The Big Picture Importance of the Second Amendment
by Justin Hinckley, LPNC Second Amendment Issues Coordinator
Very often in debates and discussions around gun laws the focus is the text, relevance, and meaning of the 2nd Amendment. I generally find them fruitless with those ignorant of the history of the Constitution. That said, I recently had the opportunity to read a Salon article suggesting a revision to the 2nd Amendment [editor's note: we are not linking to the article here, as we don't want to give it any extra publicity, but it is called "The Second Amendment is a ludicrous historical antique: Time for it to go" by Kurt Swearingen].
In a later article I will discuss the suggested revision, as it is illustrative of a person who neither understands the purpose of the Bill of Rights generally nor the 2nd Amendment specifically. Today, we'll go over the *controversial* idea that the 2nd Amendment exists to protect a free people against the intrusions of a tyrannical government. In the interest of brevity, and the fact that I'm largely speaking to Libertarians here, we will not discuss much of the ideological and philosophical origins of the 2nd Amendment. I want to focus on the practicality of such an injunction. Is it practical to protect the right to arms of a people so they may retain the ability to resist tyranny? Put another way, a common refrain used by anti-gun people, from President Biden on down to your average Salon writer, is some version of "Your AR-15s are useless against nuclear weapons, F-15s, and tanks." This statement varies in its forms, but we have heard President Biden and almost every other major anti-gun commentator or politician say it.
Thinking in this manner shows a general lack of understanding of the fluidity of revolution, rebellion, and civil war, aside from a general dismissal of the complexity of war per se. One need only look at the closest analogue we in the US have as to the feasibility of widespread armed rebellion in our country. That of course is our last major armed rebellion, during which the rebels formed armies, navies, military installations, and a functioning government: the US Civil War. The Confederates acquired heavy arms in a manner repeated throughout history in uprisings: acquisition through seizure. Those who fought on the side of the Confederacy actually did this generally without the active use of weapons, as entire divisions, installations, and armies defected to join their respective states in rebellion. Some did so out of ideological support for the Confederates, some refused to turn against their respective state, still others who did so had many other reasons, I'm sure.
The reasons are not entirely material, as the point of studying our Civil War is to establish that rebellions can succeed, generally. Rifles help them get there as the ability to seize an armory or installation is much more in question when the people doing so are unarmed. What is not clear is, should there be a new revolution or rebellion, what reason is there to think this would not occur again? If anything, I think we could expect more upheaval in the military because of the political polarization we currently experience as a nation. This suggests the possibility of widespread small-scale defections with equipment, sabotage, or espionage. No matter who the rebels may be in another major American upheaval, it is reasonable to think the military would have sympathizers of the rebels in their ranks and would seek to influence the outcome.
Looking beyond the only real "American versus American" government example, there are many analogues in which we learn that military conflict is dynamic, but arms are always one of the greatest considerations. It is a common saying in insurgencies that the purpose of a pistol is to get a rifle. In the same way it could be said the purpose of a rifle is to acquire heavy weapons: Rifles, pistols, and machine guns serve to obtain aircraft, armor, and artillery. The storming of the Bastille occurred, in part, due to the cannons and powder inside. The Shot Heard Round the World occurred because of an attempted seizure of Colonial militia armories at Lexington and Concord. Their own weapons were what the Colonials used to resist the seizures. During the Winter War, Finns acquired Russian machine guns, artillery, anti-armor, and more via ambush with bolt action Mosin Nagants and ski-mounted infantry. Jews in the Polish Warsaw Ghetto resisted Nazi extermination with what few arms they had, the level of resistance almost certainly influenced by the arms available to the ghetto resistance.
Then we can look at the history of guerrilla warfare. Decentralized units focusing on hasty ambushes, supply line disruption, and logistics hub destruction to demoralize and weaken an enemy is a staple of insurgents and guerrillas alike. Often these fighters are lightly armed, primarily using assault rifles and light machine guns. We have seen this done in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Algeria, Thailand, the Philippines, and on and on throughout the 20th Century. History is replete with examples of resistance done with lightly armed or lesser armed fighters. The lesser armed fighters inevitably spend great time and effort to acquire more arms. Thus, the idea that an already armed populace cannot provide resistance is observably false. Certainly, a populace armed with tanks, warships, and fighter aircraft in their backyard warehouses could put up a significantly greater resistance than one armed ubiquitously with pistols and rifles. This is an argument to restrict fewer arms, not greater arms. Nonetheless, the key point is that they, for one reason or another, all had arms. The specifics of which arms or how they acquired them is not relevant to my point. Arms enable resistance.
