Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The Knox Report: Where’s the NRA?

The Knox Report: Where's the NRA?

(Tombstone, Arizona, July 17, 2023) Joe Biden and Senate Democrats have been ramping up their anti-gun rhetoric. Democratic governors and state legislatures are doubling down on defending old, and passing new, unconstitutional gun control laws, all while the legacy media runs a steady barrage of “gun violence” stories that demonize guns and gun owners. In the midst of all of this, the question in many gun owners’ minds is this:

“Where’s the NRA?”

Surprisingly to some, the NRA is still there in DC and in state capitals fighting for our rights. Despite the chaos and corruption at the top, there is a cadre of sincere Second Amendment defenders working for the right to keep and bear arms for all Americans. Due to the chaos and corruption, they’re just much lower profile than they used to be, spending much less money, working with far fewer personnel, and, to a large degree, operating in a leadership vacuum. In short, the NRA’s still in the fight, but like a boxer who has taken way too many solid shots to the head, much of the NRA’s effort is flailing and ineffective these days, and often actually counterproductive. They appear to be totally incapable of even defending themselves, much less taking the fight to the opposition and protecting the rights of America’s gun owners.

But the news isn’t all bad.

Over the past few years, the NRA funded and shepherded into the Supreme Court what could be the single most important Second Amendment case in history: New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen. This case challenged New York’s “proper cause” requirement for issuance of a carry license. Supporters had hoped it would provide some relief for gun owners in New York and several other “may issue” states with similar “valid justification” requirements, which have been used as a catch-all excuse for denying carry licenses. Optimistic observers hoped the Court would go so far as to clearly recognize the right to carry a firearm for protection outside the home, and maybe even clarify the legal standard by which Second Amendment cases should be judged in lower courts.

What we got from the Bruen decision was even better than the most optimistic supporters had ever imagined. In a decision penned by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court majority declared that New York’s law was unconstitutional, and that the Second Amendment does extend to the right to bear arms for personal defense outside the home. The decision also went well beyond arguments about courts weighing individual rights against politicians’ and bureaucrats’ estimations of “the common good,” and “public safety.” Justice Thomas and the Court majority made it clear that the only test for the constitutionality of a law that impacts Second Amendment rights is “text, history, and tradition.” Under Bruen guidelines, any law touching on the right to arms can only be considered constitutional if similar laws were adopted and accepted around the time of adoption of the Bill of Rights and/or the Fourteenth Amendment.

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