Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Second Amendment

The Holder Distortion

Monday, January 26, 2009

On the heels of naming gun-banner Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, Barack Obama once again puts the lie to his supposed support of the Second Amendment by selecting former Clintonite and gun-hater Eric Holder as attorney general.

President-elect Barack Obama`s nomination of Eric Holder for attorney general is terrible news for the Second Amendment--and for the rule of law.

In the Clinton administration, Eric Holder served as deputy attorney general--the second highest-ranking position in the Department of Justice (DOJ)--under the infamous Janet Reno. Holder`s performance then and afterwards showed that he was a perfect fit for a department run by one of the worst, most lawless attorneys general in American history.

In early 2008, as the Supreme Court was getting ready to hear the Heller Second Amendment case, Holder joined Reno and several other former officials from the Clinton Department of Justice in signing an amicus ("friend of the court") brief. The brief was filed in support of the District of Columbia`s ban on all handguns, and ban on the use of any firearm for self-defense in the home. (The brief is available at www.nraila.org/heller/.)

The Reno-Holder brief argued that the Second Amendment protects a "collective" right, not an individual one, and asserted that belief in the collective right had been the consistent policy of the U.S. Department of Justice since the Franklin Roosevelt administration. A brief filed by some other former attorneys general and DOJ officials took issue with the Reno-Holder characterization of DOJ`s historical position.

But the Reno-Holder brief did accurately express the policy of the Department of Justice when Janet Reno was attorney general and Eric Holder was deputy attorney general. At the 2000 oral argument before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Emerson, the assistant U.S. attorney followed the Reno-Holder line, and told the judges that the Second Amendment was no barrier to gun confiscation, not even to the confiscation of guns from on-duty National Guardsmen!

The Supreme Court`s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller unanimously rejected the Reno-Holder theory. The five justices in the majority, led by Justice Antonin Scalia, recognized that the Second Amendment protects an ordinary individual right, similar to the First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and free exercise of religion. The four dissenters, led by Justice John Paul Stevens, agreed that the Second Amendment protects an individual right, but argued that it applies only to people serving in official state militias.

So to Holder, a decision allowing guns in the home means "putting guns on the streets," and allowing people to have "access to guns" is bad in itself.

Notably, not one justice agreed with the Reno-Holder assertion that the Second Amendment protects a "collective right," which belongs to nobody at all. The "collective right" version of the Second Amendment is as self-evidently absurd as the notion of "collective property" in a Communist dictatorship; supposedly the property right belongs to everyone "collectively," but in practice it belongs only to the government, and no person has any rights.

As deputy attorney general, Holder worked hard to restrict gun ownership. He advocated federal licensing of hand-gun owners, a three-day waiting period on handgun sales (even though the National Instant Check System does its work in a few minutes to a few hours), rationing handgun sales to no more than one per month, banning possession of handguns and so-called "assault weapons" by anyone under the age of 21, a gun show restriction bill that would have given the federal government the power to shut down all gun shows, national gun registration and mandatory prison sentences for trivial offenses.

He also promoted the factoid that, "Every day that goes by, about 12, 13 or more children in this country die from gun violence"--a statistic that is true only if one counts 18-year-old gangsters who shoot each other as "children." Gangsters murdering each other is a serious problem, but it is less than honest to describe the problem as involving "children"--as if the gangsters were innocents, rather than criminals who deliberately put themselves in harm`s way. ??

After the 9/11 attacks, Holder penned a Washington Post op-ed titled "Keeping Guns Away From Terrorists," arguing that a new law should give "the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms a record of every firearm sale." In other words, if you sell your brother-in-law a gun, both of you and the gun ought to be entered into a federal gun registration database.

As Florida State University professor Gary Kleck has observed, none of the purported purposes of gun registration make sense. Every stated objective (e.g., keeping guns away from criminals or terrorists) can be served just as well by other measures. The only thing that gun registration accomplishes and that other measures do not is making gun confiscation much easier.

Holder also argued that prospective gun buyers should be checked against the secret "watch lists" compiled by various government entities. That is, if a federal official puts you on a secret list, you should automatically lose your right to arms--with no due process even if you can prove that you are entirely law-abiding.

In 2007, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the D.C. handgun ban and self-defense ban were unconstitutional. (That was the case that D.C. appealed and lost in the Supreme Court in 2008.) Holder complained that the Circuit Court decision "opens the door to more people having more access to guns and putting guns on the streets." So to Holder, a decision allowing guns in the home means "putting guns on the streets," and allowing people to have "access to guns" is bad in itself.

