Geraldo Rivera once again reveals his ignorance of the Second Amendment

Richard Drew

At this point, I don’t think it makes sense for Fox News to keep bringing Geraldo Rivera on to talk 2A issues, even his role is to serve as a foil and verbal punching bag for the conservative hosts on the channel. And yet:


Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera put an exclamation mark on a gun debate Tuesday with host Sean Hannity by brandishing what appeared to be a rifle or musket.

“Give me that rifle,” Rivera said to someone off-camera on “Hannity.” Rivera, who rotates as a cohost on “The Five” on Fox News, grabbed the antique firearm and held it up.

“This is what weapons looked like,” Rivera said, drawing laughter from Hannity and another Fox News colleague, Pete Hegseth. “This is what they looked like when the Second Amendment was passed. This is what they looked like.”

“You’re going to get arrested in New York for having that,” Hannity said with a smile. “I’m just warning you right now.”

“You wanna own this? You can own this,” Rivera said. “You can load it, you can do whatever you want with it.”

“That’s very cute,” Hannity said.

Rivera, a gun owner, was illustrating that the Second Amendment didn’t cover modern firearms capable of mass killings when the amendment was ratified in 1791. And that AR-15-style rifles go far beyond self-defense.

But his showdown with Hannity and Hegseth, who bragged that he owned several AR-15s, mostly went nowhere. The two tried to shame Rivera for not appearing to know that “AR” stands for ArmaLite rifle and Hannity smugly said Rivera had never fired one.

Rivera was once again Hannity’s punchline, but apparently nowhere in the conversation did anyone mention what the Supreme Court has had to say about Second Amendment protections for modern firearms. In the 2008 Heller decision the Court pointed out that bans on handguns, even those that weren’t around in 1791, are unconstitutional because handguns are in common use by law-abiding Americans. A few years later, in Caetano v. Massachusetts, SCOTUS issued an explicit reminder to that effect when it considered Massachusetts’ ban on stun guns.


The Court has held that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding,” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570, 582 (2008) , and that this “ Second Amendment right is fully applicable to the States,” McDonald v. Chicago, 561 U. S. 742, 750 (2010) . In this case, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld a Massachusetts law prohibiting the possession of stun guns after examining “whether a stun gun is the type of weapon contemplated by Congress in 1789 as being protected by the Second Amendment.” 470 Mass. 774, 777, 26 N. E. 3d 688, 691 (2015).

The court offered three explanations to support its holding that the Second Amendment does not extend to stun guns. First, the court explained that stun guns are not protected because they “were not in common use at the time of the Second Amendment’s enactment.” Id., at 781, 26 N. E. 3d, at 693. This is inconsistent with Heller’s clear statement that the Second Amendment “extends . . . to . . . arms . . . that were not in existence at the time of the founding.” 554 U. S., at 582.

The court next asked whether stun guns are “dangerous per se at common law and unusual,” 470 Mass., at 781, 26 N. E. 3d, at 694, in an attempt to apply one “important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms,” Heller, 554 U. S., at 627; see ibid. (referring to “the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons’ ”). In so doing, the court concluded that stun guns are “unusual” because they are “a thoroughly modern invention.” 470 Mass., at 781, 26 N. E. 3d, at 693–694. By equating “unusual” with “in common use at the time of the Second Amendment’s enactment,” the court’s second explanation is the same as the first; it is inconsistent with Heller for the same reason.


Now I don’t expect Sean Hannity or Pete Hegseth to get into the finer details of the Heller decision, but they could have at least pointed out that the Supreme Court says Rivera is wrong when it comes to the arms protected by the Second Amendment instead of (or in addition to) mocking his overall ignorance and unfamiliarity with firearms. After all, there are more Americans who don’t own modern sporting rifles than those who do, so it’s important to provide them with actual knowledge and facts; like the fact that the Supreme Court has already stated the Second Amendment protects far more than muskets.

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