Below is my column in The Hill on the call for bans and limits on guns like the AR-15 since the massacre in Texas. Both President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama have blamed the gun lobby for the violence in calling for new major gun controls. However, the barrier to banning weapons like the AR-15 rests more with the Second Amendment than the gun lobby. Any effort to reach some “commonsense” solutions will depend on the willingness to end the sweeping rhetoric and deal with the realities of the constitutional limits on gun control.
Here is the column:
As the nation mourns another massacre of children, we again try to make sense of the senseless. It is unimaginable and yet all too familiar. Within minutes of the killing of 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a familiar cycle has emerged — grief coupled with angry demands for gun reforms.
President Biden used his initial remarks to denounce the gun lobby and demand gun control. The president spoke passionately and movingly on this loss but, after roughly a dozen lines, he turned to the politics of gun control, asking: “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God’s name will we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?”
It is a virtual mantra after massacres, as politicians pledge to stop gun violence while denouncing their opponents as facilitating the carnage.
The gun lobby, backed by millions of gun owners, is indeed a powerful political force. But it is not the gun lobby but the Constitution that is the greatest obstacle to some of these calls for gun bans or limits. If we want to get something done, we will need to be honest and nonpartisan, a challenge that previously has proven too much for our leaders. There is a limited range of movement for legislation, given the constitutional right to bear arms and controlling constitutional precedent.
In discussing “common sense gun laws,” the president once again denounced the availability of what he collectively called “assault weapons,” a common reference to such popular models as the AR-15. “What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for, except to kill someone?” the president asked. “Deer aren’t running through the forest with Kevlar vests on, for God’s sake. It’s just sick.”
The call for “common sense” responses to this plague of violence is welcomed, but common sense also requires a common understanding of the realities of gun ownership and gun control.
Take the AR-15. Efforts to ban this model already have failed in the courts on constitutional grounds, though litigation is continuing on that issue. In 2008, the Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller, recognizing the Second Amendment as encompassing an individual right to bear arms. Clearly many have good-faith disagreements with the constitutional interpretations behind Heller. However, that is currently the controlling precedent.
The AR-15 is the most popular gun in America and the number is continuing to rise rapidly, with one AR-15 purchased in every five new firearms sales. These AR-15s clearly are not being purchased for armored deer. Many are purchased for personal and home protection; it also is popular for target shooting and hunting. Many gun owners like the AR-15 because it is modular; depending on the model, you can swap out barrels, bolts and high-capacity magazines, or add a variety of accessories. While it does more damage than a typical handgun, it is not the most powerful gun sold in terms of caliber; many guns have equal or greater calibre.
That is why laws to ban or curtail sales of the AR-15 run into constitutional barriers. Most recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down a California ban on adults under 21 purchasing semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15. And the Supreme Court has a pending Second Amendment case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, that is likely to further strengthen gun rights this term.
After past tragedies, some of us have cautioned that there is a limited range of options for gun bans, given constitutional protections. There also are practical barriers, with an estimated 393 million guns in the United States and an estimated 72 million gun owners; three out of ten Americans say they have guns. Indeed, gun ownership rose during the pandemic. When former Texas congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke declared, “Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15,” he was widely celebrated on the left. However, even seizing that one type of gun would require confiscation of as many as 15 million weapons.
If the president truly wants a “common sense” response to this tragedy, it needs to be based on reality, not rhetoric. In the past, massacres have been weaponized for political purposes, with measures that are either clearly unconstitutional or largely ineffectual.
When advocates call for banning gun sales, their challenge is not “the gun lobby” but the Second Amendment. Notably, after this latest massacre, film director and leftist activist Michael Moore went on MSNBC to call for the repeal of the Second Amendment. Moore said he does not want “to nickel-and-dime this … we need some really drastic action here.” He insisted we need to accept that “we are a violent people, to begin with. This country was birthed in violence, with genocide of the native people at the barrel of a gun.” Putting aside the hyperbolic language, Moore at least is being honest about what this would take — though a repeal is highly unlikely to garner the needed 38 states to ratify such an amendment.
Instead, we need a national dialogue, not another diatribe on guns.
There are some gun limits that could pass constitutional muster, but they will not materially reduce the number of guns in society or, necessarily, gun violence. There also are a variety of areas that could offer real benefits in reducing such shootings, from badly needed mental health program funding and greater school security to more effective “red flag” laws.
