Clearly, the ACLU's position here is not supported by any of the words of the founders nor is it supported when viewed against the rest of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Without a doubt, one must conclude on this point that the 2nd Amendment is an individual right and the ACLU is absolutely wrong.
The second stance by the ACLU--which involves the 1939 Supreme Court case of U.S. vs. Miller--is equally flawed as their first belief. This case is the only time the Supreme Court has had the opportunity to directly rule on the constitutionality of federal firearm statues during the 20th century. In this case, the court ruled that "in the absence of any evidence that that the use or possession of a shotgun with a barrel of less than eighteen inches has a reasonable relationship or use in a militia, we cannot say that the 2nd Amendment guarantees the right of one to keep such an instrument." In addition, the Court ruled that the weapon in question was not any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense. Clearly, for the keeping and bearing of a firearm to be constitutionally protected, the firearm should be a militia or military type weapon. Also, the Court noted that the militia consisted of "all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. 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." The court implicitly rejected the belief that only those members of a specific militia are covered under the 2nd Amendment when it did not discuss whether there should be evidence that the defendants met the qualifications for inclusion in the militia. Clearly, they understood that the militia was all of the people. The rulings from this case are not supportive of the ACLU's position whatsoever, and in fact one could easily make an argument that if challenged, the bans on certain types of semiautomatic rifles, such as that included in the Brady Crime Bill and found in states such as New Jersey and California, are unconstitutional and would be struck down if challenged. As with the first position of the ACLU, one must conclude that there is little or no evidence to support their position. In fact, one would have to argue that the evidence supporting the opposite view presented by 2nd Amendment advocates is overwhelming.
The fallback position taken by the ACLU on the 2nd Amendment is possibly the most damaging to their overall position on individual rights. The ACLU argues that even if their first two stances are incorrect, as has been abundantly shown here and in other articles, the 2nd Amendment is still subject to any restrictions set forth by Congress, because the founders could not have foreseen the development of modern small arms and the potential danger from the few that would cause harm with firearms outweigh their overall value. Besides the fact that millions of crimes are prevented each year because law-abiding citizens possess firearms, the problem with this position is that the same argument applies to any of the individual rights listed in the Bill of Rights. In fact, such an argument has been used against the ACLU during court battles over the 1st Amendment. For example, surely the founders could not have expected the development of hate groups and their use of the 1st Amendment to further their divisive message. The vast majority of Americans, myself included, find such positions to be reprehensible and offensive, yet the ACLU has fought many battles to insure that these people have the right to spread their message of hate. One could easily argue that the damage caused by racism and hate in this country are significant and in reality far more damaging on a much larger scale than anything a shotgun in one's closet could ever cause. Another example of where the ACLU has strongly opposed any regulation on the 1st Amendment rights is the Internet. Unquestionably, the founders could not have anticipated the development and explosion of use of the Internet as we have today and will experience in the coming decades. There are many great advantages to the Internet and we have only begun to scratch the surface, but there is also a dark side to the Internet. For example, there are negative Internet sites that range from groups spreading their messages of hate and lies, to descriptions of bomb making devices and how-to manuals, and finally to pornography. Does the existence of a few negative sites out of the millions of good sites mean that the entire Internet should be regulated and the 1st Amendment restricted? The ACLU says no. As with their first two positions on the 2nd Amendment, the ACLUâ€™s fallback position again does not hold water. With any freedom, there will always be those that abuse it and take advantage of the situation to further their positions. There will always be new challenges to any right and new ways to use it. Some good and some of a questionable nature. This is true of the 2nd Amendment as well as the 1st and other amendments. This is simply the price of freedom.
Having gone through this process of dissecting the position of the ACLU on the 2nd Amendment, the question now becomes why do they take such an odd stance that is counter to their supposed beliefs in individual rights? Why do they not join the NRA and other 2nd Amendment advocates in supporting all individual rights? I believe the answer comes down to a couple of issues. First, the vast majority of the members and leadership of the ACLU have never fired or maybe even held a firearm. Their knowledge base around firearms has been developed through movies, television, and the media. Therefore, many view firearms and firearm owners as a threat. Furthering their perceived fear of firearms is a belief that various firearm related activities, such as hunting, are unacceptable in a civilized society. And lastly, their lack of contact with firearms and knowledge around the subject makes it easy for them to believe that the rights listed under the 2nd Amendment are, in the arena of individual rights, unnecessary and even expendable.
Until the members and leadership of the ACLU overcome their hypocritical desire to lessen the individual rights of those that they donâ€™t understand or agree with, they will never truly be viewed as an organization interested in supporting individual rights. Rather, they will be considered just another special interest group with a â€śholier than thouâ€ť belief system when it comes to the 2nd Amendment.
Letâ€™s all hope that the ACLU quickly realizes the error of their ways on this topic and in turn joins the NRA in the fight for civil rights.