Gun rights and Heller vs District of Columbia

There is an interesting article by Tom Gresham in the Shooting Wire on the DC gun ban case, or Heller vs District of Columbia.

Gresham gives a quick overview of the case and some commentary on where he thinks the decision by the Supreme Court Judges will go – he’s very positive.

But what I found interesting was his analysis of how the gun control debate has changed over the years and why. I think he is bang on.

Several points should be noted. First is that it took 20 years to set up this case. Over the course of two decades, beginning with the publication of Sanford Levinson’s article “The Embarrassing Second Amendment” in the Yale Law Journal, constitutional scholarship of the Second Amendment appeared (it was invisible before that) and grew. Almost all law journal articles about the amendment concluded that the widely-accepted (by courts and the media) concept that the right to keep and bear arms is a “collective right” was, in fact, wrong. Eventually, under the weight of this barrage of articles, even noted constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe changed his view, supporting the individual right concept in the latest version of his book, American Constitutional Law,” a standard text in law schools.

Two things have changed which also made it possible to reach this point. One is the destruction of the information gatekeepers — the mainstream media. Twenty years ago the established media could and did prevent any stories about effective use of guns for self defense from getting to the public. The media hammered gun owners in ways that can only be called bigoted. They could get away with it because there was no other way to reach the general public. Enter the internet and talk radio. Talk radio is the end run around the mainstream media, which is why the traditional news outlets hate it so much. When a national radio talk show called “Gun Talk” can reach a audience of some 20 million listeners with simple, reasonable, coherent conversations about gun rights, it rings true to the public. Of course, with the internet, all controls are off, and the validity of any argument must stand up to scrutiny often reaching the level of assault. The gatekeepers are out of business. Additionally, 20 years ago, no one could have imagined a television series called “Personal Defense TV,” where we go to gunfighting schools each week!

Through those communication devices, we have been able to make the other major change. We changed the vocabulary. A big tip of the hat to Alan Korwin (www.gunlaws.com) for understanding early on that the words we use make a difference. Alan and I have pushed for a decade to have those on “our” side realize that we aren’t speaking to gun banners. We are speaking to the uncommitted public, and that we need to choose our words carefully.

Did you note that the media reports no longer call us “pro-gun?” That’s huge. Now, the stories talk about us supporting gun rights, and there are no quotation marks around that phrase. We are not “anti-gun control,” but rather, we are “pro gun rights.” That puts our opponents in the position of being against rights. “A day long-awaited by gun-rights activists,” said the Chicago Times. “To gun rights advocates, the numbers prove a different point,” noted the Associated Press. USA Today’s story began, “The Supreme Count will hear oral arguments Tuesday in the gun rights case . . . .”

That single change in vocabulary may be one of the most important things to happen to the gun rights movement.

I love his comment about the “information gatekeepers”, except that I think that the term extends not only to the media but to government bureaucrats and probably others as well. If you can control information and communications you can pretty well manipulate whomever and whatever you want. The internet has put an end to much of that, which is why totalitarian governments do their damnedest to restrict internet access to their citizens and why there is always talk about legislation to ‘control’ the internet in so-called more enlightened countries.

There are a enough politicians and bureaucrats out there who think that democracy is fine as long as it doesn’t leak down to the masses.

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