It's not about guns...
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[NRA v. Reno (July, 2000)]
[US v. Emerson PAGE]
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[US v. Lopez PAGE]
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Cultivating Ignorance at the Washington Post
The Washington Post prints uncritically and in abundance the gun lobby's Federalist Paper No. 46 fraud. Examples are provided in
Appendix I of the Potowmack Institute's amicus curiae in US v. Emerson
It's not about guns...
The Potowmack Institute
[PotowmackForum], Interactive Posting
The National Rifle
What does the NRA want?
The National Rifle Association
Charlton Heston Speaks
"The Founders and the AK47"
The NRA's "armed citizen guerrillas"
"outflank", as published in the
"rabidly antigun" Wash. Post 7/6/89
Guns, Rights, the Libertarian Fantasy, and the Rule of Law
Not Seen in The Responsive Community
Getting Commitment from Congress
The blood on their doorstep
The Libertarian Fantasy on the Supreme Court
Thomas and Scalia
Joyce Lee Malcolm
Ayn Rand, Blackstone
"Palladium of the Liberties"
The Second Amendment in Court
John Kenneth Rowland
LaPierre's List and the Law Reviews
Militia Act, 1792
Mass. Militia Act, 1793
Reviews Ayn Rand
National Review, 1957
When the National Rifle Association refers to the Washington
Post, it is the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post.
The National Rifle Association should have the good graces to
show some gratitude. The level of ignorance
cultivated by the Washington Post is the gun lobby's best
asset. If there was ever any doubt about the disposition of the
Washington Post, the editorial on July 25, 1998, the
morning after the Capitol Building shootings, should make clear
that the Washington Post is not going to raise any issues
or provide any information that will seriously challenge the gun
lobby or any of its minions in Congress. The "rabidly antigun"
Washington Post is where we find the real source of the
crisis in gun violence. The Washington Post has abandoned
all responsibility for public enlightenment and will circumscribe
public debate to the completely mindless. The attitude is that
all the information has been reported, all the measures have been
taken, and nothing can be done. The Post will keep the
whole issue confined within the limited debate and limited choice
that the gun lobby thrives on. We will just have to live with
the outrages. The irresponsible Washington Post did not
publish the very provocative but responsible letter below of July
27, 1998. The Post must have received many letters on the
Capitol Building shooting but did not publish anything worth
mentioning. It used to be that newspapers devoted their space
to serious matters of state.
The Potowmack Institute has brought serious matters up in the letter of March 15, 2002.
The Washington Post had printed an editorial on July 1, 1998 on the gun safety strategy that comes out of the public health lobby. It mentioned Ron Stewart, President and CEO of Colt Manufacturing, in the context of gun safety but failed to mention his editorial in the American Firearms Industry magazine, December, 1997, in which he called for a national system of permitting, licensing, testing and training. Stewart's proposal frightens the Washington Post as much as it frightens the National Rifle Association.
The Post printed an editorial, August 21, 1998 on HR218 which would override state laws to allow interstate validity of handgun conceal carry permits. The Post did not report the committee vote on this measure on August 5. The Potowmack Institute letter of August 22, 1998, which was not published, raised this issue and the issue of the Ron Stewart Editorial.
March 15, 2002
Leonard Downie, Jr, and Robert Kaiser
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20071
I can only find an enormous but all too representative travesty in The News about the News. I cannot know very much about everything, but when I do know something about something I can judge the coverage. Some stories are simple and obvious. If we are not getting the story on those, where are we getting the real story on anything? The desire for "more original, tough-minded, resourceful reporting" might lead to a performance that is better than murderous.
Murderous it is. I got started on what is really at stake in gun rights, gun violence and firearms policy when the Sue Wimmershoff-Caplan article appeared in what the National Rifle Association calls the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post way back in 1989. See enclosure. If the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post was going to print this ideological tract it was obligated to find opportunity to begin the long overdue substantive discussion on what is really at stake. I thought what I had read was true and very significant and saved the article. It was not until several months later that I went to the source and discovered the preposterous fraud which the NRA and "rabidly antigun" Washington Post put over on the public. Many year later the fraud remains to be exposed.
