Colt .45s: Big and heavy worked, and still does
By Mike “Duke” Venturino in American Handgunner
Think back to the days when America had two major handgun manufacturers: Colt and Smith & Wesson. Now consider this when speaking of their big-bore handguns: Smith & Wesson was identified more often with a .44 caliber, as in .44 Russian and .44 S&W Special, but for Colt it was .45’s. First came the .45 Colt in 1873 with a revised version in 1909. Then, beginning in the early 1900s, the company began toying with a rimless .45 for use in autoloading pistols. Of course that became the .45 ACP.
By my count, Colt produced four basic handguns for those two .45’s. First was the Single Action Army in 1873, which in the beginning was simply called the “strap model.” That’s because it was Colt’s first handgun with a topstrap connecting the front and rear of the frame. The SAA name came because it served the U.S. Army from 1873 till 1892 and was even revived for combat during the Philippine Insurrection in the early 1900s. Shortly thereafter, the Army knew it was going to eventually adopt an autoloader, but needed a stopgap until one was perfected. That was the U.S. Model 1909, for which a special .45 Colt round was issued.
THE MYTHS OF THE ISRAELI METHOD OF CARRY, or why carrying chamber empty isn’t so bad.
We’ve all heard the warnings. If you don’t have a round in the chamber
you might as well carry a rock! A gun without a round in the chamber is
just a hammer! Anyone who carries a gun with the chamber empty must be
afraid of their gun! Not carrying with a round chambered means you
must not have any training! Well, my friends, as with so many of the
things we hear in the gun world the myth sometimes overpowers the
Let’s start with a clarification. Although often referred to as the Israeli Method or the Israeli Technique, carrying chamber empty (C3) is not restricted to the Israelis, nor did they develop it. It is gotten that label because of the fact that the Israelis popularized it as a method of carry and developed an entire method of presentation around empty-chamber carry. And their reasons for doing so are quite pertinent: a method of carry that allows safe carry with quick response time for (at that time) a largely untrained population with a diverse variety of firearms. I use the term as one that is easily recognizable, even if not technically correct. I prefer referring to it as “Condition 3”, or C3 for short. The history of C3 goes back to the early days of the autoloader, and is still being written today.
When autoloaders first came on the scene the normal and expected method of carry was with the hammer down on an empty chamber. The handgun would be drawn and the chamber loaded only when one was anticipating trouble, and the safety used as a temporary situation until the gun could be returned to its proper mode of carry, with the chamber empty. Lots of folks aren’t aware of it, but the 1911 was originally designed without any safety, as Browning felt it was irrelevant.
The most important development in C3 history to me was the adoption of that method of carry by the members of the Shanghai Police under W.E. Fairbairn. As the result of a number of incidents, Fairbairn (along with Eric Sykes) began to develop a new way to bring Shanghai P.D. officers to a high level of expertise with their handguns given the limited amount of training time and resources available to them. This training included, in part, carrying the gun with an empty chamber and then chambering a round as part of the draw stroke. This proved to be quite successful and when World War II broke out Fairbairn and Sykes were tasked with training commando units in close combat, including pistol use. They chose the chamber-empty target-focused method that had worked so well for them at Shanghai P.D., and for many of the same reasons. C3 allowed a person to safely carry and adequately use a firearm with a very limited amount of training. Fairbairn also wrote several books which also served to popularize the chamber empty carry method.
Chamber empty carry was the dominant method of carry for military, police, and civilians for most of the 20th Century. Toward the end of the century the rise of double-action autoloaders and the influence of Jeff Cooper’s Modern Technique made significant inroads, although chamber empty is still the dominant method of carry worldwide.
So, with a history of successful use behind it why does C3 create such a storm of controversy? Critics argue it is too slow, that it can’t be used under many circumstances, and the myths flow like water. Let’s look at some facts.
