Category: Sam Bocetta

Federal Overreach and the National Concealed Carry Law


When the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act was first introduced in January of 2017, it quickly garnered support from a number of Republicans in the House of Representatives, but this was not an indication of how the average American gun owner feels about the controversial legislation.

The bill’s creator, Rep. Richard Hudson, justified the Reciprocity Act by saying, “Our Second Amendment right doesn’t disappear when we cross state lines, and this legislation guarantees that.”

For libertarians, this bill is not a matter of our Second Amendment right; rather, it’s a matter of federal overreach.  Under Concealed Carry Reciprocity, state gun laws would be rendered null and void, as anyone with a concealed carry permit in one state would be able to travel across state lines while armed.

A 2017 study indicates that it’s not just those who value state autonomy who are opposed to the bill.  A national survey found that 83 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of independents believe that people with a legal right to carry concealed should have to pass a test demonstrating that they can “safely and lawfully handle a gun in common situations they might encounter.”

The Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence is also ardently against the bill.  The group has taken to social media to urge the public to join its fight to block the law.  Some states have already made their position known.  As of February 1st of 2016, Virginia no longer recognizes concealed handgun permits from 25 other states.  Other states are likely to follow Virginia’s lead.

Why?

Because the Constitution acknowledges that different states have different cultures and different needs where guns are concerned.  Public safety, policing, and right to carry are dependent on several factors, factors that the current bill does not take into consideration.

Law enforcement officials in the state of New Jersey have already expressed concern about the Reciprocity Act.  Jersey City public safety director James Shea told a reporter, “Each state has the right to determine what’s right for them, but if you’re telling me that the other 49 states have to acknowledge this law, we better get together and have standards we can all agree on.”

The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence released a statement last year opposing “attempts to mandate concealed carry reciprocity nationwide because such schemes severely undermine successful, well established state laws governing carrying concealed firearms.”

The concealed carry bill, which is has made its way through the House, has approximately 213 co-sponsors and the full support of President Trump.  Among those who have espoused it are some unlikely proponents.

Six Democrats – Georgia rep. Sanford Bishop, Texas rep. Henry Cuellar, Texas rep. Vicente Gonzalez, Wisconsin rep. Ron Kind, Minnesota rep. Collin Peterson, and Oregon rep. Kurt Schrader – have voted in favor of Concealed Carry Reciprocity.

Rep. Bishop has voted against his party on five gun control bills in total.  If we go on his example alone, one would think liberals are getting more liberal in their views on guns, but this is far from the truth.

This month has seen the Dems piling on when it comes to pushing gun control, relying on the Parkland shooting to sway Republicans on the issue of “red flag” legislation.  The red flag law would grant courts the power to strip gun owners of their firearms at the behest of an owner’s family member or spouse.

The law, which is designed to remove weapons from those who are deemed a potential threat, is unlikely to be effective.  On the contrary, such a law could set a dangerous precedent.  After all, a manipulative individual could persuade a judge of his partner’s altered mental state for malicious reasons or even in an attempt to leave that individual bereft of guns and, therefore, more vulnerable.

The recent wave of gun bills misses the boat when it comes to self-defense.  In the case of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, the bill fails to consider the implications it might have.  Not only does it infringe on states’ independent rights, but it also leaves those states vulnerable to crimes that might otherwise not be committed.

The types of handgun best suited for concealed carry are compact and easy to conceal, hence the name.  They sometimes feature a manual safety, which ensures that they cannot go off without warning.  And one thing that’s seldom mentioned is the fact that folks with a CCW permit can actually save lives rather than taking them.

In July of 2009, the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran an article about a CCW permit-holder wounding and subduing a robber after the criminal opened fire on a convenience store clerk and store patrons.  The permit-holder saved eight lives that night, something that would not have been possible had he not been armed at the time.

There is a substantial number of cases like this in the U.S. and plenty of evidence that concealed carry can prevent crime.  According to the Department of Justice’s Uniformed Crime Report, states with right-to-carry laws have a 30 percent lower rate of homicides.

Concealed carry shoulder holsters complement compact handguns in a way that allows for easy concealment and comfort.  These are irrefutable facts that all parties should be able to agree on.  But a concealed carry law that blocks states’ rights to enforce their own laws is something that is neither constitutionally sound nor lawful.

States and their citizens need to be more vocal about their opinions where this sort of legislation is concerned.  We the People need to let the government know what we feel is right.  It is important for responsible, law-abiding gun owners to let their voices be heard.

The government is supposed to work for us, not against us.