The "rabidly antigun" Washington Post can now count among its triumphs that the murderous fraud has gained a foothold in constitutional doctrine in US v. Emerson, US Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit (Oct. 16, 2001, .../emeramic.html). I was foolish enough to think Emerson would be the opportunity to expand the great public debate, so called, that is supposed to be in progress. Emerson has received only the smallest mention in the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post in the three years since the district court opinion was released. The Appeals ruling has not even generated an editorial. This is not some marginal story about a few errant federal judges or the effectiveness of NRA lobbyists. The judges have embraced the product of a broad, sophisticated intellectual movement that includes hundreds of academic partisans and pseudoscholars. The insidious pervasiveness of the doctrine resembles the penetration into public consciousness in the first half of the twentieth century of the intellectual underpinnings of fascism and racism. Hey, Guys, the Children of Darkness are in the constitutional control panel dismantling, reordering, sabotaging the constitutional system! That is your business.
It is not something we can expect to see in the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post, but in Reinhold Niebuhr's concept "The children of darkness are evil because they know no law beyond the self." That is the definition of individual sovereignty. Individual sovereignty is a plank in the Libertarian Party Platform (.../emerappf.html). In his widely cited That Every Man Be Armed (1984), the NRA's lead charlatan (.../emerappi.html#halbrook) Stephen Halbrook formulates a doctrine of "libertarian republicanism" (.../emerarg.html#halbrook), the contours of which are a matter that cries out for examination and coverage.
You can get seriously acquainted with the subject on its proper terms with the amicus curiae brief we filed in US v. Emerson (filed 1999, .../emerarg.html). Judge Garwood did not address what is really at stake in his gratuitous obiter dictum which is nothing other than an extreme politicization of the federal judiciary to further a partisan political agenda. There is no indication that he even read the briefs in support of the government. In their furthering of this doctrine, federal judges can be certain that the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post will keep them immune from the shame of making themselves into the laughing stocks they are to any serious observer. Regardless of the comic reasoning, the circumstance is as outrageous as Vincent Bugliosi characterizes the "criminality" of the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore. Our brief is updated with two more recent letters I wrote to Attorney General John Ashcroft (fall, 2001, .../ashcroft.html). I did not expect him to read them. I don't expect the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post to read them either.
One place this subject becomes immediately relevant is in the enormous, little observed and still ongoing twenty year struggle over control of the federal judiciary. Garwood was a very early Reagan appointment. Other lower court appointments are in progress, but eventually there will be another appointment to the Supreme Court. The American people have a right to expect and to be prepared for something more substantive this time around than pubic hairs on Coke cans. This is very serious business. If the story is beyond your grasp, your resourcefulness and your convictions you need to explain what business you think you are in.
I, however, give the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post credit for being intellectually competent. I assume the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post knows want it is doing and have to come to the unfortunate and very cynical conclusion that something else is at work. All high-minded pretensions aside, is there some loosely defined category we can call the "political establishment"? Is the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post the principle organ of the political establishment. Is your purpose to keep the people a passive blob of uninformed inertia whose political participation has to be confined to responses to demagogic public relations rants and charades every four years? Is a self-governing, enlightened citizenry a viable concept down on 15th Street? Or, are free institutions just meaningless illusory notions? Is it an enlightened citizenry you fear or your own competence to enlighten?
There are long neglected places to get started. The NRA has a political agenda and is no more or less honest or dishonest than any other political player in pursuing its goals. (Remember way back in 1992 Dan Quayle's charge of what was on p. 304 of Gore's Earth in the Balance.) Your job is to keep them honest. I arrived at the position very early that real efforts to address gun violence will begin when the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post prints in full context what James Madison was really describing in Federalist Paper No. 46 and makes an issue of what is the real agenda of advocates who have to be blatantly dishonest to make their case. The gun lobby and its libertarian allies have invented their whole preposterous doctrine of political liberty largely out of words lifted out of context from Federalist Paper No. 46. See enclosure. The Federalist Papers were originally published in the newspapers but have become today the stuff of Orwell's "large and uncomfortable fact" (.../196intro.html).
You have many more triumphs to your credit. I have been sending Federalist Paper No. 46 to NPR's Diane Rehm (.../196rehm.html). longer than to anyone else. The first letter was May 30, 1990. She did respond once in the fall of 1998. She told me to take her off of my mailing list. Diane Rehm:
July 27, 2001: "The Constitution as it currently stands and as it is currently interpreted allows the private ownership of weapons Um the question becomes don't those 140 countries They're disappointed that the United States has certain laws, certain rights guaranteed and if those rights are guaranteed in this country why should the United States then step on those very laws to proclaim itself in favor of rules applying to the rest of the world that it does not apply to itself."
