Having been pulled for years in two diametrically opposed directions, the anti-gun movement now finds itself in a dreadful political bind. As ever, it continues to abhor the private ownership of firearms, and wishes to make it as difficult as possible for Americans to keep and bear them. And yet, increasingly, its leaders also seem to believe the enforcement of the laws they seek ought to be resisted in some places. The result has been situations like we see in states such as New York, which has law books crammed full of infringements of the Second Amendment, but also has prosecutors who enforce those laws selectively, if at all.
Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) complained bitterly about the news that New York City intended to begin random searches of bus travelers’ luggage for guns, on the grounds that such “random searches are anything but random,” “raise major constitutional alarms” and “are plagued with racial bias.” And yet, for some reason, that same ACLU not only supports New York’s restrictions on concealed carry, but it also has filed an amicus brief against those who are challenging these restrictions.
In a press release explaining why the ACLU sided with the state government in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the ACLU argued that “New York’s limits on carrying guns in public spaces are constitutional” and that such limits are vital to protecting the “free-flowing, sometimes heated exchange of ideas.” Or, to put it another way: The ACLU supports New York’s draconian restrictions on concealed carry, but it opposes the enforcement of those restrictions.
Naturally, this makes no sense.
As the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid explained in its filing, it is simply not possible to distinguish between the law and its enforcement in the way the ACLU has attempted to do. “The real-life consequences of New York’s firearm licensing requirements on ordinary people,” the group submitted, are “brutal.”
Sometimes, this incoherence is even more pronounced. In Philadelphia, the district attorney, Larry Krasner, has defended his reluctance to enforce the law by proposing that many of the people who violate the rules are not doing so to commit crimes, but “to protect themselves because they did not feel they could count on police to do the job.”
If Krasner really believed this, of course, one would expect him to have coupled the claim with a call to increase the number of police officers on the streets. But he has done no such thing—and neither, for that matter, has the movement to which he belongs.
Instead, the steps taken by Krasner’s movement range between making it more difficult for police officers to do their jobs effectively and calling for those jobs to be defunded or even abolished completely—a juxtaposition that leads to the nonsensical claim that (1) we need strong gun laws to reduce crime and (2) that we shouldn’t prosecute those who violate those strong gun laws because they themselves are worried about crime and (3) that, despite this, we should weaken or remove the people whom we have hired to fight that crime. It’s ridiculous.
Given the racially charged history of American gun control, the obvious solution for those who fear disparities in the law is simply to support the Second Amendment for all Americans, and thereby remove the opportunity for meddling and for caprice. But that, apparently, would be too simple and too fair.
Instead, the ACLU and some others are trying to somehow simultaneously argue that gun control—including effectively banning most citizens from carrying arms outside their homes—is constitutional despite the clarity of the Second Amendment, while also arguing that some people who break those laws should get “get-of-jail-free cards.”