As long-time readers know, we maintained a strict no-politics position for the first year or so of the blog. In the aftermath of a gigantic press by the President/media/billionaire-hireling contingent for more gun bans after the shooting of children by a nut case in Newtown, CT (who had got the guns by murdering his own mother), we’ve backslid on that quite a bit and occasionally let slip pro-gun political commentary. (Here. On Gab we’re politically unrestrained). We frankly prefer not to do it, and instead of talking politics we’d rather be geeking out over historic firearms and obscure events in military history, as well as expressing some SF Pride that has nothing to do with rainbow flags and quarterback manqué Colin Kaepernick on one hand, or grown men who dress up as Klingons or Wookiees on the other. NTTAWWT.
But this article is a bit of political, policy, and legal history. From time to time we marvel at the great strides that gun and self-defense rights in the USA (and, slowly, worldwide) have taken in our own lifetime. As long-term readers know, just 30 years ago most US states were quite restrictive on handgun carry (yes, you couldn’t get a permit in Texas, of all places). Gradually laws liberalized, and states went from can’t carry to can-with-permission-we-might-give-ya to mandatory-permission to, in almost 10 states now, your rights as a free man or women being permission enough. There is more to do, but history is moving in our direction.
History does not move, like an army, on its belly. It moves on ideas, on philosophy, and culture. Before every trend in today’s world, positive, negative or just plain sick, was a trend in the law, it was a trend in the culture, and before that it was an idea — which brings us back to the law. A few years before Florida opened the political movement towards shall-issue permits, it was an idea in the legal academy. Two things published this month should help you understand the genesis and growth of this idea.
The first is this obituary of legal scholar Don Kates, by legal scholar Gene Volokh. If you slipped a gun in your holster this morning, and you are not a servant of the State, you owe a debt to Kates, whether you have heard of him or not. With his passing, many law professors have expressed astonishment that one man could have been so influential in America’s understanding of fundamental laws and principles — when he, himself, was not a law professor. Whether that says more about Kates or about the self-regard of law professors is an exercise we’re pleased to leave to the reader.
The second is Nelson Lund’s analysis of the history of understanding the Second Amendment in the context of exceptional American liberties. It is abstracted on this page at Heritage, where you may also download the whole .pdf (highly in the context of exceptional American liberties.recommended). Proof of Lund’s genius is the degree to which he agrees with us. From the page:
Despite persistent elite enthusiasm for disarmament schemes, both the law and public policy have moved in the opposite direction during recent decades. Two developments stand out.
- In the 1980s, a tiny group of lawyers began to publish scholarly analyses debunking the dismissive interpretation of the Second Amendment that dominated courts in the 20th century. Notably, almost none of this pioneering scholarship was carried out by professional academics in the law schools.
- In 1987, Florida became the first jurisdiction with large urban population centers to enact a statute permitting almost all law-abiding adults to obtain a concealed-carry license. Notwithstanding near-hysterical prophecies from many police chiefs and other putative experts, violent crime went down instead of up, and license holders almost never misused their weapons. Florida’s successful experiment soon spread to other states, and social scientists have yet to find evidence of adverse effects on public safety. It is now harder than it once was to stampede legislatures into enacting feel-good gun-control measures that do nothing to reduce crime.
As Lund makes clear, this whole thing is not inevitable, and it requires continued effort by those supporters of human rights and self-defense in the academy, the culture, politics, and the public to continue to improve this situation. He also illustrates how the homogeneous political elite, the Acela Corridor aristos, of both parties and all political flavors tend to bias against this right. It’s a most worthwhile document; to Lund from Kates’s failing hands falls the torch of liberty, unextinguished.
May it long be a light for the world.