By Massad Ayoob

Massad Ayoob
Issue #141 • May/June, 2013

Barack Obama, outspokenly anti-gun for his entire political career, fooled an amazing number of gun owners by keeping a “hands off” attitude toward Second Amendment issues until his first term was over and his second secured. Then, when a madman slaughtered 20 helpless children and half a dozen teachers in an unprotected elementary school, he and his political cohorts pulled the trigger on an anti-gun campaign that had long stood cocked and ready.

The result was the most savage attack on the civil rights of firearms owners that I’ve seen in a reasonably long lifetime. In violation of the Constitution of the State of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo rammed through the most Draconian legislation seen in the modern history of American firearms ownership, and did it literally in the dark of night without the mandatory discussion period his state’s constitution demands. Gun bans. No more than seven cartridges per magazine. Ironically, they called it the SAFE Act.

Colorado followed, its legislators blatantly ignoring the overwhelming number of constituents who clearly opposed it. It was reported that Michael Bloomberg, the obsessively anti-gun mayor of New York City, told Democrats in the Colorado state house that if they opposed the gun and magazine bans, he would use his billions to fund other Democrats to unseat them in the next election. At this writing, more state-level dominoes are in line to fall in the same direction.

Throughout, the mainstream American media has for the most part cast aside pretense of impartiality and rooted for “assault weapon bans.” Bill O’Reilly commented in January 2013 that CNN had turned into a 24/7 gun control telethon. It wasn’t that much of an exaggeration.

From call-in talk shows I’ve participated in, to reader mail, to just reading clueless editorials and letters to the editors in newspapers around the country, I’ve seen an appalling lack of knowledge and critical thinking applied to this issue.

In the time of the Low Information Voter, you’re not going to be able to educate the co-worker, the relative, the neighbor you’re discussing it with in the entirety of the vast body of Second Amendment scholarship. So, let’s suggest some short-and-sweet answers that bring Truth and Logic into the game.

Some current “universal background check” schemes would make it impossible for you to lend a gun to a friend, or borrow one. Here Terri Strayer, left, coaches a friend on how to shoot a snub-nosed .38.

Punish who for what?

They want to take away your property, and/or limit your ability to buy such property in the future, even though that property (semi-automatic firearms) has been perfectly legal for non-felons to own for more than a century? Because criminals use them?

We’re talking about criminals. We call them that because they break the law and commit crimes. They are planning to commit murder, one of the most heinous crimes in the history of civilized humanity, and they’re going to be deterred by a law against having the particular murder weapon they want to use? No one with three digit IQ can seriously believe that … can they?

You’ll hear the argument, “But if they’re against the law for anyone to have, the bad guys won’t be able to get them at all.”

Things against the law are the stock in trade of criminals. Coca plants for cocaine, and opium poppies for heroin, do not thrive in North America. Yet a huge criminal drug trade continues to thrive. Both sides of this polarized debate agree that there are some 300 million firearms in the United States; no magic electromagnet from the sky is going to come down and suck them up. Firearms are the most durable of durable goods.

Moreover, they’re not that hard to make. Ask the Brits who fought the IRA: anyone with a Bridgeport lathe can make a functional copy of a Sten submachine gun. Back in the 1950s, juvenile delinquents made zip guns out of radio antennas and rubber bands, and a functional sawed off shotgun using low-power shells can be fashioned out of PVC pipe. And, with new 3-D “printing” technology …

The old saying is true: “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” It’s true on two levels. Law-abiding people, by definition, will abide by the law and turn their guns in if confiscatory laws are passed. Law-breaking people, by definition, will not. The criminals will have guns, and the good people won’t.

The other side of that is, good people will now be made into criminals — even felons, the way most of this legislation is written — even though all they’ve done is merely possess something that has been legal for Americans to possess for more than a century. A huge percentage of the population — and in some parts of the country, perhaps actually a majority of the population — will be made criminals by a stroke of the pen.

When bad people do bad things, society should punish the bad people, not the good people who did not do bad things. Suppose the day before the Sandy Hook Elementary School atrocity someone had asked the little kids there, “If a naughty child writes graffiti on the school walls, would it be fair to take crayons away from all the rest of you?”