There is still more. I was at the Million Mom March in 2000. I think the NRA's Tanya Metaksa may have had it right that that was an event funded by establishment foundations and organized by media and Democratic Party connected operatives ("Million Mom Moles", Frontpage). Was the purpose of the March to keep an incoherent sentiment that something has to be done contained at the level of waving placards to give them a message? Sort of like a "rabidly antigun" Washington Post editorial. We cannot have a citizenry that is seriously political even when our lives are at stake. The "rabidly antigun" Washington Post can claim as another of its great triumphs that I could not find a single person at the March who had heard of the Emerson case. If, when I went down to the other end of the Mall to the much smaller Second Amendment Sisters gathering, I had thought to make the same inquiry I think I would have found a very different level of knowledge. Is it any wonder who controls the political agenda?
It gets worse. One state level gun control activist once told me that people don't want to know about history and they are not going to read court cases. He and his organization were going to the state legislature and get themselves, by golly, a trigger lock bill to protect the children. Their problem is that the speaker of the state house is beholden to the gun lobby and won't bring the bill for a vote. We can be grateful that the bill has been sitting there for years and not enacted into law to further muck up the regulatory environment. Another state level activist directed me with pride to the array of gun safety bills in Congress. One of those bills would authorize the Consumer Product Safety Commission to outlaw toy handguns. I thought, hey, why not just get the little tykes started with toy trigger locks? Fortunately there has been no progress. The NRA cultivates its constituency. The "rabidly antigun" Washington Post cultivates the public.
William Vizzard's Shots in the Dark (2000) is the only really authoritative treatment of gun rights, gun violence and firearms policy. He has been at it for forty years. A search of the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post archives over 25 years produces no result on Vizzard. His research, analysis, conclusions, and experience parallel my independent and more limited endeavors. Vizzard, who has spent much time on Capital Hill, has told me that there are members of Congress and their staffs who know absolutely everything about every given area of federal policy except one. There is no one who knows anything about gun rights, gun violence, or firearms policy. Another great triumph of the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post.
Here is one for you. I cannot imaging a better use of the pages of the "rabidly antigun" Washington Post than to get a substantive debate going on the contours of citizenship. May I suggest that you invite a debate between one of the more bankrupt of bankrupt Democrats Barney Frank (.../cong5.html)). and the more committed of the children of darkness Bob Barr (.../597intro.html). Resolved that, ... see Ashcroft letters (.../ashcroft.html)). I don't see why we cannot expect office holders with six digit incomes to be able to give some hint of understanding of what their oath of office actually means.
The contours of citizenship come up for renewal every few generations. They are up for renewal now. There is a real opportunity to invigorate the civic culture. Its absence on any substantive level is a story. If we survive, the story will be told, regardless that there is no shame in the present omission. You can control the news agenda but you cannot control the history books.
G. Eyclesheimer Ernst
FROM THE early reports of the shootings on Capitol Hill yesterday afternoon, it appears that the security system came into immediate effect. An armed man burst through a doorway detector, the alarm went off, Capitol police at once converged on the scene, and after an exchange of gunfire, the invader, wounded, was captured. That any injuries at all were sustained, and that two members of the Capitol police subsequently died, is truly unfortunate. The fact is there was a potential for even more gunfire and for even more injuries in an area crowded by tourists as well as by congressional personnel.
It is unnerving to think of gunfire in a building that is a national shrine where the laws in a nation ruled by law are made. But most Americans long ago realized that official places can be an attractive venue for individuals with a felt grievance against the authority and symbolism these places convey. That forces upon the keepers of public places a requirement to prepare for the sort of incident the Hill experienced yesterday. That requirement in turn cuts across the dedication to openness of American society and government alike. But most people tend to accept this as a demanding but manageable burden of living in a modern society.
[The Washington Post speaks for itself.]
It is a burden, of course, that falls with special weight upon the police and other law enforcement personnel. They are called upon to deal personally with a condition the widespread availability of guns that most of the rest of us experience only as members of the larger society. Two of those officers, Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, died yesterday after a terrible moment in the Capitol. Their service and their sacrifice deserve our respect.
