Eric Holder and the Second Amendment


Gun rights scholar and reason contributor David Kopel has an excellent post at the Volokh Conspiracy detailing future Attorney General Eric Holder's lousy and troubling record on the Second Amendment:

As Deputy Attorney General, Holder was a strong supporter of restrictive gun control. He advocated federal licensing of handgun owners, a three day waiting period on handgun sales, rationing handgun sales to no more than one per month, banning possession of handguns and so-called "assault weapons" (cosmetically incorrect guns) by anyone under age of 21, a gun show restriction bill that would have given the federal government the power to shut down all gun shows, national gun registration, and mandatory prison sentences for trivial offenses (e.g., giving your son an heirloom handgun for Christmas, if he were two weeks shy of his 21st birthday). He also promoted the factoid that "Every day that goes by, about 12, 13 more children in this country die from gun violence"–a statistic is true only if one counts 18-year-old gangsters who shoot each other as "children."(Sources: Holder testimony before House Judiciary Committee, Subcommitee on Crime, May 27,1999; Holder Weekly Briefing, May 20, 2000. One of the bills that Holder endorsed is detailed in my 1999 Issue Paper "Unfair and Unconstitutional.")

After 9/11, he penned a Washington Post op-ed, "Keeping Guns Away From Terrorists" arguing that a new law should give "the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms a record of every firearm sale." He also stated that prospective gun buyers should be checked against the secret "watch lists" compiled by various government entities. (In an Issue Paper on the watch list proposal, I quote a FBI spokesman stating that there is no cause to deny gun ownership to someone simply because she is on the FBI list.)

After the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the D.C. handgun ban and self-defense ban were unconstitutional in 2007, Holder complained that the decision "opens the door to more people having more access to guns and putting guns on the streets."

Whole thing here. Kopel's reason archives here.

NEXT: As We Look Past the Next Four Years of Virtually Certain Unmitigated Crapitude, Here's a Couple of Thoughts on Election 2012

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  1. You don’t understand.


  2. Can we please speak of these rights as “firearm ownership rights,” “weapons possession rights,” or “personal protection rights” instead of gun rights? “Gun rights” always seems rather crass and unintellectual.

  3. (e.g., giving your son an heirloom handgun for Christmas, if he were two weeks shy of his 21st birthday)

    Which I believe is completely legal, even if they’re only a couple days past their 18th, in Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and who knows where else.

  4. Obama’s Orwellian horror continues to unfold.

  5. So let’s be clear on this-we’re looking at:
    An anti-gun President who has an anti-gun VP and an anti-gun chief of staff is looking to appoint an anti-gun AG who will head, among other things, gun owners favorite agency, the BATFE.

    Gee, I can’t imagine why gun owners are mistrustful of him. Toss in the fact that the two appointees are Clinton reruns and pro-drug war and it just doesn’t get much better than this. Maybe there’s a place in the cabinet for Janet Reno and Donna Shalala.

    I do love the excuses from my gun owning dem-voting friends with their stereotypical strawman response of “he’s not going to take away anyone’s guns” and a follow up with something about how the Congress is going to be too busy to worry about banning guns.

    I don’t think the newly minted Pres and the larger majority congress will be able to wait more than a month or two before pushing through some the wish list items they haven’t been able to get for the last 8 or so years.

    No Republican would be let off the hook if they had a voting record where they supported 500% taxes on abortions, bans on clinic within 5 miles of schools, 1 abortion a year limits, etc. Any claims of being pro-choice would be immediately picked apart and the effects of each bill they voted on would would be extensively analyzed on nightly news programs.

    If this “pro choice” pulled an anti-abortion VP, got elected, appointed an anti-abortion chief of staff and were set to appoint an anti-abortion Secretary of Health and Human Services (I see this as close to the AGATF relationship), the pro-choice movement would be having seizures.

    I’m not entirely surprised that President Change and Hope seems well poised to bring back the excesses of the Clinton administration. What’s great about it is it’s kind of like a Big Mac-Bush 1,Clinton, Bush 2, and now Obama with Clinton sauce poured on top.

