OSD: The Edifice of Federal and State Gun Control Assumes the Nonexistence of Gun Rights

[Striking down the ban on carrying a firearm in post offices is] what it looks like to take a right seriously. When you were in second grade you had some rights on paper, but what did they mean in practice? Your rights ended wherever the teacher wanted them to. As an adult, that’s flipped — you can walk in, grab five chocolate milks, and take a two-hour recess. Perhaps nutritionally ill-advised, but the point is that when you really have a right, you’re the one who decides how to use it. A right that you have to ask for permission to use is a right that you don’t actually have.

Post offices are the tip of the iceberg.

Gun control in the US dates to a unique period that began in 1934 and ended in 1994. That time was characterized by a steady ratcheting down of federal gun laws every ~30 years (in 19341968, and 1994) and then a final flurry of state-level assault weapons bans from 1989 (after the Stockton shooting in California) to 1994. Until Delaware, Illinois, and Washington passed AWBs in 2022-2023, it was the case that every state with an AWB created its AWB in that 1989-1994 period.

What happened is that in 1989, gun control groups gave up on the multi-decade effort to ban handguns. They pivoted to AWBs in the aftermath of the Stockton shooting, which had been perpetrated with an AK. AWBs were a brand new idea, and so they quickly swept through the handful of states that were receptive to gun control. But that’s as far as they went.

The edifice of federal and state gun laws dates almost entirely to that 60-year period, and the critical thing is that it assumes the nonexistence of gun rights. Sure maybe in some abstract Yankee Doodle sense you had a theoretical right to a musket, but if that right ever conflicted with how serious adults wanted to organize society, the adults would win. And they’d win so automatically as to not even be aware that there was an alternate view. “Carry a gun at the post office? Of course that’s illegal. Who would ever carry a gun at the post office?”

Court cases like the one at the top are what happens when mid-20th-century worldview suddenly finds itself in an environment where gun rights exist. That might make some people uncomfortable.

— Open Source Defense, Going Postal

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