Many of us are prepared to respond to the president’s call to “to turn this pain into action.” However, when he says we can “do so much more,” we need to be honest with the American people on the range of movement allowed under the Constitution to restrict an individual constitutional right. Otherwise, we will continue this tragic cycle of mass shootings followed by familiar political maneuvering.
There are 19 children and two teachers who deserve more from all of us.
Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.
225 thoughts on “It is the Second Amendment, Not the “Gun Lobby” That Must Be Satisfied on Gun Control”
The dirty little secret is that the street thug and the gangbanger use civil rights to facilitate their crimes.
They peaceably assemble to plan, plot, and prepare their robberies and drive-by shootings.
They peacefully bear arms to and from the scenes of robberies and drive-by shootings.
They use their freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures to conceal evidence that they committed, or are about to commit, a robbery or a drive-by shooting.
They use their right to a fair trial, their right to an attorney, their right to due process of law, to escape punishment for committing robberies and drive-by shootings.
They use their freedom from cruel and unusual punishment to avoid the punishment that they deserve for committing a robbery or a drive-by shooting, even if they are judged guilty consistently with their other rights.
Without the Constitution protecting these rights, the cops can judge street thugs and gangbangers guilty and give them the punishment that they deserve.
Who among us will continue to support the Bill of Rights, knowing this?
Sounds like you’re describing the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and Boogaloo Bois?
Were you replying to me?
I was describing gangs like the Crips, the Mafia, and MS-13.
Yes, I was replyinmg to you, except that the right-wing groups you apparently didn’t mean, met and conspired together to overturn an election.
Ejercito described drive by shootings and robberies. In what universe has it been alleged that the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, or the Boogaloo Bois (whomever they are) committed either of these crimes?
Your links did not describe any drive by shootings or robberies committed by the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, or the Boogaloo Bois.
Without me looking it back up, one link describes 330 deaths attributed to them, does standing still or walking by really make a difference here?
No, neither of your links allege that the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, or the Boogaloo Bois have been involved in murder, drive by shootings, or robberies.
Research the billions of dollars that cost Americans for the ANTIFA BLM riots. Then research the rise in violent crime in those cities before / after ANTIFA BLM riots that have added to soaring murder rates. Thats ANTIFA BLM for you.
I live in Richmond, VA, am brown, Hispanic, speak with an accent, and have a very long Hispanic name. When the Charlottesville riots happened where that poor woman was run over and killed by the schizophrenic driver, I became concerned that the Unite the Riot folks would come to Richmond and put me on notice. Never happened. When the facts were revealed how that event began and escalated, Trump, whom I detest, called it right: both sides were to blame. I am still waiting to meet the Bugaloo Bois, Oath Keepers, & Proud Boys but I cant seem to find them anywhere, even if I have looked. I did recently get threatened at the hospital though. An individual saw my name on my white coat, heard me speaking to a patient, and called the police to have me “deported” back to Latin America. When they arrived, one knew me from church, was supremely apologetic, and said, “I am sorry, Doctor”. The person who called the police was a hospital social worker, a female, a lesbian. LOL. A lesbian! I reported her to administration and she no longer works there.
Still waiting to meet the Proud Boys, though. I have always wanted to meet their Cuban founder, Enrique Tarrio, a very handsome, alpha male the way all men should be.
Pleased name one NRA member who instigated a mass killing. I’ll wait…
Nah, It’s way more important to give a corrupt leader in the Ukraine $40,000,000,000
School districts are insanely wasting money on installing tampon machines in boys’ bathrooms and making sure transgenders are coddled and accommodated with new bathrooms selections. The latter was initiated by President Barak Obama.
Spend that money on PROTECTING children by mandating and installing metal detectors and having security guards at ALL of our public school campuses, not just some. Biden sent $40 BILLION to aid Ukraine and THEIR childfren! Why didn’t he want to spend it on OUR children?!
Follow the money and you will see where the Democrats’ priorities lie. They’re the ones in power.
I dont have a problem with locking the doors at schools. But you have to now evil people find a way.
Exit only doors have to be unlocked to allow for emergency evacuations. Two working in concert, quickly foil this measure. I agree it needs to be done, but it is easy to thwart.
We need to rebuild the family. It will take generations.