Thus far, there have been two roll call votes on the bill.  It has passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate.  Now is the time for Americans to have a discussion about this problematic piece of legislation.

When the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act was first introduced in January of 2017, it quickly garnered support from a number of Republicans in the House of Representatives, but this was not an indication of how the average American gun owner feels about the controversial legislation.

The bill’s creator, Rep. Richard Hudson, justified the Reciprocity Act by saying, “Our Second Amendment right doesn’t disappear when we cross state lines, and this legislation guarantees that.”

For libertarians, this bill is not a matter of our Second Amendment right; rather, it’s a matter of federal overreach.  Under Concealed Carry Reciprocity, state gun laws would be rendered null and void, as anyone with a concealed carry permit in one state would be able to travel across state lines while armed.

A 2017 study indicates that it’s not just those who value state autonomy who are opposed to the bill.  A national survey found that 83 percent of Republicans and 84 percent of independents believe that people with a legal right to carry concealed should have to pass a test demonstrating that they can “safely and lawfully handle a gun in common situations they might encounter.”

The Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence is also ardently against the bill.  The group has taken to social media to urge the public to join its fight to block the law.  Some states have already made their position known.  As of February 1st of 2016, Virginia no longer recognizes concealed handgun permits from 25 other states.  Other states are likely to follow Virginia’s lead.

Why?

Because the Constitution acknowledges that different states have different cultures and different needs where guns are concerned.  Public safety, policing, and right to carry are dependent on several factors, factors that the current bill does not take into consideration.

Law enforcement officials in the state of New Jersey have already expressed concern about the Reciprocity Act.  Jersey City public safety director James Shea told a reporter, “Each state has the right to determine what’s right for them, but if you’re telling me that the other 49 states have to acknowledge this law, we better get together and have standards we can all agree on.”

The National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence released a statement last year opposing “attempts to mandate concealed carry reciprocity nationwide because such schemes severely undermine successful, well established state laws governing carrying concealed firearms.”

The concealed carry bill, which is has made its way through the House, has approximately 213 co-sponsors and the full support of President Trump.  Among those who have espoused it are some unlikely proponents.

Six Democrats – Georgia rep. Sanford Bishop, Texas rep. Henry Cuellar, Texas rep. Vicente Gonzalez, Wisconsin rep. Ron Kind, Minnesota rep. Collin Peterson, and Oregon rep. Kurt Schrader – have voted in favor of Concealed Carry Reciprocity.

Rep. Bishop has voted against his party on five gun control bills in total.  If we go on his example alone, one would think liberals are getting more liberal in their views on guns, but this is far from the truth.

This month has seen the Dems piling on when it comes to pushing gun control, relying on the Parkland shooting to sway Republicans on the issue of “red flag” legislation.  The red flag law would grant courts the power to strip gun owners of their firearms at the behest of an owner’s family member or spouse.

The law, which is designed to remove weapons from those who are deemed a potential threat, is unlikely to be effective.  On the contrary, such a law could set a dangerous precedent.  After all, a manipulative individual could persuade a judge of his partner’s altered mental state for malicious reasons or even in an attempt to leave that individual bereft of guns and, therefore, more vulnerable.

The recent wave of gun bills misses the boat when it comes to self-defense.  In the case of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, the bill fails to consider the implications it might have.  Not only does it infringe on states’ independent rights, but it also leaves those states vulnerable to crimes that might otherwise not be committed.

The types of handgun best suited for concealed carry are compact and easy to conceal, hence the name.  They sometimes feature a manual safety, which ensures that they cannot go off without warning.  And one thing that’s seldom mentioned is the fact that folks with a CCW permit can actually save lives rather than taking them.

In July of 2009, the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran an article about a CCW permit-holder wounding and subduing a robber after the criminal opened fire on a convenience store clerk and store patrons.  The permit-holder saved eight lives that night, something that would not have been possible had he not been armed at the time.

There is a substantial number of cases like this in the U.S. and plenty of evidence that concealed carry can prevent crime.  According to the Department of Justice’s Uniformed Crime Report, states with right-to-carry laws have a 30 percent lower rate of homicides.

Concealed carry shoulder holsters complement compact handguns in a way that allows for easy concealment and comfort.  These are irrefutable facts that all parties should be able to agree on.  But a concealed carry law that blocks states’ rights to enforce their own laws is something that is neither constitutionally sound nor lawful.

States and their citizens need to be more vocal about their opinions where this sort of legislation is concerned.  We the People need to let the government know what we feel is right.  It is important for responsible, law-abiding gun owners to let their voices be heard.

