On Friday I noted a Fox News story that said Gun Owners of America Executive Director Larry Pratt was critical of the ACLU's challenge to a South Dakota law that makes U.S. citizenship a prerequisite for a concealed-carry permit. The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Wayne Smith, is a permanent legal resident who was born in the U.K. but has lived in the U.S. for 30 years. "If the guy wants to enjoy the full benefit of residing in the United States," Pratt told Fox News, he should "become a citizen." Pratt now says Fox "misstated my position," which distinguished between rights of citizenship such as voting in U.S. elections and natural rights such as those protected by the Second Amendment. Here is how Pratt describes his position in an email message that I confirmed with GOA's office in Virginia:
1. As I have stated all along, I do not agree with what South Dakota is doing in denying the right to keep and bear arms to alien residents. Wayne Smith SHOULD BE ABLE TO OWN A GUN!
2. Our fundamental rights do NOT come from government, the Bill of Rights or the Constitution. they come from God. Hence, law-abiding citizens should be able to carry concealed firearms as a matter of right (without permission from the government) and that is why GOA has consistently supported legislation modeled after Vermont's successful permitless carry law.
3. Aliens living in this country still possess their God-given rights.
Note, however, that within our constitutional system of government, some rights of citizenship (such as the right to vote) are fully protected only for actual U.S. citizens. This is, perhaps, where the confusion has arisen.
On the one hand, I argued that aliens should not be able to vote in our country. But fundamental human rights such as the right to self-defense as embodied by keeping and bearing arms, on the other hand, SHOULD MOST DEFINITELY extend to everyone, period.
4. As for the xenophobia that some have accused me of because of the misunderstanding relating to Wayne Smith, well, that's laughable. I've been happily married to a Central American immigrant for nearly 50 years—and I fully support her right to keep and bear arms as much as I support Smith's.
[Thanks to Shayne Wissler, who sent us Pratt's reply.]