Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gun Fight

Few topics seem to get people as riled up as much as gun control. If you have a LOT of time on your hands, you’ll discover that there have been a TON of books about the topic.

If you typed “guns” into the search bar at, you’ll get a total of 688,874 “hits”.

Refining your search to “gun control” will narrow down the total considerably, but will still leave you with 35,325 choices.

“Gun rights” will again broaden the number of selections, and will lead to an unmanageable total of 106,003. Glenn Beck, of course, has a book for sale about the topic on Amazon, which he titled “Control: Exposing the Truth About Guns”. A quick review of its contents page shows that it’s full of the usual nonsense sprouted by Mr. Beck on a regular basis.

Another book on the list of “gun rights” books is a 2011 book authored by a professor of constitutional law at UCLA named Adam Winkler:

Amazon link

“Gun Fight” examines the 2008 fight to overturn the gun ban law in Washington, D.C.. Officially, the law suit was titled District of Columbia vs. Heller, and it was assigned docket number 07-290 by the Supreme Court. Unlike many books on either gun control or gun rights, “Gun Fight” actually takes a balanced look at both sides of the question. I finished reading it this week, and was surprised to discover a number of facts in the book that aren’t well known;

1) The Founding Fathers favored gun control laws that the current leadership of the NRA would find unacceptable.

2) The “Wild West” was anything but, and had very stringent gun control laws. The most famous gunfight in American history occurred on October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona. 1881 also happened to be the most violent year in Tombstone’s history, but only a total of 5 people who killed in the town that year. That total includes 3 of the Clanton/McLaury gang, who were killed on October 26.

Wild Bill Hickock may have made Deadwood, South Dakota famous, but only 4 people died in the town in its most violent year.

3) The NRA was at one time a vigorous defended of gun control laws, and actually wrote major portions of the 1934 and 1938 gun control laws. However, a “coup” in 1976 transferred the organization into the radical organization that it is today.

4) The KKK was originally started as a gun control organization.

5) Ronald Reagan, who is usually considered to be friendly towards guns, was a strong advocate of gun control in the 1960’s, largely due to the actions of the Black Panthers.

6) The NRA was very much opposed to going to court to overturn the D.C. gun ban law.

7) “Enforcing existing gun laws”, the mantra of the gun rights activists, is doomed to failure, largely due to the actions of the NRA.

Although I’d highly recommend reading the book, the short version is that the Supreme Court ultimately DID rule that the gun ban law in D.C. was unconstitutional, and threw it out. The REAL surprise, though, is that the wording of the court ruling turned out to be a victory for both gun rights activists and gun control advocates.

In its ruling, the court ruled that the residents of the city had a right to defend themselves, but is also stated that “reasonable gun controls” are not a violation of the 2nd Amendment. The court also ruled that it is not permissible, constitutionally, to take away any one’s guns under normal circumstances. If you couple that statement with the fact that it would be logistically impossible to confiscate 300,000,000 guns, the right wing rhetoric about “gun grabbers” simply does not make any sense.

The best description of the lawsuit comes from the author himself, in the concluding paragraph of the last chapter in the book:

“Heller was hailed as a major victory for the gun rights extremists. Like so much else about guns in America, however, this latest chapter in our nation’s remarkable story of firearms is more nuanced. The wider public, which can now escape the pro-gun/anti-gun rut that trapped gun policy, was the real winner. Heller was the Supreme Court decision that the gun rights movement long hoped for. Yet other than the occasional outlier, most gun control laws are not likely to run afoul of the right recognized by the Court. Gun rights won, but so did gun control. Catch-22’s Joseph Heller would have been proud.”

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