Iowan2……..and it would at least show that we’re trying. Nothing is fullproof, but implementing serious security at our schools, nationwide, is long overdue.
I know we need to focus on this event.
But, we have over 100,000 fentenyl poisonings last year, with the flood of drugs comming across the southern border, that the Federal govt refuses to address. But we all know that is the wrong narrative to pursue. Plus it hinders, not helps, Democrat electoral chances. That’s all you need to know about the importance of human life to Democrats.
It also identifies root causes for societal decline. The federal govt involved in all aspects of a person daily life, is a bug, not a feature.
I have only one quarrel with Prof. Turley’s column today. When Michael Moore said we need to accept that “we are a violent people, to begin with. This country was birthed in violence, with genocide of the native people at the barrel of a gun,” he was not engaging in hyperbole. That we are a violent people is attested every day in the lives of most Americans whose eyes are open, as well as by taking an honest look at our history. The problem facing us is how to remedy this flaw in our culture and character. Turning our schools into prisons is not an attractive option any more than is allowing more mass killing of our children..
blogfen, bringing this up is in fact hyperbole. It offers nothing to the discussion, other that an opportunity to flog the ‘America Evil’ trope. You may want to consider Indians were great warriors, because they spent a lot of time warring, before white man showed up.
“When we passed the assault weapons ban, mass shootings went down.” — JOE BIDEN
FACT: There was virtually no change in total mass shootings, during the 1994-2004 ban.
“Since 1998, there have been a total of nine attacks similar to the Robb Elementary School shooting. Nine is nine too many. But once you adjust for population, there are many other countries, from Germany to Russia to Finland, that have comparable rates of school shootings.”
“Biden asked Americans why people need “assault weapons” to hunt deer. But, in reality, many so-called “assault weapons” are nothing more than small-game hunting rifles. The AR-15 platform has just been made to cosmetically resemble a military-grade weapon.
And the goal of semiautomatic guns, of course, is not merely to help hunters. Semiautomatic weapons, which automatically reload the subsequent round into the firing chamber after a single discharge, also protect people and save lives. Single-shot rifles that require manual reloading after each shot may not do someone a whole lot of good, especially if he is facing multiple criminals. That person’s first shot may very well miss, or otherwise fail to stop an attacker.”
Read the whole second amendment. Not just the part you like.
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.
Can anybody argue that the militia is “well regulated”? Anybody?
The militia is clearly out of control. As evidence of that, how about the militia that marched around the Idaho Capitol and some young idiot fired off his gun. Clearly he is unqualified to be part of the militia, strip him of his gun.
And finally, if open carry is so great, how do you tell a good guy with a gun versus a bad guy?
“…if open carry is so great, how do you tell a good guy with a gun versus a bad guy?” The ‘bad’ guy draws first 99.999∞% of the time.
And you know this from experience?
Baby is an apt moniker.
The second is comprised of two statements:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, shall not be infringed.
The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
“And finally, if open carry is so great, how do you tell a good guy with a gun versus a bad guy?”
If we ban guns and focus on that dark empty street with two people the good guy and the bad guy, how do we tell them apart?
The good guy without a gun is lying dead on the street.
Stupid and scared not a great combination
YNOT, I have a solution for you. If you stop being Stupid, you can stop being scared. Did the smarter kids in school make fun of you? That wasn’t nice.
Why would seeing someone with a pistol on their hip in a holster be ground for concern?
“Can anybody argue that the militia is “well regulated”? Anybody?”
The FBI comes to mind.
There are FBI informants and then there are trolls. Which are you? Hard to tell
*** FBI informants had bigger role in Whitmer kidnap plot than thought: report ***
“An examination of the case by BuzzFeed News also reveals that some of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported. Working in secret, they did more than just passively observe and report on the actions of the suspects. Instead, they had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. The extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.”
The investigation comes after it was revealed that Richard Trask, a special agent at the center of the case, was arrested and charged Monday in relation to a domestic violence incident. Trask, 39, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, is accused of smashing his wife’s head against a nightstand after an argument stemming from a swingers’ party they attended, according to court records. Trask has been released on bond.
“Can anybody argue that the militia is “well regulated”? Anybody?”
Considering that takes in ~150million people, they are very well regulated.
Well said! Have a great Memorial Day weekend!
A guy becomes enraged and drives his car into a crowd of people, killing many, on purpose. Not hypothetical, it has happened more than once. How many calls were issued to ban cars?