    I went through control was important enough to make a showing. But things like rolling back warrantless wiretapping, Customs seizures of laptops at borders, FBI abuse of NSLs, reducing/repealing the Patriot Acts weren’t important enough to be part of change.

  6. All the commenters who laughed at those of us who thought Obama would increase firearm restrictions are strangely silent now.

  7. I joined the NRA this week because of these developments. Thing is, McCain was a anti-gun nut as well, so pick your poison here.

    One thing that gun-rights supporters do need to do as a group is to make a red-line on what could be regulated and not regulated relative to civilian possession of weaponry.

    I don’t think even the most hard-core libertarian is cool to the idea of a guy keeping a tactical nuclear weapon laying around the basement because its a cool collector’s item, for instance. There is a limit to the right to bear arms somewhere. “Arms” itself could mean a wide variety of things in today’s day and age that just did not exist in the Founder’s time, and couldn’t have been conceived by them as even possible (though Ben Franklin I think would have been absolutely fascinated with the science and workings of a W87!).

    But where does that regulatory authority stop? It obviously has to stop somewhere. But the fruity-nuts at the Brady Center get to pick their battles. For instance the assault-weapons ban, the gun control nuts are trying to say a .223 semi-auto with a folding stock is an “assault weapon” while a .306 semi-auto with a wooden stock is a “hunting rifle,” though as far as the power and lethality of the weapons are concerned that is just…stupid.

    So obviously those jerks don’t even understand the subject, but if we allow them to continue having “ownership” of trying to figure out what would be a coherently prohibited weapon they will continue with this foolishness and we will continue wasting time fighting the morons on their battleground of choosing.

    Just for the record, I think any weapon (ballistic, radiative, whatever) can put a certain amount of energy in a certain amount of time on a certain amount of area (power level). What would be the threshold number on that power level before it could be a regulated munition? Its a physics question with a physics answer, its also a methodology that accommodates unforeseen future developments (laser guns…wheee!)and can’t be tweaked statistically, or scare a soccer-mom with “scary” aesthetics (think .223 with folding stock). What would that answer be though? Weapons-rights advocates should drive the debate in that direction and set a ceiling for the gun-control nuts to fight over, instead of waiting for one of their inane offensives (twenty round 9mm clips! = Bad!).

  8. OK. Let’s see.

    Everything that a soldier on the battlefield can carry should be covered.

    Everything the police can carry/own/use should have already been protected as they derive their powers from we the people-we can’t delegate to them powers we don’t have. They are also civilians so they have the same rights we have.

    Your ownership of a tank and it’s turret are also protected, just don’t go destroying the roads driving it and don’t expect us to let you use it on innocent people.

    I imagine restrictions could be placed on chemical, biological, and radiological weapons, provided soldiers (and law enforcement) are strictly forbidden from carrying, possessing, using them. Soldiers and even platoons can’t carry or use nukes, mustard bombs or anthrax missles, so neither can I, the cop in the street or the ATF agent.

    You then end up with certain weapons only being allowed to be possessed by the military (standing army) with control placed in the hands of the governor or president. I’m not sure where to go from there…

  9. What part of “…shall not be infringed” doesn’t this monkey understand?

  10. Brendan Perez:

    Soldiers could individually use nuclear weapons. You wouldn’t believe the junk we were trying to equip conscripts with in the ’60’s (look up the “Davy Crockett”), and for a time there was a device referred to as a “SADM” (Small Atomic Demolition Munition) in the nuclear stockpile for use ostensibly by Special Forces frogmen.

    But overall, the gist you’re coming from makes sense, especially relative to the cops. It would also be a handy enabler of Posse Comitatus in a physical sense, because police forces (especially in the urban cores) are increasingly indistinguishable from a light infantry battalion, sans mortars and grenades.

    Another perverse example of that is the current ban on selling body armor to civilians. After the infamous North Hollywood bank robbery (where the perps had body armor that standard cop firepower couldn’t penetrate, they had to go get some AR’s and HUNTING rifles from a local gun shop to tak’em down), a ban (I don’t know if its Federal or just CA) was placed on the civilian purchase of body armor. So not only are these people trying to ensure we don’t have weaponry that could take a cop down, we’re not allowed to buy the personal shielding that might impede the cop from shooting us. That is an utter crock of shit.

