The cornerstone gun-rights decision, Heller v. D.C., the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights is indeed an individual right, has reached its 10th anniversary.
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Over the last decade this decision has helped to propel a cultural shift on how guns are viewed in America. Its ramifications have boosted freedom in too many states and in too many ways to list. Nevertheless, its affects are misunderstood.
Given the way that much of the media treats issues related to guns, and given that Heller and the subsequent McDonald decisions were 5-4 votes by the high court (a divide the court likely still holds today), it might seem like common sense to think America is closely divided on this issue.
This is the view CNN, The Washington Post and more are pushing. The left sees the public’s acceptance of gun bans and other gun controls as slow but inevitable social change. They think it will follow the same type of public opinion shift that the gay-marriage issue went through.
They are wrong because in this case they are doing the illiberal thing; they are trying to reduce rights and to undo long-held American freedom.
If the left was right about even some of their talking points on guns and violence they might have a chance of deceiving a majority of Americans into voting away their freedom, but they aren’t.
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The number of homicides in the U.S. has fallen precipitously in America over the last half century as the number of firearms in civilian hands has risen. Most murders today occur in the areas with the strictest gun-control laws.
The left has also gone way off the factual rails in its quest to ban so-called “assault weapons.” (I say so-called because there is no definition for “assault weapon” outside of how a particular law defines them.)
In 2000 Al Gore found he miscalculated when he made gun control a central plank in his push for the presidency. It was a position that arguably cost him his home state and with it the election. Hillary Clinton made the same mistake, costing her votes in Pennsylvania and the Upper Midwest.
As they demonize “scary looking” semiautomatic rifles they miss the basic fact that year after year the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting finds that rifles of all types are used in less than 3 percent of murders.
The anti-gun left also avoids addressing the basic fact that AR-15-type rifles have been sold to U.S. citizens since 1963, the same year the U.S. military adopted the M16. Meanwhile, “mainstream news” reporters don’t know or they won’t report the fact that semiautomatic rifles have been sold to sportsmen and more since the very early 20th century by companies like Remington and Winchester.
Clearly the problem that a few terrorists and some mentally ill people are attempting, and at times succeeding, to accomplish mass murder isn’t the fault of rifles—or of vans and trucks for that matter—but is a more complex problem we need to focus in on to solve as best we can.
The left isn’t even right about the so-called “gun lobby.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for firearms manufacturers (full disclosure: I’ve done some contract work for the NSSF), spends a lot of time and resources advocating for gun-safety programs. (I’m not using the term “gun safety” as loosely as gun-control proponents do today, as they use it as a synonym for “gun control”; instead, I am using it as the dictionary defines the terms.)
The NSSF has joined the National Safety Council’s designation of June as “National Safety Month,” for example, by promoting its “Project Childsafe,” its “Own It? Respect it. Secure it.” program and other initiatives to try to further reduce accidents and other deaths related to firearms. Such efforts have been working, as the number of accidental deaths is a fraction of what it once was.
People have noticed all this and vote accordingly.
In 2000 Al Gore found he miscalculated when he made gun control a central plank in his push for the presidency. It was a position that arguably cost him his home state and with it the election. Hillary Clinton made the same mistake, which cost her blue collar votes in Pennsylvania and the Upper Midwest.
Now a decade after the Heller decision pro-gun laws have swept through many states. A dozen states now even have “constitutional” or “permitless” carry for handguns. There are over 100 million gun owners in America and more than 16 million people have permits to carry concealed handguns (up from about 1 million in the mid-1980s). A recent United Nations’ Small Arms Survey found that American civilians now have 393 million firearms (46 percent of all of the guns in civilian hands in the world).
Clearly more and more Americans are taking their Second Amendment rights into their own hands.
So no, the cultural shift isn’t toward gun control. It is clearly moving toward greater freedom.