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Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and author of The Second Amendment: A Biography, is dipping his toes into the citizen journalism pool. Unfortunately his shorter polemic, ‘What the Second Amendment intended‘ seems to be at least as riddled with falsehoods, undulating lies and outright fabrications as his book. Right out of the blocks, he’s off on the wrong foot: “As school shootings erupt with sickening regularity…” . . .

I would say that 99% of the time when someone hears the term ‘school shooting’ it evokes thoughts of Newtown, Virginia Tech, Red Lake and others where a deranged individual or pair stalked through the halls of a school, killing randomly as they went. What it does not include is gang violence, domestic violence, nor a fistfights which escalate and just happen to occur in or near a school.

According to Everytown [sic] for Gun Safety in the 18 months since Newtown there have been 74 school shootings. Now even the most ardent of Second Amendment civil rights supporters would agree that weekly school shootings certainly qualify as sickeningly regular, but when CNN (hardly an NRA mouthpiece) finally got around to fact-checking that figure even they choked on it. Their amended count was 15 shootings in that 18 month period, but if you weed out the probable gang-related incidents and the ones (like the Santa Monica College shootings and the Isla Vista murders) where the location was incidental, the number drops to 8 with 10 people injured and 4 killed (not counting the shooters).

Am I saying that such numbers are acceptable? Not at all, but an average of one incident every 9 ¾ weeks hardly qualifies as “sickening regularity.”

Okay, now that we know where Waldman is coming from, let’s continue:

As school shootings erupt with sickening regularity, Americans once again are debating gun laws. Quickly talk turns to the Second Amendment.

But what does it mean? History offers some surprises: It turns out in each era, the meaning is set not by some pristine constitutional text, but by the push and pull, the rough and tumble of public debate and political activism. And gun rights have always coexisted with responsibility.

No Mike, the meaning of the words in the Constitution and Bill of Rights does not change. What happens is that people with an agenda try to warp and twist those meanings in order to show Constitutional support for their pet passion (much as you do in this article in fact). You are completely correct, however, that “gun rights have always [existed]”.

As for your claim that such rights coexist with responsibility, well of course they do! All rights must be exercised responsibly to keep from infringing other peoples’ rights. Note that I am talking about actual rights here. A true right gives you the freedom to perform (or refrain from performing) an action; it doesn’t include the requirement that someone else perform (or refrain from performing) an action, nor does it allow you to infringe upon the rights of others. You have the right to worship as you choose, but you do not have a right to be provided with a church. The right to light a fire for warmth does not include the right to burn down a hundred thousand acres of forest.

But Waldman is just starting with the egregious errors:

At 27 words long, the provision is the shortest sentence in the U.S. Constitution.

Okay, how can we take this guy seriously when he can’t even count? The very first sentence after the preamble gives the lie to this statement:

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Twenty-five words. Section 2, 4th and 5th lines, 22 and 19 words respectively.

When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

How about Article II Section 1?

The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

Fifteen words. I could continue but I think my point is made, so let’s see what Mikey comes up with next:

What about today’s gun-rights debates? Surprisingly, there is not a single word about an individual right to a gun for self-defense in the notes from the Constitutional Convention; nor with scattered exceptions in the transcripts of the ratification debates in the states; nor on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives …

Well of course not! They didn’t discuss whether the sun comes up in the East or if people should be allowed to grow food, either. The natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual and civil right to self-defense is so fundamental that the Founders never even considered the possibility that anyone could question it. But at the end of this paragraph Mike gets really low-down and dirty trying to support his idea that the Second is just about militias:

James Madison’s original proposal even included a conscientious objector clause: “No person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

Sounds reasonable enough, but is that all there was to the Madison’s original proposal? Not hardly:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country but no person religiously etc. …

Looks to me like Waldman indulged in some creative editing there. As originally proposed it is clear that the Founders wanted to protect an existing right to keep and bear arms, and if you read the notes from the ConCon that Mikey claims to have read you will see that they considered the differences between what was proposed and what was passed to be merely stylistic.

Mikey then attempts to justify today’s gun laws by bringing up examples from the Colonial and Revolutionary eras:

To be clear, there were plenty of guns in the founding era. Americans felt they had the right to protect themselves, especially in the home, a right passed down from England through common law. But there were plenty of gun laws, too. Boston made it illegal to keep a loaded gun in a home, due to safety concerns.

Once again, our author skips neatly past the meat (and truth) of the issue, hoping that his readers will assume that “safety concerns” means something similar to some states’ “safe storage” laws, meant to keep guns out of the hands of children and criminals . Unfortunately for him, a Clayton Cramer piece (which includes the text of Boston’s law) in the November 1, 2004 issue of Shotgun News debunked the idea that this law was about gun safety. In fact, according to Mr. Cramer it was about fire safety. As Cramer says:

A careful reading of the statute, however, reveals that its purpose was not a general ban on loaded guns in Boston, but leaving unloaded guns unattended in buildings. … The text does not prohibit carrying loaded firearms within the city of Boston–only taking them into a building–and one could infer from the preamble, the law only prohibited depositing loaded firearms in buildings.As the preamble makes clear, this law was for the protection of those fighting fires, not to prevent criminal misuse of guns, and certainly not to prevent citizens from defending themselves on the streets.

