Most gun control advocates are going to vociferously disagree with constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley’s take on the decision by a federal judge on Friday that declared the state of California’s ban on so-called assault weapons as unconstitutional, but Turley’s take on the growing gulf between the gun control movement’s legislative goals and the clear text of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights can’t easily be dismissed.
In Miller v. Bonta, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego found that the ban on weapons like the AR-15 are based on both a misunderstanding of the weapons and a misinterpretation of the Constitution.
Claims surrounding the AR-15 are often detached from the comparative realities of this and other weapons. The AR-15 and other weapons in its class use an intermediate cartridge that actually is less powerful than that used in a rifle. The appeal of guns like the AR-15 is due to that fact that they are modular and allow for different grips and barrels.
Benitez noted many of the same issues in his decision. He held that the ban cannot satisfy any level of heightened scrutiny. He notes that the popularity of the AR-15 is due to its versatility. In the one controversial line of the opinion, he observed “Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle.”
The problem is that many politicians like California Gov. Gavin Newsom opposed the decision of the Supreme Court in 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller affirming the right to bear arms is an individual right under the Second Amendment. The court has repeatedly reaffirmed that landmark decision. In 2010, the court ruled that this constitutional right applies to the states as it does to the federal government since it is one of those “fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.”
As Judge Benitez opined in his ruling, the test in Heller is a simple one: is the arm in question in common use by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes? In the case of Miller v. Bonta, we’re talking about AR-15s and other modern sporting rifles, which are so common that there are more of them in the hands of legal gun owners than there are Ford F-150s in the driveways of and garages of American drivers.
But as Turley points out, gun control activists have pretended that the Heller case (and other 2A-related rulings from SCOTUS like McDonald v. Chicago and Caetano v. Massachusetts) don’t mean what they say, and ultimately don’t matter at all.
These are difficult policies and difficult cases. Reasonable people can disagree, including on the meaning of the Second Amendment. What is troubling is the level of misleading and frankly disingenuous discussion of the issue. The public is constantly being told that electing certain politicians will result in sweeping gun control when the current case law directly contradicts such assertions.
I disagree with Turley that “reasonable people” can dispute the meaning of the Second Amendment. I’d call attempts by the Left to ignore the Second Amendment or proclaim that its existence is inherently based on racism decidedly unreasonable, for instance, and while Turley is right that what anti-gun politicians tell voters bears little resemblance to what the courts have had to say about the Second Amendment, Turley forgets that many of these same politicians have also proclaimed the need to pack the Supreme Court (and lower courts) full of anti-gun judges that will overturn the Heller decision and view the Second Amendment as a dead letter.
The growing gulf between the anti-gun rhetoric of politicians and the decisions by judges who can read the Bill of Rights is real, but gun owners and Second Amendment supporters cannot forget that those same politicians are willing and ready to destroy the independence of the judiciary in order to impose their gun bans and other restrictions on 100-million American gun owners. It would be bad enough for the gun control movement to try to ignore what the Supreme Court has to say about our right to keep and bear arms, but the reality is that these anti-gun activists and politicians are hoping to undo the Court’s previous decisions upholding our Second Amendment rights and put in place a Supreme Court packed full of justices that will rubber-stamp every anti-gun policy put in place at the local, state, or federal level.