Yesterday, I gave my scattered impressions of the NR cruise First Amendment discussions. Today, given that I didn’t take notes, you’ll get my even more scattered impressions of yesterday’s Second Amendment discussion. Mostly, you’ll get my thoughts based upon what I can remember that they said.
James Lileks was once again the moderator. The panelists were John Yoo, Charles Cooke, Jim Geraghty, and Sheriff Dave Clarke.
To be honest, none of them said anything that I had not already read or thought of myself, but they were witty, funny, and thoughtful. With the exception of Sheriff Clarke, who represented sound common sense, the discussion took place at a fairly rarefied level, with many references to Supreme Court decisions. All of the panelists were extremely grateful that Trump’s win puts the kybosh on Hillary’s loudly stated plan to do whatever she could, primarily with pen and Supreme Court, to shut down the Second Amendment.
If I remember correctly, the discussion began by stating the principle — as Scalia said in Heller — that the Second Amendment is an individual, not a group, right. Indeed, when put into practical effect, the group theory that the Left espouses is ridiculous. According to the Left, the fact that the right to bear arms arises only in the context of a well-regulated militia means that the government can bar all arms at any other time, allowing individuals access to those arms only when they show up for militia drill and duty.
The Leftist scenario, if put into play, means that the government controls the arms entirely, which entirely vitiates the Second Amendment. The Left desires that outcome, but any free person recognizes it for the con it is.
The panel noted that the Left’s approach to Heller is to limit it to its facts, rather than to see it as a decision doing away with most government limitations on the right to bear arms. That is, the Obama administration would have it that the only right to bear arms is in situations that precisely parallel those in Heller. Hillary would have gone even further than that in limiting Heller, which is another reason to send up a little prayer giving thanks for the Donald.
Charles Cooke went on at some length about the reason that post-War England is without arms. He tied it into the limitations placed on the British Bill of Rights of 1689 (which barred the King from impeding a citizen’s right to bear arms, but placed no such limitations on Parliament); about the class hierarchy that had always limited arms to the aristocracy; about America’s distinct frontier identity that made arms a virtual necessity; etc. In other words, all things we’ve mulled over at the Bookworm Room.
Lileks’ question was actually a bit broader and, I thought, more interesting, which was to ask why Europeans as a whole were so willing to disarm themselves after WWII (with an implied subquestion, I thought, asking why they are so smug about having done so). The obvious, first tier answer is that Europeans, having seen their world decimated by both the malicious and the defensive use of arms, decided that the problem was the weapons, not the men handling them.
The second tier explanation for the European disavowal of arms might be that the Europeans decided that they, personally, could no longer be trusted with arms. After all, look what they’d done with them.
Ultimately, though, as I hinted in my first tier response to the question of arms in post-War Europe, the real problem in Europe is that Leftists who can never distinguish the object or act from the ideology behind the use to which the object is put or the actions that someone is taking. Bear with me a minute as I explain what this means in the context of guns, statism, and arms control.
My favorite example of the inability to distinguish between actions and beliefs, is Michael Moore, who likened Al Qaeda to America’s Minutemen. He did so because he fell into the classic Leftist fallacy of believing that, in a fight between a little guy and a big guy, the little guy is always a force for good. What he couldn’t understand is that Al Qaeda was a force for good only if one believes in the drive for control using mass murder and enslavement, followed by a worldwide caliphate devoted to misogyny, homophobia, and the wholesale destruction or enslavement of all other faiths.
The Europeans share Moore’s primitive thought process. Because they were incapable of realizing that WWII was the inevitable result of statism run amok, they did what Leftists do, which is to trust the state more than the individual. So it was that they once again placed their arms in the only entity capable of committing murder on a scale that would be impossible if arms were left in the hands of disorganized, disparate individuals.
At this point, rather than writing more on the topic, I’ll shill my book Our Second Amendment in Ten Essays, which you can find on Amazon for a mere 99 cents. (I think I got the title of my book right, although the words may be in a slightly different order. The sea air definitely affects my memory.)
Sheriff Clarke made an important point, one that I’ve addressed in posts but not in my book, so I’ll discuss it here: The pre-Civil War states denied African-Americans guns because guns are inextricably intertwined with the same civil rights the states denied them. Thus, Southern states understood that, with guns, the blacks could end their slavery (as they tried to do in colonial South Carolina, which had formerly allowed slaves to have guns for hunting and colony defense).
After the Civil War, when the 14th Amendment established that all Americans, of all races, had civil rights, all of the Southern states (and, I think, some Northern ones), again ensured black subordination by again denying them guns. As I’ve said over and over at this blog, all the other parts of the Bill of Rights are meaningless if individuals don’t have the wherewithal to keep government in line.
After all, the first Ten Amendments don’t give the government rights; instead, they identify those rights inherent in the individual — rights that, as our Leftists show every single day, the government would very much like to remove from individuals in order to disempower them. There is a reason, I believe, that the Second Amendment is the only part of the Bill of Rights that is dedicated to a single topic. It’s that important.
I also want to throw in here a topic I raised years ago in a post, because it’s relevant to statism, race, and gun rights: The Left has taken the wrong lesson from the Civil Rights Movement. Leftists see it as enshrining the notion that only government can save victim classes from discrimination, because the federal government put laws in place and the Supreme Court issued decision that reinstated black civil rights.
What they completely miss is that the problem in the American South was a problem of statism. Individual acts of racism in the South would have been appalling and, no doubt, great in number, but the sin of the South was that it legislated the denial of civil rights. It legislated who could marry whom; it legislated the places in which blacks could eat, congregate, stand, and travel; it legislated that blacks would have to pass tests to vote; and it legislated a thousand other slights and civil rights denials.
What the federal government did during the Civil Rights Movement was no more than it did during the Civil War, which was to establish that states cannot use their power — which is the power of the legislature, the judiciary, and the police — to deny civil rights. It was the overreaching Progressive / Democrat / Leftist block that added a coda to that message: They have claimed for sixty years that, while the states cannot deny civil rights, the lesson of the Civil Rights Movement is that the federal government can do anything it damn well pleases. Under the Democrats, it damn well pleases to destroy Americans’ right to bear arms so that, when the federal government overreaches, unlike the situation in the 1950s and 1960s, no entity or individual can ride to the rescue.
I’m sorry to say that I can’t remember anything else. The real shame is that I can’t remember the quips the moderator and panelists made. These are very quick-witted people, so that I enjoyed hearing again even those things I’d heard before.