[This address is no longer in use]
July 27, 1998
Letter to the Editor
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20071
What is everyone so upset about? An individual citizen was oppressed by government and took up arms to protect himself. He was exercising his constitutional right and he had the full endorsement of members of Congress.
What Amicus asserts is a basic right of freemen to take up arms to defeat an oppressive government.
...the people have a right, must have a right, to take whatever measures necessary, including force, to abolish oppressive government.
Your editorial, "Strap on a Gun and Go," August 21, was rather strange. Your editorial, "Room for Reason on Gun Safety," July 1, had mentioned Ron Stewart, president and CEO, Colt Manufacturing, in the context of gun safety, but did not mention that the American Firearms Industry, the trade publication of the gun manufacturers which are under pressure from manufacturer liability law suits, published an editorial by Steward in December, 1997, in which he proposed a national gun permitting system that would require mandatory training and testing for gun ownership. Your resigned editorial, "Shootings on the Hill," July 25, lamented the "truly unfortunate" event as a "manageable burden of living in a modern society." The Capitol shooting was a momentous historic event. You must have receive much mail on it but you published nothing worthy of mention. Now in your August 21 editorial, you wonder what possible "favor" is in nationalizing the state conceal/carry permits when you did not even report the August 5 committee vote on HR 218. The Washington Post should confess its nothing- can-be-done complicity in the gun lobby's political agenda and include a disclaimer: Look elsewhere for civic enlightenment.
The favor is in furthering the gun lobby's political agenda: The gun lobby wants all those guns in private hands to be untouched by laws so it can maintain a balance of power between an armed populace and any and all government. It can't win what it wants in court (See .../warin.html, .../emerappe.html). It depends on your complicity. In another few years it will be campaigning to remove the conceal/carry permit requirement entirely.
The operating concept here is individual sovereignty, a plank in the Libertarian Party Platform. The NRA's Stephen Halbrook describes in That Every Man Be Armed (1984), "libertarian republicans" who are armed first, consent to be governed second. Individual sovereigns by definition do not consent to be governed, do not give "just powers" to government (in the language of the Declaration of Independence), do not surrender up "the executive power of the law of Nature" (in the language of John Locke's The Second Treatise of Government). Individual sovereigns consent only to a treaty which is not a recognizable government.
The Stewart proposal is sensible and badly needed. It is a very significant development that would place liability mostly on gun owners where it belongs. It won't solve all the problems or eliminate all the outrages to the national conscience. As national policy it will, however, make a big difference, first because it defeats the gun lobby's agenda. The proposal is surely something you must know about. In keeping it out of public view, you really need to offer an explanation as to what is your own political agenda.
(The Post isn't alone in its dereliction. You might take a page from Diane Rehm at WAMU-FM. She publicly confesses an inability to deal with the subject of gun violence and avoids it entirely. She has not devoted a program to the subject in years and screens out callers who want to bring the subject up. With "gun grabbers" and "gun haters" like these, what does the NRA have to worry about?)
HOW COMFORTING it is to learn that perhaps 3 million people may be able to carry concealed handguns across state lines and into most states under a loose reciprocity plan approved by the House Judiciary Committee. The proposal, introduced by a semiautomatic voice of the National Rifle Association, Rep. Bill McCollum of Florida, would open the way for gun-toters licensed in one state to bring their concealed weapons into at least 29 other states. You would think that this approach might rattle those supporters who usually object to any federal overriding of states' gun laws (or lack of them). But the amendment to H.R. 218, which is expected to come up for a House floor vote when Congress returns next month, could supersede laws in 14 states that now have solid standards and police discretion in issuing licenses.
Handgun Control Inc. collected data on the number of licenses issued to carry concealed weapons that have been issued in 40 states. (Data were not available for Georgia, New Hampshire or Vermont, the organization noted.) The group cites an example of Texas, which has stricter eligibility requirements for licenses to carry covering residency, safety and background checks. Under the have-gun-will-travel amendment, Texas would have to be open to licensees with no safety training, no knowledge of Texas laws and no past background checks as thorough as those in Texas. Texas residents not qualified for licenses in their own state meanwhile could get them in other states that happen not to have residency requirements.
What possible favor do pushers of this amendment think they're doing by loosening the laws of states where police and the people whose lives they seek to protect have agreed on certain requirements for anyone seeking to carry a concealed weapon in their midst? Why do members succumb to these dangerous maneuvers by gun-pushing lobbies to keep pumping up the flow of concealable weapons to as many people as possible? This amendment serves no constructive purpose. Responsible lawmakers should reject it outright and resoundingly.
Leaders of firearms companies and some mayors met recently in Philadelphia; others have been conferring with delegates to the National Conference of Mayors. Some gun makers are concluding that they should at least play a role in any lawmaking to come. In a recent television interview reported by Media General News Service, Ron Stewart, chief executive officer of Colt Manufacturing, [The Post does not related what else Stewart has had to say] said his "is an industry that, whether we like it or don't like it, is headed toward some greater degree of regulation."
In basic areas agreements ought not to be that difficult. Trigger locks, for example, are not the impossible nuisance that NRA lobbyists claim. Some of the manufacturers add that proposals for guns that can be fired only by the owners could help curb accidents involving children, not to mention attempts by adult criminals to use stolen weapons. Improvements in the checks made on gun dealers' licenses also are winning qualified support from some manufacturers.
Conciliatory talk like this troubles the hard-line NRA leaders. While they agree that there should be stiffer prosecution of those who break laws already on the books, they believe that the answers to gun violence lie not in regulation but in teaching more family responsibility. Yet gun makers, local officials and more and more gun owners are concluding that responsibility for safety rests with those who market as well as use firearms. To acknowledge this much is not to concede defeat, as the NRA's legislative voices would have it, but to try to reduce handgun mayhem.
Michael Fuchs [Free For All, Feb. 24] laments the "demonization" of gun owners by commentators Colbert I. King, William Raspberry and Richard Cohen, who associate gun owners with intolerance, hate, "gaybashers," and "racists."
I am a gun owner. I have owned guns all my life. I grew up in NRA programs. I dropped my membership to the NRA years ago when I concluded that the NRA and other gun lobby organizations have an ideological agenda I cannot support.
There is no secret here. Sue Wimmershoff-Caplan, NRA national board member, wrote in your paper [op-ed, July 6, 1989]: "Twentieth century military machines are far from invincible when outflanked by armed citizen guerrillas." The NRA wants to outflank any and all government including this government with "armed citizen guerrillas." I depend on this government to protect me from "armed citizen guerrillas."
Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, recently removed from the Buchanan campaign for his white supremacist associations, wrote in a letter to the editor of your paper March 26, 1991, "People need to realize that when the police have all the guns, brutal attacks against defenseless citizens will become as common here as in other oppressive [!] regimes. This is the primary reason gun owners opposed the banning of the so-called assault rifles. If these rifles are banned, the government will begin attaining a greater monopoly of force and that is the most dangerous kind of monopoly there is."
Pratt does not trust this or any government with the capacity exercise armed force but has the arrogance to expect the rest of us are to trust him with the same capacity.
When we consent to be governed under the laws of this government, we accept the legal channels for political expression and give up any right to take up arms if we do not like the outcomes of legislative, electoral and judicial processes. It is called being law-abiding.
We have not seen the distinction explained by your newspaper
or its esteemed commentators, but the fundamental dividing
line between gun owners is between those who keep and bear arms
within the rule of law and outside the rule of law. White
supremacists and the intolerant embrace the gun lobby's
ideological agenda and insist on being armed outside of the law.
The NRA, Pratt and Fuchs demonize themselves with their
Letters to the Editor
The Washington Post
At the end of your front page story, March 23, on the House's repeal of the assault weapon ban, you quote Newt Gingrich's book To Renew America, "The Second Amendment is a political right written into our Constitution for the purpose of protecting individual citizens from their own government." I wish someone would get the Speaker of the House to explain exact how my gun protects me from my government. If a law is enacted I do not want to obey, if a politician is elected I did not vote for, if a court rules against me, do I pull out my gun? Then what do I do? Or, does clutching a gun protect me from government the way clutching a Voodoo charm might protect me from evil spirits?
And, what, pray tell, is a "political right"? Is that the same as moral right? When right-to-lifers gun down abortion doctors they righteously exercise a self- defined moral right? They still go to jail. Or, is it an individual constitutional right protected by the judiciary branch of government? If so, where is the case history? What role does the Speaker think the courts play in this government? Was the Civil Rights Movement necessary? If a minority wants to protect itself from a government that does not guarantee equal rights, does it go to court and practice civil disobedience or buy guns?