Mikey has still more examples of early gun laws:

New York, Boston and all cities in Pennsylvania prohibited the firing of guns within city limits. States imposed curbs on gun ownership. People deemed dangerous were barred from owning weapons. Pennsylvania disarmed Tory sympathizers.

It’s true that many states passed gun control laws prohibiting ownership or sale of guns to “Negroes and Indians”, Catholics and people loyal to the Crown. Indeed such laws continued to be passed and upheld well into the 20th century. Witness the Florida Supreme Court’s 1941 ruling in Watson v. Stone where Justice Buford stated in his opinion:

“I know something of the history of this legislation. The original Act of 1893 was passed when there was a great influx of negro laborers in this State … and the Act was passed for the purpose of disarming the negro laborers … The statute was never intended to be applied to the white population and in practice has never been so applied.”

Unlike Mr. Waldman I do not believe that discrimination based on race, creed or political affiliation is a good thing that should be continued.

Mikey had more, but it’s really more of the same lies, half-truths, bad examples and stupid errors (shortest sentence in the Constitution? Really?) so I will leave you with this thought: If only the Founders had passed the Second as originally written maybe we could have avoided a century or more of unConstitutional laws and faulty jurisprudence.

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  1. That’s OK, I have no idea why I should give a hoot in hell what Michael Waldman says about anything. His attempt at public scholarship/advocacy has been ripped even by rabid anti-gunners as slovenly and juvenile. Another blind leader of the blind.

    • They seem to think he is their John Lott. I’ve heard them refer to him that way, with the requisite insults to Dr. Lott, of course. To them, this is what actual “gun research” looks like; pull a bunch of lies out of your ass and blame the other guys for not thinking of them first.

      • If that buffoon is the antis’ version of John Lott we have one less thing to worry about.

        • The point I was making is that even some of the antis don’t want to claim him. Not that they are much better.

        • Actually, we always have something to worry about with these assheads; they repeat their lies often enough and the ignorant have no trouble in believing what they say is gospel.

      • That is because he wrote the amicus brief for the anti-gun side in Heller if I am not mistaken.

  2. Was thinking about picking up the book to see what he had to say, but this confirmed my fears. He uses deception and outright lies to support his opinions rather than sticking with facts.

  3. “The Constitution shall never be construed to…prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms.” — Samuel Adams

    “Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion in private self-defense.” — John Adams, paraphrased, A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States 475 (1787-1788)

    There is so much original writing on this I could post here to show that Mr. Waldman is wrong, but I’ll just end with this since it is so appropriate here:

    “How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!” — Samuel Adams

  4. Awww c’mon guys the 2A pertains only to military guys just prior to doing battle. Actually, the 2A promotes the” regulation” of militia military guys. The 2A is really a collective right and does not pertain to an individual right. All of the Bill o Rights are actually collective and were written by Karl Marx.

    • I love when they use the excuse “Well, other rights can be infringed!” when those other rights should never have been restricted anyway.
      Freedom of speech? It’s supposed to be absolute, 100%. That way people can’t be intimidated into avoiding certain speech. Same goes for every other amendment to the constitution. Exceptions were never supposed to be made.

      • Yep; read any of the civil rights; they were written to restrict government from infringing the peoples rights. There is nothing in them that gives government power to infringe any of those rights due to government need or interest ; except during times of declared martial law.

      • What waldman and the anti gun rights people point to on the First Amendment “limits” is libel, slander and copyright law.

        What they fail to understand is the clear fact that those are analogies to sanctions on shooting someone — ie assault or homicide laws — and not analogies to the right to have firearms. DUHHH…You can’t claim first amendment protection for slandering someone, and you can’t claim second amendment protection for shooting someone.

        Waldman doesn’t get that the first amendment limits (slander, livel, copyright violation) are sanctions placed on a INDIVIDUAL (not all people) and only after that individual has been proven to have caused a harm.

        Waldman has used the “can’t yell fire in a theater” but that is a citation from a SCOTUS case that established the legality of laws against speech criticizing the military draft — and thankfully was thrown out as unconstitutional in 1969.

        Finally Waldmans contention that the second amendment is really about the army having a “right” to be armed is the ultimate sophistry. No one was claiming the continental army could not be armed

  5. If the 2A does apply to individuals, it is for the sole purpose of duck hunting. The right of the people to keep and bear ducks, shall not be infringed.

  6. lets talk about whats important here. is anyone gonna bother going to see the Deadpool movie?

  7. Do these guys know about the Federalist papers? I think there are a “couple” lines in there on what the 2A means.

  8. I wonder – how much it does it cost to become President of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law?

  9. Why the Constitution was proposed, “everybody knew” people had rights. However it was decided to list some of those rights. Just in case don’t you know. There were some 104 rights proposed. These were reduced to 12, then 10. All prohibit the government from taking those rights.

    So, number 2 on the list, of over 100, said the goverment could not interfere with the peoples right to have guns. You thing that means something?

  10. This is what they call deluded, when the person actually believes the stupid stuff they spout.

  11. I have just finished his book. He says (TWICE) pre-Miller DC restrictions were only about keeping guns locked and unloaded.

    He doesn’t even know DC had a defacto handgun gun ban

    • More likely didn’t mention it, because, again, he used lies and deception to make a point as proven in the article above.

  12. Waldman is a putz and a tool and a fool. Anyone that calls him a scholar needs to get kicked sharply in the jimmies. What an embarrassment he is.

  13. People we need to think and if necessary, remind the people in office, that we the people elected them(if
    you are registered and bothered to vote). We are also told in the Bible that the people get the government that they deserve.(Paraphrased) Vice President Biden, has already signed the NATO treaty
    even though we currently have a very good Constitution and Bill of Rights. We (to me personally) do not
    need or want the NATO Treaty to be imposed upon us. To get back to the 2a rights remember this, please, “TO CONQUER A NATION FIRST DISARM ITS CITIZENS” Adolph Hilter, when history is forgotten it is bound to be repeated. In stead of spouting off about what someone put into a book who couldn’t apparently get his facts correct, go do something positive to guarantee that the Rights most of us take for granted and many many other people in the world would love to have will remain our Rights and not be taken away by executive order. As a 63 year old Grandmother of the Vietnam era, yes I do know of what I speak. Yes, I can shoot and would have taught my daughter, but had all boys. Good luck guys, if you don’t own a gun buy one and learn how to use it, because heaven forbid when the day may come when you will need to know how, make shure you have plenty of ammo also.

  14. just curious, does anybody know if the term “arm(s)” from the 2A has ever been/is defined, either at time of transcription, or in subsequent federal law? Seems like that would be relevant.

  15. I knew that every single word of the book was going to be a lie as soon as I saw his face.

    Amazing how leftists all look the same: smug beyond all reason.

  16. Saw this written on a thread at [I]Democratic Underground[/I] on this that I thought fit:

    The false premise is a perversion of the true statement that “The Founders never intended to create an unregulated individual right to a gun” through the 2nd Amendment . . . The Amendment does not create, grant, give or otherwise establish the right, thus the right is in no manner dependent upon the words and structure (including the commas) of the 2nd Amendment to exist. SCOTUS has been boringly consistent re-re-re-affirming that principle for going on 140 years. The right does not exist because of what the 2nd Amendment says; the right exists and is possessed by the individual because no power was ever granted to the federal government to have any interest whatsoever in the personal arms of the private citizen. The (federally) “unregulated individual right” is a product of the silence of the Constitution granting powers to the federal government to regulate private arms, not any inventive misreading / misinterpretation of the 2nd Amendment. The theory that the 2nd Amendment should be read to discern what the government allows the citizen to own and do, is the ridiculous 20th century invention.

  17. Currently, the fashion is guns are bad. the writers of the constitution and of the amendments intentionally wrote bear arms as a vague tool for defending one’s self with whatever the best means necessary.

    today we are fighting the right for carrying guns. 10,000 years ago, it would be sharpened sticks. 1,000 years ago, it would be swords. 1,000 years from now it could be laser beams on our heads. the object is not the issue. when written, the flintlock rifle was the premiere military weapon of its time taking over from wheel lock and other various ignition types. just a few years after the Bill of rights (including the 2nd amendment), the percussion cap took over as the premiere military weapon, and all US citizens immediately were able to own one without preamble.

  18. Waldman is doing what all progressives do – twisting words and history to match their revisionist ideology, or, failing that, manufacturing history wholesale.

    “On every question of construction, let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” — Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823, The Complete Jefferson, p. 322.

  19. Bruce Kraft, I might suggest that you make similar comments in the Amazon comment section of Waldman’s book to spare the potential buyers.
    Discredit his book like Cramer did to Bellesiles.

    Cramer proved that Bellisiles fabricated his resources out of whole cloth.

    Cramer destroyed his writing career and can’t get a job in the academic world.
    I heard a rumor that Bellesiles is bartender or waiting tables now.

    • Since you referenced Clayton Cramer as your source, you also might mention Cramer’s two excellent books on the right to keep and bear arms.

      1. “For The Defense of Themselves And The State, The Original Intent And the Judicial Interpretation of The Right to Keep and Bear Arms”.

      2. “Armed America, The Story of How and Why Guns Became As American As Apple Pie”.

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