Some Thoughts on Guns and Civil Rights

My son and I went to Gander Mountain today and fired off 300 rounds on my beloved Sig Sauer Mosquito Sport. One of the great advantages of a .22 pistol is that you can shoot 300 rounds and not have to worry about the cost. I shot these bullets at 21 feet:

I’ve written before about the fact that relatively late in life, I became interested in firearms. In the 1960s, 1970s and into the 1980s, gun control was one of the Left’s major priorities. The ultimate objective was to ban the private ownership of handguns, and for quite a while it seemed that the demise of gun ownership was only a matter or time, sort of like gay marriage. The anti-gun mood of that era was reflected in the law, which more or less ignored the 2nd Amendment and gave little protection to the right to keep and bear arms.

But then something changed. People started looking more favorably on gun ownership, and especially the use of firearms in self-defense. Democrats who ran on a gun control platform started losing consistently, and the Left essentially gave up on the issue. Today, gun ownership is flourishing as never before. Ruger recently stopped taking orders for new firearms because they couldn’t produce enough in their factory to satisfy demand.

Elite opinion trailed after this change in popular attitudes. Larry Tribe, the foremost liberal constitutional scholar, produced a revised version of his text on constitutional law in which he acknowledged that he had for too long ignored the 2nd Amendment, and he set forth an analysis supporting the conclusion that individual citizens have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The Supreme Court followed public opinion by issuing a series of opinions that revitalized the 2nd Amendment. So today gun rights are secure, not primarily because of the work of constitutional scholars and judges, I would argue, but because millions of Americans dissented from the then-prevailing elite view that guns had to go.

In different eras, different rights are under attack. At the moment, the Obama administration has decided to revoke the free exercise clause of the 1st Amendment by asserting dominion over the Catholic Church. This seems like an obvious constitutional violation, but history–of which the ups and downs of gun rights are just one small part–suggests that abstract constitutional arguments may not be the ultimate arbiter. If freedom lives in the hearts of the people, courts and other authorities will most likely fall into line eventually. If it doesn’t, no document, not even the Constitution, will be enough to preserve rights that are under attack.

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