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Harvard History Prof. Needs History Lesson

Friday, April 27, 2012

Thirty-five words acknowledging the good uses and potential uses of guns, in an article of 7,729 words, is not necessarily better than nothing. The article, "Battleground America: One Nation Under the Gun," written by Harvard University history professor Jill LePore and published in the April 23 issue of The New Yorker, begins with 545 words dedicated to shootings at schools and ends with another 583 words in the same vein. Buried somewhere in the middle, LePore acknowledges that a gun "can be used to hunt an animal or to . . . prevent a crime. Enough people carrying enough guns, and with the will and the training to use them, can defend a government or topple one."

The article has over 1,000 words on the history of the Second Amendment, some of which makes for an interesting read. However, a history professor who doesn't understand Supreme Court decisions is not the best source for summaries of them. LePore claims that the word "arms," as used in the Second Amendment, means "military weapons." But in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the court said "The 18th-century meaning (of 'arms') is no different from the meaning today. . . . The term was applied, then as now, to weapons that were not specifically designed for military use and were not employed in a military capacity."

LePore also claimed that in United States v. Miller (1939) the court agreed with the Roosevelt administration's assertion that the Second Amendment is "restricted to the keeping and bearing of arms by the people collectively for their common defense and security." But that's not what the court said. With defendant Miller and his lawyer not present to participate in the case, the court said only that  "In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument." For that reason, the court returned the case to the trial court for further consideration. The high court also recognized that the militia historically has consisted of all able-bodied males of age, "bearing arms supplied by themselves."

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.