1. SPEED. The most common argument is that racking the slide during the draw is just too slow. The facts are that racking the slide is only one part of a complicated picture, and not a particularly important part from the perspective of speed. Let us assume that racking the slide adds a half second to your total presentation time (which is pretty slow, by the way). And let us assume that you can draw and fire at the 2 second mark. If the attack comes before you can draw and fire (2 seconds) having the chamber loaded or not doesn’t matter, as you don’t have time to draw and fire at all. If the attack comes after a 2.5 second time frame having the chamber loaded or not doesn’t matter, as you have time to chamber a round. Only if the attack happens in that critical time frame after 2 seconds but before 2.5 seconds does the chamber condition matter. Also the speed of presentation can also be affected by such things as type of holster, where the firearm is carried, and so on. Yet we don’t see a big fight over IWB versus OWB, or thumb-break versus open top, or appendix carry versus carry at 4:30, although each of those can impact the speed of presentation just as much or more than chamber empty versus chamber loaded.
2. SAFETY. Another common argument is that you won’t be able to chamber a round under various scenarios. You might only have one hand available to you. You might be fighting off someone with your off-hand and wouldn’t be able to rack the slide. You might be shot in one hand and wouldn’t be able to use both hands to rack the slide. While there is an element of truth to those fears, let’s look at them carefully. First I would suggest that anyone who carries an autoloader should be capable of racking the slide and manipulating the firearm with one hand. If you can’t, perhaps a revolver would be more appropriate. The arguments for needing both hands to draw the gun are the same arguments that would be accurate in case of clearing a malfunction. But more importantly, this is only one side of the safety argument, and a questionable one at that.
To truly look at the safety issue we need to move beyond the “I’m in a gunfight right now” mentality and move more toward the “What is the risk involved in carrying a gun day in and day out?” Let’s face it, for most of us the actual gunfight scene is not going to happen. If it happens it is going to involve a few seconds of our life. Admittedly they are going to be extremely important seconds, but we have to balance that against the thousands of hours we will carry the gun, and the thousands of times we administratively handle the gun. Only then can we do a proper risk assessment.
Whether we like to admit it or not, mistakes happen. And even though we talk a lot about how if people will just follow the 4 safety rules, or if they will just get more training, an honest assessment shows that we don’t follow the safety rules all the time and even the best trained among us make mistakes. Fairbairn recognized this long ago and formalized a response: Keep the chamber empty until you need to use the gun, and then empty the chamber ASAP after you are done. Let’s face it, if there isn’t a round in the chamber the gun cannot discharge.
Chamber empty lends itself to situations where there is a lot of administrative handling. Visualize the person who has to go into the Federal Courthouse several times a day. He has to unload and reload each time. Loading and unloading are the times that are the most prone to negligent discharge. Many shooters have said they want an empty chamber on their house gun because children or others may get hold of it. So they charge the chamber each morning and remove a round from the chamber each night. Perhaps these folks could be better served by maintaining the gun C3.
3. FIREARMS. Lots of folks out there still have, and for whatever reason, still carry/use a firearm that is literally unsafe to carry with the chamber loaded. Noted firearms author Mas Ayoob discussed this in an article for Backwoods Magazine (Feb. 2007) stating, “You don’t want to carry a round in the chamber of any semi-automatic pistol that doesn’t have a firing pin lock. It’s not drop-safe.” Those include most autoloaders made before the 1970s, the first generation Smith & Wesson autoloaders, a number of inexpensive pistols like Jennings, Lorcin and Raven, and so on. Even some modern guns, in certain conditions, can be problematic. Ayoob (Guns Magazine, Feb. 2001) again says, “Condition Three does have its place for carry, however. If I am carrying a gun like a Glock, which does not have a manual safety per se, and do not have access to a holster which covers the trigger guard (as is strongly recommended by the Glock factory), and have to shove the gun into my waistband, I'll make sure the chamber is empty.”
4. PERSONAL ISSUES. Here we get into an area that covers a multitude of issues. Some folks just aren’t comfortable with a round in the chamber. We all know that being comfortable about what you carry is important, so that personal preference and concern can matter. For me personally, I find the safety and long, heavy initial DA pull of some traditional DA/SA guns troublesome. When using firearms like those based on the Walther PP-design I find I actually get an accurate first shot of faster by racking the slide and firing SA than flipping the safety and then fighting through the DA pull. A friend has used a Browning Hi-Power for decades, and has always had trouble with the safety. For him, chamber empty works better.
