The tradition of firearms freedom, and the protection of that freedom, has never been more important than it is now. That’s the view of three esteemed Second Amendment proponents recently featured as part of a gun rights conversation at the Heritage Foundation’s Washington, D.C., headquarters.
Nelson Lund. Photo by author.
Nelson Lund, a professor at George Mason University, gave the legal background, history and philosophy behind the establishment of the Second Amendment. Discussing the case of District of Columbia v. Heller, Lund noted one of the drawbacks we face is that Supreme Court decisions are often narrow in what they determine.
“You have a right to keep some kind of handgun in your home for self-defense, but the Supreme Court has not gone any further than that,” Lund stated. “If Hillary Rodham Clinton appoints Justice [Antonin] Scalia’s replacement, it’s quite likely that almost any form of gun control, except a complete ban on handguns, will be upheld.”
Lund explained that the right held dear by millions of Americans was not a fluke or error written into the Bill of Rights by the Founding Fathers, but was and is necessary to preserving our way of life.“The Second Amendment is a device designed to frustrate the domineering tendencies of the politically ambitious.” — Nelson Lund, George Mason University professor.
“This right is a vital element to the liberal order that our Founders handed down to us. They understood that those who hold political power will almost always strive to reduce the freedom of those they rule,” Lund said. “Many of the ruled will trade their freedom for empty promises of security …. The Second Amendment is a device designed to frustrate the domineering tendencies of the politically ambitious.”
Dr. John Lott. Photo by author.
Speaking to the philosophical and erudite nature of the law, economist and conservative commentator John Lott, author of The War On Guns, provided the audience facts and figures as proof of Lund’s arguments.
Lott addressed the current “mess” that is the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and the persistent efforts of progressive liberals and Democrats to leave it in disrepair.
“You can go to Hillary Clinton’s website—and she’s said this many times—that there’s 2.4 million dangerous prohibited people that have been stopped from buying guns because of the [Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act],” Lott said. “That’s simply false. What she should say is that there have been 2.4 million in initial denials, and there’s a huge difference between those terms.”
Lott noted one of the reasons for some initial denials is that the system relies on, among other things, a phonetic check of an applicant’s name. This can lead to a “false” denial when someone who has a name similar to an individual with a disqualifying record attempts a purchase.
“Forty percent of Vietnamese in the United States have the same last name. Hispanics tend to have names similar to other Hispanics,” Lott said. Thus the current NICS system can discriminate based on ethnicity by complicating an attempted firearm purchase for those who do not have a disqualifying record, but who have names identical or similar to those who do.
However, Lott does not believe that expanding the current system is the answer. The “universal” background check laws being pushed, Lott argued, would not have stopped any of the mass shootings that have occurred.
“Early gun control was about keeping guns out of black hands.” — Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke.Moreover, as Lott pointed out, background checks can be costly, especially for those with limited means. In jurisdictions like Washington state, Oregon and Washington, D.C., private firearm transfers cost anywhere from $55 to $125.
Lott recalled an instance a few years back when members of the Colorado legislature requested his input on how to remedy that situation. He recommended that those at or below poverty level be exempted from firearm transfer fees, an idea which was met with resistance and was not passed. A similar situation occurred in Maryland.
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. brought the session to a close by addressing the practical, firsthand experience he has had with gun-control laws in real life.
Sheriff David A. Clarke. Photo by author.
Speaking from his work “at street level” in the Milwaukee area, Clarke explained how these laws actually work for and against everyday people. When Clarke realized, roughly four years ago, that the model of crime victims just waiting for the police to arrive was not working in many cases, he decided to bring back a system designed by Sir Robert Peel, the creator of modern-day policing, which encouraged citizens to take a more active role in their own protection.
Soon after, Clarke was thrust into the spotlight after airing a 30-second PSA on armed self-defense and giving speeches in which he advised his constituents to consider taking a firearm safety course so they would be trained to protect themselves until police could arrive. “What I do and what I’ve done, I take—and I think this term gets overused—I take a common-sense approach to things …,” he said. “You’re going to get all your legal theory, your foundation, all the research and data. I’m here to interpret this and make it make sense.”
Clarke explained that the background checks argument is a slippery slope as the “anti-gun left” works to undermine the Second Amendment in an underhanded way. He recommended to the audience that they read That Every Man Be Armed, and learn the proud history of black Americans’ struggles to keep and bear arms.
“Early gun control was about keeping guns out of black hands,” said Clarke, emphasizing that he was proud of the efforts of abolitionists to fight for that right—and that Americans should not let that effort fade away or be lost.