President’s Column | Help NRA Win The War For Self-Defense

posted on May 16, 2023
Charles L. Cotton

A key truth established by last year’s landmark U.S Supreme Court Bruen decision is that the right to bear arms outside the home to protect innocent life was not questioned, let alone prohibited, when the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights were written.

This was considered the right of all free people. It was so fundamental, inherent and beyond debate that some argued it wasn’t even necessary to put it down in writing through a Bill of Rights. So, it wasn’t until the 20th century that many cities and states began routinely denying that right, led most notoriously by New York’s Sullivan Act. The Supreme Court’s Bruen decision ended all that—or should have. Yet, before the ink was even dry on that opinion, anti-gun state legislatures and governors began scrambling to pass new laws erecting new barriers to this fundamental right.

New York passed a law requiring CCW applicants to, among other requirements, take 16 hours of training, submit to an interview with law enforcement—and hand over several types of personal information for inspection—including social-media accounts used over the past three years—to decide whether an applicant is of sufficiently “good moral character” to be licensed.

“Sure, you can carry a gun for protection—just not anyplace where it might be needed, and not on any day that ends with a ‘y.’”

New Jersey increased its handgun “permit-to-purchase” fees by 1,100%, quadrupled its carry permit fee to $200 and required permittees to buy liability insurance. Maryland, as of press time, seemed to be considering doubling its carry permit fees. Some Californians are now paying $617 just to apply for a license, then waiting for months to even begin the process, which also includes “psychological testing.”

New York, Maryland and New Jersey used their new laws to impose a wide variety of “sensitive places” where carry is not allowed, including private property without the permission of the owner.

They might as well have said, “Sure, you can carry a gun for protection—just not anyplace where it might be needed, and not on any day that ends with a ‘y.’”

It might be tempting to shrug off these cynical stunts if you don’t live in California, Maryland, New Jersey or New York. After all, more than half the states in the U.S. now have constitutional-carry laws restoring the right of lawful adults to carry a concealed firearm for protection without prior permission. But more than 22% of the U.S. population lives in those four states. And these attacks on your right to carry aren’t limited to a handful of states—they’re also being launched at the federal level nationwide. The anti-gun lobby successfully pressured the CDC to scrub defensive gun use statistics from its materials. Even the FBI is reportedly suppressing statistics about lawfully armed citizens stopping “active shooter” events.

Second Amendment advocates in the U.S. Senate have introduced legislation to codify the Bruen decision into federal law, but even if that bill is passed by Congress, you can bet President Biden will veto it. And if the states currently defying the Supreme Court on Bruen are successful, you can bet those same legislative strategies will spread nationwide.

With NRA’s support, lawsuits in New Jersey and New York have successfully blocked several of the worst of these anti-gun provisions. But counting on courts to overturn the unconstitutional edicts of elected politicians isn’t a strategy—it’s a last resort. Because the judges who sit on those courts are selected by the same politicians who pass and sign these laws, the best and most lasting strategy is to elect leaders who will both respect our rights and appoint judges who will do the same.

Before the birth of Christ, Cicero wrote: “If our lives are endangered ... any and every method of protecting ourselves is morally right. When weapons reduce them to silence, the laws no longer expect one to wait their pronouncements.” Two millennia later, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes echoed Cicero, writing: “Detached reflection is not demanded in the presence of an upraised knife.” St. George Tucker—an American jurist whose works have been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in scores of cases—put it even more simply. “The right of self-defense,” he wrote, “is the first law of nature.”

We’re on the right side of history on this issue. That’s why we’ll fight—in Congress, in the legislatures, in the courts, on Election Day and every day—to secure this freedom as the birthright of all free people. Because it’s not just the first law of nature—when all else fails, it’s your last, best hope to secure your ability to survive.


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