Jonah Goldberg

Considering how badly things have been going for conservatives, right-wingers, Republicans and anyone else whose brain doesn't explode like one of those guys from the movie "Scanners" at the thought of another Republican president, it's worth noting that one of the greatest conservative victories of the last 40 years is quietly unfolding right in front of us. On March 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an epochal ruling. The court found that the Second Amendment actually protects the right to bear arms for individuals.

Now, that in and of itself is huge. For decades, the courts, the legal and academic establishments, the press and all right-thinking people everywhere have been arguing that not only is the Second Amendment a chestnut from a bygone age, but that enlightened judges should just go ahead and void the darn thing like a bad parking ticket.

The high-water mark of anti-gun-rights shabbiness was the 2000 release of "Arming America" by then-Emory University historian Michael Bellesiles. The book purported to prove that gun ownership was never a major part of American society and that America's gun culture was a useful myth for the gun-nutters eager to make the Second Amendment mean something it doesn't. The book received lavish praise from the liberal establishment, including a rave review by Gary Wills in The New York Times, and won Columbia University's prestigious Bancroft Prize.

The only problem was that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax, perpetrated with faked or nonexistent evidence. Intellectually honest liberals had to recant. The Bancroft Prize was revoked. Wills admitted: "I was took. The book is a fraud."

Of course, there has always been a minority of liberals who've shown a willingness to admit, often reluctantly, that the Constitution can approve of something they disapprove of. Liberal journalist Michael Kinsley famously quoted a colleague as saying, "If liberals interpreted the Second Amendment the way they interpret the rest of the Bill of Rights, there would be law professors arguing that gun ownership is mandatory." And in 1989, Sanford Levinson penned a Yale Law Review article tellingly titled "The Embarrassing Second Amendment."


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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