We now come to perhaps the most critical portion of this discussion: I do not discuss this topic with flippancy or lightheartedness. The idea of employing the cartridge box to protect our liberty is one I do not take lightly. And while I agree our country has many problems and is far down the rabbit hole of governmental malfeasance, I do not think we are close to needing to break out the final and most catastrophic of the boxes we employ to protect Liberty. I am not one who has a definitive line in the sand which, if crossed, would call for people to break out the guns and overtake the closest military armory. I do not know what would cause me to consider arms as a political solution, but I can assure you it would be a bleak day preceded by many, many bleak days beforehand.
While the 2nd Amendment exists ultimately to protect us from systems that permit things like the Soviet Union's Gulag, Hitler's Holocaust, Mao's Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, and Stalin's Red Terror and Holodomore, it can be difficult to know, without hindsight, just how precarious a position we are in at any given moment. And perhaps our most important tool in preventing such instances is to remain vigilant to the historical and potential future predations of government, and use our first three boxes to stop such intrusions: the soap, judicial, and ballot boxes. If all else fails, as long as the option of arms remains available to us, the need to employ them actively may never arise. The 2nd amendment seems a bit of a self-preventing prophecy in that way. As long as we have the ability to resist, we may never need to employ such abilities. If we remove the ability to resist, it seems almost inevitable that eventually we will need to resist. For that reason, let us not suggest ill-conceived revisions. Let us not enable or encourage the banning of arms, the registering of those who have arms, or the prevention of carrying said arms. Let us continue to protect the texts which protect us, so that we may never have to use the most extreme measures to we have to employ.
Gun Law Nullification
by Justin Hinckley
LPNC 2nd Amendment Liaison Coordinator
Nullification is an oft-discussed topic amongst Libertarians. The idea a citizenry or smaller government body can declare a larger government body's laws null and void is an appealing one to us. Nullification is a term used often in reference to attempts to undermine or sabotage the enforcement of federal regulations and laws. To better understand the broad topic of nullification, let us look at some recent examples.
In the early 2000s, a new term became common in the news vernacular, "sanctuary cities." Though the movement has its roots in the 1980s, much of the activity for which the sanctuary movement is known occurred in the 2010s. These were cities which, by their own city council or mayoral actions, declared their cities as sanctuaries for illegal immigrants. Most commonly this took the form of prohibiting local police and government offices from detaining people for or questioning them about their immigration status. It also often includes prohibitions on cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Today, there are estimated to be over 500 cities, counties, and states that have declared themselves sanctuaries in the US. Covering a similar time frame and gaining momentum over the last decade is the nullification of drug laws in US states. While many drugs remain illegal at the federal level, an increasing number of states are declaring medicinal and recreational use of a variety of substances to be legal.
Now let’s examine what characteristics generally encompass successful nullification campaigns. Nullification campaigns often involve two different strategies. The first strategy is to change the governmental perspective of the given topic in a legal or official sense. This would be through legalization or a change in policy that results in a different approach to the topic by the government in question. The second strategy is to refuse to assist federal authorities in the enforcement of their own laws and regulations. This occurs through prohibitions on cooperation with federal agencies or through the restriction of funding or resources directed at local/federal cooperation programs.
I feel the need to pause and praise both the sanctuary and drug legalization movements for their success in expanding their ideas both officially through government actions and socially through the growth of public support for such ideas. It is indisputable that more people use drugs legally (at the state level) in the US than were doing so before the drug nullification movement took hold. It is likewise indisputable that there are more places for illegal immigrants to live without fear of pursuit by local government entities than before that movement took hold.
Finally, we come to the guns. Success surrounding nullification of federal and state gun laws has almost exclusively occurred in the courts. We have also seen numerous victories in state legislatures with regards to gun laws, beyond nullification drives. The multiple resounding victories in these avenues does not excuse the firearms community from its lack of significant victories in the nullification space. This is not through a lack of effort, but a lack of effect.
In fact, during the same period of the sanctuary city and drug law nullification movements in the 2010s, a "firearms freedom" movement was building. This movement led to nine states passing firearm freedom legislation, essentially declaring federal gun laws irrelevant to firearms and accessories built within each respective state, due to them not being subjected to the Interstate Commerce Clause. These gun laws were quickly struck down in federal courts, as the courts have a long history of abusing the Interstate Commerce Clause to ensure federal power over all manner of things not mentioned in the Constitution.