The government is supposed to work for us, not against us.

Thus far, there have been two roll call votes on the bill.  It has passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate.  Now is the time for Americans to have a discussion about this problematic piece of legislation.



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Media Focus on Mass Shootings Distracts from the Bigger Problem


Last year, we saw yet another knee-jerk reaction by liberals to the supposed “gun problem.”  The Dems seized on the mass killing that occurred in Las Vegas as an opportunity to push for more restrictive gun laws and an outright ban on firearm accessories.

By year’s end, cooler heads had prevailed, and most of this legislation did not make it through.  On the contrary, December of 2017 saw the House approving the concealed carry reciprocity bill that will allow for citizens with concealed carry permits in one state to carry outside that state.

While that might sound like good news for law-abiding gun owners, it’s not all wine and roses just yet.  The bill will have to pass the Senate and then go before the president before it becomes law, and the libs are already wringing their hands, insisting that it violates states’ individual rights to pass and enforce their own laws.

This month, Senate Democrats were at it again, proposing a gun control package that would “build” on the SAFE Act, a New York State regulation that New York’s governor has already called the toughest gun control law in the United States.

These desperate attempts at doing away with the Second Amendment and manipulating the law to suit the liberal agenda are obviously nothing new.  We saw all of it after Sandy Hook; we saw it after Aurora; and we saw it, yet again, after Sutherland Springs.

To hear liberals speak, you would think mass shootings occurred every day in this country.  Of course, they don’t.  You would also think that by enforcing stronger background checks, we could curb gun-related violence on the streets of our cities.  We can’t.

The reason should be obvious to anyone who doesn’t take a myopic view.  The vast majority of criminal activity involving guns in this country involves guns that were illegally obtained.  These are guns that have not been registered or purchased through legal channels.

Indeed, one of the largest sources of guns used in crimes is unlicensed street dealers who get their guns through illegal transactions with shoddy dealers, “straw purchases,” or gun theft.  In other words, they are bought and sold on the black market.  And it’s all too fitting that the market is black, because that is the one area of gun violence that the Dems refuse to address.

Black Americans are constantly bloodying the streets with illegal guns.  For these urban outlaws, no gun bill will stop them from committing violent acts.  Black homicides soared this past year while black football players took a knee and brayed about black lives mattering, a sentiment that seems backward when one considers that none of them is talking about the far more overwhelming number of black deaths occurring among their own race.

Just this month alone, seven black Americans in the crime-infested city of Chicago have been killed, and 25 have been shot and wounded.  The year has practically just begun, and already Chicago has seen 43 gun deaths.

The statistics speak for themselves: black men are 13 times more likely to be shot and killed with guns than white men.  What is never discussed is who is killing black Americans.  The answer is other black Americans.

When these numbers balloon out of control, the left points its finger at the police officers, lumping all of law enforcement in with the few rotten apples who are guilty of opening fire on unarmed people.  This turns a blind eye to the damage done by our country’s Democratic leaders.

After New York Mayor Bill de Blasio dramatically reduced the NYPD’s ability to stop and frisk, the city saw a significant increase in homicide and gun violence.  These are the facts that are rarely mentioned by the lamestream media, but they are facts nevertheless.

While liberal bureaucrats try their damnedest to ban AR-15 furniture and accessories like the notorious bump stocks used in the Vegas shooting, a larger problem is being ignored.

As world-renowned scholar William Julius Wilson wrote in his blog for Brookings, “[t]he nation’s consciousness has been raised by the repeated acts of police brutality against blacks.  But the problem of public space violence – seen in the extraordinary distress, trauma[,] and pain many poor inner-city families experience following the killing of a family member or close relative – also deserves our special attention.”

This raises the question: if a black man can acknowledge that blacks are killing blacks, why can’t the liberal establishment?

While this question will no doubt go unanswered by political talking heads, the reality remains incontrovertible.  In 2013, firearm deaths accounted for more than 11% of all years of potential life lost among the black population.

Types of gun deaths also vary drastically.  Seventy-seven percent of white gun deaths have been found to be suicides, whereas 82% of black gun deaths are homicides.  By now, it should be obvious that gun control does little to effectively control violent offenders in the black community.

The social justice warriors will speak about social inequality, but there is a staggering amount of evidence to suggest that young minorities in impoverished communities have more opportunities than ever before.

In Los Angeles, the Heart of L.A. provides underserved youth with top-notch programs in academics, athletics, and the arts.

