Just Like a Skipping Record

(For those who remember records.)

Ten years ago I wrote The ACLU Hasn’t Changed Its Tune, quoting then-President Nadine Strossen from a Reason interview:

Reason: So why doesn’t the ACLU challenge gun-control laws on Second Amendment grounds?

Strossen: We reexamine our positions when people come forward with new arguments. On the gun issue, I instituted a reexamination a few years ago in response to a number of things, but the most important one was an article by Sanford Levinson at University of Texas Law School that summarized a wave of new historical scholarship. Levinson’s argument was that in the 18th century context, a well-regulated militia meant nothing other than people in the privacy of their homes.

So we looked into the historical scholarship there and ended up not being persuaded. The plain language of the Second Amendment in no way, shape, or form, can be construed, I think, as giving an absolute right to unregulated gun ownership. It says, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.” Certainly, when you have the notion of “well-regulated” right in the constitutional language itself, it seems to defy any argument that regulation is inconsistent with the amendment.

Putting all that aside, I don’t want to dwell on constitutional analysis, because our view has never been that civil liberties are necessarily coextensive with constitutional rights. Conversely, I guess the fact that something is mentioned in the Constitution doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a fundamental civil liberty.

Mentioned. MENTIONED in, not just the Constitution, but the Bill of Rights.

Nah. Doesn’t mean anything.

Then we had D.C. v Heller and McDonald v. Chicago. And the ACLU?

The ACLU interprets the Second Amendment as a collective right. Therefore, we disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision in D.C. v. Heller. While the decision is a significant and historic reinterpretation of the right to keep and bear arms, the decision leaves many important questions unanswered that will have to be resolved in future litigation, including what regulations are permissible, and which weapons are embraced by the Second Amendment right that the Court has now recognized.

So much for “reexamin(ing) our positions when people come forward with new arguments.”

My original piece still stands. And the ACLU is cordially invited to kiss my ass.

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