The NRA vs. Gun Rights


Robert A. Levy, one of the attorneys involved in the Parker case that has (for now) overturned D.C.'s draconian gun possession ban, wonders in the D.C. Examiner why the National Rifle Association seems deadset on destroying the chances for the Supreme Court to make a fresh decision on exactly what the Second Amendment means for personal gun rights. Pushing for a legislative quick fix to change D.C.'s gun ban, which the NRA is now doing, would derail the court case from ever being heard by the Supremes and setting any national precedent.

Robert VerBruggen surveyed municipal gun bans in our June 2005 issue.

Jacob Sullum from last month on the D.C. gun rights case.

NEXT: Gots to Do What They Gotta Do to Get a Bill

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Well, there could be a legit concern that, by a vote of 5-4, we would need to be in a militia to bear a firearm. Then comes the definition of a militia: the police.

    Prepare, folks. The revolution cometh.

  2. Well, there could be a legit concern that, by a vote of 5-4, we would need to be in a militia to bear a firearm. Then comes the definition of a militia: the police.

    Which is exactly how it should be, criminals should not be allowed to have guns. Gun control keeps guns out of the hands of criminals because it makes it illegal for them to have guns.

  3. SSSuuuper, Steve! That was Swell Sircular Slogic.

  4. Steve sounds a lot like Jane and Juanita.

  5. I actually buy Sage’s rationale for the NRA’s action. The Supreme court is not predictable, and they could screw up 2nd amendment interpretation in a way that would make it impossible to unscrew for a long time. However, the NRA’s undermining of Parker hasn’t stopped the NRA from mentioning the case in their fundraising e-mails to me as if the Parker was the NRA’s baby.

  6. I’m not sure an adverse precedent from the SCOTUS would necessarily derail the NRA’s attempts to get legislation. The worst the SCOTUS would likely rule is that there is no inherent, Constitutional right for individual, non-peace officers to own arms. This would not be the same as saying that people are not allowed to Constitutionally own guns. Of course, the gov’t swings a little to the left (the left that doesn’t need the south anymore) and I could see it get ugly. I understand the NRA’s motives, but you can’t win by trying not to lose.

  7. The NRA believes in results not in the process. If their hobby horse had been property rights, they would have spiked the Kelo case in order to avoid the very decision that the court made. They have no faith in the process that led to the backlash following Kelo. They are now a purely political beast and not an ideological one.

  8. Rational fear that the Sup Ct will fix this like they fixed comdemnation proceedings in Kelo.

  9. The NRA may be on to something. The risks in this case are pretty high, and given the composition of the court, optimism about a pro-gun decision may be misplaced.

  10. So the NRA prefers death by a thousand cuts? Beside, what’s there to lose, congress already ignores the second.

    But I doubt the Supremes would rule “collective”. Anyone who’s read the dissent in Parker knows how incredibly weak it is. Mostly likely Paker would be upheld, but would be narrowly tailored leaving room for “reasonable” regulation.

  11. Parker case that has (for now) overturned D.C.’s draconian gun possession ban

    Technical point. It is not overturned for now. It is on appeal and still in force.

    Seriously! Test it yourself and become the next case!

  12. “The NRA is undermining Parker” is one of those paranoid fantasies that the True Believers at organizations like the GOA think up in order to justify their hatred of the NRA.

    In reality, the NRA is probably delighted with Parker; they just don’t think it will succeed in doing any thing substantial. So they’re hedging their bets with legislation because they think that’s the better way to go.

    And who can blame them? Aside from a few isolated cases, the federal courts have been either apathetic or hostile towards the 2nd Amendment. If you’re a gun owner, it only makes sense then to concentrate your efforts on your strengths: Getting pro-gun legislation passed, especially at the state level.

    Nevertheless, a small but vocal percentage of gun owners fervently believe in the Second Amendment Rapture: The day when the members of the Supreme Court will suddenly slap themselves on the head and say “Wow! The Second Amendment is an individual right!” and hand down a decision that automatically invalidates every gun law on the books. Then they’ll be able to buy handguns online or build their own full-auto in their garage, and the ATF will be banished for a Thousand Years.

    It’s a wonderful vision, and nice to hope for. But it has virtually no chance of happening.

  13. Um, unless there is anybody who has not noticed (and I see a few actually have noticed) the NRA has not historically been all that big of an Amendment II organization. If they were they would not be so soft on that machine gun issue.

  14. If the NRA was hedging their bets, they’d wait until after a defeat in the Supreme Court to push the legislation. That would give them the momentum necessary to ensure passage.

    The NRA is trying to game the process and they need to stop.

    Full disclosure: I’ve been an NRA member for ten years.

  15. “Then comes the definition of a militia: the police.”

    US Code defines the militia as all males 17-45. The Supreme Court defines the militia as “Militia — civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion.”

  16. Captain Holly’s post pretty much sums it up.


    The NRA is soft on the machine gun ban because there’s no real political capital to be gained there. The backlash from the majority of people who are ill-informed on the issue would likely be far and away larger than the cries of huzzah from the relatively small (and I’m one of them) group of people who want to legally own a machine gun.

