In the fall of 1997, I started collecting guns I really didn’t need to own. One Saturday in October of that year, I headed to the outdoor range with a few of my friends, our assault rifles, and a few hundred rounds of ammunition. While we were there, one of my friends complained bitterly about the anti-gun rhetoric spewed by one of his former sociology professors – a man we shall refer to as Gary (because that’s his real name).
Specifically, my friend was annoyed that Gary spent valuable class time arguing that the 2nd Amendment protects the citizen’s right to own guns but not to own bullets. With a straight face, his professor had argued that the key to reducing gun violence in America is to enact a legislative ban on the manufacture, distribution, and sale of bullets. This, he thought, would actually pass constitutional muster.
Gary’s proposed bullet ban makes him sound a lot like the segregationists I knew when I was a child in Mississippi in the 1960s. They didn’t like “colored people” and didn’t want them to vote. But they could not actually keep them from voting so they found ways to construct laws that would have the same effect without actually banning blacks from the voting booths. After all, a law that required literacy among voters was really just a way to promote public education, which, after all, is in the best interests of all, regardless of race.
As a professor in a Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Gary should have some familiarity with the case of Griffin v. California (1965). After the case of Malloy v. Hogan (1964), all states were required under the Fourteenth Amendment to extend the Fifth Amendment “self-incrimination” privilege to defendants in criminal cases. The case also extended the privilege to witnesses who were not defendants, even in pretrial proceedings such as preliminary hearings.
However, since prosecutors did not like this particular constitutional right, they tried to subvert it indirectly by asserting, for example, that the defendant’s choice to “take the fifth” was itself unequivocal evidence of guilt. The assertion, generally made during the prosecutor’s closing argument, was sometimes the last thing the jury heard before the onset of the process of deliberation. But, thanks to Griffin v. California, this act of allowing a government agent (a prosecutor) to indirectly subvert a constitutional right –simply because he found it distasteful (and/or dangerous) – was ruled unconstitutional by the end of 1965.
At first, I was under the impression that Gary’s support of a federal law banning ammunition was born of constitutional ignorance. But, in April of 2007, another student approached me with yet another complaint about his anti-gun rhetoric. Again, it was his specific assertion that the 2nd Amendment allows citizens to own guns but not ammunition. In other words, he has been making the same silly argument for over a decade while drawing a paycheck from the very citizens whose rights he wishes to subvert.
This kind of persistence leads me to believe that Gary’s problem is not born of ignorance of the constitution. Instead – just like the prosecutors subverting the “self-incrimination” privilege in the 1960s – he is hostile to those portions of the constitution that interfere with his specific occupational goals. More ambitious than the prosecutor’s goal of restricting the freedom of the criminal is the sociologist’s goal of restricting the freedom of the lawful gun owner.
Until now, no one (to my knowledge) has publicly challenged Gary’s silly proposal. But imagine he had a different goal; namely, that of restricting a woman’s so-called constitutional right to have an abortion. Imagine further that he took a similar tactic by indirectly attacking that constitutional right, which, unlike the right to bear arms, is written nowhere in the Bill of Rights. Specifically, imagine him going into a sociology class and suggesting that a woman has a right to an abortion but that abortion clinics could be lawfully banned. Or imagine him saying that forceps or suction tubes could be similarly banned. The possibilities are almost endless but the reaction from feminists would be uniform and loud.
Our college campuses need an organized response to anti-gun extremists like Gary – one that has the same level of enthusiasm and visibility that the campus feminists have enjoyed for decades. Thanks to some fairly recent decisions by the Supreme Court such a response is entirely possible because colleges collecting mandatory student activity fees are no longer able to deny funding to student organizations they deem to be offensive. This applies to all clubs – even those celebrating the 2nd Amendment.
There can be no better response to an anti-gun extremist like Gary than to establish a 2nd Amendment club at the local state college or university. And to those who have already done so I would suggest making a funding request to your university for an afternoon’s supply of ammunition. Taking your 2nd Amendment club to the gun range at the taxpayer’s expense will surely get under the skin of your liberal administrators.
Professors like Gary think they are exploring fertile intellectual ground with their latest anti gun schemes. It’s up to us to show them they are shooting blanks and, therefore, just a generation away from extinction.
Dr. Adams article also appears in the September issue of Shooting Sports Retailer.