Thursday, March 21, 2019

New Zealand Acts To Implement Assault Rifle Ban - Why Not The U.S.?

Image result for Jacinda Ardern
The late SC Justice Antonin Scalia - your total conservative - asserted in the Heller case that no citizen has the right to own an assault-style weapon.  New Zealand PM Jacinda Ahern announcing the assault weapons ban proposal.

"Sandy Hook happened 6 years ago and we can’t even get the Senate to hold a vote on universal background checks w/ .

Christchurch happened, and within days New Zealand acted to get weapons of war out of the consumer market.
This is what leadership looks like" - Alexandra Ocasio -Cortez this morning

The real question, now that New Zealand has acted to have an assault rifle ban within 6 days of the Christchurch massacre   (which saw 50 Muslims slain by a white nationalist nut) is: What is taking the U.S. so long to implement a similar ban?    

For those behind the news curve- understandable in the Trump era with its endless histrionics, BS and daily flouting of laws and norms -  assault rifles and military-style semi-automatics are on track to be banned in New Zealand.  This is after Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister, announced sweeping and immediate changes to gun laws following the Christchurch mosque shootings.  Ardern yesterday said point blank:

I absolutely believe there will be a common view amongst New Zealanders, those who use guns for legitimate purposes, and those who have never touched one, that the time for the mass and easy availability of these weapons must end. And today they will,”   
Adding: "In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country,
And wonder of wonders, even the gun sellers there seem to get it. In a text this a.m. - from the CEO of New Zealand Hunting & Fishing Co. (one of the island nation's largest gun retailers) we saw:
 "Any government measure to permanently ban such weapons merits support. Weapons of war have no place in our business or our country."
How far do the new regs go?  Parts that are used to convert guns into military-style semi-automatics (MSSAs) have also being banned, along with high-capacity magazines and parts that cause a firearm to generate semi-automatic, automatic or close-to-automatic gunfire.  
P.M.  Ardern also directed officials to develop a gun buyback scheme for those who already own such weapons. She said “fair and reasonable compensation” would be paid.  This is analogous to an Australia scheme implemented after the infamous Port Arthur massacre in 1996.
On April 28, 1996, a 28-year-old Australian,  Martin Bryant,  ate lunch at Broad Arrow Cafe in Port Arthur, Tasmania, a historic penal colony and popular tourist resort. After his meal, Bryant returned his tray, removed a semiautomatic rifle from his bag, and opened fire. By the time Bryant was caught a day later, 35 people were dead and 23 wounded in what became the worst mass shooting in Australian history.
Unlike the U.S., the Aussies got serious about controlling their military-style weapons. Among other things, the Australian government banned automatic and semiautomatic firearms, adopted new licensing requirements, established a national firearms registry, and instituted a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases. It also bought and destroyed more than 600,000 civilian-owned firearms, in a scheme that cost half a billion dollars and was funded by raising taxes. The entire overhaul took just months to implement.
The  New Zealand buyback scheme is estimated to cost between $100m and $200m. P.M. Ardern said the government was still working out how to fund it.
New Zealand, a country of less than 5 million people, has an estimated 1.2-1.5m firearms. The number of MSSA weapons is not known, but there are 13,500 firearms which require the owner to have an E-Cat licence, which the government is using to estimate the number of MSSAs.
We also know, as reported also this a.m. (CBS) that New Zealand has no constitutional right to bear arms.  But technically, neither does the U.S.  A point I've belabored in multiple earlier posts. And given the U.S. has some 400 million guns in circulation, and has had 1,988 mass shootings since Sandy Hook in 2012, there is a need for the nation to get its collective head straight.  
What does that mean? Let's go through the salient points again.  I begin with the claim anyone has the "right" to own an AR-15 or any other military-style assault weapon.
In 2008, then Justice Antonin Scalia, writing the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, delivered a dual opinion still not absorbed by most gun owners. The court said the District’s ban on handguns in private homes went too far, but that regulation of gun ownership was compatible with the Second Amendment:

Scalia wrote at the time:

"It may be objected that if weapons that are most useful in military service — M-16 rifles and the like — may be banned, then the Second Amendment right is completely detached from the prefatory clause. But as we have said, the conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty. It may well be true today that a militia, to be as effective as militias in the 18th century, would require sophisticated arms that are highly unusual in society at large. Indeed, it may be true that no amount of small arms could be useful against modern-day bombers and tanks. But the fact that modern developments have limited the degree of fit between the prefatory clause and the protected right cannot change our interpretation of the right.”