  11. I really think the line is easy to draw here: there should be no distinction between weapons available to the police and weapons available to the rest of the citizenry.

    If the cops have good use for full-auto weapons because criminals are so heavily armed, why don’t other civilians have the same good use for the same weapons for the same reasons?

    The police are, lets not forget (as so many have), civilians, not military.

  12. HAL: That’s a CA restriction on body armor.

    Someday, if we really get to space, private ownership of nuclear powered bombs will become commonplace. They’ll be extraordinarily useful for asteroid mining.

  13. I don’t know about CA, but there is no federal ban on body armor. And I think you meant to say 308, not 306, in your earlier post.

    As for Holder… I’m not surprised he’s anti-gun, as Obama has shown that he’s not much for gun rights. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. The NRA has done a good job of getting pro-gun people elected to Congress. It’s true that Obama could nickel and dime us to death on the gun issues, but at some point it will affect him politically.

    I was totally pessimistic about the future of gun rights when Clinton was elected, but things turned out to be a lot better than I feared. Mostly because of the NRA.

  14. I am increasingly liking this “anything cops have, the civilians can have” deal with weapons rights. Its a great equivocation and frames a ideal debate point that the gun nuts get trapped in with something akin to a circular error reference in a spreadsheet or program.

    “We need to ban ‘assault weapons'” they will say. To which the retort would be:

    “So when do the cops turn in all their assault weapons?” And they will say:

    “The police need the high-powered weapons to fight the (insert boogeyman here, drug gangs, terrorists, pedophiles, the guy who got Rocky III off BitTorrent, whatever).” To which we then can say:

    “That’s a funny coincidence, because that’s why I own a whole ARSENAL of assault weapons myself…thanks for clarifying that!”

  15. ellipsis:

    Thanks for picking out the “.306” error, I was thinking “Springfield .300 caliber 1906” (thirty ought six) and that came out. Thanks!

    As far as the body armor ban, I coulda swore there was one. Maybe it is just KaleeFornia.

  16. HAL-9000,

    The same thing works when discussing so-called “armor piercing” rounds (or any gun control for that matter).

    We’re told that the only reason for the FN5.7 was to kill cops by piercing body armor, so of course the gun control groups push for a ban on ‘civilian’ possession, but not cops-they either say that possession should be restricted to police and/or support bills that would do the same. So, we’re left with so-called cop killer guns only approved for cops to use.

    Why do cops need cop killer guns, to kill other cops?

    This works for ‘assault weapons’ as well-gun control groups love to talk about how an ‘assault weapon’ is “designed for one thing, killing as many people as possible”, then they go on to support bills that allow the police to have them. They also sometimes throw in how the weapons are only good for shooting form hip, are inaccurrate, not powerful enough to hunt with and/or powerful enough to pierce tanks or body armor or whatever.

    So, why should the police be allowed to have weapons that are only useful for killing as many people as possible while shooting from the hip?

    “Saturday night specials”-These guns are dangerous, inaccurate, prone to explosion-injuring the person shooting and innocent bystanders, YET gun control groups always support allowing only the police to have them. Why should the police be allowed to possess inaccurate, unreliable, dangerous handguns?

  17. BTW,

    re:Saturday night specials.
    That’s not my position on inexpensive handguns, but rather a restatement of a composite of gun control groups’ positions on inexpensive handguns.

  18. there is no good reason to own a rifle or shotgun unless ur a hunter or own/work on a farm. there is definitely no good reason to own a handgun. personal protection is not a valid reason. most people are never in those situations. and if you are, tough. and assault rifles are even worse. unless u want to go kill a person you shouldn’t own one. for all those who hunt, if u need an assault rifle to kill a deer or bear then u should get a new hobby. the only permissible guns for every1 else should b nerf.

