Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review June 30, 1999/ 16 Tamuz 5759

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Tony Snow
Michael Barone
Dave Barry
Kathleen Parker
Dr. Laura
Michael Kelly
Bob Greene
Michelle Malkin
Paul Greenberg
David Limbaugh
David Corn
Marianne Jennings
Sam Schulman
Philip Weiss
Mort Zuckerman
Richard Chesnoff
Larry Elder
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Don Feder
Linda Chavez
Mona Charen
Thomas Sowell
Walter Williams
Ben Wattenberg


That intellectually embarrassing Second Amendment -- LISTENING TO OUR BOY PRESIDENT and his court jesters on guns is similar to hearing a teen describe I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Guns wander aimlessly on the cul-de-sacs of upper middle class suburbs and mercilessly seize control of the minds of young people faster than Austin Powers. Gun show guns pack more power for conquering the will and reason than a gun purchased with a waiting period at, say, K-Mart. Mrs. Clinton warned children last month that if they visited a friend's house and saw guns, they should tattle. Mrs. Clinton spoke like an Arizona mother warning of scorpions, "Shake out your shoes for weapons. Search under your beds before you slumber. Put garlic around your windows."

Rhetoric has not frightened so fiercely since Magic Johnson's short-lived talk show.

Ever the masters at breeding frenzy based on fantasy, the Clintons et al. bulldoze onward in their continuing efforts to milk the moral tragedy of Littleton. The myths and intellectual dishonesty surrounding guns and the Second Amendment are surpassed only by The Star's weight loss ads. When it comes to guns, fear, loathing and advocacy rule scholars and dogma abounds on these tools of Beelzebub.

Myth #1 - Guns are a public health hazard.

One physician has noted that her goal is to "do to handguns what [was done] to cigarettes . . . turn gun ownership from a personal choice issue to a repulsive, anti-social hazard." In 1979, the American public health community established its goal of reduction of "handguns in private ownership" and its research and journals are tailored accordingly. Dr. Jerrome Kassirer, editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, and his predecessors, have editorialized in favor of anti-gun laws and vilified the NRA position. In 1994, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article entitled "Firearm Violence and Public Health: Limiting the Availability of Guns," but in 1995 rejected a contra view manuscript endorsed by more scholars and entitled, "Violence in America: Effective Solutions."

The medical and public health scholarship on firearms reads differently from criminological scholarship on such. Dr. Gary Kleck's work, which is rarely mentioned let alone debated in public health journals, offers these insights: (1) there are low violence rates in Switzerland and Israel where gun ownership is encouraged; (2) there is no consistent correlation between gun laws and gun ownership rates and high murder, suicide or crime rates; (3) the combined gun suicide and homicide rate in the United States is at the median internationally and at a rate less than half of Hungary's, a nation that bans guns while gun-intensive nations Australia and New Zealand rank next to Israel; and (4) the U.S. per capita fatal gun accident rate decreased between 1966 and 1986 and has remained stable since.

Myth #2 - Gun controls stop crime.

The high school shootings that incited recent gun paranoia occurred five years after the conviction-free Brady bill passed. When guns were readily available even to teens in the 1960s, there were no high school shootings. Lawyer/ economist John Lott documents in More Guns, Less Crime that where there are reductions in gun ownership, gun crime increases.

Myth #3 - The Second Amendment pertains to the rights of a militia, not private gun ownership.

Constitutional law scholars, who have found everything from abortions to prohibitions on nativity scenes in the U.S. constitution, become strict constructionists when it comes to the Second Amendment and interpret it as giving the right to carry muskets if and when tyranny arises. The Second Amendment has a rich history in the English Bill of Rights of 1689 which reflected the scholarly writings of that era on arms as a root source of power. Tyranny occurs because the citizenry are unarmed. Madison advocated citizens with "arms in their hands." Jefferson wrote of the personal and societal virtue of a gun as a constant companion.

Myth #4 - The Second Amendment is a group, not an individual right.

The language of defense of "hearth and home" appears in the debate on the Second Amendment. Defending the home front by asking a thief to stay in abeyance as one calls in committee security is nonsense. Further, the amendment is grouped with the three which deal with individual freedoms, not societal rights. Those three were a strategic tool in winning the Southern block votes whose fears of unrighteous dominion by a powerful central government were assuaged by promises such as Patrick Henry's that, "The great object is that every man be armed . . . Everyone who is able may have a gun." A collective right theory is strained beyond reason, but court cases to date evidence a liberal judiciary dismissive of the jurisprudential history and context of this amendment despite their ability to read birth control rights into the Fourth Amendment.

Myth #5 Only police need guns. Criminologists Wright's and Rossi's data on 2,000 convicted felons indicates that their worst fear is neither police nor conviction, but an armed victim.

Myth #6 - The people want gun controls.

Some polls run as high as 80% against gun controls. Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Scott, slain in the Columbine tragedy, read this poem as part of his Congressional testimony, "You regulate restrictive laws. Through legislative creed. And yet you fail to understand, That God is what we need."

While it's darn embarrassing for the scholarly elite, the Second Amendment is clear and guns have a critical role in freedom. The founders understood Darrell Scott's admonition but liberal public health scholars ignore it, leftist constitutional law scholars dismiss it and jurists defy it as a confused nation witnesses flying rhetoric, confounding myths, and dwindling rights.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments to her by clicking here.


06/24/99: Patricia Ireland eat your heart out --- but check out the recipe in 'women's mags' first
06/22/99: Dems and the Creator coup
06/17/99: True courage is more than just admitting troubles

©1999, Marianne M. Jennings