As though it were deliberately timed, with the approach of the annual National Rifle Association’s convention—this coming weekend in Indianapolis for its 148th gathering—editorial columns and news stories are filling up with “all things gun.”
An editorial in the Aurora, Colorado Sentinel complained that 20 years after the Columbine High School tragedy, “nothing” had been done by Congress or state legislatures to prevent so-called “gun violence,” which is hardly accurate. In the two decades since Columbine, several states have adopted so-called “universal background check” requirements, and the Brady Law’s National Instant Check System (NICS) has become fully operational. Restrictive new laws have been passed in California, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and elsewhere.
It’s not the fault of law-abiding gun owners that these restrictive new measures haven’t prevented such incidents as Sandy Hook, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, both Fort Hood shootings, Las Vegas or the Navy Shipyard, Second Amendment activists insist. But to argue that nothing has been done is demonstrably erroneous. It just hasn’t accomplished much, except to burden honest gun owners.
The Sentinel editorial complained that the NRA has “evolved into a union led by zealots, obsessed with a warped interpretation of the Second Amendment.” Yet, when it had two opportunities to “straighten out” this alleged warp, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down decisions in 2008 and 2010 that essentially affirmed what the NRA and other gun rights organizations including the Second Amendment Foundation had been saying all along. The Second Amendment protects a fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms that extends beyond service in a militia.
The editorial also asserted, “While the Columbine massacre became synonymous with school shootings, it was a mass shooting in 1989 at a school in Stockton, California and one in 1991 at a Luby’s cafeteria in Kileen, Texas, that prompted even Republicans like former President Ronald Reagan to back a 1994 assault weapons ban in hopes of reversing a ghastly rise in gun massacres.”
But Luby’s killer George Hennard didn’t use an “assault weapon.” He had a couple of commonly-owned pistols. Nobody was able to fire back because at the time, Texas did not have the sensible concealed carry law it does today.
The Bangor Daily News is reporting that “common ground remains elusive” in Maine, where a so-called “red flag” law is being debated. NRA and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine are reportedly against the legislation as it now stands, apparently because they’re not keen about a provision that seems to fly in the face of due process. As acknowledged in the story, “provisions in Millett’s bill that would require judges to issue search warrants to serve an order and could allow judges to have hearings where only one party is present.” Perhaps proponents of such measures haven’t heard about the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth amendments, since it appears they are so preoccupied with undermining the Second Amendment.
The New York Times is reporting that New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy “wants to put the state at the forefront of a movement to raise fees on gun permits in order to expand efforts to tackle gun violence and reduce the flow of illegal firearms.” Murphy’s plan is to hike fees on gun permits dramatically, to the point where, according to critics, the ability to exercise Second Amendment rights would be financially out of reach for average citizens with average incomes and small bank accounts.
In Murdoch v. Pennsylvania, the U.S. Supreme Court opinion, written by the late Justice William O. Douglas, ruled against a license requirement for the distribution of religious literature in exchange for donations, saying it amounted to a tax on the exercise of a right, in this case religion. While that case dealt with religious freedom, a right is a right, and mandating exorbitant fees on the exercise of a right—as opposed to adding an excise tax on the sale of a firearm or ammunition, per the Pittman-Robertson Act—just might present a problem.
The right to keep and bear arms is no less a right than freedom of the press or of speech. Those who would be happy to see that right erased, and turned into a government-regulated privilege, constantly take issue with the NRA because that organization has stood in their way for decades.
Year after year, when the association holds its annual convention, one could walk the aisles of the exhibit hall and not find a single person who has ever participated in one of the opinion polls that suggest a majority of NRA members support this or that gun control law. In an environment where tens of thousands of NRA members are gathered, the odds against not finding such a poll respondent might see astronomical.
The NRA meetings will see President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence speaking this Friday during the Leadership Forum. Other political and social figures will also be attending.
The convention runs Friday through Sunday at the Indiana Convention Center. It’s being touted as “15 acres of guns and gear.” Liberty Park Press will be there.