5. MINIMAL TRAINING. Sadly, many if not most gun owners do not train regularly. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that most gun owners don’t train much at all. And it was for those people that the Israeli Method was designed. Going back to Fairbairn, the chamber empty carry was designed to allow those with minimal training to safely carry a firearm. That was also the rationale behind the method early on for Israel. We do a lot of carrying and administrative handling of a firearm, not so much actual shooting. So recognizing that failure and working it into the system is a good idea. C3 carry recognizes that the danger to the carrier is as great as or greater from negligent discharge than actual attack by a criminal. By acknowledging this problem of minimal training by many gun owners and carriers we can then examine a carry method that reduces the danger while still allowing an effective response.
To conclude, most people tend to look at problems from their own point of view, without considering that others might have different concerns, different needs, different levels of training, and so on. Failure to recognize this is harmful to open and honest debate, and in some cases becomes blatant elitism. From my position, I tend to suggest chamber loaded carry as the normal and standard default position, just as I tend to suggest a DAO autoloader as the standard default weapon for those who choose to carry an autoloader. But just as a SA auto might be better for some persons or for some situations, chamber empty might be better for some persons in some situations. There are advantages and disadvantages to each method. The Thinking Gunfighter looks at his own situation and tries to identify what maximizes his advantages and minimizes his disadvantages and makes an informed decision.
Gun Control Lies
by Jeff Knox Email
Jeff Knox is a second-generation political activist and director of The Firearms Coalition. His writing can regularly be seen in Shotgun News and Front Sight magazines as well as here on WND.
Gun-control advocates are compulsive liars. They have to be because the truth doesn’t support their agenda. Ongoing claims that 90 percent of Americans, including the vast majority of gun owners and NRA members, support “universal background checks” for gun purchases was a lie when it was first uttered and has become an even bigger lie as time passes. The pronouncement that 40 percent of guns sold each year are sold through “private sales” with no background checks is a lie. Claims that gun control is needed to “make our children and our communities safer” is a lie. Declaring that 30,000 lives are lost to “gun violence” each year in the U.S. is a lie. Claims that there is an “epidemic of gun violence” sweeping the nation is a lie, as are claims that there is an “epidemic of mass murders.” Even the names of gun-control groups – claiming to be focused on “violence policy,” “violence prevention” and “gun safety” – are all lies. And the term “gun control” itself is a lie. Virtually everything coming from gun-control advocates today is a lie.
These are not simple distortions or cases of “my statistics are better than your statistics”; these are intentional, calculated, bald-faced deceptions, foisted on the American public by ideologically motivated zealots trying to force an agenda of citizen disarmament and government control. That’s not to say that everyone who supports gun control is driven by the same ideology, or that there are no honest, passionate, idealistic, true believers among the ranks of gun-control advocates. There are some very good, honest, sincere people who promote gun control, but unfortunately these misguided souls are steeped in emotion and inculcated with the never-ending lies of the professional gun haters.
Let’s dissect some of the lies:
Claim: Over 90 percent (almost 90 percent, close to 90 percent) of Americans support “universal background checks,” as do various large percentages of gun owners and NRA members.
That statistic came from a couple of highly suspect polls conducted, primarily in Northeastern states, shortly after the Sandy Hook atrocity. Anyone with a brain should realize that these statistics were fraudulent based solely on the fact that 90 percent of Americans barely agree that water is wet, much less that we need more government intrusion into our private transactions.
But this lie (that might have started out as just a distortion) has gotten much, much bigger as time has gone by. In late April, USA Today, that bastion of conservatism, conducted a poll which found that less than 50 percent of respondents supported any expansion of gun-control laws of any kind. Other subsequent polls have found similar results, and they are trending even farther away from the earlier poll numbers – yet gun-control advocates continue to declare that 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks. It is a lie.
Claim: Almost 40 percent of firearms sales occur without a background check.
That lie was first widely promoted by gun-control advocacy groups and the president in late December in the media frenzy following Sandy Hook. It was declared a distortion by yet another conservative media juggernaut, the Washington Post, in January. It was subsequently labeled a “half-truth” and outdated by other fact-check media. Even so, Obama and company have continued to preach it as gospel, right up to this very day, earning further derision from the Post’s fact-check column and a coveted score of “3 Pinocchios” for the president (on a scale of 1 to 4). It’s a lie.