To get the language straight, and in Scalia's terms, it is useful to replace "assault weapons,”  with  the phrase:  “the kinds of weapons that Justice Antonin Scalia has defined as ‘dangerous and unusual’ and subject to regulation or an outright ban under the Second Amendment.”  And, if these weapons are subject to regulation, then they do not make for a "constitutional right".

As Joe Scarborough put it the morning of Feb. 21, 2018, just after the Parkland massacre:

 "Some say this is embedded in the constitution. It is not!"


"Go back and read Heller, 2008, what Scalia and the Supreme Court said. You're right, you can have handguns in your home, and shotguns to protect your family. But the court has allowed states  - like Maryland (2017)  to ban assault style weapons.  They let this and other laws stand   - without challenge - as constitutional "

Scarborough went on to further clarify, which I can't render any more transparent:

"If you want to make the argument that the Supreme Court should protect your rights to have military style weapons, that's legitimate.  But if you say it is your God-given constitutional right to have an AR-15 that is not what the second amendment says. And it's not what Justice Scalia says or the Supreme Court says."

Now let's get to the core of the matter, the wording of the Second Amendment itself:

"A self-Regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

If one claims to be an "originalist" - which most of the Right does in terms of constitutional interpretation  -  it ought not take an astrophysics degree to comprehend the amendment.   At the time this was written, muskets were the primary weapon, and no major organized standing army existed such as we have today. Indeed, the Continental Army of Washington, though it prevailed over the British, had massive war debts to pay off. There was no way to keep thousands of men under arms for sustained periods, as well as clothing and feeding them - far less recycling them with newer equipment each year!

It therefore became necessary to authorize the basis for a non-centralized force or "Militia" in order to supplement any governmentally- organized army called up. This "Militia" originated in the countryside, from citizens living across the land in various villages, towns and states. In effect, the 2nd amendment drafters were asserting the necessity for a subsidiary people's army to assist the main one. Citizens then became in effect, necessary to the security of the nation. One could then describe the state militias as "adjunct armies".

Indeed, some interpreters of the amendment believed the original content was even more diluted than I portrayed. They see the "well regulated militia" provision as actually devised as protections from any marauding, "loose cannons". These interpreters insist the framers would never in a million years have envisaged people (individuals) possessing permanent private weapons in their own homes.  And the notion of individuals owning military-style weapons like the AR-15 would have been as foreign to them as Moon rockets.

In  a controversial 1939 case, FDR's Solicitor General framed the argument to the Court:

"The Second Amendment grants people a right that is not one which may be utilized for private purposes but only exists where the arms are borne in a militia or some other military organization provided by law and intended for protection of the State."

The SC decision was unanimous.  This was barely 79 years ago, so what happened in the interim to debase the amendment to be unrecognizable today?

While the Court's decision prevailed for several more decades, it started to unravel by the 1970s as various Right wing extremist groups coalesced to challenge "gun control"  based on spurious private gun ownership  interpretations. By virtue of the infusion of millions of bucks  into state legislative campaigns they successively overturned laws in legislatures - much like the abortion opponents are now doing in many red states.

Chief Justice Warren Burger himself was adamant that  the claim of a right to keep special weapons on one's own was bogus. writing:

"This is one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime."

Alas, as the strength and political power of the NRA metastasized, it was just a matter of time before more and more state legislatures (like in Florida) were bought out and their NRA political slaves passed laws contravening Justice Burger's and the earlier 1939 ruling. This is why the only way things will change is to vote out the NRA political slaves, as David Hogg and the other Parkland school massacre survivors have maintained.

In the meanwhile, this nation can only dream of  having a leader like Jacinda Ardern, who had the courage to act as opposed to letting the bodies pile up from cowardice and offering mere "hope 
and prayers".

See also:

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