I would suspect those little kids would have answered, “No! We didn’t do anything wrong. Why should we be punished? Punish the one who did the bad thing. And by the way, why didn’t the teachers stop the bad boy from doing that?”

Yet before the terrible next day was over, we were hearing calls that this gun and that magazine should be banned from all good people, because of what one monster did, with a rifle he had to murder his own mother to steal. Yet realistic calls for armed security at schools met with derision.

When elected leaders and media spokespersons aren’t as smart as we’d expect six- to eight-year-old children to be, it’s time for someone to explain “gun control” for dummies.

Smith & Wesson Military & Police handguns show how times change. Revolver, left, holds 6 .38 Special cartridges. Today’s cop is more likely to carry autoloader, right, designed to hold 18 9mm rounds.

Malum prohibitum, malum in se

Early in law school, future lawyers learn the difference between malum prohibitum and malum in se. “Malum in se” means the thing is evil in and of itself: crimes such as murder or rape, for example. “Malum prohibitum” means the thing is bad because we passed a law against it: carrying a gun in New York City without a permit, for example, when it’s perfectly legal to do the same in Arizona or Vermont. Or owning full capacity magazines and semiautomatic pistols and rifles in which to use them. Legal since the technology existed, and now, suddenly, a felony.


When you tell the public, “You can no longer have something you’ve always been allowed to have,” it’s not “control,” it’s prohibition. Less than a hundred years ago — in the memory of some still living Americans — our nation’s leaders turned the Volstead Act into law. We all remember how well that worked out. And let’s not talk about how successful the “war on drugs” has been.

The history of it is, when self-righteous do-gooders say “I don’t want it or like it, so therefore, you can’t have it,” the result never seems to turn out well. In the instant case, we have the mayors of New York and Chicago protected at public expense by huge phalanxes of bodyguards paid for with taxpayers’ funds, telling the unprotected citizens that they have no right to protect themselves, their homes, and their families with the tools most suited to that task. When the well-protected tell the unprotected they don’t need protection, massive nationwide non-compliance is going to be the predictable outcome.

What’s being widely proposed now has nothing to do with “common sense” or “safety.” When pushed to the wall, the sponsors often admit that they don’t expect their proffered legislation to prevent any mass-murders. The most common default answer they give us is, “We have to do something.”

Well, let’s see. “Something” like making it illegal for you to bequeath your valuable firearms to your heirs without them paying a huge and unfair “added inheritance tax” to do it. (Some of those pushing for “Universal Background Checks” have picked up on your resistance to that and are re-writing their bills to make half-hearted exceptions … but if they had reasonably considered their legislation before offering it, they would have included such provisions beforehand. Tells you something about their thought processes … )

“Something” like making you register your long-owned Ruger Mini-14, your AR15, even the Marlin or Ruger .22 rifle you take to an Appleseed shoot where people learn gun safety and marksmanship, and celebrate American history. The prohibitionists ask, “Why should you worry about registering your gun? That’s just to keep criminals from having them.”

Uh … excuse me, but … felons don’t have to register their guns! Remember one of those other Amendments, the Fifth one? Where you are not required to incriminate yourself? Long ago, in 1968, the United States Supreme Court made that ruling. Look up Haynes v. United States. It was an eight-to-one decision, by the way.

You are a law-abiding citizen? You are not a felon? Poor you: under some of the currently proposed legislation, your failure to register your weapon in a timely manner will make you one … but since you weren’t a felon before, don’t expect protection under the Haynes precedent.

And, make no mistake: history shows that when tyrannical regimes have taken over countries and set upon a path of repression and even genocide, the first thing they do is disarm the target populace. Hitler’s Nazis did it in reverse, restoring gun rights lost after WWI to “good Germans,” but not to the targeted Jews. Look it up: it’s part and parcel of the ugly history of genocide.

Registration is the first step to that disarmament. They have to know where the guns are before they can take them. Remember what triggered Concord and Lexington?

Gabby Giffords proudly owned a 16-shot Glock 19, identical to the one she was shot with.

The right to self-defense

Lord Blackstone, the great commentator on the Common Law, said that self-protection was the highest of all human rights. We live in a nation of well over 300 million people, with fewer than one million police officers to protect them. Those officers are assigned to work 40 hours out of every 168 hour week, and we have to consider vacation, court time, sick time, training time, and all of that. Put it together, and it’s no surprise that estimates of average police response time to emergencies around the country hover around eleven minutes.