New York City offers a wide array of youth services, including college programs and programs through which teenagers can learn valuable job skills.  Still, it’s easier for many in the ghetto to live off government checks or pick up a hot gun than to actually earn an honest wage.

It’s no secret why many black Americans do not have a credit score to speak of.  A whopping 47% of black Americans do not have access to a credit card, either because they don’t own anything or because they simply don’t have a legitimate income to open a bank account.

Again, the real gun problem comes down to lifestyle.  These criminals would rather rob people at gunpoint or join a violent gang than make an honest living.

For this reason alone, we are not likely to see an end to inner-city gun violence any time soon.  And no amount of legislation is going to change that, if for no other reason than that criminals aren’t about to start legally obtaining firearms or registering them in their respective states.

Last year, we saw yet another knee-jerk reaction by liberals to the supposed “gun problem.”  The Dems seized on the mass killing that occurred in Las Vegas as an opportunity to push for more restrictive gun laws and an outright ban on firearm accessories.

By year’s end, cooler heads had prevailed, and most of this legislation did not make it through.  On the contrary, December of 2017 saw the House approving the concealed carry reciprocity bill that will allow for citizens with concealed carry permits in one state to carry outside that state.

While that might sound like good news for law-abiding gun owners, it’s not all wine and roses just yet.  The bill will have to pass the Senate and then go before the president before it becomes law, and the libs are already wringing their hands, insisting that it violates states’ individual rights to pass and enforce their own laws.

This month, Senate Democrats were at it again, proposing a gun control package that would “build” on the SAFE Act, a New York State regulation that New York’s governor has already called the toughest gun control law in the United States.

These desperate attempts at doing away with the Second Amendment and manipulating the law to suit the liberal agenda are obviously nothing new.  We saw all of it after Sandy Hook; we saw it after Aurora; and we saw it, yet again, after Sutherland Springs.

To hear liberals speak, you would think mass shootings occurred every day in this country.  Of course, they don’t.  You would also think that by enforcing stronger background checks, we could curb gun-related violence on the streets of our cities.  We can’t.

The reason should be obvious to anyone who doesn’t take a myopic view.  The vast majority of criminal activity involving guns in this country involves guns that were illegally obtained.  These are guns that have not been registered or purchased through legal channels.

Indeed, one of the largest sources of guns used in crimes is unlicensed street dealers who get their guns through illegal transactions with shoddy dealers, “straw purchases,” or gun theft.  In other words, they are bought and sold on the black market.  And it’s all too fitting that the market is black, because that is the one area of gun violence that the Dems refuse to address.

Black Americans are constantly bloodying the streets with illegal guns.  For these urban outlaws, no gun bill will stop them from committing violent acts.  Black homicides soared this past year while black football players took a knee and brayed about black lives mattering, a sentiment that seems backward when one considers that none of them is talking about the far more overwhelming number of black deaths occurring among their own race.

Just this month alone, seven black Americans in the crime-infested city of Chicago have been killed, and 25 have been shot and wounded.  The year has practically just begun, and already Chicago has seen 43 gun deaths.

The statistics speak for themselves: black men are 13 times more likely to be shot and killed with guns than white men.  What is never discussed is who is killing black Americans.  The answer is other black Americans.

When these numbers balloon out of control, the left points its finger at the police officers, lumping all of law enforcement in with the few rotten apples who are guilty of opening fire on unarmed people.  This turns a blind eye to the damage done by our country’s Democratic leaders.

After New York Mayor Bill de Blasio dramatically reduced the NYPD’s ability to stop and frisk, the city saw a significant increase in homicide and gun violence.  These are the facts that are rarely mentioned by the lamestream media, but they are facts nevertheless.

While liberal bureaucrats try their damnedest to ban AR-15 furniture and accessories like the notorious bump stocks used in the Vegas shooting, a larger problem is being ignored.

As world-renowned scholar William Julius Wilson wrote in his blog for Brookings, “[t]he nation’s consciousness has been raised by the repeated acts of police brutality against blacks.  But the problem of public space violence – seen in the extraordinary distress, trauma[,] and pain many poor inner-city families experience following the killing of a family member or close relative – also deserves our special attention.”

This raises the question: if a black man can acknowledge that blacks are killing blacks, why can’t the liberal establishment?

While this question will no doubt go unanswered by political talking heads, the reality remains incontrovertible.  In 2013, firearm deaths accounted for more than 11% of all years of potential life lost among the black population.

Types of gun deaths also vary drastically.  Seventy-seven percent of white gun deaths have been found to be suicides, whereas 82% of black gun deaths are homicides.  By now, it should be obvious that gun control does little to effectively control violent offenders in the black community.

