ILA | L.A. Times Still Denying the Second Amendment

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The Los Angeles Times editorial page is less a journalistic enterprise than it is a partisan grievance noticeboard. The editorial board’s descent into trivial activist messaging was on full display in a pair of recent pieces lamenting the federal judiciary’s recognition of the Second Amendment. In both, the editorial board denied the core rulings in the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinions in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago that recognized the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. In neither piece did the would-be jurists at the L.A. Times offer evidence or argument as to their incorrect position or why the legal analysis of self-important regime press agents should carry any weight whatsoever.

The first editorial was published on April 26 and titled, “The Supreme Court agrees to hear a case that could mean more guns in public.” The item took issue with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to grant cert to NRA-backed case New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Corlett. The case challenges New York’s concealed carry licensing scheme and could prompt the Court to recognize that the right to keep and bear arms extends outside the home.

Lamenting the Court’s cert decision, the editorial board wrote,

The case the court accepted Monday (New York State Rifle & Pistol Assn. Inc. vs. Corlett) follows the court’s controversial 2008 Heller decision, which for the first time enunciated a right to own a firearm in the home for self-protection, breaking with historic perceptions that the right was conferred only to members of state militias. From our perspective, it was an errant reading of the Constitution, but unfortunately the nation is stuck with it.

The second editorial was published June 7 and titled, “The judge is wrong: California’s assault-weapons ban must stand.” This piece complained about the decision of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in Miller v. Bonta. The decision, by Judge Roger Benitez, found that California’s ban on commonly-owned semiautomatic firearms violated the Second Amendment.

Benitez’s ruling on the California ban was the result of a faithful interpretation of the Heller and McDonald decisions. We can be certain of this because Heller author Justice Antonin Scalia signed onto a dissent from the denial of certiorari in Friedman v. Highland Park, a case concerning a local ban on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms, that stated as much. The dissent noted,

Roughly five million Americans own AR-style semiautomatic rifles. The overwhelming majority of citizens who own and use such rifles do so for lawful purposes, including self-defense and target shooting. Under our precedents, that is all that is needed for citizens to have a right under the Second Amendment to keep such weapons.

Defending California’s unconstitutional ban, the L.A. Times editorial board whined,

Even the Supreme Court’s controversial 2008 Heller decision, which for the first time recognized (wrongly) an individual right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense, also said that the government has an interest in regulating firearms and that “the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”

In addition to its rejection of the Heller ruling, the editorial board did not even get the basic history correct when it contended that Heller recognized the individual right protected by the Second Amendment “for the first time.” As Scalia explained in Heller, the Court’s ruling in the 1939 case U.S. v. Miller “is not only consistent with, but positively suggests, that the Second Amendment confers an individual right to keep and bear arms.”

After their defeat in Heller, the more sophisticated gun control advocates abandoned their discredited collective right messaging on the Second Amendment. In fact, some gun control organizations have explicitly told activists in their messaging guides not to “Attack the Second Amendment or gun owners in general.”

In 2016, anti-gun group Americans for Responsible Solutions (now Giffords) conducted a gun control rebranding effort “based on poll and focus-group data.” The resulting messaging booklet warned supporters not to “Attack the NRA or the Second Amendment.” An earlier gun control group messaging guide from 2013, titled, “Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging” told readers to acknowledge “Yes, there is a right to possess a handgun in the home for self-defense.” Moreover, it told gun control activists, “don’t re-litigate the court’s rulings.”

There is good reason for the anti-gun groups’ advice. Aside from the fact that the outmoded collective interpretation of the Second Amendment is indefensible, that false reading is wildly unpopular.

A February 2008 USA Today/Gallup poll conducted prior to the Heller decision asked respondents, “Do you believe the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the rights of Americans to own guns, or do you believe it only guarantees members of state militias such as National Guard units the right to own guns?” The response was unambiguous; 73-percent responded that the Second Amendment guarantees the rights of Americans to own guns, while a mere 20-percent limited that right to state militia members 

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted shortly after the Heller decision, in July 2008, mirrored these results. This poll asked respondents, “Would you support or oppose amending the United States Constitution to ban individual gun ownership?” 78-percent opposed such a measure, while only 17-percent were in favor.

In May 2009, CNN and ORC conducted a similar poll that asked “Which of the following comes closer to your interpretation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? In addition to addressing the need for citizen-militias, it was intended to give individual Americans the right to keep and bear arms for their own defense. It was only intended to preserve the existence of citizen-militias, and does not give individual Americans the right to keep and bear arms for their own defense.” Once again, the American public made their position clear; with 77-percent choosing “individual gun ownership” to 21-percent answering “only citizen-militias.” 

With the individual right to keep and bear arms firmly established by the U.S. Supreme Court, in April 2018 Quinnipiac asked respondents “Would you support or oppose repealing the Second Amendment, also known as the right to bear arms?” An overwhelming 79-percent opposed repeal.

The vast majority of the general public, the federal government, the U.S. Supreme Court, both major political parties, and even some of the major gun control groups have all acknowledged or reluctantly acquiesced to the fact that the Second Amendment means what it says – “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The L.A. Times’s intransigence is symbolic of an increasingly radical and detached media elite who would rather nurse their own prejudices than accept reality or provide any meaningful reporting or informed commentary.

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