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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Between Bushmaster And Murthy It Wasn’t Such A Great Week.

It hasn’t been such a great week for the gun business.  First and most important, gun sales are really in the tank and don’t show any signs of improving. Ruger stock, which hit an all-time high of $85 a share back in January, closed yesterday at under $35. Smith & Wesson, which was at $17 in June, is now selling for around $9.  Nobody expected these companies to maintain the sales numbers they posted over the last several years when everyone believed that a new gun bill would somehow squeak through in DC.  But nobody also thought that the industry would bottom out so deep and so fast.  I walked into a gun shop on the North Shore this past weekend and walked out with a Colt H-Bar AR-15 for a little over seven hundred bucks.  It was used but mint and six months ago the same gun would have fetched at least a grand.

Talking about black guns, the long-rumoured lawsuit by parents of children shot by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook was filed just before the deadline that would have made such wrongful-death claims null and void.  The suit goes after Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the XL-15 that Lanza evidently used with terrible results the day he walked into the school.  The good news for the plaintiffs is that Bushmaster is owned by a private investment group, Cerberus, which has some really deep pockets.  The bad news is that the suit has to somehow get around the 2005 law which immunized gun makers from most claims of negligence or product liability and stymied other victims of mass shootings, such as the Aurora Theater massacre, from seeking damages from the gun maker even though suits against the theater and the seller of the ammunition used by James Holmes have gone forward.

      Vivek Murthy, M.D.

Vivek Murthy, M.D.

What’s different about the Bushmaster suit, however, is that it takes issue with one of the most cherished missives in the gun industry, namely, the idea that the AR-15 is a perfectly-acceptable weapon for civilians because, as opposed to its military likeness, the M-16, it fires only one shot every time the trigger is pulled, whereas the M-16 is a machine gun that fires a massive amount of ordnance and therefore is unsuited and illegal for civilian use.  The moment the lawsuit was filed, various gun experts began pushing the semi-auto versus the full-auto story to explain why the legal argument wouldn’t work.  The only problem with the alleged difference between the M-16 and the AR-15 is that it’s simply not true.  Most of the M-16 rifles currently carried by U.S. troops in Iraq and elsewhere are semi-auto guns (a small number can also shoot 3-shot bursts) because the military long ago discovered that automatic fire was not only inaccurate and a waste of ammunition, but also would heat up the barrel to unacceptable temperatures leading to battlefield failures of the gun. Bushmaster touts the sale of its rifles to the U.S. military on its website – the gun purchased by Nancy Lanza was one and the same thing.

The other piece of bad news for the industry was the confirmation of Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General, an appointment that was contested loudly and continuously by the NRA and its most ardent Senate supporters, in particular Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. These two guys started taking pot-shots at Murthy because they saw it as a quick and easy way to begin building support among the conservative, Republican base as a possible step towards a White House bid in 2016.  The NRA has been trying to push physicians away from any discussion about guns because virtually every medical society has for years confirmed the bizarre idea that maybe, just maybe guns are a threat to health.  Now the fact that more Americans have died from gun violence in the last ten years than died during World War II doesn’t mean that guns are necessarily harmful, does it?  If you want to agree with the NRA on that one, you probably also believe that last week didn’t hurt the gun industry at all.

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An Inmate Takes Over The Asylum: Rand Paul Says Guns Aren’t A Public Health Issue

This week President Obama submitted his nomination for Surgeon General to the Senate, a Yale-trained physician named Vivek Murthy, and Rand Paul announced he had put a “hold” on the nomination because of Murthy’s opposition to the 2nd Amendment and his membership in organizations like The Center for American Progress which want to impose stricter controls over guns.

Paul is trying to ferret out every conservative and Tea Party vote to help him win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, so it’s not surprising that he would pander to the views of the NRA, which immediately sent a message to the Senate supporting Senator Paul’s stand. But Rand Paul is also a licensed physician, an opthamologist, so you think he would at least have the honesty to admit that his declaration that guns do not represent a “public health issue” is nothing more than election-year nonsense even before the election year has arrived.

But why let facts stand in the way of your opinions, particularly when you believe that the loonier your opinions, the better chance you have of ending up living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for at least four years?  The only problem is that if Paul really believes that guns aren’t a public health issue, then he’s woefully ignorant of the determinations made by his own medical profession whose uncontested views and guidelines on gun violence have been on public record for more than thirty years.

The CDC, which is required under law to define and track progress on issues that affect public health, has listed gun violence as an issue since the publication of  “Healthy people: the Surgeon General’s report on health promotion and disease prevention” in 1979.  This publication, which is updated every ten years, defined gun violence as a public health issue because it was the major cause of homicides which are a significant part of a broad category of public health threats known as unintentional injuries and accidents, which also includes, among other health impairments, vehicular accidents, residential fires, drownings and physical assaults.

The interesting thing about gun violence, is that the two categories in which its occurrence is tracked by the CDC – firearm-related deaths and nonfatal firearm-related injuries – have each shown progress in the CDC report, as opposed to health threats like falls, child maltreatment, school physical education injuries and overall homicides, the last of which has moved further away from the targeted goal that was set in 1998.

If Rand Paul was really interested in making an honest contribution to the gun debate, he would cite the 2010 CDC Healthy People report as an example of how firearm owners are doing the right thing when it comes to safe use of their guns.  Because that’s exactly what the CDC report says.  But Paul isn’t interested in an honest debate, he’s trying to out-lunatic the lunatics in order to make sure that nobody else (example: Ted Cruz) can challenge him from the Right.  Of course the NRA isn’t any more interested in injecting reality into the debate.  I just received a fund-raising appeal from them telling me that gun ownership was heading towards Armageddon in 2014. Don’t worry, I get the same kind of emotion-laden appeals from Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense telling me that gun-carrying Americans are out of control.

I think it’s gotten to the point that you can’t talk about guns in rational terms.  There’s too much at stake and what’s at stake is political ambition and money, lots of money, which is used to keep people’s minds focused on things that have noting to do with health, or safety or whether Americans should own guns.