The social justice warriors will speak about social inequality, but there is a staggering amount of evidence to suggest that young minorities in impoverished communities have more opportunities than ever before.

In Los Angeles, the Heart of L.A. provides underserved youth with top-notch programs in academics, athletics, and the arts.

New York City offers a wide array of youth services, including college programs and programs through which teenagers can learn valuable job skills.  Still, it’s easier for many in the ghetto to live off government checks or pick up a hot gun than to actually earn an honest wage.

It’s no secret why many black Americans do not have a credit score to speak of.  A whopping 47% of black Americans do not have access to a credit card, either because they don’t own anything or because they simply don’t have a legitimate income to open a bank account.

Again, the real gun problem comes down to lifestyle.  These criminals would rather rob people at gunpoint or join a violent gang than make an honest living.

For this reason alone, we are not likely to see an end to inner-city gun violence any time soon.  And no amount of legislation is going to change that, if for no other reason than that criminals aren’t about to start legally obtaining firearms or registering them in their respective states.



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Is the Second Amendment Unique?


The case for American exceptionalism is often overstated. It is true that our Constitution, at least when it was first written, was a revolutionary document, in both senses of the word: it represented a huge shift in the way that the state was conceived, but also an attempt to free a citizenry from perceived oppression.

Because of the unique historical circumstances in which it was written, the Constitution put in place laws that appear to be similarly unique. However, when looked at in a historical perspective, many of these (such as the right to free speech) are unique in extent rather than quality: they make a right that was de facto in early modern England into a de jure provision.

There is one part of the U.S. Constitution, however, that may well be totally unique: the Second Amendment.

The 27 words that make up the amendment, “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” are perhaps the most controversial, and perhaps the most misunderstood, in our entire Constitution. I’m not going to add another interpretation to the hundreds already available. Instead, I want to look where the amendment came from, and then look at whether it is, indeed, unique.

The Historical Context

Given the context in which the constitution was written — that of a new country keen to free itself from the clutches of an overbearing English tyranny — it is strange that the Second Amendment is actually based on English law. Specifically, the English Bill of Rights of 1689 codified what was regarded as a natural right to self-defense. This bill essentially limited the power of the English king to disarm his subjects, after Charles II had tried to disarm Protestants, whom he viewed as a threat to his power.

Interestingly, the same debate that rumbles on today about the importance of a “well-regulated militia” dates back to this time. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the question of whether English Bill of Rights created a new right, or merely codified an existing one, was tackled. The Supreme Court found that the English right at the time of the passing of the English Bill of Rights was “clearly an individual right, having nothing whatsoever to do with service in the militia,” and therefore predated the bill.

In any case, by the time the Second Amendment was passed in 1791, the understanding of the earlier bill had developed. Before the U.S. became independent, the American colonies had an approach to firearms regulation that had been inherited from English Common Law. By 18th-century England, for example, armed travel had been limited to a few well-defined occasions such as assisting justices of the peace and constables. Members of the upper classes also had a limited exception to travel with arms. What we would now consider standard concealed carry was even more restricted back then, and the city of London banned public carry of handguns entirely.

In short, the Second Amendment developed from English common law, and is therefore not unique in a historical context. However, the fact that the amendment appears in a constitution, and can therefore not be watered down by successive legislation, means that it has slowly become unique as the laws it was based on were themselves changed.

The International Context

Another way of assessing the uniqueness of the Second Amendment is to look at whether there are any other countries that currently guarantee a right to bear arms in their constitutions. This immediately rules out many countries, and notably UK, simply because they do not have a written constitution.

Interestingly, the uniqueness of the Second Amendment has made occasional appearances in political speeches in recent years. Marco Rubio claimed in a speech to the NRA in 2014 that the amendment was unique among modern nation states.

Was he right to say this? Yes, broadly.

Very few constitutions have ever contained an explicit right to bear arms, and those that do also include restrictions that make them quite different from the Second Amendment. In a New York Times op-ed from 2013, Tom Ginsburg and Zachary Elkins concluded that there are only two countries where a comparable right is afforded: Mexico and Guatemala.

Here are the relevant clauses in those constitutions:

• Guatemala Article 38: “The right to own (‘tenencia’) weapons for personal use, not prohibited by the law, in the place of inhabitation, is recognized. There will not be an obligation to hand them over, except in cases ordered by a competent judge.”

• Mexico Article 10: “The inhabitants of the United Mexican States have the right to possess arms in their residences for their protection and legitimate defense, except such as are expressly forbidden by law or which have been reserved for the exclusive use of the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard. Federal law will determine the circumstances, conditions, requirements, and places in which the bearing of arms by inhabitants will be authorized.”

