What are we to make of this? “In Adam’s first case out of law school, he worked with [Howard] Weitzman representing the late Michael Jackson in a highly publicized child-molestation case.  Adam was also part of the defense team that initially represented O.J. Simpson in the football player’s infamous murder trial. This was more than enough to convince Adam to return to academia.” My takeaway: the liberal press’s new friend Adam Winkler is a Trojan horse in a pin-striped suit. Winkler’s screed in the Atlantic Monthly would have you believe that he’s a thoroughly reasonable guy on the issue of gun rights and gun control. The video above reveals him as a mouthpiece for gun grabbers. As does his article, if you read between the lines . . .

THE TEXT OF the Second Amendment is maddeningly ambiguous. It merely says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Yet to each side in the gun debate, those words are absolutely clear.

No, not that! Not another “debate” over the meaning over the “well-regulated Militia” clause. Come friggin’ on. Not only did the Supreme Court of the United States of America rule that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right—like, say, all the other rights in the Bill of Rights—but the Founding Fathers’ intent couldn’t have been more clear if they’d written it down.

Which they did, as anyone with access to the Internet will discover. In fact, there are so many unequivocal quotes in that regard that you’d have to be willfully ignorant to suggest that the Second Amendment was crafted specifically and exclusively for the common defense.

Like so many other gun grabbers, Winkler is willing to jump through any hoop in a disingenuous attempt to take the “middle ground.”

Gun-rights supporters . . . oppose widely popular proposals—such as background checks for all gun purchasers—on the ground that any gun-control measure, no matter how seemingly reasonable, puts us on the slippery slope toward total civilian disarmament.

This attitude was displayed on the side of the National Rifle Association’s former headquarters: THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED. The first clause of the Second Amendment, the part about “a well regulated Militia,” was conveniently omitted. To the gun lobby, the Second Amendment is all rights and no regulation.

Works for me. But I’d say gun rights are all rights and no regulation—and personal responsibility. Since you asked. But Adam’s too clever for any of that action. As far as he’s concerned, gun control is a given.

We’ve . . . always had gun control. The Founding Fathers instituted gun laws so intrusive that, were they running for office today, the NRA would not endorse them. While they did not care to completely disarm the citizenry, the founding generation denied gun ownership to many people: not only slaves and free blacks, but law-abiding white men who refused to swear loyalty to the Revolution.

For those men who were allowed to own guns, the Founders had their own version of the “individual mandate” that has proved so controversial in President Obama’s health-care-reform law: they required the purchase of guns. A 1792 federal law mandated every eligible man to purchase a military-style gun and ammunition for his service in the citizen militia. Such men had to report for frequent musters—where their guns would be inspected and, yes, registered on public rolls.

Wow. It’s OK to deny citizens their Second Amendment rights because The Founding Fathers denied Second Amendment rights to people who should have had them? Gun control is OK because the feds forced people to buy guns (at least legally)? That’s some messed-up logic. No doubt Adam and his editors thought it clever.

Speaking of obtuse thinking, Winkler starts his piece with an anecdote: the Black Panthers’ armed visit to the California state capitol in Sacramento “It was May 2, 1967, and the Black Panthers’ invasion of the California statehouse launched the modern gun-rights movement.” Say what?

While it’s always nice to read about connection between African Americans’ struggle for civil rights and America’s profoundly racist gun control laws, I’d hardly call it a secret. The recent U.S. Supreme Court McDonald decision, striking down Chicago’s handgun ban, relied heavily on blacks’ struggle for ballistic self-defense, stretching back to slavery. While Winkler’s text clearly reveals that he’s read it, he doesn’t seem to understand it.

Winkler has no idea how to contextualize the Panthers’ armed agitations. On one hand, hurray! On the other hand, we need gun control to keep the darkies down. A Republican thing, obviously.

THE PANTHERS’ METHODS provoked an immediate backlash . . . Republicans in California eagerly supported increased gun control. Governor Reagan told reporters that afternoon that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” He called guns a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” In a later press conference, Reagan said he didn’t “know of any sportsman who leaves his home with a gun to go out into the field to hunt or for target shooting who carries that gun loaded.” The Mulford Act, he said, “would work no hardship on the honest citizen.”

The fear inspired by black people with guns also led the United States Congress to consider new gun restrictions, after the summer of 1967 brought what the historian Harvard Sitkoff called the “most intense and destructive wave of racial violence the nation had ever witnessed.” Devastating riots engulfed Detroit and Newark. Police and National Guardsmen who tried to help restore order were greeted with sniper fire.

A 1968 federal report blamed the unrest at least partly on the easy availability of guns. Because rioters used guns to keep law enforcement at bay, the report’s authors asserted that a recent spike in firearms sales and permit applications was “directly related to the actuality and prospect of civil disorders.” They drew “the firm conclusion that effective firearms controls are an essential contribution to domestic peace and tranquility.”

Color me confused. Maybe this will help.

