Thursday, July 3, 2008

Victory for a Proud Rabble-Rouser!

So the same day that the Supreme Court decided that the Second Amendment guaranteed an individual right to bear arms, I had an idea. I thought "I wonder what the ACLU's position on all this is?" So I go on the ACLU's website, and didn't find a damned thing!

I figured - this is ridiculous. Supposedly the foremost defenders of civil liberties in America, and they're not even mentioning the right that comes second only to speech and religion on the most important day in the history of the Second Amendment after 1791 itself??? Crazy!

So I went on their blog and commented on the day's post... I think it was on something stupid like mandatory ultrasounds or something. I basically said "look - you decided to blog on ultrasounds today, so I have nowhere else to put this so I'm asking it here - what is your position on the 2nd Amendment and why aren't you talking about it today?" They got back to my comment and said they see it as a collective right! So that started a minor debate on the ultrasound blog that I checked in on every once in a while. Eventually I suggested they do a blog post on the 2nd Amendment - just to see what their members think of it, and if enough think its an individual right that maybe the ACLU should change its position.

Well today I visited the ACLU blog again, just out of curiosity - and they listened to me! They did a 2nd Amendment blog post at my request! So far the response has been enormous - FAR more respondents than any of their other blog posts. I've started reading through and I can't find a single person supporting the ACLU's current position!!!! Is that cool or what? Granted, I'm no where close to working through all 200-some posts, but it seems pretty clear where people fall out on this. People are completely outraged and want the ACLU to change its position. I betcha they will over the next couple months, too.

As I stated in my initial post - if the ACLU doesn't support the individual right to bear arms, they aren't really a civil liberties organization - they're just a libertarian-leaning liberal organization. I'm so psyched that my comment started all this (go to the ultrasound blog post - you don't have to take my word for it!)!!!!! It would be great if something changes at the ACLU as a result of this outpouring of criticism!


Evan said...

Very cool! Congratulations for getting a conversation started.

I personally don't feel very strongly about gun rights issues... I simply haven't invested myself into investigating it.

What's confusing to me is how limitations to the right are thrown into the mix. So the ACLU disagrees with the Court over whether the right is individual or collective... but in the case of DC we're talking about a rather severe ban on guns... one that both the collective right and individual right interpretation could convievably find fault with. Right?

It seems like the disagreement is of a more fundamental theoretical nature, but that when the rubber hits the road... when the courts sort out the limitations of this right... the ACLU still has plenty of room to defend the rights of citizens to bear arms, even if they want to stick with the collective interpretation.

What are your thoughts on that? Am I right in seeing this as a two-part issue... to begin with the nature of the right itself (individual or collective), but then, with how this right needs to be balanced with restictions? I'm not familiar with how the ACLU handles its cases, but it seems like they could still find a lot of common ground on the question of civil liberties in this issue even if their understanding of the source of these liberties is different from other organizations such as the NRA.

dkuehn said...

I think that's basically on target. The important thing about DC v. Heller is that it was the first time the Supreme Court ruled that the 2nd Amendment guaranteed an individual right - they have always dodged this underlying question before.

I agree (and Scalia agreed) that states and the federal government still have a lot of latitude to regulate gun ownership, but they do not have the authority to deny the right to own guns. I think that's the salient point. And yes - the NRA is still going to want a whole lot less regulation than other groups - but the point is that you have the right to own a gun as surely as you have the right to believe in whatever religion you want. The ACLU hasn't even conceeded that point yet, and I think that's what's really unusual and disturbing.

I think its also important to note that even the four justices who dissented agreed with the individual rights interpretation (or so I've heard) - just that it doesn't apply here because handguns are an appropriate thing to ban, unlike something like a rifle.

Ya - I personally don't get as much up in arms about gun control regulations - but I do think its important that the 2nd Amendment be understood as an individual right that's still relevant. I think a lot of gun control is counter-productive - I do buy the argument that a lot of these massacres could have been prevented if people were allowed to carry concealed weapons. But that's besides the point - whether gun control prevents shootings or encourages shootings is as irrelevant as the question "Is Christianity right or is Buddhism right" for the freedom of religion. The answer to those questions doesn't matter - the important question is "do people have the freedom to do this?"

I hope there's a lot of good debate about how guns should be regulated in the context of this much clearer interpretation of the underlying right - I think states and localities should have the chance to experiment and do what they want with that - but we should be glad the underlying right is recognized.

And I say this as someone like you - who last shot a gun at Nick Coonce's birthday party a decade or so ago!