The assault weapon ban was rhetorically bad
legislation to begin with. There is no outright ban on
machine guns. There are 200,000 federal machine gun
permits out there. Machine guns are rarely used in
crime because they are strictly accountable to public
authority. The assault weapon ban missed the point
because it does not address what the gun lobby really
wants which is to keep gun ownership outside of the
law? The question becomes immediately, why? The
repeal vote has not raised the question either. I
always thought the gun lobby wanted the right-to-arms
as a right-to-insurrection. For the Speaker of the
House it seems that guns are more like Voodoo charms.
(A copy of the quote from Gingrich's book with comments along the lines of this letter was presented in public hearings before the Judiciary Proceedings Committees of the Maryland House and Senate on March 12 and 13.
The right-to-arms as a right-to-insurrection is not a bold assertion. Dennis Henigan, Director of the Legal Action Project at the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, argued the point at some length in his article, "Arms, Anarchy and the Second Amendment," Valparaiso University Law Review, Fall, 1991.)
There are two simple, fundamental issues in gun ownership. One is the gun lobby's doctrine of political liberty (see [HOMEPAGE]) and the other is the fraud (see Abusing Federalist Papers Nos. 29 and 46 and Abusing John Locke) the gun lobby successfully maintains to have this doctrine. The first letter below raises the issue of the fraud. The second raises the doctrine. These are simple, fundamental, very relevant issues, but the letters were refused publication by the Washington Post. The Post will not publish anything that seriously challenges the National Rifle Association and its minions in Congress.
It has been alleged in some news stories that organized crime had the goods on the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover during the 1940s, '50s and '60s for his alleged compulsive gambling, cross-dressing and homosexuality. This is presented as an explanation for why Hoover denied that such a thing as organized crime even existed. What on earth could the NRA possibly have on the Washington Post that it refuses even to set the record straight on a few simple facts that the NRA regularly misrepresents and distorts and gets the Post to print? The Post's highest professional obligation is to get the facts straight. It could even conduct a public debate. It does not have to take the story from the FPJ. It could put its own people on it.
Letters to the Editor
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20071
The NRA's Wayne LaPierre pleads for more "balanced, evenhanded and factual reporting" from the Washington Post. Poor NRA. It downsizes and streamlines like any other business and the Washington Post implies its imminent demise while all along "the president's strident campaign rhetoric is reenergizing [its] grass roots base" and it devotes far more of its resources to its multidimensional safety and service programs than to any legislative or political agenda. LaPierre shouldn't complain. The Washington Post provides the NRA a valuable service.
What motivates the gun lobby is a doctrine of political liberty that the purpose of all those guns in private hands, untouched by any laws, is to maintain a balance of power between the people and any and all government. NRA National Board member Sue Wimmershoff-Caplan put it in an article in the Washington Post, July 6, 1989: "Twentieth century military machines are far from invincible when outflanked by armed citizen guerrillas." In his book Guns, Crime and Freedom, LaPierre invokes the spirit of the American Revolution to make a latent prerevolutionary call to arms with the language, "the people have a right, must have a right, to take whatever measures necessary, including force, to abolish oppressive government" (p. 7). In US v. Francis J. Warin (1976), the Second Amendment Foundation's amicus brief asserted "a basic right of freemen to take up arms to defeat an oppressive government." One person's oppression is another's proper exercise of public authority to enforce democratically enacted laws. The US Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, explicitly rejected Warin's individual right claims, ninth amendment unenumerated right claims and legal status for the "sedentary militia," where the gun lobby's individual right is manifest and the balance of power is maintained. Defeated in the courts, the gun lobby, of which the NRA is the largest and most influential part, will have its doctrine anyway by defeating legislation that might touch guns with laws.
To gain respectability for itself and its claims the NRA has to energize its base and cultivate its other programs, which in themselves are not objectionable any more than is legal gun ownership. It also has to misrepresent not just court decisions but also history. The most ubiquitous words to prove the intent of the Framers of the Constitution with regard to the Second Amendment are "...the advantage of being armed..." from James Madison's Federalist Paper No. 46, usually quoted out of context to mean the very opposite of what they mean in context. LaPierre quotes these words twice in his book (p. 8, p. 17). Of the 32 law review articles LaPierre lists in his book as authority for his claims, at least 14 quote or makes some references to these words. In the context of encouraging ratification of the Constitution, Madison wrote: "Besides the advantage of being armed which the Americans possess over the people of almost all other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed forms a barrier against the enterprises of [federal] ambition." Madison was clearly describing a balance of power between state and federal government not "armed citizen guerrillas" and any and all government. If there is any ambiguity in Madison's words, his position was settled decades later when he called emerging Southern secession notions "preposterous and anarchical."
