First, the letter to the editor in the Detroit Free Press:
Rochelle Riley, in her column last Sunday (“Royal Oak’s choice: Guns or families”), is right to criticize gun activists who are imposing their will on the City of Royal Oak. The sense of entitlement and privilege motivating such zealots should not be confused with patriots defending the Constitution. This is intimidation and bully tactics, plain and simple — tactics effectively used by Tea Party and militia types to punish those who step out of line. Such zealots — a minority among gun owners — are themselves politicians with a lockstep agenda focused on guns. Any city or individual who doesn’t share their obsession is being targeted for legal and economic punishment. Never mind that Royal Oak’s leaders, duly elected to represent the city, at first wisely decided to make a family-oriented event for tens of thousands of people a no-gun zone. That’s unacceptable to vigilantes touting guns 24/7. Barry Knister, Pleasant Ridge
There are a plenty of reasons why Knister, an ex-Peace Corps. worker who came of age in the 60’s, would look askance at anyone seeking to exercise their Second Amendment rights and carry a loaded weapon in a public place. We won’t tarry with the actual politics of Open Carry here.
The more interesting meme emerging from this example of gun control advocacy: divide and conquer. In the same way that there are “good Muslims” and “extremists,” the left now wishes to establish the fact that there are “good gun owners” and “gun extremists.”
Says so right there above the letter, in bold, courtesy the letters to the editor editor: Gun extremists. This despite the fact that Mr. Knister doesn’t use the phrase once in his mini-polemic. The Humanities prof and novelist calls the Open Carry corps. activists, zealots and vigilantes. All of which are less insidiously effective than “extremists.”
But what, exactly, is a “gun extremist?” The simple answer: any gun owner who doesn’t support gun control.
The Supreme Court’s recent Heller and McDonald decisions, striking down handgun bans and incorporating the Second Amendment (making it trump local and state law), opened the door to this Orwellian interpretation. Here’s the part of Justice Alito’s majority opinion in the McDonald case that opened Pandora’s proverbial box:
It is important to keep in mind that Heller, while striking down a law that prohibited the possession of handguns in the home, recog- nized that the right to keep and bear arms is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” We made it clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as “prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,” “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and gov- ernment buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” We repeat those assurances here. Despite municipal respondents’ doomsday proclamations, incorporation does not imperil every law regulating firearms.
It is important to keep in mind that Heller, while striking down a law that prohibited the possession of handguns in the home, recognized that the right to keep and bear arms is not “a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” We made it clear in Heller that our holding did not cast doubt on such longstanding regulatory measures as “prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill,” “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and gov- ernment buildings, or laws imposing conditions and quali- fications on the commercial sale of arms.” We repeat those assurances here. Despite municipal respondents’ doomsday proclamations, incorporation does not imperil every law regulating firearms.
[Pages 39 and 40. Click here to download the entire McDonald decision.]
Those who would ban guns have regrouped (as predicted) behind this “reasonableness” loophole in the Supreme Court ruling. They deem conceal carry bans, magazine capacity limits, waiting periods for firearms ownership, limits on the number of operable guns in a single household, expensive qualification requirements, gun registries and other hurdles as “reasonable.” Anyone who disagrees is, by their definition, a “gun extremist.”
On the other side, gun rights’ groups are filing lawsuits against “unreasonable” firearms restrictions on the local and state level. Generally speaking, they define any law that goes beyond banning criminals and the mentally ill from firearms ownership as unconstitutional. Specifically, the Second Amendment Foundation’s targeted Maryland regs requiring a concealed carry applicant show “apprehended danger.”
Even though McDonald represents a sea change in public opinion re: firearms ownership, it’s going to be a long slow battle.
Meanwhile, Open Carry advocates—gun owners who believe they have a constitutional right to keep and bear (as in openly carry) arms—are on the conflict’s cutting edge. At least in the media—who are attracted to openly displayed weapons like low-rent lawyers to a car crash.
Are Open Carry advocates “gun extremists”? Of course they are. Of course they aren’t. No matter where you come down in this debate, the media has an obligation to avoid intentionally inflammatory language—unless it’s a direct quote from a gun control advocate. Which, in this case, it wasn’t.
Shame on the Detroit Free Press.