year, which means that the Democrats will have no choice but to call for some kind of ‘sensible gun control,’ which could mean a ban on black guns.

Here’s the bottom line on next year from a gun point of view.  If Hillary gives up Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota and Florida but keeps the other states that voted blue in 2012 she still wins.  Doesn’t win by much, but she wins.  With the exception of Colorado, the others are all solid, gun-rich states.  The bad news is that if she gives up those states, she has to keep states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio in the Democratic column, which are also states with lots of voters who own guns.  But ‘lots’ and 50% plus 1 is not the same thing.  And it was the Democratic turnout in large, metropolitan areas in these states in 2012 which kept them blue.  And most of those voters could care less about the 2nd Amendment or about guns.

The Democrats used to keep themselves below the radar screen on gun control as a campaign issue because the NRA took Gore to the showers in his defeat by George Bush.  But 2016 isn’t 2000, and the country may not buy one more Sandy Hook.  I don’t want any election to turn on the loss of human life, but put an AR in the wrong hands and it could work out that way, like it or not.

Gay Marriage Didn’t Happen Overnight And Neither Will Sensible Laws Dealing With Guns.

The day after the SCOTUS announced Obergefell vs. Hodges, which legalizes same-sex marriage in all 50 states, Shannon Watts will speak at the national PTA convention in Charlotte, NC.  And if you don’t think these two events aren’t connected in a way that tells us a lot about the future of guns and gun violence, then think again.

The linkage happens to do with the fact that opposition to gay marriage and support of the 2nd Amendment usually go hand in hand.  For that matter, support of gay marriage and opposition to the 2nd Amendment also link together in most public-opinion polling and fundraising efforts that accompany political campaigns.  With a few exceptions, political liberals never bother to use a mailing list from the NRA; political conservatives wouldn’t get caught dead sending out appeals via any of the pro-gay groups.

gay                Don’t get me wrong; I’m not expecting the gay culture or the gun culture to change overnight.  And the response of the various Republican presidential candidates to yesterday’s decision made it clear that law of the land or no law of the land, conservative audiences will continue to be provoked by opposition to gay rights. But when Shannon gets up in front of the national PTAs, she’s going to say what she always says, that the battle against gun violence won’t be won overnight.  And her precedent in this respect will be the fact that less than twenty years ago, coming out of the closet as a gay was still big news.  I’m not saying it will take another 20 years for Congress to pass some sensible gun-control legislation or for the NRA to get real about gun safety and stop peddling the nonsense about how armed citizens protect us from crime.  What I am saying is that you can’t jump into the gun debate and assume that things will change overnight.

Actually, the PTA organization first began talking about guns back in 1999, which was almost a decade after then-Senator Joe Biden introduced the Gun-Free School Zones Act that was signed into law by then-President George H. W Bush.  The law has gone through numerous iterations since then, but it basically imposes requirements on every school district which receives federal aid to set up and monitor a program to keep schools as gun-free zones.  And despite the stupid notion that gun-free zones are less safe, legal efforts to allow teachers and students to bring guns even onto college campuses haven’t gotten all that far. Currently the PTA position on guns goes far beyond whether they should be allowed in schools. Among other things, it calls for restrictions on internet gun sales, waiting periods, safety locks to prevent juveniles from accidentally discharging guns – Shannon should feel right at home.

But the real importance of her appearance at the PTA convention is not so much the fact that what the Moms and Everytown organizations promote in terms of guns and gun safety aligns with the PTA position on guns which nobody’s going to read anyway. What’s really important is that she’s at the meeting, talking to Moms, Dads, teachers, school administrators and others about guns.  What I have always liked about Shannon and the gals is that they get out there to meet and talk to Mr. and Mrs. Average American who, thanks to yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling, will increasingly be the same sex, even if they are man and wife.

Back in April, the Moms held a rally at the NRA meeting in Nashville, and the pro-gun noisemakers like Breitbart immediately assured their followers that the rally was of no consequence because only a few hundred people were outside the convention hall.  I’ve been going to NRA meetings since 1980, and this was the first time that anyone other than some crazy guy with a ‘Jesus Saves’ poster ever walked outside at all.  Want to talk to average Americans about guns?  I don’t notice Wayne-o talking to the PTA.