DallasNews.com reports on a particularly embarrassing appearance by prominent Republican David Barton on Tuesday night’s Glenn Beck show. Who’s Barton?
Barton is a former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party and an influencial religious conservative who was active promoting conservative GOP candidates, including Rick Santorum and failed Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin, whose “legitimate rape” comment was partly responsible for his defeat. Barton runs the Alido-based Wallbuilders, which produces tapes, DVDs and books disputing the separation of church and state. Although some of his claims about the Founding Fathers’ advocacy of a Christian government have been disputed, including by his own publisher which recently withdrew a book he wrote about Thomas Jefferson, Barton has long been a favorite speaker among Christian conservatives and tea party activists in churches and political gatherings, especially in swing states the GOP has sought to win during recent elections.
“In the case of the Second Amendment, the founding fathers didn’t call it the right to keep and bear arms the way it’s written, they called it the biblical right of self-defense. So the ultimate goal of the Second Amendment is to make sure you can defend yourself against any kind of illegal force that comes against you, whether that’s from a neighbor, whether that’s from an outsider or whether that’s from your own government.
In the case of the American Revolution, if the Founding Fathers had not been able to take on that illegal British government coming … so for them, it is not a matter of you have too many bullets in your magazine, it’s not whatever the government’s got, that’s we have got to have the same thing,” he said. “If they have an AK-47 and we only have a bb gun, then that is not a deterrent. The whole purpose of the Second Amendment is to make sure that you have equal power with whatever comes against you illegally. At that point, that’s what’s gotta to control the gun debate.”
I can haz nukes now???
I’m not sure where Barton got his information about the “biblical right of self defense, but that’s sure as hell not what the Second Amendment, as passed by the Congress and ratified by the states, said. According to Barton, I guess we all have the right to drones, nukes, and tanks. Another moron embarrassing America.
Let’s have a look at the Second Amendment of the Constitution:
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.
In a thorough and well-researched piece in the 1995 New York Review of Books (kindly pointed out by a reader), “To keep and bear arms,” historian Garry Wills pointed out that this amendment was clearly intended to apply to weapons for military use, not to private gun ownership. If you’re an “originalist” like Scalia, that should settle the issue. I don’t adhere to originalism, since so much has happened since the Constitution and Bill of Rights were passed, so private gun ownership could—and has been—subsequently approved by the courts. Despite that, I vehemently oppose the largely unrestricted sale of guns in this country, including all semiautomatic weapons.
But that’s not the point. What Wills is saying in his superb piece is that one cannot under any circumstances justify gun ownership as a legal right established by the Bill of Rights. His case is convincing. (See the subsequent exchange of letters at the NYRB here.)
UPDATE: There are two relevant op-ed pieces in today’s New York Times:
“The scourge of concealed weapons,” by the editors:
Nowadays, however, there are four states that require no permit at all to carry a gun, and 35 states have permissive “shall issue” or “right-to-carry” laws that effectively take the decision of who should carry a weapon out of law enforcement’s hands. These laws say that if an applicant meets minimal criteria — one is not having been convicted of a felony, and another is not having a severe mental illness — officials have no choice about whether to issue a permit.
Some states go even further by expressly allowing guns where they should not be. Nine states now have “carry laws” that permit guns on campuses; eight permit them in bars; five permit them in places of worship. In Utah, holders of permits can now carry concealed guns in elementary schools.
Among the arguments advanced for these irresponsible statutes is the claim that “shall issue” laws have played a major role in reducing violent crime. But the National Research Council has thoroughly discredited this argument for analytical errors. In fact, the legal scholar John Donohue III and others have found that from 1977 to 2006, “shall issue” laws increased aggravated assaults by “roughly 3 to 5 percent each year.”
and “From apocalypse to dystopia,” by Maureen Dowd, who goes after yesterday’s “press conference” with Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association:
The press conference, where the press was not allowed to ask questions, played like an insane parody: a tightly wound lobbyist who earns a million or so a year by refusing to make the slightest concession on gun safety, despite repeated slaughters by deranged shooters with jaw-droppingly easy access to firearms.
LaPierre makes Charlton Heston look like Michael Moore. The N.R.A. vice president, who once called federal agents “jackbooted government thugs,” insists the solution to gun violence is putting police officers, or “armed good guys,” in every one of the nation’s 98,817 K-12 schools.
His logic is spurious. Hunters can have their guns without leaving Americans so vulnerable to being hunted by demented souls with assault rifles that can fire 45 rounds per minute.