ACLU Defending Gun Rights, but That Won't Convince the Wingnuts Nobody's Coming After Their Guns
We hear a lot of lovey-dovey noise about the Constitution from the Right, but their fealty to the document is transparently selective. They don't give a damn about the Constitution itself -- they love it because it was written before concepts like the welfare state , environmental protection and gun control were borne. That's why they're "strict constructionists" But here’s an interesting thing about “strict constuctionists”: they take the Constitution as Gospel except for one key bit, Article 3, which states unequivocally that the Supreme Court — not Fox News personalities or Rush Limbaugh — is empowered to interpret the Constitution and mediate controversies that arise from our founding documents. Whether one agrees with its decisions or not -- and when it comes to this issue I don't -- the Supreme Court has now settled the questions surrounding the Second Amendment, ruling that it is an individual right to bear arms. Although it has long been a whipping-horse for the Right, the ACLU has a long tradition of defending conservative causes because their fealty to the Constitution is principled rather than strategic. So, naturally, it's increasingly defending gun owners' Constitutional rights now that the issue is settled law. This is from the Florida Sun-Sentinel:
The American Civil Liberties Union is petitioning a court to help an 85-year-old man get his guns back from the Broward Sheriff's Office. Yes, you read that right... That the ACLU, a long-time target of conservatives' scorn, is supporting gun ownership is "a breath of fresh air," said Marion P. Hammer, board member of the National Rifle Association. "It's all very interesting that the ACLU has now decided that all of the rights are worth defending, and it's a welcome change," said Hammer, a Florida lobbyist for the NRA and its former president. Is this new alliance a sign of the apocalypse? Not really, says Fort Lauderdale attorney Barry Butin, a cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Florida's Broward Chapter who is representing the gun owner, Pompano Beach retiree Robert Weinstein. Two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have affirmed the right to maintain guns in the home. "Under the Second Amendment, he has a right to have his guns in his house. He's not a convicted felon," Butin said.My God, this is so unusual! Except it isn't. Not at all. 2007:
In a report issued in February, the Texas affiliate of the National Rifle Association joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition “to spotlight unlawful, unnecessary governmental encroachment on average law-abiding citizens.” The report, “Above the Law: How Texas prosecutors are placing their own judgment over that of the Legislature and the law of the land,” found that district and county attorneys had instructed police officers to “unnecessarily” interrogate drivers and arrest them or take their weapons, “even if they are legally carrying the gun.”2008:
ACLU of Nevada decided to change its stance following the Supreme Court's ruling in the Heller case, which correctly interpreted the Second Amendment as an individual right. A statement on the ACLU of Nevada website reads:
"In light of the United States Supreme Court's decision concerning the D.C. handgun ban (District of Columbia v. Heller), the ACLU of Nevada considers it important to clearly state its position regarding the right to bear arms. The Nevada ACLU respects the individual's right to bear arms subject to constitutionally permissible regulations. The ACLU of Nevada will defend this right as it defends other constitutional rights. This policy was formulated by our affiliate Board in light of both the U.S. Constitution and the clearly-stated individual right to bear arms as set out in the Nevada Constitution's Declaration of Rights."2009:
Now, as much as it might surprise you (but not any ACLU supporters because we see this all the time) the ACLU is defending a man’s right to own a gun. His firearm was confiscated by police after a traffic violation and now the police are refusing to give it back to him, even though he has the permits and every right to own a gun. Orleans Parish, Louisiana apparently allows officers to decide on a “case by case basis” whether they will give back someone's gun. Maybe the see if any officers want it and if they don’t they give it back. I’m not sure how it works down in Orleans Parish, but thankfully the ACLU is there to help this man defend his Constitutional rights.None of this makes any difference. As I've written before, the debate over gun ownership now has little to do with substantive policy issues. Guns have become part of the culture wars, which means that no matter how secure the right to own a firearm may be in the courts -- in reality -- the gun lobby and firearms manufacturers have too much at stake to let the specter of the gummint taking your shooting irons go away. And there are always people who are easily suckered and buy their dark conspiracy theories. But make no mistake: theirs is an incredibly dangerous brand of demagoguery, because the suckers who buy the gun lobby's spin are heavily armed. TPM:
Anti-government shooting suspect Byron Williams has been charged with allegedly opening fire on police officers on Interstate 580 in Oakland, California, while on his way to "start a revolution" by attacking members of the ACLU.*Edited slightly for clarity.