Almost 1800 people were stabbed to death in 2020. When’s the last time you heard a Democrat try to enrage their always enraged voters by talking about the scourge of “knife violence”?
Shhhh! don’t let that out!
England has already banned knives,(because thugs are still going to thug) don’t give the know nothings their next talking point.
Bill….exactly. And why doesn’t Biden (and the Dems) refer to the Uvalde shooter as a “person of color”?
If he had been white, Biden would have called him a “white supremacist”, as we all know.
The New York subway shooting and the Texas shooting happened approximately the same time. During early reporting, one white man died in New York, and there were two known children dead in Texas as the time, a number that later grew to nineteen dead. I was at the gym on a bike where there were multiple tv screens showing different news networks including CNN, Fox, a local Fox affiliate, and other non news channels. Fox was unique that their coverage focused mainly on New York, and the picture of the Black shooter stayed plastered on the screen for a large portion of their coverage, even while briefly mentioning the Texas shooting.
It’s true the identity and picture of the Texas shooter hadn’t been released yet. Maybe they ran with the one picture they had? Or maybe their motive was something else? Maybe the Texas shooter wasn’t called a white supremacist because he hadn’t published an 180-page manifesto proclaiming himself as such? Has there been a shooter like say Dylann Roof that was condemned as a white supremacist that wasn’t actually a white supremacist? Maybe you’re just too forgiving of white supremacists?
enigma—–Oh, shut up,
(just being honest)
While you can so clearly see everythim you want to see about media coverage by “the left.” You are blind to what right-wing media does. Of course the right would never do anything like that, except for Willie Horton and welfare Queens and BLM.
BTW, Cindy, are you saying what I described didn’t happen or that you don’t care?
She is saying your neighborhood could use a male leader to help promote understanding, communication and community support, considering it is an all black neighborhood with one of the highest violent crime rates in Orlando. The crime rate in Pine Hills is 72% higher than the country’s average, per FBI 2019 data. Guessing it has mushroomed since then which explains why you are so angry.
Q: do you know any black men that fit the mold?
First of all, I never haopened to live in Pine Hills which covers a wide area with a wide range of demographics. Second, I live in Palm Coast, FL which is straight-up Trump Country. Third, I lead in my ways including trying to educate those who have no clue as to American history and have forced themselves to believe in myths.
The left has been quick to find the similarity of the guns used in the last 20 years. Much less interested in how the similarities of the shooters compare. Pot smoking Loner males with no fathers in the home.
The Federal govt created and continues to expand single parent households. Nobody cares
“ The Federal govt created and continues to expand single parent households. Nobody cares”
How does the federal government create single parent households?
You are not into women nor intimacy with said gender. This topic is several levels above your trolling paygrade
Speaking of the number of guns already in the hands of the citizenry. I know more than a few people that have guns in their retirement portfolio. The have at least 200 of the AR 15 style of weapon. Along with multiple of he same guns when they run across good buys. These have been doled out to his heirs, in writing, as he continues to increase his portfolio. Everytime some Dem makes another stupid statement, his net worth goes, up. Much safer than gold or crypto currency.
The point is, The US can not, will not, confiscate all the guns. So all the Dems talk, is just talking to their similarly afflicted base.
Red Flag laws can be useful if properly written with due process, limits on who can report, and quick resolution and return of weapons after quick adjudication finds no fault. Psych evaluations should be mandatory for red flag laws with specific psychologists and psychiatrists with training and expertise in this area. Run of the mill won’t do because they also carry their own biases.
Schools can be protected and all of them should have police trained in rapid response and especially in firearms use for sudden threats.
Limited access to school with quick ability to lock them down immediately upon a perceived threat.
Raising the age to 21 for all firearms purchase except for military service members.
Up to date training for all police in rapid response to school threats. Ted Cruz tried to introduce this in 2013 and Harry Reid filibustered it.
The firearms database kept by ATF-FBI should contain all violent offenders including juvenile crimes. People don’t spring up at 18 and become serial killers. Note the discrepancy between what the family of this shooter said (he was an angel) and previous school friends who nicknamed him “the school shooter” and school mates also described his self harm and cutting himself.
The democrats want the country disarmed and republicans know that and thus they likely will not give either. There is a middle ground that protects schools and most people and preserves the right to bear arms.