Some firearms freedom acts remain in effect but have little to no consequence when it comes to protecting or expanding gun rights. But momentum is building again. Recently, we have seen a flurry of activity in the space of gun law nullification. The revival was in part due to the declaration of sanctuary counties and states for the 2nd amendment. These laws, to date, have proven entirely symbolic and do not seem to influence federal enforcement of gun laws throughout the US. Part of the reason for this is many of these laws and resolutions have no funding mechanisms, do not provide penalties for government officials violating the acts, and do not grant protections to citizens who may be arrested or prosecuted by higher levels of government.
Nonetheless, these gestures have generated fervor in the firearms community, now creating approximately a dozen states with sanctuary laws (depending on how "sanctuary law" is defined) and over 70 counties in NC which have declared themselves sanctuary counties. Here is where it gets interesting, as firearms nullification could be gaining traction to stifle authoritarian gun legislation in a real way. Illinois passed an inaccurately titled "assault weapons ban" and almost immediately 80 Illinois sheriffs declared they would not be enforcing any of the provisions of the legislation. For context, there are 102 counties in Illinois. As of this writing, no significant actions have been taken in Illinois to indicate the commitment of the sheriffs, but a majority of sheriffs opposing new gun regulations is a promising development for sure.
It is unclear if this new gun law nullification movement will amount to any significant progress in expanding gun rights in the US. If we are to learn anything from the immigration or drug activists, it is that nullification can be used to great effect when done correctly. We in the gun community must continue to find creative ways to employ nullification to forward the cause of liberty in relation to the right to self-preservation. Litigation is certainly the strongest tool in the gun rights arsenal, but nullification offers a path to increased public support and a bulwark against federal overreach. As we continue down this path, I would encourage each of us to consider the tools needed to employ effective nullification strategies and support or implement sound nullification legislation and regulations at every opportunity.
Constitutional Carry - What is it, why we need it, and what you can do about it
by Justin Hinckley
LPNC 2nd Amendment Liaison Coordinator
On January 1, 2023, Alabama enacted its constitutional carry law, signed in March 2022. This is the latest in a string of pro-self-defense actions in both legislatures and judiciaries throughout the U.S. in the last few years. In 2003 just one state, Vermont, had legal constitutional carry. Twenty years later, and 25 states now have it in their laws. Nineteen of those 25 have come into force since 2013.
Constitutional carry is essentially the removal of restrictions on concealed or open carrying a firearm. It is a term generally applied to laws which make it legal to carry a gun without a specific license issued by the state in question. A few states have stipulations pertaining to the open versus concealed carry of a gun or relating to handguns versus long guns, but the majority of laws apply equally to all manners of carry and types of firearm.
As with all burdensome government restrictions, the benefits of removal are many and varied. In this column, I will discuss some of the reasons with the biggest impact to the most people. For starters, the obvious issue of liberty is worth mentioning. As Libertarians, we support the idea that everyone should be able to best determine for themselves how to defend their life. Government should not be placing artificial barriers between individuals and self-defense.
Constitutional carry reduces entrance costs for individuals, thus allowing more people to accept the responsibility of defending themselves. Acquiring carry permits is expensive and time-consuming. By enacting constitutional carry in North Carolina, we reduce the cost of legally carrying a concealed firearm by about $200 (average concealed carry class price and application fee), reduce the time needed to take off work by about 12 hours (eight-hour class and estimated four hours for sheriff’s office), and eliminate the one-to-four month processing period of scheduling your class, attending your class, scheduling your application appointment, getting your fingerprints, submitting your application and fingerprints, and going back to the sheriff’s office to receive your concealed handgun permit. These barriers price-out lower-income individuals, as does the time required to take off work. Surely, rich people don’t deserve to defend themselves more than everyone else.
The last benefit I want to discuss related to constitutional carry is the idea of crime and policing. If we all agree that police cannot be everywhere to protect everyone at all times and we all agree that self-defense is a fundamental human right, then it should follow that we all agree having the most effective means to self-defense and having those means at our disposable at all times is essential. Even if law enforcement was eminently trustworthy, police often cannot respond to crimes fast enough to interrupt them and save lives. This makes it incumbent upon all individuals to accept the burden of providing for their own defense. Constitutional carry provides a better atmosphere for individuals to decide for themselves how, when, and where to arm themselves as a means of self-defense by eliminating the artificial barriers of government regulation.
