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Association News: May 2000

By Larry Pratt

Maryland Attorney General’s War on the Constitution

This month’s “Anti-Gun Nut Of The Month” is Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr.

Curran has issued a 63-page report titled A Farewell To Arms: The Solution To Gun Violence In America. But, Curran’s report is a “solution” to nothing. Instead, it is a brazen, blatant, ignorant, erroneous, brass-knuckled, knee-in-the-groin attack on the Second Amendment.

Curran has circulated his Farewell to Arms to the other 49 Attorneys General hoping to gain their support in his war against the Constitution he has sworn to uphold.

His proposals, if enacted into law (God forbid!), would have the effect of doing to the Second Amendment what the explosives did to that Federal building in Oklahoma. That is to say, Curran’s proposals would, if they became law, demolish the Second Amendment.

And — like in Oklahoma — lives would be lost because millions of law-abiding Americans would be denied the right to defend themselves with handguns.

About one thing, however, Curran is absolutely correct. His proposals are none of those “small, timid measures” or “band-aid” solutions he denounces. No, siree.

Curran says, flat out: “Our public policy goal should be to restrict the sale and possession of all handguns to those who can demonstrate a legitimate law enforcement purpose or can guarantee that the use of such guns will be limited to participation in a regulated sporting activity.... We must institute a plan that will move us to a point where people are ready to accept an end to unrestricted private handgun ownership.”

Unrestricted?! In our country today, we have more than 20,000 so-called “gun control” laws!

There is so much in Curran’s wretched report that is false, half-true, and intellectually dishonest, that one hardly knows where to begin in trying to correct the record.

But, let’s start with his false view of the Second Amendment. Curran says: “This notion of an individual constitutional right to own firearms is a myth. The Supreme Court and all lower Federal courts have unanimously held, since the first decision in 1886, that the Second Amendment is about the states’ right to maintain a militia, and has nothing whatever to do with an individual’s right to bear arms outside the context of a state militia.”

Wrong! In a case called United States v. Miller (1939), the U.S. Supreme Court noted that the militia reference in the Second Amendment alludes to “civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion,” that “the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense” and that ordinarily when called for service “these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.”

As Stephen P. Halbrook notes in his book That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution Of A Constitutional Right (The Independent Institute, 1994): “The Supreme Court’s historical review demonstrates that the ‘well regulated militia’ referred to in the Second Amendment meant the whole people armed and not a select group, that each private individual had the right and duty to keep and bear arms, and that the people were to provide their own armed protection rather than depend upon a militarist and oppressive standing army.”

Maryland’s constitutional history shouts against Curran’s pro-civilian disarmament policies. In his book For The Defense Of Themselves And The State: “The Original Intent And Judicial Interpretation Of The Right To Keep And Bear Arms (Praeger, 1994), Clayton E. Cramer, quotes a member of the Maryland convention considering ratification of the U.S. Constitution (Alexander Contee Hanson) as referring to the militia, “which is ourselves.” And a committee of this same convention called the militia “all men, able to bear arms.”

These words from the Maryland Convention echo the Virginia Ratifying Convention in which George Mason (a long-time friend of George Washington) argued that “the militia is the whole people, except for a few public officials.”

Curran is retailing the Handgun Control, Inc. myth that the Second Amendment applies only to a state’s ability to maintain a militia and does not protect a God-given right of individuals to keep and bear arms. As recently as 1991, the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Verdugo-Urquidez held that throughout the Bill of Rights where the term “the people” is used, it refers to an individual right — as in the first, second, fourth, ninth and tenth amendments.

Another thing Curran denounces as a “myth,” as “hype,” as “false propaganda,” is that handguns are needed for self-defense. He says: “Study after study shows that guns are rarely used successfully in self-defense.”

Rarely used? His own report quotes a U.S. Justice Department survey estimating that there are, on average, 108,000 defensive uses of gun annually — which is 9,000 times a month, 2,077 times a week, 296 times a day. Not exactly “rare” by any definition.

And there are even higher, and more reliable, estimates. For example, Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz estimate that 2.5 million Americans use a gun in self-defense each year. Curran, however, says this figure is “wildly over-estimated.”

But, the late Marvin E. Wolfgang, a Liberal icon who called himself “as strong a gun-control advocate as can be found among criminologists,” said in The Journal Of Criminal Law & Criminology (Vol. 86, No. 1) that Kleck/Gertz’s research is “an almost clear-cut case of methodologically sound research in support of something I have theoretically opposed for years, namely, the use of a gun in defense against a criminal perpetrator.” Wolfgang, who had done research on guns and violence for over 25 years, added that he had to admit “my admiration for the care and caution expressed” by Kleck/Gertz in their research.

There was a time in colonial Maryland when — depending on who was in power — Protestants passed laws to disarm Catholics, and vice-versa. And, of course, in Maryland, a slave state that remained with the Union, slaves were prohibited from carrying guns without “a license from his said master” before the War Between the States, and free blacks were completely forbidden possession of either firearms or ammunition.

Now, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, Jr. would make all the law-abiding citizens of Maryland “slaves” by seeking to deny them their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms and use handguns to defend themselves against criminals. But, this must not succeed. We hope that all the good, decent, law-abiding citizens of Maryland will rise up and say to Curran and his report what King Charles I said when Parliament demanded control of the militia: “By God, not for an hour!”

Not only the people of Maryland need to make their opposition known to Curran’s tyrannical views, but citizens of all states should let their Attorney General know that they want a quick goodbye said to Farewell to Arms.

Larry Pratt is Executive Director of Gun Owners of America located at 8001 Forbes Place, Springfield, VA 22151 or at http://www.gunowners.org on the web.

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