The Fourteenth Amendment illustrates a common dynamic in America’s gun culture: extremism stirs a strong reaction. The aggressive Southern effort to disarm the freedmen prompted a constitutional amendment to better protect their rights. A hundred years later, the Black Panthers’ brazen insistence on the right to bear arms led whites, including conservative Republicans, to support new gun control. Then the pendulum swung back. The gun-control laws of the late 1960s, designed to restrict the use of guns by urban black leftist radicals, fueled the rise of the present-day gun-rights movement—one that, in an ironic reversal, is predominantly white, rural, and politically conservative.

Nope. In the interests of not violating the fair use provision, what follows is a history of the NRA, including their pro-regulation appeasement and anti-government paranoia (or so it is portrayed). After this exhausting analysis, Winkler ends by claiming the Second Amendment is . . . flexible.

This paragraph from the pen of Justice Scalia, the foremost proponent of constitutional originalism, was astounding. True, the Founders imposed gun control, but they had no laws resembling Scalia’s list of Second Amendment exceptions. They had no laws banning guns in sensitive places, or laws prohibiting the mentally ill from possessing guns, or laws requiring commercial gun dealers to be licensed. Such restrictions are products of the 20th century. Justice Scalia, in other words, embraced a living Constitution. In this, Heller is a fine reflection of the ironies and contradictions—and the selective use of the past—that run throughout America’s long history with guns.

And that paragraph from the pen of Adam Winkler, the legal eagle darling of the liberal press, is completely predictable. Rather than close by highlighting the undeniable fact that American gun rights are ascendent, Winkler reminds his by-now-throughly-confused readers that there is no right and wrong. Everything is relative.

The summation proves that Winkler would have made a fine defense attorney—for clients charged with morally indefensible acts.

23 Responses to The Secret History of the Secret History of Guns

  1. “Winkler would have made a fine defense attorney—for clients charged with morally indefensible acts.”

    He was. And he is. Lawyers aren’t called upon to make moral judgments. As Edward Bennett Williams said, “I will defend anyone as long as the client gives me total control of the case and pays up front.”

    That was my motto, too. Except for the total control part.

  2. Oh, I’m going to catch flack over this, but here goes:

    Note to Adam: when it comes to human rights, there is no middle ground. Either you have the freedom of speech, assembly, religion and, yes, gun ownership, or you don’t.

    Exclude gun ownership for the moment. Robert, do you really believe this? There is no middle ground in the freedom of religion if my religion calls on me to kill non-believers or have sex with under-age girls?

      • Religious human sacrifice, polygamy, statutory rape notwithstanding, there was nothing incorrect about what you had written, at least with regard to the freedom of religion phrase. “Freedom of religion” in common usage means the freedom from state-imposed religion as guaranteed by the first amendment. To sensor oneself in an effort to avoid every passing sensitivity evoked by the events of the day is as futile as it is weak.

  3. What does the second amendment mean? What is it meant to mean? What did the mean guys who wrote mean it to mean?

    There is no right more explicitly enumerated in the Constitution. But if you have a lawyer’s mentality, you can convince yourself that there are no absolutes and everything is arguable. Like the meaning of the word “is”.

  4. RF, excellent writing as usual, i found this passage most striking: “While it’s always nice to read about connection between African Americans’ struggle for civil rights and America’s profoundly racist gun control laws, I’d hardly call it a secret”.

    My thoughts exactly, it is common knowledge the the Black American community is disproportionately impacted by unregistered, illegal firearms. The roots of this go back to the chattel slavery era, but were most directly codified during the Reconstruction era in the laws enacted by the Black Codes, that specifically prohibited Blacks from owning or possessing any kind of weapons, regardless if it was to hunt for sustenance and protection (the American South was an EXTREMELY dangerous place after the Civil War.

  5. Typical BS.

    Well Regulated Militia crap is a bore. Looking at what context well regulated militia was used before the constitutional convention, it was always used in the context that a well regulated militia was well trained and some founders advocated letting citizens go through military training without enlisting.

    Then the whole mentioning the Militia Act of 1792, which had no requirement to purchase anything, but he railed against civilians owning military type weapons. The only problem with his argument is it leaves the part out where the US government buys the guns and will arm the militia: ‘after five years from the passing of this Act, all muskets from arming the militia as is herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound’. Which is unlike the way the American revolution worked, the shot heard around the world is when the militia was warned was able to distribute all the arms in the armory before it was seized by the Kings army.