Superficially, these clauses look like the Second Amendment. However, read them closely and a major difference is apparent: both give government and/or the judiciary the right to remove arms from its citizens.

The Verdict

The Second Amendment, in contrast to the provisions of the Mexican and Guatemalan constitutions, explicitly bars the government from infringing the right to bear arms. In this sense, it is unique: rather than permitting individuals to bear arms at the whim of the state, this right is regarded as “natural”, and therefore outside the power of the state.

The strange paradox here is that regarding the right to self-defense, and by extension the right to bear arms, as a “natural” right is a philosophical position inherited from England, and that in that country this right was gradually diminished by hundreds of years of extra legislation. In this sense, the Second Amendment actually may be regarded as unique in a historical sense, in that it represents an 18th-century view of human rights. Of course, it is no less worthy for that: if the right to self-defense is one inherent to humanity, then it should be protected in every state and era, irrespective of the views of the government.

The case for American exceptionalism is often overstated. It is true that our Constitution, at least when it was first written, was a revolutionary document, in both senses of the word: it represented a huge shift in the way that the state was conceived, but also an attempt to free a citizenry from perceived oppression.

Because of the unique historical circumstances in which it was written, the Constitution put in place laws that appear to be similarly unique. However, when looked at in a historical perspective, many of these (such as the right to free speech) are unique in extent rather than quality: they make a right that was de facto in early modern England into a de jure provision.

There is one part of the U.S. Constitution, however, that may well be totally unique: the Second Amendment.

The 27 words that make up the amendment, “a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” are perhaps the most controversial, and perhaps the most misunderstood, in our entire Constitution. I’m not going to add another interpretation to the hundreds already available. Instead, I want to look where the amendment came from, and then look at whether it is, indeed, unique.

The Historical Context

Given the context in which the constitution was written — that of a new country keen to free itself from the clutches of an overbearing English tyranny — it is strange that the Second Amendment is actually based on English law. Specifically, the English Bill of Rights of 1689 codified what was regarded as a natural right to self-defense. This bill essentially limited the power of the English king to disarm his subjects, after Charles II had tried to disarm Protestants, whom he viewed as a threat to his power.

Interestingly, the same debate that rumbles on today about the importance of a “well-regulated militia” dates back to this time. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the question of whether English Bill of Rights created a new right, or merely codified an existing one, was tackled. The Supreme Court found that the English right at the time of the passing of the English Bill of Rights was “clearly an individual right, having nothing whatsoever to do with service in the militia,” and therefore predated the bill.

In any case, by the time the Second Amendment was passed in 1791, the understanding of the earlier bill had developed. Before the U.S. became independent, the American colonies had an approach to firearms regulation that had been inherited from English Common Law. By 18th-century England, for example, armed travel had been limited to a few well-defined occasions such as assisting justices of the peace and constables. Members of the upper classes also had a limited exception to travel with arms. What we would now consider standard concealed carry was even more restricted back then, and the city of London banned public carry of handguns entirely.

In short, the Second Amendment developed from English common law, and is therefore not unique in a historical context. However, the fact that the amendment appears in a constitution, and can therefore not be watered down by successive legislation, means that it has slowly become unique as the laws it was based on were themselves changed.

The International Context

Another way of assessing the uniqueness of the Second Amendment is to look at whether there are any other countries that currently guarantee a right to bear arms in their constitutions. This immediately rules out many countries, and notably UK, simply because they do not have a written constitution.

Interestingly, the uniqueness of the Second Amendment has made occasional appearances in political speeches in recent years. Marco Rubio claimed in a speech to the NRA in 2014 that the amendment was unique among modern nation states.

Was he right to say this? Yes, broadly.

Very few constitutions have ever contained an explicit right to bear arms, and those that do also include restrictions that make them quite different from the Second Amendment. In a New York Times op-ed from 2013, Tom Ginsburg and Zachary Elkins concluded that there are only two countries where a comparable right is afforded: Mexico and Guatemala.

Here are the relevant clauses in those constitutions:

• Guatemala Article 38: “The right to own (‘tenencia’) weapons for personal use, not prohibited by the law, in the place of inhabitation, is recognized. There will not be an obligation to hand them over, except in cases ordered by a competent judge.”

• Mexico Article 10: “The inhabitants of the United Mexican States have the right to possess arms in their residences for their protection and legitimate defense, except such as are expressly forbidden by law or which have been reserved for the exclusive use of the Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard. Federal law will determine the circumstances, conditions, requirements, and places in which the bearing of arms by inhabitants will be authorized.”

