FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Lock and Load–It’s the Law!

For millions of Americans, the political highpoint of 2008 is now behind them. The precise day is forever inscribed in their hearts as one of glorious ratification of one of America’s core freedoms: on June 26 the U.S. Supreme Court for the first time affirmed, by a narrow majority of 5-4, the Second Amendment to the U.S, Constitution: “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.”

He went to the big armory in the sky a few years ago, but on the evening of June 26, 2008 here, in Petrolia, I could almost hear the joyful salvoes that my neighbor, Curly Wright, half a mile down Conklin Creek Road, would have loosed off into the hillside the other side of the Mattole.

The last time Joe Paff and I visited Curly, then in his early 80s, his literal reading of the Second Amendment was visible in every cranny of his home. Without twisting my head, as I sat on the couch, I think I counted around 30 long guns disposed about the premises. Tucked between the cushions of the couch itself and in a planter or two, there were small handguns available for swift deployment. Curly was an unregulated militia all on his own.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision was a frightful blow to the gun controllers. “This is a decision that will cost innocent lives, cause immeasurable pain and suffering and turn America into a more dangerous country,” wailed the New York Times in an editorial. “A frightening decision and a return to the days of the Wild West,” said Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, a city to which gunfire has been street muzak  for many decades.

The Court’s decision was written by the court’s peppery ultraconservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who became positively lyrical in his paean to the handgun: “There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: It is easier to store in a location that is readily accessible in an emergency; it cannot easily be redirected or wrestled away by an attacker; it is easier to use for those without the upper-body strength to lift and aim a long gun; it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police. Whatever the reason, handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.”

Thinking of Curly’s well-defended home, I remain astounded by the tiny number of weapons allegedly seized by the Feds in their recent execution of 29 search warrants here in Humboldt county, on California’s North Coast,  commencing on June 24. The 250 agents from Operation “Southern Sweep,” mustered from the DEA, FBI, BNE, and other heavily armed detachments of the sovereign power, like the Post Office inspectors, managed to dredge up a mere 30 firearms in the course of their operations.

Only thirty firearms seized in southern Humboldt County! Mr. McGregor probably had better home defense against Peter Rabbit. If that’s all that a passel of alleged cultivators can muster in SoHum (as locals call this chunk of the Emerald Triangle), heaven help us when the Chinese declare World War Three. They could land at Shelter Cove and scythe their way through the woods to Garberville, with only token resistance from pacifists bunkered down in their plastic green houses flourishing watering cans. The red flag would be flapping over Willits by sundown, with San Francisco, right down Highway 101, waiting to drop into the hands of the Commie-Capitalists like a ripe plum.

Oddly enough, considering the endless political battling over gun rights, the nation’s highest court has only once before ruled on the citizens’ inherent right to bear arms, and this was in the Roosevelt era. Gun control was one of the prime goals of the New Deal, partly as a backlash from the Tommy Gun era of Prohibition and the roaring twenties; also because in those distant days there was a very large and militant left, of which FDR was afraid. The New Deal was a desperate attempt to stave off much more far-reaching challenges to business-as-usual.

Cunningly, FDR’s strategy was to attack gun rights not by a head-on assault on the Second Amendment but by the devious and always deadly route of taxation. Taking weapons across state lines and even transferring ownership became costly activities. The Supreme Court affirmed this in 1939  in US v. Miller, ( a decision set up by Roosevelt’s Justice Department), simultaneously emphasizing that the Amendment confirmed the collective rights of a militia, not individual citizens, and that the arms did not include sawn-off shot guns or assault weapons.

For the next half century, the gun controllers pushed steadily forward, given helpful shoves by the assassinations of the Sixties, Reagan’s narrow escape, and the crack wars of the Eighties. The Democratic Party, listening particularly to its liberal, urban and feminine base, made gun control a major plank. The recoil came in 2000, with Al Gore’s defeat at the hands of George Bush. Guns, not Nader, were a prime factor in that narrow loss. Gore’s endorsement of gun control cost the Democrats Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Colorado and the mountain states. The Democrats began to sideline the issue. The gun lobby weathered the crises of school shootings at Columbine and Virginia Tech. The Bush presidencies saw membership of the U.S.  Supreme Court swing steadily to the right.

Europeans, snootily aghast at America’s 50 million households holding about 250 million guns, usually miss two important points. “Home defense” is a phrase with profound reverberations, as Scalia emphasized strongly in such paragraphs as the one cited above. How much it all had to do with killing Indians is for you to decide. And the gun lobby has been successful in anchoring their cause in the notion of a basic “freedom,” in an era when Americans correctly feel that freedoms – against unreasonable searches and seizures, or to a speedy trial – are being relentlessly eroded by government.

Looking for silver linings the day after the decision, gun controllers pointed to Scalia’s acknowledgment that cities and states can still pass laws denying weapons to the unsuitable, ban them altogether near schools, prohibit bazookas on front lawns, and so forth. But, in response, the exultant gun owners point to the all-important footnote 27 in Scalia’s decision, declaring flatly that laws impinging on the Second Amendment can receive no lower level of review than any other “specific enumerated right” such as free speech, the guarantee against double jeopardy, or the right to counsel. June 26 truly did open a new page in American judicial history, as politicians quickly recognized.

In contrast to the New York Times’ editors, the Democratic nominee for the presidency, Barack Obama, took a modulated position but one which prudently avoided any whisper of criticism of the Court, or of Scalia. Obama is from Mayor Daley’s city, but, in contrast to Daley, he emphasized that the Court had indicated that prudent restrictions on gun ownership are not at risk. (Of course, they are and, indeed, are already the object of legal challenge in Chicago.) But his voice was at its most forceful when he said that he entirely agreed with the Court that Americans have the right to bear arms. The National Rifle Association is raising the prospect that Obama, as president, might sponsor legislation to nullify the Court’s decision. Don’t believe it. The NRA needs a threat to keep the membership high and the donations rolling in. Obama, as candidate or president, is not stupid. He’ll leave the gun issue lie. That particular liberal cause will be on the shelf for many years to come.

The Great Oil Swindle

The American people are being cruelly bamboozled about the cause of soaring oil prices,. If they knew how easily the Bush administration could cut the oil price in half, there’d be a million-prson march on Washington DC by the end of the month.

You want to get the real story? CounterPunchers already know Michael Hudson’s brilliant economic analyses. His article in our latest newsletter is terrific. Hudson lays it all out  in crystal clear detail, with regard to the oil price hikes, the role played by  Bush’s war in Iraq, the cliff-edge game beig played by Bush and Cheney with China.

Newsletter subscribers also get my  review of the latest book from  the slippery Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International and a relentless self-promoter. Coleen Braeckman gives subscribers a detailed look at  the international corporate mining giants, battling over the Congo’s vast mineral resources.  You’re only a few clicks away  from subscribing to our biweekly newsletter,  starting with  this latest terrific issue.  Subscribe now!

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch.

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail