The American Civil Liberties Union has made it clear in the past that it’s a fair-weather friend to the Second Amendment. Only it’s always cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms outside of their New York City headquarters. So I was far from surprised when I saw the following by Reason‘s Robby Soave . . .
The American Civil Liberties Union apparently hates guns more than it hates arbitrary government-enforced discrimination. Even though the ACLU opposes the no-fly list—and is suing the federal government for violating the due process rights of several people on it—the civil liberties advocacy group is theoretically okay with depriving people on the list of their gun rights.
A spokesperson for the ACLU told Buzzfeed News that the organization had no formal position on legislation, supported by the Obama administration, which would deny the right to purchase firearms to people on the no-fly list….
Shame on the ACLU for compromising its position in order to punish people for exercising rights it doesn’t like, and not for the first time.
Indeed, Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, posted an article this Monday on the subject. She pretty much gives up the game as far as civil liberties are concerned right in the title: “Until the No Fly List Is Fixed, It Shouldn’t Be Used to Restrict People’s Freedoms.” So as soon as the no fly list is “fixed,” it will apparently be cool to use it as a tool to restrict people’s enumerated rights. No effort was expended to even mention that there might be something else in the Bill of Rights that was implicated beyond due process. In her own words:
There is no constitutional bar to reasonable regulation of guns, and the No Fly List could serve as one tool for it, but only with major reform.
What makes this pusillanimous kowtowing to the Obama Administration’s proposed civil liberties violation of the week all the more galling is that the ACLU is currently pursuing litigation against the federal government precisely because the no-fly list is a danger to Americans’ civil liberties. In fact, Ms. Shamsi describes that in her own article:
There’s another important aspect to the government’s case at this stage. The government has emphasized that it is making predictive judgments that people like our clients — who have never been charged let alone convicted of a crime — might nevertheless pose a threat. That’s a perilous thing for it to do. As we’ve told the court based on evidence from experts, these kinds of predictions guarantee a high risk of error. If the government is going to predict that Americans pose a threat and blacklist them, that’s even more reason for the fundamental safeguards we seek.
I may be wrong, but my feeling here is that the ACLU might be watering down their opposition to the President’s proposal just a tad because of some combination of ideological fealty to the Obama Administration and ideological opposition to the concept of an individual right to keep and bear arms. Certainly, the statements made by ACLU evince a sneering contempt for the plain language of the Bill of Rights that conflicts with the cultural and ideological prejudices of their staff and donor list.
Can you imagine an ACLU staffer ever casually mentioning that ‘reasonable regulations’ on the freedom of speech would be constitutionally kosher? It’s equally hard to imagine an ACLU-er tossing off a quick press release noting that ‘reasonable regulations’ on abortion, gay marriage, or even immigration were possible, without at least a dozen footnotes explaining why they weren’t good ideas, even if technically permissible.
Now for a confession: for many years, I have been a supporter and donor to the American Civil Liberties Union. At a time when the rights to speech, privacy, religion and conscience were under assault from ideologues of the left and right advocating the powers of the nanny state, the welfare state, or the national security state (in the case of Her Royal Clintoness, a combination of all three), I felt that it was important to support organizations that had a proven track record of fighting these incursions against our civil liberties.
Earlier this year, after I became a regular contributor to TTAG and found myself ruminating philosophically about civil liberties generally, I started to reconsider that position. This post from Ms. Shamsi has brought matters into sharp relief for me.
Although the ACLU poses as the nation’s foremost civil liberties organization, and although it has cooperated with organizations like the NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation in the past on areas of mutual concern, it is ideologically hostile to the right to keep and bear arms. When the Heller decision was issued, the ACLU immediately issued a statement explaining that, the Supreme Court ruling notwithstanding, it still believed the Second Amendment protected a “collective right.” It doubled down on this position in a post last updated in 2013, in which it stated:
Although ACLU policy cites the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Miller as support for our position on the Second Amendment, our policy was never dependent on Miller. Rather, like all ACLU policies, it reflects the ACLU’s own understanding of the Constitution and civil liberties.
Despite this, I rationalized my continued support for the ACLU because, whatever its rhetoric, it wasn’t doing any damage in court. To my knowledge, it wasn’t filing amicus briefs against the 2A. So, I reasoned, I would support it for the work it did in certain areas, and support organizations like the NRA for the work they did defending gun rights.
This year, however, it seems that the amount of progress the right to keep and bear arms can make in the Federal Courts may be maxed out. The schwerpunkt of the battle is once again the ballot box. We’ve achieved so much in what is, historically, a short period of time…but now our opponents are clearly readying a big, Ardennes-style counteroffensive against the RKBA, playing for all the marbles, with the future of the Bill of Rights at stake.
In the next phase of the fight, the hearts and minds of the people in the middle is the grand prize. These are strange political times indeed, as anyone who’s been watching the presidential race can attest. Things are in flux. Realignments are in the offing. Public relations matter. Rhetoric matters. Snide comments disparaging the right to keep and bear arms as being unworthy of protection, of being amenable to easy regulation, matter. Talk is no longer cheap.
In this environment, I believe it is wrong for me, as a passionate advocate of civil liberties generally and the right to keep and bear arms in particular, to continue to belong to an organization that bills itself as a protector of civil liberties, but refuses to defend one of the most important individual rights, and whose staff have no compunction about disparaging a fundamental right. As Glenn Reynolds recently wrote, the ACLU’s approach is, we only protect constitutional rights we like from people we don’t like. And we don’t like guns, and we do like Obama, so suck it, gun nuts.
To borrow from Justice Clarence Thomas, the people who choose to exercise the RKBA in defense of themselves and their fellow citizens are not second class people exercising a second class right. All too often, it seems the ACLU is content to treat them that way, carefully making sure that in its rhetoric, its legal arguments, and in its literature, it doesn’t accidentally suggest any support for the Second Amendment. Because of this, I cannot continue to spend my hard-earned money in support of the ACLU anymore.
Accordingly, I am resigning from the American Civil Liberties Union effective immediately. That organization will receive no more financial support from me. The monies that would have gone to them will instead be sent to, among others, the NRA-ILA, the Second Amendment Foundation, the Institute for Justice, and any other organizations that will fight for civil liberties — all of them — and recognize that the right to keep and bear arms is inherently a part of the definition of “liberty.”
No doubt this article will be seen by some as a dog-bites-man story. As the irreligious grandchild of a maid and fieldworker who immigrated illegally from Mexico, and a Ukrainian steelworker and German “Rosie the Riveter” in Pennsylvania, I’m a son of the South who came of age in Pennsylvania and learned his trade in Illinois. I’m someone who carries a gun to protect his family, and whose support of liberty extends to the right of women to have abortions and the right of gay people to get married. My story is far more nuanced than the usual old fat white guy NRA member civilian disarmament advocates portray.
In the end, this was an easy decision: I cannot continue to give my stamp of approval to a “civil liberties” organization that doesn’t understand the full meaning of the word “liberty.”