Democracy Under Assault
Theopolitics, Incivility and Violence on the Right

Michele Swenson

The Supreme Court decision District of Columbia vs. Heller: More bait and switch by the gun lobby

Concealed carry was unimaginablea at the time the Second Amendment was drafted, nor was there capacity for rapid load and fire of muskets. Founders would likely be appalled by contemporary libertine constitutional interpretations, not to mention U.S. gun-saturated culture. The Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia vs. Heller effectively elevates the rule of gun above the rule of law, promoting a might-makes-right ethic: he who wields the most lethal weapon prevails. Guns become a counterfeit for justice –– no need for courts, lock and load.

The conceit that unlimited guns make us safer is belied by a 2002 Harvard School of Public Health study contrasting numbers of gun deaths over a decade in five states with the highest levels of gun ownership and five states with lowest gun ownership. The former experienced 16 times more accidental shootings, seven times more suicides and three times more homicides. An FBI study revealed that 20% of murdered police officers, highly trained with firearms, were killed with their own guns; 85% never returned fire.

Gun advocates’ broad interpretation of the Second Amendment ‘right to bear arms’ ultimately promotes unlimited individual access to all kinds of military weaponry, under the pretext of ‘self-defense.’ Since the ‘80s, the NRA in concert with the gun industry has responded to saturation of the market for hunting guns and handguns by flooding the market with evermore lethal firearms, and by promotion of concealed carry laws. Boasted former NRA lobbyist Tanya Metaksa to the Wall Street Journal in 1996, "The gun industry should send me a basket of fruit - our efforts have created a new market."

Masters of bait-and-switch, gun proponents assert defense of ‘hunting and sports guns’ while promoting the ‘sport’ of lethal military-style automatic and semi-automatic guns and 50-caliber sniper rifles (deadly at a mile, with a range of over four miles). The manufacturer of the Barrett 50-caliber sniper rifle has hailed military weaponry as a ‘growth area’ of the civilian gun market. He boasted that the sniper weapon can "wreck several million dollars’ worth of jet aircraft with one or two dollars’ worth of cartridge.." Indeed, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, promoters of annual ‘sports’ shoots with machine guns and sniper rifles that are endorsed by the NRA ("These shows are a blast," The Denver Post, 5-13-08), was forced to acknowledge that their year 2000 ‘Funshoot’ northeast of Denver was too close to Denver International Airport airspace.

Not even threats to U.S. national security are sufficient to stop the export of 50 Caliber sniper rifles, preferred weapon of terrorists. Three separate bills to regulate 50 Caliber sniper weapons under the National Firearms Act have languished in Congress since 1999. Consequently, 18-year-olds have had easier legal access to fifty-caliber guns than to handguns. CBS "60 Minutes" reported in July 2005 that 50 caliber guns and other assault weapons continue to be shipped out of the U.S., in the guise of ‘hunting rifles,’ sometimes on commercial airlines.

Encouraged by the rightward bent of the Supreme Court, gun lobby advocates like Larry Pratt, director of Gunowners of America and promoter of machine guns for ‘sport’ and ‘spiritual warfare,’ will not stop short of promoting an unlimited ‘right to bear arms.’