George Washington Would Have Owned an AR-15
First the gun-control zealots insisted that the right to bear arms, the second of ten delineated individual rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights was not an individual right. Then, when the U.S. Supreme Court said in Heller Vs. D.C. (2008) that it was in fact an individual right, the argument was that the ruling only applied to the federal enclave known as the District of Columbia. When the Supreme Court in MacDonald vs. Chicago said it was indeed a national right, the argument turned to “sensible restrictions” such as arguing the Founding Fathers did not anticipate semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Well, neither did they anticipate the Internet, social media, and blogs when they protected free speech and the press in the First Amendment. True, some freedoms are not absolute, such as yelling “fire” in the proverbial crowded theatre, but as regards the Second Amendment one fact is paramount. When it was written the both the government and the people had the same weapon -- the musket -- which could be called the semi-automatic weapon of its day. The Second Amendment did not come with an asterisk nor is any of our rights enshrined in the Constitution in any way dependent on technology.
Yet U.S. District Judge William Young perceived a qualifying asterisk when he dismissed a case challenging the Massachusetts ban on so-called “assault” weapons and high-capacity magazines:
U.S. District Judge William Young dismissed a case that challenged state Attorney General Maura Healey’s 2016 interpretation of the Second Amendment, which broadened the definition of “copies or duplicates” of assault rifles banned under a 1998 law.
Healey’s reading of the amendment allows a ban on the sale of AR-15 rifles and similar “copycat” assault-style weapons in the state. In his ruling, Young said “The AR-15 and its analogs, along with large capacity magazines, are simply not weapons within the original meaning of the individual constitutional rights to ‘bear arms.’
“In the absence of federal legislation, Massachusetts is free to ban these weapons and large capacity magazines.”
According to Judge Young, the Second Amendment was written to protect weapons in common use at the time, not to protect weapons developed later designed, it is claimed, specifically for war:
Another important limitation articulated by the Supreme Court is that the weapons protected under the Second Amendment ‘were those “in common use at the time.”‘ More specifically, Justice Scalia explained that ‘weapons that are most useful in military service -- M-16 rifles and the like’ are not protected under the Second Amendment and ‘may be banned.'
Yet, as noted, the musket was in common use as a personal weapon and was useful as a weapon of war. There was no such distinction when the Second Amendment was written. The argument that the Second Amendment does not protect the right to bear an M-1 Abrams tank is valid. But tanks are designed to be used against other tanks. Guns that fire bullets one at a time such as the AR-15 are useful both in war and peace and are in fact in “common use” by the civilian population of the United States.
Former Navy SEAL Dean Raso is quoted in The Federalist as describing the AR-15 as in fact the ideal defensive weapon against heavily armed predators:
In the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack, the deadliest strike on U.S. soil since 9/11, Democratic lawmakers and progressive activists have responded by attempting to limit access to firearms -- particularly the AR-15, which was incorrectly reported as the weapon the terrorist used to kill at least 49 people and injure another 53.
In a new video, former Navy SEAL Dom Raso explains why the AR-15, the most popular rifle in the country, gives Americans the best chance of surviving in an age of terror.
Choosing to defend one’s home with an AR-15 is a commonsense choice, as it is powerful, accurate, and easy to shoot, Raso said.
Gun control legislation doesn’t stop terror attacks, he explained, citing the two terrorists who weren’t deterred by California’s assault weapons ban when they killed 14 people in San Bernardino last year. Nor would any gun ban have stopped the Boston Bombers when they detonated a bomb at the Boston Marathon, killing three and wounding at least 260 others.
Ironically, both of those incidents of terror were brought to a stop by armed police officers responding to the scene with AR-15s -- the same weapon legislators are trying to ban.
“Why would you want to ban the gun you pray for police to show up with?” Raso asked.
Indeed, why would you? As one wag put it, a gun in the hand is betters than a cop on a phone and the response time for a bullet from an AR-15 fired in self-defense is a lot quicker than calling 911. Other non-scary weapons are just as lethal and the AR-15 has been chosen by popular demanded as the defensive weapon of choice, despite a similar earlier nonsensical ruling by another federal judge:
As the Ferguson riots raged, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake, appointed by President Clinton, issued a ruling that upheld the Maryland law, saying, "the court seriously doubts that the banned assault long guns are commonly possessed for lawful purposes... and is inclined to find the weapons fall outside Second Amendment protection as dangerous and unusual."
Now the Second Amendment, written in the era of muskets, does not mention what arms we have the right to keep and bear. But we have an idea, based on how they were used: to protect their owners' homes, businesses, farms and families, and to fight the tyranny of the British crown. It's been said that the Second Amendment was put in the Bill of Rights to protect the other nine.
Gun control advocates say, with some snarkiness, that the Second Amendment doesn't allow one to own nuclear weapons or tanks, so it's merely a question of where we draw the line. They would draw the line at the AR-15 and its counterparts — which, despite the judge's claim, are commonly used for legal, defensive purposes.
The AR-15 is among the guns that must be registered. They've made up 50%-60% of U.S. rifle sales in recent years, federal figures show. The New York Times recently called the AR-15 "The Most Wanted Gun In America." Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has been pushing a bill to reintroduce the ineffective assault weapons 1994 ban that expired in 2004 with no impact on the crime rate.
Feinstein's legislation would outlaw more than 150 types of weapons, from rifles to pistols to shotguns. They include the Streetsweeper and Striker-12, which, again, have frightening appearances yet chamber the same 12-gauge shells that are used to hunt birds.
While used in several high-profile mass shootings, the AR-15 is favored among homeowners, hunters and sport shooters. It's popular for both sport and self-defense among women, who find it easy to carry and handle.
Crime rates and homicides have dropped as concealed-carry laws spread nationwide. As more citizens are armed, predators find it harder to find unarmed victims except in gun-free zones such as the school in Newtown, Conn., or the theater in Aurora, Colo.
Critics of the Second Amendment say that they are not going after guns used for legitimate activities such as hunting. But when the Founders wrote the Second Amendment it was because the British were coming, not because it was the start of deer season. As Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano notes:
The historical reality of the Second Amendment's protection of the right to keep and bear arms is not that it protects the right to shoot deer," wrote Judge Andrew Napolitano recently in the Washington Times. "It protects the right to shoot tyrants, and it protects the right to shoot at them effectively, with the same instruments they would use upon us. If the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto had had the firepower and ammunition that the Nazis had, some of Poland might have stayed free and more persons would have survived the Holocaust."
The AR-15 is a defensive weapon, such as when it was used by a 15-year-old who grabbed his father’s AR-15 and used it to ward off home invaders:
Not only did this brave 15-year-old defend his home against 2 burglars, but also his 12-year-old sister who was in the house with him. He grabbed his father’s AR-15 and shot one of the burglars multiple times. They got away but had to go right to the hospital where the minor was arrested and the adult who was shot was flown to a different hospital.
If the AR-15 had been available in 1776, George Washington would have fielded an army armed with it, to be sure, but just as surely every farmer, blacksmith, carpenter, and shopkeeper would have grabbed an AR-15 on their way to the village green to protect the freedoms that some federal judges are trying to nibble away.
Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.