Claim: Gun control is needed to “make our children and our communities safer.”
This presumes that guns serve only evil purposes and that passing laws prevents criminal violence. There has never been a supportable study proving, or even strongly suggesting, that gun control does anything to reduce criminal violence or even suicide. Reviews of existing literature going back to the 1970s have consistently found no connection between gun control and crime. On the other hand, there are several peer-reviewed studies which show that guns in private hands are used to stop crimes more often than they are used to commit crimes, and that the prevalence of guns appears to result in reduced violent crime.
Claim: About 30,000 lives are lost to “gun violence” each year in the U.S., and “13 children a day are killed in gun violence.”
The 30,000 number is based predominantly on suicides. Most people don’t think of suicide as “gun violence,” and despite distorted claims from “researchers,” the suicide rate in the U.S. is only slightly higher than that of Canada, even though Canada has a much lower rate of suicide involving guns. Meanwhile the suicide rate in the gun-free utopia of Japan is 80 percent higher than the U.S. rate. The “children” in the 13-a-day statistic include “children” in their 20s. Most are between 16 and 24, a peak age for criminal activity, and, again, a heavy percentage of these deaths are suicides. Virtually all of the guns used are obtained illegally. The claims are intentional distortions, deceptions, lies.
Claim: There is an epidemic of violent crime and mass murder sweeping the nation.
No there isn’t. Crime is at its lowest rate in decades. Serious violent crime is predominantly isolated to a few large cities, most of which have draconian gun laws. About 75 percent of murder victims are known criminals, as are some 90 percent of captured murderers. Atrocities like Sandy Hook and the Batman movie massacre tend to happen in cycles, based, in a large degree, upon the level of media attention devoted to them. While there has been more press about them in recent years, the actual number of occurrences has not gone up dramatically. Suggestions that crime in general or that mass murders are significantly increasing are not true. They’re lies.
Gun-control groups are based in lies. They call themselves “violence prevention” and “gun safety” groups even though the only violence prevention and gun safety policies they espouse are restrictions on legal access to firearms. They lie about who they are, what they stand for and what they want. They are liars through and through.
The truth is, Gun Control Doesn’t.
Imprimis, March, 2013
The Second Amendment as an Expression of First Principles EDWARD J. ERLER is professor of political science at California State University, San Bernardino. He earned his B.A. from San Jose State University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in government from the Claremont Graduate School. He has published numerous articles on constitutional topics in journals such as Interpretation, the Notre Dame Journal of Law, and the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. He was a member of the California Advisory Commission on Civil Rights from 1988-2006 and served on the California Constitutional Revision Commission in 1996. He is the author of The American Polity and co-author of The Founders on Citizenship and Immigration. The following is adapted from a lecture delivered on February 13, 2013, at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.
We are currently mired in a frantic debate about the rights of gun owners. One example should suffice to prove that the debate has become hysterical: Second Amendment supporters, one prominent but less than articulate member of Congress alleges, have become “enablers of mass murder.”
Special animus has been directed against so-called assault rifles. These are semi-automatic, not automatic weapons—the latter have been illegal under federal law since the 1930s—because they require a trigger pull for every round fired. Some semi-automatic firearms, to be sure, can be fitted with large-capacity magazines. But what inspires the ire of gun control advocates seems to be their menacing look—somehow they don’t appear fit for polite society. No law-abiding citizen could possibly need such a weapon, we are told—after all, how many rounds from a high-powered rifle are needed to kill a deer? And we are assured that these weapons are not well-adapted for self-defense—that only the military and the police need to have them.
Now it’s undeniable, Senator Dianne Feinstein to the contrary notwithstanding, that semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15 are extremely well-adapted for home defense—especially against a crime that is becoming more and more popular among criminals, the home invasion. Over the past two decades, gun ownership has increased dramatically at the same time that crime rates have decreased. Combine this with the fact that most gun crimes are committed with stolen or illegally obtained weapons, and the formula to decrease crime is clear: Increase the number of responsible gun owners and prosecute to the greatest extent possible under the law those who commit gun-related crimes or possess weapons illegally.