As Americans dedicated to the cause of liberty, it is not enough that we merely read and discuss the topic of constitutional carry amongst ourselves. We must start voicing our thoughts to those who represent us, as they cannot claim ignorance to the importance of such a cause if they are told about it regularly. In the interest of assisting people with expressing their beliefs quickly and clearly, I have included a small note you can send to your state representatives, encouraging them to endorse the principle of constitutional carry:
I am contacting you today in order to express my thoughts, seek your response, and ultimately, gain your endorsement regarding the topic of constitutional carry. Constitutional carry is a term used to refer to laws which abolish permitting and licensing schemes relating to carrying a firearm outside the home. It puts the decision-making process about how and when to carry a firearm back into the hands of the individual. Would you not agree that individuals are in the best position to make decisions effecting their own lives? I fully support the enactment of constitutional carry in our great state of North Carolina, thus enabling those who have not had opportunity or means to acquire their concealed handgun permit (CHP), to be able to carry concealed without delay. The NC CHP costs hundreds of dollars, requires many hours dedicated to the process, and months of waiting in order to obtain. These barriers block many low-income citizens from being able to carry the most effective means to self-defense, because they do not wish to risk arrest for illegal carrying, while doing nothing to prevent violent criminals from illegally carrying. After all, the criminals are intent on committing additional crimes anyway, what incentive do they have to not break one more law? I look forward to your response and working with you to expand the idea of constitutional carry and passing a law to enable all peaceful North Carolinians to defend themselves in the way they see fit.
SHORT Act Summary
by Justin Hinckley
LPNC 2nd Amendment Liaison Coordinator
The words "gun" and "legislation" rarely appear together bearing good tidings, especially at the federal level. When laws are proposed that do simple things like remove some degree of state interference with your ability to exercise your basic rights, we at the LPNC like to point it out.
Senate bill S4986, also known as The Stop Harassing Owners of Rifles Today Act (SHORT Act), is a bill that seeks to remove short-barreled rifles (SBRs), short-barreled shotguns (SBSs), and a classification known as any other weapons (AOWs) from the National Firearms Act (NFA). This would eliminate the federal requirement to register such devices with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). It would also eliminate the tax stamp required for each, an amount that currently sits at $200 per SBR or SBS and $5 per AOW. Other elements of the bill include requiring the ATF to destroy all records related to these devices and their owners within one year of its enactment, qualifying a background check as meeting all state requirements for the registration and licensure of such devices, and prohibiting future federal or state taxes being levied against such devices. The SHORT Act accomplishes this by removing "shotgun,” "rifle,” and other similar terms from the definition of "firearm” in section 5845 of the NFA.
Representative Andrew Clyde (R-GA) introduced an identical bill in the House of Representatives, known as HR 9033. Clyde’s bill is intended to prevent a new ATF rule change to the years' long pistol brace debate. He said, "By deregulating these NFA firearms, this legislation prohibits the ATF from enacting an unconstitutional pistol ban through a simple rule change." Unlike most modern Congressional bills, the SHORT Act consists of just six pages, certainly an element that should make any Libertarian pleased.
Of course, this bill is unlikely to pass, especially with Senate Democrats discussing more gun control as a proposed solution to gun violence, notwithstanding that it occurs in whatever area with already-strict gun control the media is currently panic-pimping. Regardless, we as Libertarians should never stop supporting laws that reduce overall government power and do so using short, easily read bills.
Regardless of all the political maneuvering, I would urge readers to contact your Congressional representatives, and demand that they prove their commitment to our rights by supporting the SHORT Act. It is a positive when laws chip away at the NFA, which is perhaps the worst example of government overreach codified; it limits Constitutional rights and does so while imposing an immoral and reprehensible tax on citizens wishing to exercise that right.
In Defense of Self-Defense: a Practical Matter
by Justin Hinckley
LPNC 2nd Amendment Liaison Coordinator
Many words have been spent in defense of the 2nd amendment. Those words often focus on philosophical and judicial reasoning. In recent years, those words created strong arguments which led to great strides in our freedom to defend ourselves, such as in the decisions of Heller vs DC eliminating the outright prohibition of owning firearms in the home, or Bruen vs NYSRPA which essentially makes every citizen able to carry a firearm outside the home, through shall-issue permitting.
Discussion of Supreme Court cases, congressional action, and executive order, among other massive federal-level interventions, we sometimes we drift away from why these legal and political arguments are discussed with such gravitas. Stuck on the philosophy, we forget the practical reality that 2A enables individuals to defend themselves against aggressors. Today, I want to focus on the practicality of self-defense, of which the 2nd amendment is the absolute guarantor for all US citizens. In this discussion, I wish to take a closer look at guns and gun ownership on the individual level. How and why is a single gun beneficial to an individual person?
