NRA vs. Gun Rights?


Last week, I noted that a bill sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to repeal the D.C. gun ban, while good in itself, was rather badly timed because it would moot a strong Second Amendment suit aimed at the same target. Unlike legislation, which could be repealed at any time, a court victory would establish an important and binding legal precedent in favor of individual gun rights.

Cato scholars Gene Healy and Bob Levy have an op-ed in the Washington Times today arguing that the bill is a deliberate attempt by the NRA to derail their suit. The gun rights group had previously tried to force a consolidation of the suit with one of their own, which raised a long list of objections beyond the Second Amendment claim. The Hatch bill was proposed a mere week after that gambit failed.

NEXT: Safe As Mormon Tea

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  1. this isn’t NRA vs gun rights, just disagreement about risk managment

  2. Since becoming a primarily political organization, the NRA has become just as dependent on the second amendment struggle as those on the other side of the coin. A supreme court victory could be damaging for Wayne LaPierre and company.

    When is Neal Knox going to weigh in on this? That should be entertaining.

    Lets say the second amendment is declared to be a collective right and we are armed only at the discretion of our government. Then lets assume the government decides to revoke that privilege. Is anyone going to turn in their guns that would otherwise have stood behind the second amendment?

  3. Along the lines of the collective right, isn’t that how Congress claims any authority to regulate firearms to begin with? Ergo, wouldn’t a ruling in favor of collective rights just reaffirm the status quo, meaning the government has the right (however, not necessarily the prerogative) to regulate firearms? In essence, this seems like a no-lose situation – if they win, gun laws come tumbling down. If they lose, well, nothing changes. Why would they not support this?

  4. It’s interesting to me that, when it comes to 2nd Amendment issues, people say we need to establish the principle and the precedent in the courts, to place it above the fickle winds of legislative fate. Yet, when discussing the war on drugs, many of those same people join others in saying that a legislative solution is to be preferred. Why? In either case, the point is not to get government to agree that it won’t exercise its legitimate authority to oppress in the area in question: the point is to establish that government HAS no proper authority in either area, or at least not anywhere near the sweeping, plenary authority it has asserted for the last 100 years. I think you need the courts to make that call.

    Legislative bandaids in the war on drugs, in particular, simply make the oppression more bearable for some, quieting the growing angry mob somewhat, while doing nothing to address the root level causes for discontent. If anything, we need the court ruling in the matter of the war on drugs even more than we need it for 2nd Amendment cases, because there is no specific constitutional provision that protects the unenumerated right to eat, drink, smoke, or use as medicine or sacrament any substance of one’s own choosing, as none of the government’s proper business, while there is the 2nd Amendment to protect gun rights. Even so, I would welcome court rulings in both areas.

  5. Wow, I sure hope somebody — NRA or Cato — wins this important freedom struggle. Why, if we could only increase the supply of handguns to my fair city, I’d be living in the safest place on Earth! Maybe we could also get a concealed-carry law; then it’d be just like Dodge City or Tombstone of the Old West, but right here in an East Coast metropolis in 2003! 😉

    Seriously, though, how many of the DC-residing readers and commenters of this blog actually plan to purchase handguns for themselves if the law is changed? While there are so many good issues out there for libertarians, I’ll never understand the handgun issue. I mean, even assuming some paranoid “Red Dawn” or similar scenario, what kind of effective militia would find handguns to be useful?

  6. James – what judicial remedy could be carried out on the War on Drugs however? Granted, one could argue that such regulation is outside the scope of Congress’ allotted powers, yet while I cannot call up specific precedent, the Courts have been quite unfriendly to claims of Congress overstepping its enumerated powers ever since it begrudgingly allowed parts of FDR’s New Deal slip through. With that in mind, the only judicial redress I can think of would be A) Violations of civil liberties inherent in the War on Drugs, B) Possible privacy aspects. Yet A) would not end the War on Drugs or even compromise it severely, while B) proves a very dubious strategy – if acts like prostitution (which one would think should legally fall under the precedents such as Griswold v. Conneticut or Lawrence v. Texas) can’t be mitigated by this standard, why should one expect the courts to be sympathetic to the privacy standard with drugs?
    At least with the 2nd Amendment, it’s a pretty clear-cut “No, you really, really can’t do that” much like with the rest of the Bill of Rights. Granted, enumerated powers should pretty much spell out to any rationally-thinking person, “Hm, if it’s not in here, I bet Congress can’t do it,” but at least here it’s very specific.

  7. It would seem to me that so long as most people are on the wrong side of an issue, bad shit is going to happen. It’s just a matter of method and process to determine just how bad the shit is going to be, and for how long.

  8. The article asserts that the NRA’s logic is that if they can’t control the case, there won’t be a case. Why would this be the NRA’s position? Why would the NRA be unfriendly to a friendly ruling?

    I don’t buy the NRA’s donations and influence will dry up once our gun rights are properly asserted as a reason…I don’t think they, or Orrin Hatch, are that hypocritical. But cannot put my finger on why the NRA is thinking (and apparently acting) the way it seems to be. Thoughts?

  9. AJS, do some research – the wild west never existed as you are imagining it. By your logic your city should already be one of the safest in the nation because of its strong anti-gun laws. Most crime is commited by a small minority of people. Shoot or lock up one crook this year, and next year you may find 10 fewer home invasions, 5 fewer rapes, less muggings, etc. Kneejerk leftwing extremist suggestions of wild west shootouts have never become the reality in any state that has adopted concealed carry. When there is the occasional (very rare) instance of a concealed carrier commiting a crime, Democrats who also happen to work as journalists make sure we all hear about it. Are you aware that the majority of states in the U.S. have some form of legal carry?