Superficially, these clauses look like the Second Amendment. However, read them closely and a major difference is apparent: both give government and/or the judiciary the right to remove arms from its citizens.

The Verdict

The Second Amendment, in contrast to the provisions of the Mexican and Guatemalan constitutions, explicitly bars the government from infringing the right to bear arms. In this sense, it is unique: rather than permitting individuals to bear arms at the whim of the state, this right is regarded as “natural”, and therefore outside the power of the state.

The strange paradox here is that regarding the right to self-defense, and by extension the right to bear arms, as a “natural” right is a philosophical position inherited from England, and that in that country this right was gradually diminished by hundreds of years of extra legislation. In this sense, the Second Amendment actually may be regarded as unique in a historical sense, in that it represents an 18th-century view of human rights. Of course, it is no less worthy for that: if the right to self-defense is one inherent to humanity, then it should be protected in every state and era, irrespective of the views of the government.



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Myth vs. Reality in Gun Debates


There is one debate which is particularly prone to being warped by politically-motivated myths: that on gun control. In addition, any fair observer would have to conclude that these myths are particularly prevalent on one side of the debate. Gun control activists don’t seem to know a lot about the way that guns actually work, and are worryingly susceptible to their own propaganda.

You could argue that this is not their fault: many people who are vehemently anti-gun have never had the opportunity or need to fire one, and so it’s natural they don’t know much about them. Their only contact with the gun control debate comes in those moments immediately after a school massacre. They forget that, every day, hundreds of thousands of gun owners use their weapons responsibly, and lock them up safely at the end of the day.

When seen from this narrow perspective, and without daily contact with actual weapons, the liberal left is still misled by a number of myths about guns. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current debate on the The Hearing Protection Act 2017.

An Example: Why A Suppressor Is Not A “Silencer”

The Hearing Protection Act 2017 is currently awaiting a hearing in Congress. It seeks to reduce the restrictions on buying suppressors, which date back to 1934. Like any debate on gun control measures, the Act has polarized opinion, and has led to impassioned speeches, warped statistics, and divisive rhetoric from both sides.

What is strikingly apparent in these debates, has been the level of ignorance on the side of those who wish to limit access to suppressors. It seems that many liberal politicians, having never used a suppressor, are under the impression that they allow criminals to kill people silently.

If you’ve never used a gun fitted with a suppressor, let me reassure you that they are still incredibly loud. As loud, in fact, as a pneumatic hammer hitting concrete, a level of noise that even liberals seem to have no trouble hearing. Still, the myth remains, and many opposing the bill naively – or cynically – refer to suppressors as “silencers”.

The funny thing about this is that suppressors, when they were invented back in 1909, were originally called “silencers”. This, however, was blatant hyperbole – calling these devices “silencers” is equivalent to marketing a flannel shirt as an arctic coat. The irony here is that those who oppose the bill have taken the overblown claims of weapons manufacturers as literal truth.

My point is that, if you are ideologically opposed to guns, have never actually used one, and have been raised on a diet of Dick Tracy and James Bond movies, the myth that a suppressor is a “silencer” is a useful fiction.

The Reality

This mistaken belief leads to a number of hilarious arguments against the bill. Take this one, put forward by Kristen Rand of VPC back in June: “Silencers are military-bred accessories that make it easier for criminals to take innocent lives and threaten law enforcement. Existing federal law has kept crimes committed with silencer-equipped firearms rare”.

Where to begin? She is correct in one respect, of course: crimes committed with “silencers” are very rare. Knox Williams, president and executive director for the American Suppressor Association, told Guns.com in August that of the 1.3 million suppressors in circulation, his group can only fund 16 instances of criminal use since 2011. As he pointed out, “that translates to the misuse of a glaringly low percentage of suppressors in circulation – roughly 0.000012308 percent.”

Now, if you think that a suppressor makes your gun silent, I can imagine how you would think that limiting their use would be a good thing. However, as anyone who uses a gun knows, the reason why suppressors are not used to commit crimes is not because of the Federal limitations on their use, but simply because they are totally useless if you want to commit a crime. Law enforcement is still going to hear the shots, and adding a suppressor to your weapon makes it much harder to handle.