Consider also that assault rifles are rarely used by criminals, because they are neither easily portable nor easily concealed. In Chicago, the murder capital of America—a city with draconian gun laws—pistols are the weapon of choice, even for gang-related executions. But of course there are the horrible exceptions—the mass shootings in recent years—and certainly we must keep assault weapons with high-capacity magazines out of the hands of people who are prone to commit such atrocities.
The shooters in Arizona, Colorado, and Newtown were mentally ill persons who, by all accounts, should have been incarcerated. Even the Los Angeles Times admits that “there is a connection between mental illness and mass murder.” But the same progressives who advocate gun control also oppose the involuntary incarceration of mentally ill people who, in the case of these mass shootings, posed obvious dangers to society before they committed their horrendous acts of violence. From the point of view of the progressives who oppose involuntary incarceration of the mentally ill—you can thank the ACLU and like-minded organizations—it is better to disarm the entire population, and deprive them of their constitutional freedoms, than to incarcerate a few mentally ill persons who are prone to engage in violent crimes.
And we must be clear—the Second Amendment is not about assault weapons, hunting, or sport shooting. It is about something more fundamental. It reaches to the heart of constitutional principles—it reaches to first principles. A favorite refrain of thoughtful political writers during America’s founding era held that a frequent recurrence to first principles was an indispensable means of preserving free government—and so it is.
The Whole People Are the Militia
The Second Amendment reads as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The immediate impetus for the amendment has never been in dispute. Many of the revolutionary generation believed standing armies were dangerous to liberty. Militias made up of citizen-soldiers, they reasoned, were more suitable to the character of republican government. Expressing a widely held view, Elbridge Gerry remarked in the debate over the first militia bill in 1789 that “whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia.”
The Second Amendment is unique among the amendments in the Bill of Rights, in that it contains a preface explaining the reason for the right protected: Militias are necessary for the security of a free state. We cannot read the words “free State” here as a reference to the several states that make up the Union. The frequent use of the phrase “free State” in the founding era makes it abundantly clear that it means a non-tyrannical or non-despotic state. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), rightly remarked that the term and its “close variations” were “terms of art in 18th-century political discourse, meaning a free country or free polity.”
The principal constitutional debate leading up to the Heller decision was about whether the right to “keep and bear arms” was an individual right or a collective right conditioned upon service in the militia. As a general matter, of course, the idea of collective rights was unknown to the Framers of the Constitution—and this consideration alone should have been decisive. We have James Madison’s own testimony that the provisions of the Bill of Rights “relate [first] . . . to private rights.”
The notion of collective rights is wholly the invention of the Progressive founders of the administrative state, who were engaged in a self-conscious effort to supplant the principles of limited government embodied in the Constitution. For these Progressives, what Madison and other Founders called the “rights of human nature” were merely a delusion characteristic of the 18th century. Science, they held, has proven that there is no permanent human nature—that there are only evolving social conditions. As a result, they regarded what the Founders called the “rights of human nature” as an enemy of collective welfare, which should always take precedence over the rights of individuals. For Progressives then and now, the welfare of the people—not liberty—is the primary object of government, and government should always be in the hands of experts. This is the real origin of today’s gun control hysteria—the idea that professional police forces and the military have rendered the armed citizen superfluous; that no individual should be responsible for the defense of himself and his family, but should leave it to the experts. The idea of individual responsibilities, along with that of individual rights, is in fact incompatible with the Progressive vision of the common welfare.
This way of thinking was wholly alien to America’s founding generation, for whom government existed for the purpose of securing individual rights. And it was always understood that a necessary component of every such right was a correspondent responsibility. Madison frequently stated that all “just and free government” is derived from social compact—the idea embodied in the Declaration of Independence, which notes that the “just powers” of government are derived “from the consent of the governed.” Social compact, wrote Madison, “contemplates a certain number of individuals as meeting and agreeing to form one political society, in order that the rights, the safety, and the interests of each may be under the safeguard of the whole.” The rights to be protected by the political society are not created by government—they exist by nature—although governments are necessary to secure them. Thus political society exists to secure the equal protection of the equal rights of all who consent to be governed. This is the original understanding of what we know today as “equal protection of the laws”—the equal protection of equal rights.