    • The militia act did conscript most able-bodied males between 18 and 45, and also required them to show up armed by “provid[ing] himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, ….” You completely misread the law when you assert that the government is supposed to provide those individual arms within 5 years. Rather, the law specified that you had to show up with a musket of specific size (“shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound.). The law even specifies that the tax collector can’t take your privately purchased musket as payment of delinquent taxes! The law did envision that the federal government would provide artillery:

      SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective states, resident therein, who is or shall be of the age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia by the captain or commanding officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this act. And it shall at all times hereafter be the duty of every such captain or commanding officer of a company to enrol every such citizen, as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of eighteen years, or being of the age of eighteen years and under the age of forty-five years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrolment, by a proper non-commissioned officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, How to be armed and accoutred. provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball: or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear, so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise, or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack. 1803, ch. 15.That the commissioned officers shall severally be armed with a sword or hanger and espontoon, and that from and after five years from the passing of this act, all muskets for arming the militia as herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound. And every citizen so enrolled, and providing himself with the arms, ammunition and accoutrements required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions or sales, for debt or for the payment of taxes.

      Section 4. And be it further enacted, Each battalion to have one company of grenadiers, &. and one company of artillery. That out of the militia enrolled, as is herein directed, there shall be formed for each battalion at least one company of grenadiers, light infantry or riflemen; and that to each division there shall be at least one company of artillery, and one troop of horse: there shall be to each company of artillery, one captain, two lieutenants, four sergeants, four corporals, six gunners, six bombadiers, one drummer, and one fifer. Officers how to be armed. The officers to be armed with a sword or hanger, a fusee, bayonet and belt, with a cartridge-box to contain twelve cartridges; and each private or matross shall furnish himself with all the equipments of a private in the infantry, until proper ordnance and field artillery is provided. Troops of horse how officered, &c. There shall be to each troop of horse, one captain, two lieutenants, one cornet, four sergeants, four corporals, one saddler, one farrier, and one trumpeter. The commissioned officers to furnish themselves with good horses of at least fourteen hands and an half high, and to be armed with a sword and pair of pistols, the holsters of which to be covered with bearskin caps. Each dragoon to furnish himself with a serviceable horse, at least fourteen hands and an half high, a good saddle, bridle, mailpillion and valise, holsters, and a breast-plate and crupper, a pair of boots and spurs, a pair of pistols, a sabre, and a cartouch-box, to contain twelve cartridges for pistols. Artillery and horse of whom to be formed; That each company of artillery and troop of horse shall be formed of volunteers from the brigade, at the discretion of the commander-in-chief of the state, not exceeding one company of each to a regiment, nor more in number than one eleventh part of the infantry, to be uniformly clad at their own expense. 1803, ch. 15. and shall be uniformly clothed in regimentals, to be furnished at their own expense; the colour and fashion to be determined by the brigadier commanding the brigade to which they belong.

  6. This fool winkler is a CALIFORNIA COMMIE who doesn’t have a clue. I really liked the old style gun control where you were mandated to buy a firearm, now that’s the type gun control that I would support.

    • Careful what you wish for. you should fear any government that is powerful enough to force you to buy any goods or services (as opposed to, say, a permit or a license) from a private enterprise.

  7. The one thing that I think deflates the whole “gun rights only for militia” argument is that nowhere else does a “right” apply not to an individual, but to some organization. It’s a little like saying the First Amendment applies only to employees of newspapers.

    I read Winkler’s article yesterday and didn’t really understand the point. But I watched the clip on this post to the very end, and it confirmed what I have begun to suspect: gun control is all about money. Winkler was at a fundraiser. Why else would he include a line about “resources”? More broadly, the Brady Campaign and its supporters don’t need to make sense. They don’t have to be intellectually honest or philosophically consistent. There are enough people in this country who will donate money based on some vague fear of guns and to whom anything labeled “common sense” has an appeal to keep the Brady Campaign staffers well-paid. Just like being a Cubs fan, you don’t need to believe that the Cubs will win the World Series to spend a summer afternoon at Wrigley Field. And you don’t need everyone in America to love the Cubs. Just enough to keep the organization funded. So, if you’re the Brady Campaign, you need something to fuel those fundraising appeals. Convince or pay Adam Winkler to stitch together some story about gun rights hypocrisy, racism and the possibility of enacting even stricter gun restrictions, and you can get another little pile of money from your dwindling number of followers.

    • “gun control is all about money”

      Almost everything political is about money or power or both. In the case of gun control, it’s both. It’s about power for the politicians and money for the Brady’s et al. When it’s about money, I’m okay with it. The whole country is about money. I’m a lot more concerned when it’s about power. Money makes money, but power is a zero sum game. For “them” to have power, they have to take it from us.

  8. Well-regulated militia, huh?

    Well, the slogan for the Army (at least for a while) encouraged people to be “an Army of one” right?

    Well, I’m a militia of one, so there, problem solved. And I regulate myself very well.

    • Right on, Brother! Who does this guy thinks he is, anyway? Just because he’s The Fonz’ brother…

  9. This review is dreadful. The author relies on ad hominem and sarcasm rather than analysis; does not provide counterexamples, or even counter-arguments, to disprove the things he disagrees with; projects the beliefs he wants the article to espouse, rather than the ones it actually espouses; and even when it identifies flaws in the article’s reasoning, forgets them and goes back to heated rhetoric.

    Dominick

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