On Federalist Paper No. 46 the Washington Post provides the NRA a service. The words "...the advantage of being armed..." are the most frequently quoted in the Washington Post of any words from the period of the founding of the Republic. They are always quoted with the meaning LaPierre gives them. They were quoted in a letter to the editor, November 10, 1990, by Robert Cottrol, now law professor at George Washington University and co-author of one of LaPierre's law review articles; by George Will in his column, March 21, 1991, uncritically citing Sanford Levinson, law professor at the University of Texas and author of another of LaPierre's articles; in a letter to the editor, December 22, 1993; and, in a report by staff reporter Joan Biskupic, May 10, 1995.
The Washington Post has an obligation to set the facts straight and be more than a bulletin board for every advocate's fraud. It should expect some appreciation from LaPierre for the credibility and respectability it gives the NRA's political agenda.
706 words to LaPierre's 800.
In your report by Joan Biskupic on the Brady Law, December 4, you cite Stephen Halbrook invoking the Tenth Amendment to describe the unconstitutionality of the Brady Law. Halbrook does not invoke the Second Amendment. In That Every Man Be Armed (1984), Halbrook divided the western political tradition between those "rejecting the idea of an armed populace" and those "accepting the armed populace and limiting the government by the consent of that armed populace." The latter is the political doctrine Halbrook reads into the Second Amendment. Halbrook speaks for the NRA. They cannot win this doctrine in court. They have to defeat legislation and failing there argue in court on other grounds.
The divide in political theory and practice is not between Halbrook's armed populace and his disarmed obedient populace but between rights and obligation. The divide took place in seventeenth century England with Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Previous ideologies were conservative. Individuals were born into political community with obligations. Rights came next. Hobbes and Locke created the liberal tradition: Individuals possessing rights enter political community and then give obligation. Rights came before obligation. The liberal conception was exquisitely expressed in the Declaration of Independence: "...all men...are endowed...with certain unalienable rights... That to secure these rights Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent to be governed." Consent nevertheless meant obligation.
An armed populace that limits government refuses the consent to be governed, refuses obligation, and denies the sovereignty of law. This is the substance of the gun lobby's individual right. It is a prescription for anarchy. The Declaration of Independence had it otherwise.
The Sheriffs in Printz and Mack have the good point that regulatory requirements differ widely among jurisdictions. The real objective of national firearms policy has to be to shut down the illegal traffic so that local jurisdictions can enforce their own publicly agreed upon standards for firearm possession. That objective can only be achieved by making the terms of possession the basis of national policy. The terms mean gun ownership within the law. Registration makes gun ownership accountable to law. Registration and the reporting of private sales is a means to shut down the illegal traffic.
The best outcome from the Supreme Court might be an NRA pyrrhic victory that would force Handgun Control and the Washington Post to make the basis of national policy the terms of possession which involve sovereignty, the rule of law, citizenship, and the consent to be governed. These are the fundamentals. On the fundamentals Halbrook and the NRA cannot win the arguments.
I agree with Bob Dole's advocacy in "Taking Exception: Ticket
to the American Dream," Dec., 19, that English should be the
official language of the United States. We need unifying
principles and experiences.
Large numbers of immigrants, Catholic and Jewish from Eastern and Southern Europe, came to this country between the Civil War and the 1920s. The world wars, particularly the Second World War, bonded these immigrants to what had been mostly Protestant AngloAmerica and create EuroAmerica. We do not want a great military conflagration to unify the country now but a common language is important to the national identity.
Language, however, is secondary. There was a higher proportion of foreign language newspapers in this country in 1910 than there is of foreign language newspapers and radio and television stations now. Switzerland does well with four official languages. Dole quotes Linda Chavez, "Some advocates see bilingual education as the first step in a radical transformation of the United States into a nation without one common language or fixed borders." Chavez gets part of it. What are primary principles to a sovereign nation is not language but fixed borders, a common system of laws, and common agreement on sovereign public authority. There are advocates for a radical transformation of the United States on the primary principles but they come from within Dole's Republican Party.