In reality, suppressors are used primarily by hunters, who risk significant damage to their hearing if they use unsuppressed weapons. At present, hunters are faced with a very difficult choice. They can either go through the lengthy (and unconstitutional) process of obtaining a suppressor, or they can wear any OSHA-certified protective ear muffs, which function as hearing protection. Doing the latter is, at the moment, the preferred choice, but has the unfortunate consequence of deadening all sound, which makes hunting more dangerous than it should be. It is this absurd situation that the Hearing Protection Act seeks to change.

Dangerous Myths

The unfortunate reality is that, in the gun debate and several others, the people making laws are the least qualified to do so, because they lack first-hand experience of the issues they are talking about. And this lack of first-hand experience means that they are susceptible to myths that any experienced gun owner could dispel within a few seconds. 

There is one debate which is particularly prone to being warped by politically-motivated myths: that on gun control. In addition, any fair observer would have to conclude that these myths are particularly prevalent on one side of the debate. Gun control activists don’t seem to know a lot about the way that guns actually work, and are worryingly susceptible to their own propaganda.

You could argue that this is not their fault: many people who are vehemently anti-gun have never had the opportunity or need to fire one, and so it’s natural they don’t know much about them. Their only contact with the gun control debate comes in those moments immediately after a school massacre. They forget that, every day, hundreds of thousands of gun owners use their weapons responsibly, and lock them up safely at the end of the day.

When seen from this narrow perspective, and without daily contact with actual weapons, the liberal left is still misled by a number of myths about guns. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current debate on the The Hearing Protection Act 2017.

An Example: Why A Suppressor Is Not A “Silencer”

The Hearing Protection Act 2017 is currently awaiting a hearing in Congress. It seeks to reduce the restrictions on buying suppressors, which date back to 1934. Like any debate on gun control measures, the Act has polarized opinion, and has led to impassioned speeches, warped statistics, and divisive rhetoric from both sides.

What is strikingly apparent in these debates, has been the level of ignorance on the side of those who wish to limit access to suppressors. It seems that many liberal politicians, having never used a suppressor, are under the impression that they allow criminals to kill people silently.

If you’ve never used a gun fitted with a suppressor, let me reassure you that they are still incredibly loud. As loud, in fact, as a pneumatic hammer hitting concrete, a level of noise that even liberals seem to have no trouble hearing. Still, the myth remains, and many opposing the bill naively – or cynically – refer to suppressors as “silencers”.

The funny thing about this is that suppressors, when they were invented back in 1909, were originally called “silencers”. This, however, was blatant hyperbole – calling these devices “silencers” is equivalent to marketing a flannel shirt as an arctic coat. The irony here is that those who oppose the bill have taken the overblown claims of weapons manufacturers as literal truth.

My point is that, if you are ideologically opposed to guns, have never actually used one, and have been raised on a diet of Dick Tracy and James Bond movies, the myth that a suppressor is a “silencer” is a useful fiction.

The Reality

This mistaken belief leads to a number of hilarious arguments against the bill. Take this one, put forward by Kristen Rand of VPC back in June: “Silencers are military-bred accessories that make it easier for criminals to take innocent lives and threaten law enforcement. Existing federal law has kept crimes committed with silencer-equipped firearms rare”.

Where to begin? She is correct in one respect, of course: crimes committed with “silencers” are very rare. Knox Williams, president and executive director for the American Suppressor Association, told Guns.com in August that of the 1.3 million suppressors in circulation, his group can only fund 16 instances of criminal use since 2011. As he pointed out, “that translates to the misuse of a glaringly low percentage of suppressors in circulation – roughly 0.000012308 percent.”

Now, if you think that a suppressor makes your gun silent, I can imagine how you would think that limiting their use would be a good thing. However, as anyone who uses a gun knows, the reason why suppressors are not used to commit crimes is not because of the Federal limitations on their use, but simply because they are totally useless if you want to commit a crime. Law enforcement is still going to hear the shots, and adding a suppressor to your weapon makes it much harder to handle.

In reality, suppressors are used primarily by hunters, who risk significant damage to their hearing if they use unsuppressed weapons. At present, hunters are faced with a very difficult choice. They can either go through the lengthy (and unconstitutional) process of obtaining a suppressor, or they can wear any OSHA-certified protective ear muffs, which function as hearing protection. Doing the latter is, at the moment, the preferred choice, but has the unfortunate consequence of deadening all sound, which makes hunting more dangerous than it should be. It is this absurd situation that the Hearing Protection Act seeks to change.

Dangerous Myths

The unfortunate reality is that, in the gun debate and several others, the people making laws are the least qualified to do so, because they lack first-hand experience of the issues they are talking about. And this lack of first-hand experience means that they are susceptible to myths that any experienced gun owner could dispel within a few seconds. 



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