Each person who consents to become a member of civil society thus enjoys the equal protection of his own rights, while at the same time incurring the obligation to protect the rights of his fellow citizens. In the first instance, then, the people are a militia, formed for the mutual protection of equal rights. This makes it impossible to mistake both the meaning and the vital importance of the Second Amendment: The whole people are the militia, and disarming the people dissolves their moral and political existence.
Arms and Sovereignty
The Preamble to the Constitution stipulates that “We the people . . . do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States.” It is important to note that the people establish the Constitution; the Constitution does not establish the people. When, then, did “we the people” become a people? Clearly Americans became a people upon the adoption of its first principles of government in the Declaration of Independence, which describes the people both in their political capacity, as “one people,” and in their moral capacity, as a “good people.” In establishing the Constitution, then, the people executed a second contract, this time with government. In this contract, the people delegate power to the government to be exercised for their benefit. But the Declaration specifies that only the “just powers” are delegated. The government is to be a limited government, confined to the exercise of those powers that are fairly inferred from the specific grant of powers.
Furthermore, the Declaration specifies that when government becomes destructive of the ends for which it is established—the “Safety and Happiness” of the people—then “it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.” This is what has become known as the right of revolution, an essential ingredient of the social compact and a right which is always reserved to the people. The people can never cede or delegate this ultimate expression of sovereign power. Thus, in a very important sense, the right of revolution (or even its threat) is the right that guarantees every other right. And if the people have this right as an indefeasible aspect of their sovereignty, then, by necessity, the people also have a right to the means to revolution. Only an armed people are a sovereign people, and only an armed people are a free people—the people are indeed a militia.
The Declaration also contains an important prudential lesson with respect to the right to revolution: “Prudence . . . will dictate,” it cautions, “that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.” It is only after “a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same Object,” and when that object “evinces a design to reduce [the People] to absolute Despotism,” that “it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” Here the Declaration identifies the right of revolution, not only as a right of the people, but as a duty as well—indeed, it is the only duty mentioned in the Declaration.
The prudential lessons of the Declaration are no less important than its assertion of natural rights. The prospect of the dissolution of government is almost too horrible to contemplate, and must be approached with the utmost circumspection. As long as the courts are operating, free and fair elections are proceeding, and the ordinary processes of government hold out the prospect that whatever momentary inconveniences or dislocations the people experience can be corrected, then they do not represent a long train of abuses and usurpations and should be tolerated. But we cannot remind ourselves too often of the oft-repeated refrain of the Founders: Rights and liberties are best secured when there is a “frequent recurrence to first principles.”
The Current Legal Debate
In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that for the first time held unambiguously that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual the right to keep and bear arms for purposes of self-defense. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia quoted Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, a work well known to the Founders. Blackstone referred to “the natural right of resistance and self-preservation,” which necessarily entailed “the right of having and using arms for self-preservation and defense.” Throughout his opinion, Justice Scalia rightly insisted that the Second Amendment recognized rights that preexisted the Constitution. But Justice Scalia was wrong to imply that Second Amendment rights were codified from the common law—they were, in fact, “natural rights,” deriving their status from the “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”
In his Heller dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens boldly asserted that “there is no indication that the Framers of the Amendment intended to enshrine the common-law right of self-defense in the Constitution.” In a perverse way, Justice Stevens was correct for the same reason Justice Scalia was wrong: What the Framers did was to recognize the natural right of self-defense. Like the right to revolution, the right to self-defense or self-preservation can never be ceded to government. In the words of James Wilson—a signer of the Declaration, a member of the Constitutional Convention, and an early justice of the Supreme Court—“the great natural law of self-preservation . . . cannot be repealed, or superseded, or suspended by any human institution.”
Justice Stevens, however, concluded that because there is no clause in the Constitution explicitly recognizing the common law right of self-defense, it is not a constitutional right and therefore cannot authorize individual possession of weapons. What Justice Stevens apparently doesn’t realize is that the Constitution as a whole is a recognition of the “the great natural law of self-preservation,” both for the people and for individuals. Whenever government is unwilling or unable to fulfill the ends for which it exists—the safety and happiness of the people—the right of action devolves upon the people, whether it is the right of revolution or the individual’s right to defend person and property.
