Posts Tagged ‘US 2nd amendment’

“Denormalizing” Firearm Ownership

July 8, 2010

Glen Reynolds, a Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee and the person behind the Instapundit blog, has an interesting article over at Pajamas Media on the 2nd Amendment in the U.S. constitution and the Supreme Court’s Heller decision on Washington DC’s gun ban and the more recent McDonald decision which relates to the city of Chicago’s gun ban.

Read at your leisure, but I was interested in his comments near the end of the article. (Thanks to Michael Bane for the pointer).

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court’s Second Amendment decisions have made a major difference. In particular, they have offset the gun-control community’s longstanding effort to “denormalize” firearms ownership — to portray it as something threatening, deviant, and vaguely perverse, and hence demanding strict regulation, if not outright prohibition. That effort went on for decades, and received much media support. Two decades ago, it seemed to be working.

But with the Supreme Court saying that it’s clear the Framers regarded individual gun ownership as “necessary to our system of ordered liberty,” that effort must be seen as a failure now. Gun ownership by law-abiding citizens is the new normal, and the Second Amendment is now normal constitutional law. It will stay so, as long as enough Americans care to keep it that way. (Emphasis is mine).

What he speaks of here is what has been happening in Canada with Jean Chretien and Alan Rock, Paul Martin and now the current Federal Liberal Party leader, Michael Ignatieff and his anti-gun prolocutor MP Mark Holland, although we have called it ‘demonizing’ guns and gun ownership. Denormalizing or demonizing: Same thing. Same effect.

One needs only to look at our Federal Firearm’s Act.

Above and beyond the fact that handguns, by the fact that they are hand-held firearms, have been defined as “restricted”, we have others that have been classified as “prohibited” due to barrel length or caliber and a whole list of other firearms that have the same listing because they “look dangerous”.

The reason why a handgun with a 106 mm barrel is classified as restricted and one with a 105 mm barrel length becomes prohibited is something that must only be clear to an Ottawa bureaucrat’s tortured mind.

Then there was the situation with .25 and .32 calibre handguns which, in the mind of those who wrote the legislation, for some reason personified evil incarnate and any handguns chambered to those calibres were automatically delegated to the ranks of the prohibited. Until someone pointed out to those bright people that those were the very same calibres that the world’s competitive shooters used in international competition such as the Olympics. So now there are some (specific) handguns chambered to those calibres that not quite as evil as first thought and have been plucked from the ranks of the prohibited and deposited in the slightly more respectable classification of restricted.

On the face of it, this is all pretty silly, but it was unquestionably the intent of the legislation when written to make firearms ownership increasingly more difficult and to plant the idea in the mind of the public that guns are dangerous and not socially acceptable in Canada.

This philosophy has been the mantra of the Federal Liberal party since Jean Chretien’s time and has been part of the political bark of municipal politicians, notably Mayor David Miller of Toronto, as well as the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, plus others with their own agendas.

Unfortunately in Canada, we don’t have a 2nd Amendment in our Constitution such as the U.S. has, so we can’t hope for the courts to work in our favour.

But as Professor Reynolds says earlier in his article, the solution is eventually political and that even though they have had some success in the U.S. courts, they should not rely on the legal system to fight their battles.

On the other hand, if gun-rights activists sit back and expect the courts to do their work for them now, they will be sadly disappointed. If pressed with further cases (which Gura says he plans to bring), the courts will do some good. But the primary protection for gun rights up to now, and for all constitutional rights, really, is political. Judicial review was intended by the Framers to be a backup system, not the main source of protection. That was intended to come from the people — and realistically, because if people don’t stand up for their own rights, courts are unlikely to take up the slack for long.

This is true in spades in Canada. If hunters, farmers, ranchers, sport shooters, collectors and all others who own and use firearms don’t begin to finally stand up en masse and state their case we will see a steady erosion of our ability (I can’t call them ‘rights’, as we lost that battle with Bill C-68) to use, let alone own those guns.

Gun rights and Heller vs District of Columbia

March 21, 2008

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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