As attorney general, Holder will have many opportunities to implement his anti-freedom beliefs. The attorney general is the boss of the U.S. Attorneys` Offices all over the country; these attorneys are the front-line legal enforcers of the federal criminal laws governing guns, and of the regulations imposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). When Reno and Holder ran the DOJ, the U.S. Attorney`s Offices aggressively prosecuted gun owners and sellers, often on flimsy charges. We can likely expect many more such prosecutions under Holder.

In addition, the attorney general determines the official legal position of the U.S. government in everything from a trial court in Guam to arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. Under the Bush administration, the DOJ attorneys have acknowledged the Second Amendment`s protection of an individual right, and they have avoided taking the most extreme positions to limit that right.

For example, in the aftermath of Heller, the U.S. attorneys fought to uphold the federal laws that ban certain "prohibited persons" (e.g., convicted felons, persons dishonorably discharged from the military) from possessing guns. But the attorneys did not tell courts that gun restrictions must be upheld whenever there is a "rational basis" for the restrictions. In practice, the government wins well over 99 percent of cases decided under a "rational basis" standard.

While the current Justice Department recognizes that rational basis is much too weak a standard for the protection of the explicit constitutional right to arms, Attor

TRENDING NOW
SCOTUS Reverses and Remands Two NRA-ILA Backed Magazine Cases

News  

Thursday, June 30, 2022

SCOTUS Reverses and Remands Two NRA-ILA Backed Magazine Cases

One week after our landmark victory in NYSRPA v. Bruen, the Supreme Court issued orders in two other NRA-ILA backed cases. Those cases, ANJRPC v. Bruck and Duncan v. Bonta, challenge New Jersey and California laws that ban magazines capable ...

“I Did That!” Biden’s Gas Crisis Creates Public Safety Crisis

News  

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

“I Did That!” Biden’s Gas Crisis Creates Public Safety Crisis

The Biden Administration is serious about making it more difficult for responsible citizens to exercise their gun rights, which is hardly surprising from the most anti-Second Amendment president in history. What is less obvious is ...

California: Legislature Passes and Newsom Signs Anti-Gun Bills

Friday, July 1, 2022

California: Legislature Passes and Newsom Signs Anti-Gun Bills

The California Legislature starts their Summer recess today, but not before a busy week full of defiant action against the recent Supreme Court victory in the NRA case of NYSRPA v. Bruen. The legislature passed several anti-gun ...

New Jersey:  Despite Historic Supreme Court Ruling Gun Bills Advance in Trenton

Friday, July 1, 2022

New Jersey: Despite Historic Supreme Court Ruling Gun Bills Advance in Trenton

On the heels of last week’s landmark Supreme Court decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen, Majority Democrats in Trenton doubled down on even more Second Amendment infringements by passing yet another package of gun bills.  This is ...

California Leaks Personal Data of Carry Permit Holders

News  

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

California Leaks Personal Data of Carry Permit Holders

On Monday June 27, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the launch of the California Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Firearms Dashboard Portal. The data tool was designed to give granular firearm transaction and Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permit ...

A Century of Opposition to New York’s Sullivan Law

News  

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

A Century of Opposition to New York’s Sullivan Law

On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down New York’s discretionary carry licensing regime as a violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms in the NRA-backed case NYSRPA v. Bruen. The law at ...

The Dominoes Begin to Fall: NJ Amends Permit Rules After Bruen

News  

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Dominoes Begin to Fall: NJ Amends Permit Rules After Bruen

New Jersey’s acting Attorney General, Matthew J. Platkin, issued a directive “clarifying requirements for carrying firearms in public” a day after the historic ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. ...

New York:  Majority Democrats Vote in Lockstep to Defy the United States Supreme Court

Friday, July 1, 2022

New York: Majority Democrats Vote in Lockstep to Defy the United States Supreme Court

Anti-Second Amendment politicians returned to Albany late this week and did the bidding of Gov. Kathy Hochul.  She called the Legislature back into an “extraordinary” session this week.  The session was anything but extraordinary. Lawmakers ...

NRA-ILA Asks Court to Stop the California DOJ From Releasing Gun Owners’ Personal Information After Massive Data Leak.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

NRA-ILA Asks Court to Stop the California DOJ From Releasing Gun Owners’ Personal Information After Massive Data Leak.

Earlier this week, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that he would be releasing firearms data via the California DOJ’s Firearms Dashboard Portal. That data contained gun owners’ names, dates of birth, gender, race, driver’s license numbers, addresses, and criminal ...

North Carolina: Carry Permit Training Bill Going to Senate Floor

Thursday, June 30, 2022

North Carolina: Carry Permit Training Bill Going to Senate Floor

Today, the Senate pulled House Bill 49 from the Committee on Rules and Operations and will send it to the floor for final passage. It requires sheriffs to waive the training requirement for former concealed carry permit ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

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.