Thursday, November 7, 2013

Guns & Ammo magazine fires editor for support of minor firearm regulations

Recently, Guns & Ammo magazine fired contributing editor Dick Metcalf for authoring this column for the December 2013 issue, in which he wrote:

Gun_controlI firmly believe that all U.S. citizens have a right to keep and bear arms, but I do not believe that they have a right to use them irresponsibly. And I do believe their fellow citizens, by the specific language of the Second Amendment, have an equal right to enact regulatory laws requiring them to undergo adequate training and preparationfor the responsibility of bearing arms.

Many Guns & Ammo readers were outraged by his column, and many reportedly claimed to have canceled their subscriptions.

Breitbart's Awr Hawkins was particularly upset about Metcalf's comparison of the Second Amendment right to keep and bears arms with the right to drive. Hawkins writes:

Metcalf misses the point. The 2nd Amendment protects a natural right; that's why it is not to be infringed. Owning and operating a vehicle is not a natural right, so comparing it to gun ownership is like comparing the ability to own and operate an airplane with the rights to freedom of speech and religion. 

This is an important point because our Founders' central reason for creating the Bill of Rights was to hedge in a body of natural rights as off-limits to government regulation and interference.

While Metcalf's focus on driving is curious (and probably inapposite), Hawkins did not inform his readers that Metcalf in fact invoked the government's authority to restrict First Amendment rights to justify his claims. Indeed, Metcalf wrote:

Note carefully: Those last four words [of the Second Amendment] say "shall not be infringed." "Well regulated" is, in fact, the intial criterion of the amendment.

I bring this up because way too many gun owners still seem to believe that any regulation of the right to keep and bear arms is an infringement. The fact is, all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be. Freedom of speech is regulated. You cannot falsely and deliberately shout, "Fire!" in a crowded theater. Freedom of religion is regulated. A church cannot practice human sacrifice. Freedom of assembly is regulated. People who don't like you can't gather an "anti-you" demonstration on your front lawn without your permission. And it is illegal for convicted felons or the clinically insane to keep and bear arms.

Hawkins, of course, did not independently raise this point. The obvious presumption, then, is that Hawkins either (1) did not read Metcalf's column (which is hard to believe given that he took the time to write a response), or (2) was deliberately trying to misinform his readers. Perhaps both--the attendant presumptions are not mutually exclusive, after all.

In any case, Metcalf proceeds to argue that if the Founders intended to prevent all arms-related regulations, "then the authors of the Second Amendment themselves should not have specified 'well regulated.'" 

Metcalf's position is entirely reasonable, and it comports with the general understanding of every Supreme Court justice--that, at least, minimal regulation on gun ownership is permissible. Writing for the Court in District of Columbia v. Heller, for example, Justice Scalia said: "The Constitution leaves...a variety of tools for combating [gun violence], including some measures regulating handguns." 554 U.S. 570, 636 (2008). Relying on Heller, Justice Alito wrote in McDonald v. City of Chicago, "We repeat those assurances here. Despite municipal respondents' doomsday proclamations, [this ruling] does not imperil every law regulating firearms." 130 S.Ct. 3020, 3047 (2010).

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