Second amendment scholarship (using money to reshape America)

Summary:  People with superpowers are running a multi-generational project to reshape America. They have the greatest of superpowers: money, which they’ve used to enlist experts to produce a large volume of research supporting their interests — overwhelming experts with different (ie, mainstream) viewpoints.  Here we see two examples of their success.



(1) Investing in America’s youth

What Do Campus Conservatives Reveal About the Modern-Day GOP?“, Elbert Ventura, The New Republic, 16 January 2013

As Binder and Wood detail, a well-established professional network nurtures these upstart advocates. Funded by tens of millions of dollars from familiar names — Koch, Bradley, Olin — organizations such as the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), the Leadership Institute, and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute nurse the new guard with resources and an intensity that have no equal on the left.

One student at Western told the authors that the Leadership Institute called him to offer unsolicited financial support for his conservative newspaper. … The organizations also offer a wide array of activities, from training sessions and speaking programs to conferences and funding, to further bolster the young conservatives.

(2)  Then there are larger projects under way

In previous chapters in this series about guns, we saw the array of falsehoods defending the conservatives’ views.  False data, false quotations, false history. This article discusses another dimension: false scholarship:  “To Keep and Bear Arms“, Garry Wills (Professor of History Emeritus at Northwestern), New York Review of Books, 21 September 1995 — Excerpt:

Over the last decade, an industrious band of lawyers, historians, and criminologists has created a vast outpouring of articles justifying individual gun ownership on the basis of the Second Amendment: “A well-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.”

This body of commentary, much of it published in refereed law journals, has changed attitudes toward the Second Amendment. The National Rifle Association’s lobbyists distribute it to legislators. Journalists like Michael Kinsley and George Will disseminate this school’s views. Members of it now claim, on the basis of their work’s quantity and what they believe is its quality, that scholarship on this subject is now all theirs—so that even to hold an opposing view is enough to “discredit its supporters,” according to the historian Joyce Lee Malcolm (source).


A wave of money reshaping America.
A wave of money reshaping America.

The Tennessee Law Review devotes most of its Spring issue to a collection of articles by members of this school, including one that says its authors have created “the Standard Model” for interpreting the Second Amendment. To this mood of self-congratulation can be added the fact that a majority of Americans tell pollsters that they believe the Second Amendment protects private ownership of guns. So the defenders of that position feel they hold both the scholarly high ground and the popular consensus.

The five who constitute a kind of inner circle of Standard Modelers — Robert J. Cottrol, Stephen P. Halbrook, Don B. Kates, Joyce Lee Malcolm, and Robert E. Shalhope — recycle each other’s arguments energetically. Three of the five write in the Tennessee Law Review issue, one of them (Malcolm) devoting her essay to the fourth (Cottrol), while the fifth (Shalhope) is frequently cited.

Then why is there such an air of grievance, of positive victimhood, in the writings of the “Standard Model” school? They talk of the little honor they are given, of the “mendacious” attitude of the legal establishment, of a rigidity that refuses to recognize their triumph. Don Kates (with co-authors) sputters in mixed metaphors of an opposition that “exists in a vacuum of lock-step orthodoxy almost hermetically sealed from the existence of contrary data and scholarship.” (source) Randy E. Barnett, introducing the Tennessee Law Review symposium predicts dire things if people do not “accord some respect to those citizens (and academics) whose views it [the Standard Model Scholarship] supports.” (source) Glenn Harlan Reynolds, in the article stating the Standard Model thesis, argues that militia extremism may be fueled by the Model’s opponents, who are “treating the Constitution, too, as a preserve of the elite.” (source)

Their own reciprocating nods and citations of approval are apparently not enough for these authors. Nor is popular support enough. They still talk like Rodney Dangerfield, getting no respect. They should ask themselves more penetratingly why this should be. Perhaps it is the quality of their arguments that makes them hard to take seriously.