  10. AJS – I’m a resident of DC. I live near 15th and A St., SE. If you drive through it sometime, you’ll note that it isn’t the safest neighborhood around. Not as bad as Anacostia, but it’s bad.

    And I know from personal experience, because several months ago I was held up at knifepoint just feet from my front door, at 7 PM. I lost my money, my zippo and most of my self respect.

    If the rights to gun ownership are finally returned to DC residents, I’ll be camping out in front of a northern Virginia gun shop the next morning. A 12 gauge pump action shotgun, with 00 buckshot, should do nicely for home protection. I figure any of the double action, polymer-frame, .40 S&W compact pistols currently on the market would more than suffice for personal carry. With jacketed hollowpoint ammunition, of course.

    I’ve been a victim once, and I will not be in that position again, if I have anything to say about it. If I find myself in a region where carrying a weapon is legal (as it rightfully should be), and I am mugged again, the perp will wind up lying on the sidewalk in a pool of his own blood and brain matter.

  11. buy, carry and own firearms

    it is your moral right, legal or not

  12. Gregory Litchfield: Don’t forget training.

  13. Dear Jdough: Please don’t count me as a radical gun controller; I’m actually pretty moderate and open-minded and, indeed, was raised with guns in my house as a child. My post served only to communicate my thought that many conservatives and libertarians have, what seems to me, an overly romantic idea about guns, particularly handguns. That, and I believe many have an obsession about the topic wholly out of proportion to the actual practical effect of any denial of liberty.

    Dear Gregory: Knock on wood, but I’ve not been the victim of violent crime, although I’ve been spooked many times since I began living in the District. Nevertheless, I have plenty of friends who have been victims of violent crime. Would laxer gun laws have helped any of them, or have prevented the crime? Would their possession of a handgun at the time of the crime have protected them — or made the crime worse? I have my own views, which may or may not be shared by others. But I continue to believe that — whatever the merits of unregulated gun ownership — there are other issues of greater societal import.

  14. hey gregory!

    very sorry to hear of your ordeal! may the knife wielding thugs get some sort of permanent genital rotting disease and not be able to spread it.

    seriously: i’m glad that you’re (physically) okay. take time to heal everything, vent when you need to, grow stronger and move on!

    with sympathy and sincerely,

  15. “Nevertheless, I have plenty of friends who have been victims of violent crime. Would laxer gun laws have helped any of them, or have prevented the crime?”

    Per John Lott’s study on the effects of shall-issue concealed carry laws, your friends would be much less likely to have been victims of violent crimes in the first place if such a law existed in DC.

    “Would their possession of a handgun at the time of the crime have protected them — or made the crime worse?”

    According to the last DOJ study of crime victims that I’ve read, 1) the criminal is less likely to complete a crime against someone who resists with a gun and 2)the victim is less likely to be hurt if he or she resists with a gun. Statistically speaking, your friends would be better off to resist with a gun than to respond in any other way.

    Of course, it is possible that people who carry guns are more competent or smarter than those who don’t, and that expanding gun carry to a wider, less competent population would result in different statistics.

  16. “…what kind of effective militia would find handguns to be useful?”

    A one-man milia, against a blood-sucking psycho trying to rape your wife.

  17. AJS:

    I believe something like two million violent crimes are prevented each year by private citizens with firearms.

    One event that didn’t get much play in the mainstream press was when a school shooting was cut short by a faculty member who had a gun in his car.

  18. “the militia using handguns is bunk. nobody in our military is deployed with handguns!”

    Granted, I don’t much care for the M-9, but that’s a little harsh, don’t you think. Besides, some units use SIG P-226s or “real” sidearms like the M1911.

  19. the militia using handguns is bunk. nobody in our military is deployed with handguns!

  20. My main preference for legal guns isn’t even so much that I might want one or to carry one – but I sure as hell want criminals to be well aware that I, or anyone around me, or anyone that might walk by, very well MIGHT, and preferably DOES.

    Furthermore, I want criminals to be well aware of the fact that should they break into any given house, it is not at all unlikely that not only will the home owner be armed, but that if they are then Mr or Ms Criminal might very well have something very unpleasant and undesirable happen to them, like having their internal organs liquified and strown about a room, or some similar such Bad Thing?.

    I will be, as such, safer, precisely because the world got a whole hell of a lot more dangerous to try to attack someone or take what is rightfully theirs, or to otherwise so endanger their person or property.

    I can avoid starting and getting into heated arguments that might get someone to go over the line and shoot me, at least to some reasonable extent to where I’m not all that worried about it; but I cannot so easily avoid being the victim of violent crime.

    And yes, sometimes crime will be made worse by the existance of guns; and, as shown with the aforementioned school shooting, sometimes they will be made less worse.

    On the whole, I prefer to air on the side of freedom and danger for violent criminals.

  21. God did not create all men equal. Colonel Colt did. If somebody is robbing you with a knife or gun and you stick a Colt Python in his/her face then the playing field has become very near level, and the adversary will more than likely forfeit since he/she is scared shitless about not being able to see his/her face in the morning if he/she escalates the situation further.

  22. EMAIL:
    DATE: 02/01/2004 07:58:45
    People are exponentially funnier when they’re in rant mode.

  23. EMAIL:
    DATE: 05/20/2004 06:48:56
    Only when we have nothing to say do we say anything at all.

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