  19. Josh:

    There are two other “good” reasons to have a rifle, shotgun, or pistol. One is to go intimidate and coerce someone from their rights of life, person, or property. The only people who routinely use such techniques in their line of work are the State and the Criminals.

    Odd coincidence, huh? Not really, Josh. Not really.

    The other good reason is to have some insurance of your rights to property, person, and property from the depredations of the state and the criminal.

    No sovereign State has ever eliminated violence from its society, it has only been able to monopolize the violence. And my personal hedge against that violence is a good enough reason for you and anybody else for me to own my chain-fed .50 cal Ma Deuce in my living room. Tee-hee.

  20. hal-9000
    i’m sorry dave, i can’t do that.


    you sir, are the reason my doors have locks. and a criminal is more likely to shoot you b4 ur able to retrieve ur gun from wherever you store it unless ur always carrying. in which case…i hope you have a quicker draw than wit

  21. Ooh look at me,another winger making crap up out of thin air,cranking out every winger bogeyman I can think of so I can “prove” that black guy’s gonna take all the white folks’ guns away.

    Oh and Ronnie Ray Gun saved the world!!!

  22. obama has tremendous challenges in front of him. i can’t see him expending his political capital on impeding gun rights. his expansive agenda will require cooperation from conservatives, even with his majority congress.

    I do enjoy the concept of limiting civilian ownership of weapons to the same as police. I then encourage the police to stop using weapons they aren’t properly trained in that can be particularly dangerous (particularly ‘less-than-lethal’ crowd control weaponry). perhaps that is a compromise the left and right could agree on.

    perhaps if the left were reminded that early gun control laws were enacted (in CA) to limit gun ownership by the Black Panthers, they could understand the distrust-of-government motivations the right often have.

    if we could get Obama to take leadership in limiting the common no-knock warrants executed in the war-on-drugs, we could avoid many law-abiding gun-owning citizens attempting to protect their family from being killed by paramilitary cops.

  23. Why is the left so concerned about what guns i own? I am a legal citizen and a law abiding one. If I want to go have some fun in the desert with an assault rifle (no one dies, not even the rabbits) then why cant I? Last time i checked this was a free country wherein my rights to bear arms (for any purpose) will not be infringed.

    Does Obama and the other gun banners want to control my life so much where they take away my hobbies? Convicted criminals are already not allowed to buy weapons. I am a law abiding, Army Special Operations soldier, why cant i own guns? Why cant average americans have peace of mind and defend their families from lawless thugs? Why cant i go do some shooting on the weekend?

  24. rangerman,
    how many times have u had to defend yourself from “lawless thugs”? 0? thought so.

  25. Josh,

    Everyone will answer never until the day comes when they have to.

    If you asked Korean store owners in CA the day before the 92 riots how often they’ve had to defend their stores, some would have answered “never”. The next day is history.

    Yeah OKay,

    Once again, the whole “he’s not going to take your guns away” thing is a gun-control strawman. Gun confiscation isn’t the only form of 2nd amendment violation.

    This is like saying that George Bush’s administration didn’t violate the 4th amendment because they weren’t wiretapping everyone’s phone 24 hours a day.

    Banning certain models of guns, zoning gun stores out of existence, using secret lists to deny people the ability buy guns, forbidding people from having loaded guns in their house or on their person, etc. are all examples of 2nd amendment violations.

  26. Thank you Brenden –

    And to Josh – I have had to point a firearm in the direction of an assailant who had broken into my home. It was justified and the sight and sound of my 12 gauge alone was enough for him to drop his shit and run. Those situations are not reserved for Hollywood, friendo.

    Maybe it will take an encounter such as mine for you to see the point, but since you are obviously not armed you may not have the opportunity to share your experience with the rest of us. It would be ideal to live in a world where a situation such as mine was just a paranoid delusion, but you are delusional if you think there are not thousands of others like me who have saved their own lives and lives of other because they were armed.

    Next time you decide to post on something please take a moment to consider the fact that what you are about to say may be ignorant and that there is a chance you actually dont know everything.

  27. Josh, your trolling is just a bit too over-the-top to come across as real.

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