Newsweek Distorts Precedent, Role of NRA in Gun Ban Case
As background, the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." In very basic terms, gun rights advocates argue that the Second Amendment grants citizens a fundamental right to bear arms (the "individual rights" argument). By contrast, anti-gun advocates embrace the more restrictive interpretation that the Second Amendment guarantees a well-armed militia (the "collective rights" argument).
The U.S. Supreme Court has not had a significant Second Amendment case since U.S. v. Miller in 1939. And even that case is of dubious significance. But that does not stop NewsweekMiller as a significant precedent, as the article concludes: from treating
The Supreme Court determined in 1939 in U.S. v. Miller that an individual right to a gun had no "reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia," and thus the Second Amendment did not confer individual rights to guns.
The Supreme Court itself disagrees with Newsweek's conclusion. In the 1997 case of Printz v. United States, the Court stated:
In Miller, we determined that the Second Amendment did not guarantee a citizen's right to possess a sawed off shotgun because that weapon had not been shown to be "ordinary military equipment" that could "contribute to the common defense ... The Court did not, however, attempt to define, or otherwise construe, the substantive right protected by the Second Amendment.
But in the face of the courts' quiet resistance, a well-funded and powerful lobby group, the National Rifle Association, forcefully and effectively pushed the claim that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to bear arms. Four million-plus-members strong, the group has handed out millions of dollars and is credited with winning the 2000 election for George W. Bush. Whatever financial or political clout it has exhibited pales next to its legal influence: polls show that while a slight majority of Americans would support stricter gun laws, about 75 percent of them believe the Constitution confers a personal right to own a gun.
The article then concludes:
So long overdue is Supreme Court scrutiny in Heller that the Bush administration has staked out one position, while Dick Cheney has taken another (rumors surfaced last week that the administration might change its position again at oral argument). But the more interesting question is whether, absent judicial pronouncements, large constitutional matters will be thrashed out by the people and the democratic process or by well-funded interest groups and well-meaning academics.
The implication that the NRA was behind the Heller case could not be further from the truth. In actuality, the NRA spent "years of trying to wreck the litigation and avoid a Second Amendment showdown." But the NRA is the favorite "gun boogeyman" of the liberal media. If you are going to write an anti-gun piece, it is cheap and easy to include the NRA in the analysis.
In this instance, it would not have served the author's agenda to describe the NRA's true role in the Heller litigation. Consequently, it was not included.