In To Renew America, Republican Newt Gingrich writes
(p. 202), "The Second Amendment is a political right written into
our Constitution for the purpose of protecting individual
citizens from their own government." In the course of the Brady
Law debates Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska stated, "An
armed populace, people who have the ability to defend themselves,
are [sic] not going to become an oppressed citizenry."
(Congressional Record, Nov. 19, 1993, p. S16315.) One
person's oppression is another's proper, appropriate, and
legitimate exercise of public authority to enforce democratically
enacted law. Citizenship is an ethical proposition. When we put
ourselves under the laws of a government we give up precisely any
"political right" Is that the same as a civil right protected by
an independent judiciary? to resist under arms the laws of that
Let's hear Bob Dole take exception on a primary
James K. Glassman in "Truly Liberal," November 28, and Monroe Burk commenting in a letter, December 5, raise fundamental questions on the definition of liberalism that would provide direction in our present ideological wilderness.
Helpful direction can start with Glassman's reference to
"cranky connotations" of the "awkward" word libertarian.
In the other letter, December 5, W. T. Butler objects that
"cranky" and "awkward" do not mean that libertarians are not
right and invites true liberals to join the
Libertarian Party. If the Post
wants to publish libertarian solicitations and if the Cato
Institute, a (actually, the) libertarian think tank, is now a
respectable, sought-after commentator on the national scene, the
"cranky" policy prescriptions of the
Libertarian Party become worthy of
We live in a thing called the Liberal State. Thomas Hobbes
and John Locke are the founding fathers of the Liberal State.
Glassman and Burk can argue about the limits of its functions.
It is still a State. Sovereignty, that is, ultimate political
authority, as formulated by Hobbes in the 17th century, has
become the foundation of all modern states. Locke assigned to
political power "a right. . .[among others]. . .of employing the
force of the community" according to "settled, standing law."
Consistent with Hobbes and Locke, there can be only one
repository of force in a sovereign state.
The Libertarian Party
proclaims "Individual Sovereignty" where "the only legitimate use
of force. . . inheres in the individual." It recognizes the
"right to political secession" (something we fought a war over
once. Lincoln put it in his First Inaugural, "The central idea
of secession is the essence of anarchy"). And, it opposes "all
laws at any level of government restricting, regulating. .
.firearms." It even calls for repeal of the National Firearms
Act of 1934 which requires a federal permit to possess a machine
gun and for abolition of the BATF. Libertarian purposes are, of
course, benign, liberty enhancing and defensive. They also
repudiate the fundamental premises of the Liberal State.
David Kopel(*), libertarian and
second amendment lawyer, makes clear in "Trust the People: The
Case Against Gun Control,"
Cato Institute Policy Analysis No.
109 (1988), referring explicitly to guns: "The tools of
political dissent should be privately owned and unregistered."
The Liberal State is sovereign at the mercy of armed individuals.
Newt Gingrich merely hedges on this libertarian fantasy in To
Renew America (p. 202), "The Second Amendment is a political
right written into our Constitution for the purpose of protecting
individual citizens from their own government." Silly Martin
Luther King. He thought an independent judiciary protected the
civil rights of individual citizens from their government.
The gun lobby elaborates. Most gun lobby pundits are
extreme libertarians. The gun lobby gives those gun owners,
armed outside of any law, a name. They are the "sedentary
militia." It has even been to federal court with this. The
Second Amendment Foundation's amicus curiae brief in US v. Francis J. Warin (1976)
states, "What Amicus asserts is the basic right of free men to
take up arms to defeat an oppressive government." The US Court
of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, explicitly rejected legal status for
the sedentary militia (cert. denied). Judges are part of
government and are concerned with order in the court among other
places. The gun lobby of course assigns to the sedentary militia
good libertarian purposes. It is benign, liberty enhancing and
In Dead Right, David Frum writes (p. 202),
[that is, true liberals, properly understood] are not
libertarians. They do not believe that maximum political liberty
is a good in and of itself, without regard to its consequences."
They want minimal government. The Libertarians, however, want no
government. James Madison wrote, "If men were angels, no
government would be necessary." (Federalist Paper, No.
Libertarians would dissolve government and civilized society
with it under the delusion that they are angels.
The connotations are not cranky. They are dangerous.
[See "Libertarians and Conservatives" for conflicts within rightwing ideologies.]
(*Kopel gets published in the Washington Post and
featured on NPR)
[PotowmackForum], interactive posting