  17. Why? MONEY and POWER! That’s why.

    If Parker is upheld by SCOTUS then, quick as a bullet, the reason for people joining, paying dues, and providing a sense of power to the NRA leadership drops precipitously. The NRA becomes a hunter’s group instead of a fighter for a fundamental right.

    All that’s left to overturning the vast majority of gun laws is a bunch of court cases that now have a clear precedent. How worked up can they get the membership over that? How many letters to politicians will those generate? How many elections will people be looking to the NRA for advice on?

    The answer is simple. The NRA does not want a clear decision supporting the individual right to bear arms because muddied waters are much better to scare people about what might be in them.

  18. What Choy said.

    But they can’t be too obvious about it, or people like me will cancel our membership over the betrayal. Ope-eds like this one shed some light on what’s really happening and hopefully will make the NRA back down.

  19. Here’s a point that Mr. Levy and the NRA-is-Evil Crowd fail to notice: Even with the Republicans pushing it, this bill likely won’t get voted on until after we find out if the Supreme Court will grant cert or not.

    Alot of bills are introduced at the start of each session of Congress, and the more controversial ones often take the full two years to get passed. For example, the original AW ban was introduced in early 1993 but was not signed into law until September 1994.

    So introducing a bill early in the session helps line up co-sponsors and get the process started. And with Democrats in control, it’s quite possible that they would not allow a last-minute bill to get introduced after the Supreme Court makes a decision. Better to have one waiting in the wings than starting the whole process from scratch.

    The NRA understands this. The GOA does not.

  20. Steve:

    I would agree that criminals shouldn’t have guns, if not for the ease with which our Elect Officials make honest citizens into criminals.


    The US Code was not handed down from the mountain, it was written and passed by Congress.

    Look at today’s Congress. If the Supremes handed them a way to ban guns, based on a single word, they would slam a new legal definition of “militia” through so fast that the air would have to fill in behind them.


    The NRA was formed in 1871. The first Federal gun grab was the National Firearms Act of 1934 (which was itself a response to violence that resulted from the government’s idiotic Prohibition scheme). Even James Brady couldn’t believe that the NRA had no purpose for the first six decades of the club’s existence.

  21. Gun bans are to the $$NRA$$ what polio once was to the March of Dimes. An acknowledgement by the Supreme Court that the Second Amendment means what it says, rather than the tortured construction given by most U.S. Courts of Appeals, would do to the $$NRA$$ what development of the Salk and Sabin vaccines did to the March of Dimes fundraising–it would require some to develop another schtick, and others to actually (shudder) work for a living.

  22. BTW: AWB Part II HR 1022, rising zombielike in the presence of its Donkey masters, has been forwarded to subcommittee. It has 30 cosponsors in the House.

    The Dems won’t leave it alone after all. How do you turn a small government libertarian into a Republican voter year after year in spite of everything? THIS is how.

  23. Which is exactly how it should be, criminals should not be allowed to have guns.

    That was accomplished in 1938.

    Gun control keeps guns out of the hands of criminals because it makes it illegal for them to have guns.

    AIR Boston used to have (may still have) a law, Bartly-Fox?, mandating a year in jail for possession of an unregistered firearm. The one way to get out of the sentence was to say, “I’m a felon, therefore I can’t legally register a firearm, therefore I can’t be punished for possessing an unregistered one.”

    The Supreme Court backed that one up.

    If Parker is upheld by SCOTUS then, quick as a bullet, the reason for people joining, paying dues, and providing a sense of power to the NRA leadership drops precipitously. The NRA becomes a hunter’s group instead of a fighter for a fundamental right.

    1. If Parker actually solves all gunowner’s problems the leadership of the NRA will be dancing in the streets just like the rest of us.*
    2. Even with an individual rights SCOTUS decision the gun control folks will not go away. Particularly with a Parker-style “but some regulation is constitutional” verdict. The NRA will have work for the long haul.
    3. Levy is writing an editorial about “his” court case, and differentiating his approach from the NRA’s. Hardly unbiased. And the one NRA quote he includes runs counter to his premise: CEO Wayne LaPierre told us in a private meeting, “You can take it to the bank. The NRA will not do anything to prevent the Supreme Court from reviewing Parker.”
    4. GOA undeniably takes a more hardline approach than the NRA. OTOH the NRA has amassed a great deal more experience since 1968. There is room for both.

    * Ref “hunters group”: Not just hunters. The shooting community also includes target shooting, self-defense, collecting, designing, manufacturing, etc. The NRA would continue to train and certify more civilian, law enforcement, and security officer firearm instructors than any other organization, support non-legislative programs to encourage shooters, serve several special interest shooter’s groups, support state affiliates, run or support shooting matches, cooperate with the shooting industry, and so forth.

  24. There is absolutely NO reason for the NRA to push for legislation now.

    Anyone that thinks our 2nd Amendment rights are to be granted to us from Congress needs to pull there head from their “rear”. What Congress gives Congress can take away at a later date. The only way to settle this issue is for the Supreme Court to rule that the 2nd Amendment is an INDIVIDUAL and not a collective right.

    Why so many of you are looking to Congress to be your saviours is beyond me. WAKE UP!!!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.