An opinion piece in the New York Times by columnist Gail Collins has ignited a discussion that includes some alarmingly false impressions about the Second Amendment, and some clear misunderstandings about the difference between rights and a privileges.
Collins indicates in responses to various readers she is not a fan of guns, but it is some of the reader responses to which Second Amendment activists should pay attention. They offer a view into the anti-gun mindset that can be both frustrating and amusing, as well as disappointing. Friday morning, there were more than 925 responses to the Collins article, headlined “Ready to Nag About Gun Control?”
Collins opens by excusing Joe Biden for not coming through on a campaign promise that he would take action on guns during his first day in office. He’s been too busy with the COVID-19 relief package, she says. No mention of the apparently disputable assertion he was also distracted with erasing thousands of jobs by shutting down the Keystone pipeline project, a rather sore point among many conservatives.
Amendment II: 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.
The back-and-forth between NY Times readers is the truly educational part of reading the article. One reader calling herself “Alice” declares, “Firearm ownership is not a constitutional right unless you are a member of a regulated militia.”
Another reader, signing in as “Julz,” concurs, claiming “’firearms ownership is a Constitutional Right.’ Um, yeah, if you’re in a well-regulated militia.”
Alice and Julz appear to have slept through the past 12 years, during which the Supreme Court explained in both the Heller and McDonald cases that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms regardless of participation in a militia.
Then comes “Phyliss Dalmation,” suggesting “a Gun buy Back program, Federally. Requiring a license, registration and Insurance to legally own or possess a Gun. No exceptions, no excuses.”
And then there’s “Rosemary,” demanding to know, “where in the 2nd Amendment does it say you don’t have to register your gun or take a test to be sure you know how to safely use it?” Although nobody suggested the answer is right there in “shall not be infringed,” this is the NY Times and many of its readers do not appear to understand the vast difference between a constitutionally enumerated fundamental right and a government-regulated privilege. Far too many people think owning a gun is a privilege when it is clearly a protected right.
A reader signing in as “nilootero” declares, “Actually the 2nd amendment allows you to form a militia, since an army did not exist then, in order to put down those slave uprisings that were so prevalent for some reason in the past.”
It’s not clear where people get such ideas, but the remark elicited a quick put down from “Independent Observer,” who writes, “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ‘Revisionist History 101.’ Please show me which Federalist Papers explain the 2nd Amendment as being for slave revolt…I’ll wait.”
By no small coincidence, this article appeared just as anti-gun billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety was running an advertisement discouraging membership in the National Rifle Association. The gun prohibition lobbying group, say some rights activists, is exploiting the NRA’s current unpleasant situation in an effort to discourage membership.