Justice Scalia noted that those who argued for a collective-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment have the impossible task of showing that the rights protected by the Second Amendment are collective rights, whereas every other right protected by the Bill of Rights is an individual right. It is true that the Second Amendment states that “the people” have the right to keep and bear arms. But other amendments refer to the rights of “the people” as well. The Fourth Amendment, for example, guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizure.” But there seems to be universal agreement that Fourth Amendment rights belong to individuals.
And what of the First Amendment’s protection of “the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances?” Justice Stevens argues that these rights are collective rights. After all, he avers, “they contemplate collective actions.” It is true, the Justice concedes, that the right to assemble is an individual right, but “its concern is with action engaged in by members of a group, rather than any single individual.” And the right to petition government for a redress of grievances is similarly, he says, “a right that can be exercised by individuals,” even though “it is primarily collective in nature.” Its collective nature, he explains, means that “if they are to be effective, petitions must involve groups of individuals acting in concert.” Even though individuals may petition government for redress, it is more “effective” if done in concert with others, even though “concert” is not necessary to the existence or the exercise of the right.
With respect to assembly, Justice Stevens argues, there cannot be an assembly of one. An “assembly” is a collection of individual rights holders who have united for common action or to promote a common cause. But who could argue that the manner in which the assemblage takes place, or the form that it takes, significantly qualifies or limits the possession or exercise of the right? We might as well argue that freedom of speech is a collective right because freedom of speech is most effectively exercised when there are auditors; or that freedom of the press is a collective right because it is most effectively exercised when there are readers. Justice Stevens’ argument is thus fanciful, not to say frivolous.
The Court in Heller did indicate, however, that there could be some reasonable restrictions on gun ownership. “Longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,” for example, will continue to meet constitutional muster. Laws that forbid “carrying firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings” are also reasonable regulations, as are “conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” The prohibition on “dangerous and unusual weapons”—including automatic firearms—fall outside Second Amendment guarantees as well.
But the Heller decision is clear that handgun possession for self-defense is absolutely protected by the Second Amendment. Can handguns be carried outside the home as part of “the inherent right of self-defense?” The Court indicated that handguns can be prohibited in “sensitive places,” but not every place outside the home is sensitive. And if carrying weapons in a non-sensitive area is protected by the Second Amendment, can there be restrictions on concealed carrying? These are all questions that will have to be worked out in the future, if not by legislation, then by extensive litigation.
The Supreme Court took a further important step in securing Second Amendment rights in McDonald v. Chicago (2010), ruling that these rights as articulated in Heller were fundamental rights, and thus binding on the states through the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. We have to remember, however, that both of these cases were decided by narrow, 5-4 majorities, and that new appointments of more progressive-minded justices to the Court could easily bring about a reversal.
For the moment, Second Amendment rights seem safe, but in the long term a political defense will be a more effective strategy. As Abraham Lincoln once remarked, “Whoever moulds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes, or pronounces judicial decisions.” Shaping and informing public sentiments—public opinion—is political work, and thus it is to politics that we must ultimately resort.
* * *
In the current climate of public opinion, Congress will have little appetite for passing an assault gun ban. More likely, it will be satisfied with passing legislation aimed at gun trafficking and tightening background checks. We must remember, however, President Obama’s pledge: “If Congress won’t act then I will.” He has already issued 23 gun-related executive orders, and some of them are rather curious. One of them notes that there is nothing in the Affordable Care Act that prevents doctors from asking patients about guns in the home; another directs “the Centers for Disease Control to research the cause and prevention of gun violence.”
