Brennan Center for Justice President Michael Waldman is probably a smart man. He’s a constitutional law professor, after all, and the unintelligent don’t normally get into law school.
Of course, intelligence doesn’t stop people from being stupid, and that’s pretty much what Waldman is when he spouts nonsense like this.
Well, isn’t that quite special?
However, as Hot Air‘s Taylor Millard notes, it may sound good, but it has no basis in reality.
Waldman’s argument is certainly persuasive from an emotional standpoint. But it’s not completely accurate from a historical standpoint.
He is correct in saying there were Founders who believed the ability to own firearms would protect people from a tyrannical government. St. George Tucker confirmed this in his 1803 View of the Constitution of the United States by saying it was a “palladium of liberty.”
“The right of self defense is the first law of nature: in most government it has been the study of rules to confirm this right within the narrowest limits possible,” Tucker emphatically declared. “Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color of pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”
Anti-Federalists, as noted by Reason’s Damon Root in 2016, were also explicit in their belief individuals should be able to own firearms. “That the people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and their own state, or the United States, or for the purpose of killing game,” Pennsylvanian Anti-Federalists wrote in their dissent during the Convention in 1787. “(A)nd no law shall be passed for disarming the people or any of them, unless for crimes committed, or real danger of public injury from individuals; and as standing armies in the time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military shall be kept under strict subordination to and be governed by the civil powers.”
Now, here is where Waldman gets into murky history. “Back in the time of the founding there were gun laws,” He argued. “For example, in Boston you were not allowed to have a loaded weapon at home because they tended to explode and set fire to houses.”
Waldman’s statement is true, from a certain point of view. The law was passed in 1782, but overturned in 1801 when the government said 25 pounds of gunpowder could be stored in buildings, then modified in 1808. Why Waldman didn’t include these laws in his video could be because it doesn’t go with the narrative of not allowing loaded weapons inside buildings.
Millard does a nice takedown of Waldman’s piece, and it’s well worth reading. I highly recommend that you do so.
Waldman is guilty of something anti-gun forces have been trying to do for some time, and that’s convincing people that the Founding Fathers would support gun control.
You see, one of the more persuasive aspects of the pro-Second Amendment argument is that the Founding Fathers wanted to protect our right to keep and bear arms. People want freedom in this country, and, ultimately, they side with the idea of being free. Most people don’t want the government to get in the way of them doing things they want to do without a good reason, and they recognize that our Founding Fathers wanted something similar.
That’s why we get things like people trying to twist the meaning of the term “well-regulated” or the term “militia” into meaning things they never meant. If they can convince people that the Founding Fathers believed in gun control, then maybe they’ll stop supporting gun rights to any appreciable degree.
The idea is that it will eventually convince people that freedom isn’t what the Founding Fathers had in mind at all, and so maybe they should be open to abridgments of freedom.
Oh, they’ll never spell it out that way, to be sure. In fact, their denials of such a thing will possibly be heartfelt. They might believe it, but it doesn’t make it any less true.