One of the regrettable consequences of the political class's obsession with gun control legislation (despite the American public not considering guns a significant problem) is that it encourages people and publications that otherwise aren't political into sharing their oblivious opinions on the matter. Such is the case with a November 5th column on the website of Runner's World magazine. Nestled on a front page that includes an article on "How Pumpkins Can Help Your Running" and a video titled "Power Yoga for Runners" is a piece by track athlete Nick Symmonds calling for a ban on handguns and popular semi-automatic rifles.
Attempting to pander to those who actually value their rights, Symmonds starts off the column by boasting, "I love my Second Amendment right." Symmonds then spends the remainder of the paragraph channeling Bill Clinton and John Kerry by listing his hunting bona fides as pro-Second Amendment credentials.
Later on, Symmonds proposes a legislative "compromise" that would "[b]an assault rifles and handguns for everyone except police and military personnel." Under his proposal, Symmonds would graciously "allow responsible citizens to own rifles and shotguns," as "[r]ifles are for big-game animals, [and] shotguns are for birds." Nowhere does Symmonds entertain the notion that firearms have legitimate, constitutionally protected, self-defense applications.
The Second Amendment has never been limited to hunting. Politicians and others often use hunting to veil or defend their anti-Second Amendment agenda, but with the benefit of the Heller and McDonald decisions, this tactic is more transparent than ever.
Authoring the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, which renders any federal attempts at a handgun ban (like the one Symmonds promotes) illegal, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia makes clear that self-defense is the "central component" of the Second Amendment right. Writing the majority opinion in McDonald v. Chicago, Justice Samuel Alito reiterates the court's position in Heller regarding self-defense, and incorporates the Second Amendment to the states, barring state and local handgun bans.
Currently, there is litigation being pursued in multiple states to clarify that these decisions also protect Americans from bans on popular semi-automatic firearms. Briefs offered in these cases cite the Supreme Court's emphasis on self-defense, and note that the opinions make clear the Second Amendment protects the right to own the types of firearms "in common use" at a given time, which clearly include the overwhelmingly popular semi-automatic rifles targeted by gun control advocates as "assault rifles."
Disregarding any Second Amendment rights argument, Symmonds proposal still makes little sense. Rifles of any kind are rarely used in violent crime. Data from the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division shows that in every year from 2007-2011, the number of murders perpetrated with the use of knives, blunt objects, and personal weapons (such as hands, fists, or feet), all greatly outweighed those committed with any type of rifle.
As for a total handgun ban, polls show Symmonds won't win Runner's World many new fans with this policy. An October 25th Gallup poll reports that 74 percent of Americans oppose a ban on handguns. This level of opposition for a handgun ban is near the highest observed since Gallup began asking the question in 1959.
The overwhelmingly negative response Symmonds received in comments to the online version of the article and on its Facebook page also demonstrates that his musings on gun control do not resonate with his current readers. A typical response implored him to "to put down your pen and stick to running," while another observed that a "free state, and a free person is not preserved from deer, turkey, or pheasants."
The entire column begs the question as to why Runner's World is publishing politically divisive materials advocating radical policies in a magazine meant for those who enjoy jogging and 5Ks. Let's hope this Runner's World piece is the furthest afield we see these types of stale gun control arguments, lest we be subjected to a Cat Fancy endorsement of microstamping, or a Cooking Light column on "junk guns."