The President’s power to act through executive orders is as extensive as it is ill-defined. Congress routinely delegates power to executive branch agencies, and the courts accord great deference to agency rule-making powers, often interpreting ambiguous legislative language or even legislative silence as a delegation of power to the executive. Such delegation provokes fundamental questions concerning the separation of powers and the rule of law. Many have argued that it is the price we have to pay for the modern administrative state—that the separation of powers and the rule of law have been rendered superfluous by the development of this state. Some of the boldest proponents of this view confidently insist that the triumph of the administrative state has propelled us into a post-constitutional era where the Constitution no longer matters.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 gives the President the discretion to ban guns he deems not suitable for sporting purposes. Would the President be bold enough or reckless enough to issue an executive order banning the domestic manufacture and sale of assault rifles? Might he argue that these weapons have no possible civilian use and should be restricted to the military, and that his power as commander-in-chief authorizes him so to act? Or perhaps sometime in the near future he will receive a report from the Centers for Disease Control that gun violence has become a national health epidemic, with a recommendation that he declare a national health emergency and order the confiscation of all assault weapons. Congress could pass legislation to defeat such an executive order; but could a divided Congress muster the votes?—and in any case, the President could resort to his veto power. Individuals would have resort to the courts; but as of yet, we have had no ruling that assault weapons are not one of the exceptions that can be banned or regulated under Heller. We could make the case that assault rifles are useful for self-defense and home defense; but could we make the case that they are essential? Would the courts hold that the government had to demonstrate a compelling interest for a ban on assault rifles, as it almost certainly would have to do if handguns were at issue?
Are these simply wild speculations? Perhaps—probably! But they are part of the duty we have as citizens to engage in a frequent recurrence to first principles.
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Girls, Guns Are Our Friends
By Jennifer Lade
There’s been a lot of discourse in the past few months about the War on Women. It’s a phrase that’s been thrown around to talk about how Republicans allegedly want to keep women down, because pissing off half the voting population will somehow help them get elected. But how about the War on Women by other women? In this scenario, a majority of women value gun control higher than they value an individual’s right to keep and bear arms. And if this opinion translates into a vote for gun control, they are putting themselves and all women at risk.
In a recent national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press , conducted April 4 to 15, 2012, 49% of Americans say it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns, while 45% say it is more important to control gun ownership. But when those statistics are broken down by gender, it shows that 60 percent of men believe it is more important to protect gun rights, while only 39 percent of women do.
Ladies, if you are not among the 39 percent, I urge you to extract your head from your yoga-sculpted derriere and think for two seconds.
Girls, guns are our friends. And not just for the tattooed, gin-swilling, tomboy girls out there. Every woman can benefit from being armed — and even if they aren’t packing themselves, they can benefit from more females being armed in general.
There is a lot of data out there that shows a correlation between gun ownership and lower crime, as well as data that shows that gun control doesn’t disarm criminals (see John Lott’s book, More Guns, Less Crime, for example). But for the sake of argument, let’s assume gun control actually keeps guns out of the hands of criminals. (It doesn’t. That’s a load of BS. But I digress.) Now, as a woman, you can confidently strut down the street knowing that all the criminals are completely without guns. Doesn’t that make you feel safer?
Well, it shouldn’t. According to the FBI, 80.5 percent of people arrested for violent crime in the United States in 2010 were male. The average male won’t ask for directions, put the toilet seat down or commit, but the average man is also 5’9 ½” and 191lbs., according to the CDC. Could you take him in a hand-to-hand fight if he were to attack you, even unarmed, on the street?
I am no delicate flower. There was a time not too long ago when I could do 8 chin-ups and run a mile in 5:33. So in other words, in my best shape ever, I had the strength and speed of a 14-year-old boy. A lot of good that will do me if a 200-lb. guy tries to force me into his car or steal my money.
You know what might be more effective than trying to scratch his eyes with my nicely manicured nails — or worse, running to the police after I’ve been mugged? A sleek, sexy, .38 Special Smith & Wesson BODYGUARD, produced from a Coach purse and pointed at his face with an unwavering, moisturized hand.
158 grains of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Firearms have been called the great equalizer, and for good reason. Firearms erase any physical advantage an assailant might have — size, strength, speed — because they make it so you don’t have to get close to the person to harm him. I don’t care how often you use the StairMaster at the gym; that sketchy dude in the white van will still beat you in a fight.
Unless you are armed. Then my money’s on you.
What if you both have guns? You’re still better off. Guns are the great equalizer, remember? So in an ironic twist, the gun that liberals would want to take away from you is actually creating one of the things they purport to love the most: a level playing field.
But if the thought of owning a gun is just too upsetting to your delicate sensibilities, by all means, keep practicing your damsel-in-distress scream and the stiletto-kick to the groin. Just don’t use your vote to stop your female brethren from using a more effective means of self-defense.
Ladies, it’s time we stop shooting ourselves in the foot.