A lot of bad things can happen in eleven minutes. My friends in Alaskan law enforcement tell me that in the most remote areas, response time might take until the next day, depending on the weather.

Even in more urban areas, police from Chicago to Oakland have stopped responding to certain serious felonies because they just don’t have the manpower to do it in this economically depressed society. Some of the more honest police chiefs and sheriffs are telling their citizens to arm themselves.

And, even if you’re around the corner from Police Headquarters when you’re attacked, you have to survive the attack long enough to summon police assistance. From violent home invasions to vicious “flash mob” attacks on the street, multiple assailants are involved. Gunfights are so fast-moving that no police department of any significant size has ever compiled a 100% hit ratio in officer-involved shootings. Add to that the fact that even fatal wounds do not immediately neutralize violent criminals.

Multiple attackers threatening your family … not all of your shots will necessarily hit … not all those that hit will strike center … and even not all of those may instantly stop the attack. Put that all in your computer, add it up, carry the one … nope, a New York compliant seven-shot firearm just may not add up to survival.

Current “assault weapon ban” proposals would criminalize most of the .22 rifles used by shooters at an Appleseed event, like this one in Hernando, Florida.

Don’t take advice from hypocrites

Dianne Feinstein, author of the current national “prohibition” legislation, is on film and on record saying that if she’d had the clout, she’d have told “Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ’em all in” — yes, all firearms. Oddly enough, Senator Feinstein does not take her own advice. She was one of about six people (on the city Board of Supervisors) who had permits to carry a loaded gun in that city. When she jumped on the “gun control” bandwagon, she said that she was going to be the first to turn in her gun and stop the carnage.

Feinstein had a permit with two five-shot .38 caliber revolvers on it. She turned in the cheap one, kept the expensive one, and kept the permit. God knows what she has now to protect herself; to my knowledge, her permit remains active and her gun(s) remain in her possession.

New York Senator Charles Schumer, Feinstein’s gun prohibitionist doppelganger on the East Coast, reportedly has a permit to carry a loaded gun where he lives. (Rumor has it that the gun on his permit is a Colt .38.) Interestingly, he does not seem to have ever responded to that, in any way …

Joe Biden says a two-shot double barrel shotgun is all you need for home defense. In a time of multiple-perpetrator armed home invasions, the author respectfully disagrees.

Gabrielle Giffords rode to Congress from the state of Arizona in part on a very pro-Second Amendment stance, in which she proudly and publicly stated that she carried a 16-shot Glock 19 9mm pistol. Tragically, she was shot and almost died among the corpses of others in the mass-murder by Jared Lee Loughner, who used an identical pistol. She subsequently found herself on the anti-gun bandwagon, along with her husband, Mark Kelly. In March of 2013, Kelly was observed buying an AR15 rifle — the type of gun he had said loudly and publicly no one had a right or need to own. Knowing he’d been spotted, he announced that he had made the purchase to show how easy it was, and that he intended all along to donate the gun to the Tucson Police Department. All I could think was, “Yes, your honor, I bought that heroin and cocaine, but it was just to demonstrate the scope of the drug problem … and I was planning to turn it over to the DEA … honest!”

Don’t take advice from the clueless

In first quarter 2013, Vice President Joe Biden, a long-time gun prohibitionist, said that all anyone needed for home defense was a double barrel shotgun, and that he had advised his wife to step out on the balcony and empty it into the air if there was trouble. In a world where “what goes up must come down,” the man a heartbeat away from command of the free world had advised the public to commit something easily construable as criminal negligence. He compounded it later by suggesting that the same double barrel shotgun just be fired through the door … at about the same time that a South African athlete was being charged with murder for doing exactly that, according to his alibi, and accidentally killing his girlfriend.

Bottom line

The most divisive debate in our country at this time is not something which requires rocket science to decipher. It simply comes down to common sense. Explain your position clearly and succinctly. Know the issues, know the answers.

And hope that truth and logic will prevail … though that will only happen if the truth and the logic get across to those who have been blatantly lied to and grossly misinformed.


  1. Just when are we going to punish the real criminal’s, the traitor’s to the Constitution , that don’t understand the word’s “shall not be infringed” , I do believe it means to leave that right alone in its entirety.


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