First, I propose this question to the readers: If you could snap your fingers and get rid of every gun in the US, legal or illegal, would you do it? You may think "yes of course! No more drive-by shootings, school shootings, or rampantly armed criminals!" It is my experience that many people, especially those who do not own guns for self-defense, think about guns almost exclusively from the perspective of criminals. Worries about what harm criminals and other bad-faith actors might promulgate dominate people’s minds and the gun-rights conversation.
Lost in this rumination is the reality of what an otherwise peaceful citizen can do with a gun. Guns are the great equalizers. Criminals have the privilege of preparation, thus theoretically putting them at an inherent advantage. They get to ensure they have superior size, strength, speed, age, numbers, weapons, aggression, positioning, and timing. As a general rule, confrontation with a criminal is an ambush, often placing the defender in the least ideal position to survive the fight and forcing the defender to overcome the disadvantage of reacting to a surprise attack.
A firearm, especially combined with training on how to use it, gives the defender a fighting chance by negating or eliminating the criminal advantages discussed above. Think about it this way: if you were only able to land one hit against your attacker do you want that hit to be a punch or a bullet? Sometimes in an ambush we only get one shot, best make it the most effective one you can.
Guns are so effective at stopping fights, they enable entire segments of the population a brand-new ability to live without fear. Elderly, disabled, petite, and non-aggressive individuals can now deliver deadly force with the same level of potential effect as the Navy SEAL, the terrorist, the seasoned criminal, or the SWAT officer. It’s unlikely an elderly or permanently disabled person can train enough to overcome their natural disadvantages in a hand-to-hand fight. Petite or pacifistic individuals might have neither the time nor the inclination required to dedicate to becoming skilled in a martial art or other self-defense technique needed to escape such a violent encounter unscathed.
Guns reduce the entry cost of self-defense. This is quite literal in the financial sense; a few hundred dollars can get a person access to a basic firearm that is often more than enough to save that person’s life. The cost of each of the many classes it takes to learn hand combat defense adds up quickly, and is likely to easily hit the cost of a middle or possibly high-quality firearm.
The entry cost is not just financial, however. One must also consider the time commitment of each defensive tool. In a world where no firearms were available to defend oneself, one would need to spend many hours over months or years to become proficient enough at retreating, fighting, and defending in a close encounter to survive, much less win, against an attacker with inherent physical and tactical advantages. With a firearm, safety can be relatively easily taught to a basic level of proficiency, giving the defender infinitely more potential for not just survival, but triumph in a violent encounter.
Theoretically, as soon as someone purchases a firearm, that person’s odds in a life-or-death fight increase substantially. In actuality, training is generally necessary to employ a firearm with consistent competence. That said, each training session on the gun range pays way more dividends than any single training session in a martial art, such as BJJ or Krav Maga.
To be clear, this is not to denigrate the martial skills, nor to discourage people from training. Certainly, any well-rounded defender has the ability to physically defend him/herself long enough to employ a firearm. There is an endless list of scenarios where a person's physical skills are called on long before or even instead of his/her firearm skills. The difference between minimum necessary gun skills and minimum necessary martial skills can be compared to the difference between learning to play an instrument and learning how to use an mp3 player.
It is clear there is great value, at the individual level, of owning and carrying a gun for defensive purposes (and there are countless examples supporting this). Guns enable us to be equal in an otherwise unfair fight. They give a lifeline to otherwise helpless victims, making an armed society an equitable society. Further, firearm possession enables freedom and encourages individualism. That is why, if I could push a button and make every gun disappear, I'd push the button next to it, putting a decent weapon in every citizen’s hands.
Guns Don’t Kill People, Social Media Does
by Shannon Bray,
Libertarian Party U.S. Senate Candidate for North Carolina
I have something I want you to consider. After every mass shooting, people cry out for gun control. For weeks or months, gun control is all you hear and then it goes silent. There are many people who believe that the availability of weapons is why we have mass or school shootings. The thought is that if you take the guns away from everyone, these types of events would not happen. If we just pass a few more gun laws, we will save our children.
There comes a time when we need to find the core of the issues and not just slap band-aids on everything. Everything in our community has become fuel for our cancel culture; if someone does not like it, they want it gone for everyone, but that is a topic for another day. For the sake of this article, let us call the band-aid gun control and let us consider the core of the issue: social media. No doubt you already knew where I was going with this since the title states it clearly but let me make my point and offer you several references so that you can come to your own conclusion. First, I will highlight the growth of social media. Second, I will present data that will show social media links to depression and anxiety. Third, we will discuss the characteristics of people who commit these crimes. And finally, I will offer various approaches that will help mitigate these issues and explain why Congress is unable to address the problems by simply passing a bill.