An assault rifle is an automatic weapon, a civilian ar 15 is an auto loader.
Illegal possession of a firearm should be one of the easier charges to stick. Use them and quit allowing them to be negotiated out of charges.
Agreed. Regarding Red Flag laws, the accuser should undergo the same psych evaluation as those they accuse. And when the accused is found to have not broken any laws and given a ‘cleared’ evaluation, the accuser pays all financial costs of all parties involved. The accuser would be told both of these conditions before an investigation starts to reduce the number of ‘false’ accusations.
Yea….I dont see women that sic the cops on their ex, being charged for a psyc eval. Feminists will have kittens.
iowan2, they won’t be charged if he’s a genuine threat. That goes both directions, too. Do you read this blog, Amber?
ATF recently stated 700 million guns in circulation in America. NO ONE IS TAKING OUR GUNS!!! NONE OF THEM!!! Woke psychotic Democrats! The Russians couldn’t take Kiev you won’t take our gun. Get over your Marxist Utopia dream. Democrats need to stop acting tyrannical or you will surely sent us into a hot civil war that you will not win. Stop lying about the laws already on the books. Address mental illness. Stop with the nonsense in public schools and academia. We are not going to live your Marxist Utopia dream!
Men can’t have babies, two genders and a man in a dress is still a man. Follow the science. Even with a sex change the chromosomes say you’re sill a man. Enough of boys in female bathrooms and men competing in WOMEN’S sports. Your cultural Marxism will be your undoing.
Democrat caused inflation, shortages and gas prices with intentionally driven policies.
Democrats over played mandates and lockdowns. We are not going back. Try burning it down again. Americans are mad and they will turn on you. Yes even Democrats.
Dementia Biden and Woke psychotic Democrats are pushing us into a hot civil war.
Careful Democrats the the 2nd Amendment may be actually used for it’s intended purpose, Tryannical Goverment. That’s right the “scary black rifles” will undoubtedly come our.
“We the People” are the Militia.
I keep pointing out the same fact.
The left demands actions, I point out stripping constitutional rights is not going to work.
People should be able to kill themselves without using tobacco. It takes too long and cost too much at the hospitals. Guns are quicker. Give each smoker a pistol.
I had a 20 odd 6 hanging over the fireplace when the Klan came out to get me. It saved me.
Jonathan, you are a true heroic person to me! When you were seated in front of that Congressional panel during the fraudulent impeachment process against President Trump, and pointing out that you didn’t vote for him; top shelf truth-be-told, stuff! All the times that you and Alan Derchowitz, (hope I’m spelling his name right) are truly cut from the cloth of the, “Constitutionalist,” person that seems so lacking among many people in that, (oh, so lovable) party; Democrat…
When they talk more about the gun than the shooter, you know it’s Democratic opportunism and propaganda.
72 million gun owners in America — and when one deranged kid commits a tragic massacre, the Democrats want to penalize 72 million Americans. The Dems might be more convincing if they actually cared about preventing these tragedies, but when Schumer refuses to move a bill on creating a clearinghouse for best practices in school safety, which would be just a start, then we have to question their motives. The bill was introduced by a Republican and supported by the Parkland parents. But Schumer made it clear that it’s the guns he wants. That’s why we will continue to have these tragedies — politicians like Schumer are the ones with blood on their hands.
The number of gun owners is actually over 100 million with 700 million guns in circulation and billions of rounds of ammo. The 100 million may actually be 110 million to 120 million.
20 million are veterans and 20 million are hunters. Of course there is some crossover in those numbers.
To ban firearms (or specific firearms) because criminals use them is to tell law abiding people that their rights and liberties depend not on their own conduct, but on the conduct of the guilty and the lawless; this kind of “reasoning” is completely illogical, devoid of critical thinking and is considered tyrannical.
When people constantly react emotionally to these kinds of absolutely terrible, illegal and immoral events and go completely off the deep end of reality flushing logic and critical thinking they loose focus on the root cause and where our efforts need to be; it’s NOT the firearm (the tool) or the type of firearm that’s the problem, its the morally bankrupt ends justifies the means indoctrinated individual that seems to believe that human life is valueless and therefore expendable wielding the gun that’s the real problem.
Change the behaviors and the problem goes away.
What if we just threw out the entire Bill of Rights to keep the street thugs and gangbangers from using it to facilitate their crimes?
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