… the quality of the school’s arguments can be seen in the very article that proposes the “Standard Model” as the norm of scholarship in this area. Glenn Harlan Reynolds “proves” that the Second Amendment looked to private ownership of guns by quoting Patrick Henry, in these words (and these words only): “The great object is that every man be armed…. Everyone who is able may have a gun.” (source)

That quotation comes from the debate over adopting the Constitution. It cannot, therefore, be concerned with the Second Amendment, which was not proposed until after the Constitution was in effect. Henry is not discussing the Amendment’s text, which the Standard Model says looks to other weapons than those used by the militias (citizens’ armies) of the states. Henry is talking precisely about the militia clause in the Constitution, which refers only to military weapons (“Congress shall have the power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia,” Article I, Section 8, Clause 16). Henry argues that federal arming of militias will either supplant or duplicate the states’ arming of their own forces (the arrangement under the Articles of Confederation and in colonial times). He says that, in the case of duplication.

Our militia shall have two sets of arms, double sets of regimentals, &c.; and thus, at a very great cost, we shall be doubly armed. The great object is that every man [of the militia] be armed. But can the people afford to pay for double sets of arms, &c? Every one who is able may have a gun. But we have learned, by experience, that, necessary as it is to have arms, and though our Assembly has, by a succession of laws for many years, endeavored to have the militia completely armed, it is still far from being the case.7

The debate throughout is on ways to arm the militia. The “arms” referred to are cognate with “regimentals, etc.” as military equipment. The attempts to get guns in every hand are the result of state laws for equipping the militia. Henry is saying that if the states could not do this heretofore, how is the federal government to do it?

Time after time, in dreary expectable ways, the quotes bandied about by Standard Model scholars turn out to be truncated, removed from context, twisted, or applied to a debate different from that over the Second Amendment. Those who would argue with them soon tire of the chase from one misquotation to another, and dismiss the whole exercise—causing the angry reaction from Standard Modelers that they are not taken seriously. The problem is that taking them seriously is precisely what undermines their claims.

This is the pattern in many fields today, not just law. Well-financed research contrary to mainstream thinking, serving conservative interests and serving to paralyze their opposition by volume.  Money can become power in many ways.

Wills’ article is worth reading in full for its analysis of the second amendment.

An example of the kind of reasoning Wills mocks

Shooting up the Constitution; Feds have no legitimate role in regulating firearms“, Andrew P. Napolitano, Washington Times, 17 January 2012 — A former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey and senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.

Starts off by referring to “We the people” as a “typo”, goes off into legal and historical fantasy.


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Other posts about guns and gun control

  1. The Founders talk to us about guns for a well-regulated militia,24 July 2012
  2. Yet another mass killing in America. Watch the reactions on the Right, and learn., 17 December 2012
  3. “The right to shoot tyrants, not deer”, 11 January 2013
  4. But Hitler confiscated guns, leaving Germans helpless!, 11 January 2013
  5. Guns do not make us safer. Why is this not obvious?, 14 January 2013
  6. Let’s look at the Second Amendment, cutting through the myths and spin, 15 January 2015
  7. Myth-busting about gun use in the Wild West, 16 January 2013
  8. Second amendment scholarship (using money to reshape America), 19 January 2013
  9. Do guns make us more safe, or less? Let’s look at the research., 23 January 2013
  10. Guns in the wild west: regulated, with no fears about ripping the Constitution, 25 January 2013

For More Information about American Conservatives

  1. The evolution of the Republican Party has shaped America during the past fifty years, 8 May 2010
  2. Ron Paul’s exotic past tells us much about him, the GOP, libertarians – and about us, 27 December 2011
  3. The key to modern American politics:  the Right-Wing Id Unzipped, 15 February 2012
  4. Why Republicans Need Remedial Math: Their Budget Plans Explode the Deficit, 16 March 2012
  5. What every American must know about the Republican Party, 16 October 2012
  6. A look at the foundations of conservative power in America, 4 November 2012



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