Where is the NRA on the Burress case?
rs at robertsheridan.com
Wed Dec 10 12:47:10 PST 2008
If you've ever called the NRA, as I have, years ago, to see whether
they had any useful resources in the defense of a person who shot a
quarrelsome neighbor, allegedly in self-defense, then you will not be
surprised to be informed that the organization is not very helpful at
all. There's something about people who get charged with misusing a
firearm which seems to make the NRA want to back off. They seem to be
on the side of duly constituted authority, police and prosecutors, not
an individual seeking to defend himself in court against them. Their
major interest seems to be to support the romantic vision of the
pioneer family with flintlock over the mantle to protect the settlers
from the dreaded Indians all around. Bringing this interest down to
the 21st century presents a sort of contextual dissonance, now that
the Native Americans are our friends and we're our own worst enemy.
The NRA seems to prefer extolling the occasional home-maker who
legally guns down an intruder than dealing with the formerly solid
citizen who, through depression or a turn toward mental illness and
derangement, turns his weapon on himself and/or his wife, or others.
One moment you're an upstanding individual entitled to possess all of
the weapons you want, even in an urban environment, or a well-settled
suburban milieu, entitled to NRA praise, and the next you've gone
berserk and taken out a public figure and the NRA doesn't want to
acknowledge you as one of theirs. It will brace for the inevitable
backlash, a la the Brady bill. You remember Brady, the press
secretary for Pres. Ronald Reagan, during that assassination attempt,
where Brady suffered brain damage from the would-be assassins bullet.
If the Indians stage a comeback, the NRA has enabled us to be
prepared, as the good scouts we are.
Perhaps the NRA has changed.
On Dec 10, 2008, at 11:53 AM, Volokh, Eugene wrote:
> The ACLU is surely entitled to its tactics -- though, to be
> precise, they are often the tactics of each individual chapter. It
> doesn't follow, though, that other groups need to adopt the same
> tactics, or that they are racists for not doing so (though I stress
> that's Prof. Zimmer's suggestion, not Frank's).
> But even there, I expect, the ACLU might have a different view
> when it comes to cases that involve a pretty clear public safety
> concern, in which it's trying to rebut charges that its positions
> are contrary to public safety.
> An example: Say that a typical ACLU chapter is considering
> whether to make a public statement defending victim of a possibly
> unconstitutional search for drugs. It wants to move the law and
> public opinion in favor of recognizing this kind of search as
> unconstitutional. But, it turns out, the search actually uncovers
> evidence that the victim is a pretty dangerous guy, perhaps
> dangerous in the very way that the hardcore drug warriors warn
> about. (For instance, say that the search uncovers not just drugs,
> but drugs stored in a way that was easily available to children.)
> Would or should the ACLU chapter feel duty-bound to make that public
> statement? Or is it entitled, and perhaps wise, to sit that one
> out, and focus on cases where its position doesn't feed the other
> side's narratives about how the searches are needed to stop
> dangerous criminals?
> From: Frank Cross [mailto:crossf at mail.utexas.edu]
> Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 11:45 AM
> To: Volokh, Eugene; conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
> Subject: RE: Where is the NRA on the Burress case?
> the ACLU has made quite a name for itself by defending the most
> unappealing figures. The ACLU doesn't focus on the speech of the
> "overwhelming majority." Indeed, this would seem the best way to
> strengthen a right -- if it exists for the most unappealing, that
> proves the power of the right. And I presume the NRA has ample
> resources. Perhaps there is a sense of the fragility of the Heller
> right and the fear that the time might not be yet right to push it.
> Though I suspect that the gun rights groups generally don't relate
> to the issue. It's not fair to ascribe racism, you could add Don
> Kates to your list on the racist effects of past gun control. And
> David Kopel to the defenders of Burress. But I suspect these groups
> relate better to Karl Malone than Plaxico Burress. And there is a
> real tension here, as reflected in the incompatibility of the
> originalist constitutional theory of the 2nd Amendment and positions
> like denying guns to felons. So I think the 2nd Amendment defenders
> feel theneed to be cautious.
> At 01:26 PM 12/10/2008, Volokh, Eugene wrote:
>> Content-Class: urn:content-classes:message
>> Content-Type: multipart/alternative;
>> Oddly enough, many gun rights advocates likewise do a great job
>> tracing many gun control proposals to racist origins, and point out
>> how racial and other minorities have used guns to defend themselves
>> against bigoted abuse (especially when the police were unwilling to
>> defend them). George Washington Professor Bob Cottrol, http://www.nrafoundation.org/lawseminar/biographies/cottrol.asp
>> , a trustee of the NRA's Civil Rights Defense Fund, has done quite
>> a job of this, see http://www.guncite.com/journals/cd-recon.html.
>> So rather than speculating about the NRA's and libertarian gun
>> rights advocates' hypothetical racism, might it be better to
>> consider first some alternatives?
>> In particular, let's say you're someone like Bob -- or Ray
>> Diamond or Nick Johnson or lots of other pretty clearly nonracist
>> supporters of gun rights. If you're going to choose whom to
>> spend your scarce time and political capital defending (or whom to
>> urge your group to spend its scarce time and political capital
>> defending), would you choose someone who is apparently an
>> incompetent and therefore likely pretty dangerous person? Or would
>> you prefer to focus on the overwhelming majority of gun owners and
>> would-be gun owners who never accidentally shoot themselves (or
>> others)? Hard for me to see how Burress is a "pretty good
>> candidate for [gun rights advocates'] cause," since he is precisely
>> the rare sort of gun owner whose actions support the anti-gun-
>> rights advocates' cause.
>> It seems to me the NRA and the libertarian gun rights advocates
>> are in the same position as are advocates in lots of other causes
>> that have a public safety dimension -- fights for drug
>> legalization, for medical marijuana rights, for protection for
>> recovered alcoholics, and so on. If you were such an advocate,
>> wouldn't you try to stay away from backing people whose actions
>> tend to support the other side's position, and focus on those
>> people whose actions tend to support yours? If the police busted
>> someone for medical marijuana possession, for instance, would you
>> be less likely to support him if there was evidence that he had let
>> his stash fall in the hands of local teenagers? To be sure, John
>> Lott, a leading pro-gun-rights scholar has expressed some sympathy
>> for Burress, and for football players more broadly, http://foxforum.blogs.foxnews.com/2008/12/02/jlott_guncontrol/
>> . But it seems to me perfectly sensible that many other gun
>> advocates prefer to focus on more appealing figures.
>> From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu [ mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
>> ] On Behalf Of Michael Zimmer
>> Sent: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 8:48 AM
>> Cc: conlawprof-bounces; conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
>> Subject: Where is the NRA on the Burress case?
>> It may just be my lack of attention but I have yet to see anything
>> from the NRA or the libertarian gun rights advocates coming to the
>> aid of Plaxico Burress to defend his possession of a revolver, even
>> if he was inept enough to shoot himself. If I am right, why is
>> that so? Reva Siegel does a great job tracing the guns right
>> movement to the 60's and the Republican efforts to develop wedge
>> politics around guns, but also in response to the civil rights
>> movement and the chaos of the period. Is the failure to come forth
>> for Burress because he is black? Otherwise he seems a pretty good
>> candidate for their cause since professional athletes have been
>> targets of armed robberies.
>> Michael J. Zimmer
>> Professor of Law Emeritus
>> Seton Hall Law School
>> Professor of Law
>> Loyola University Chicago
>> 25 East Pearson Street
>> Chicago, IL 60611
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> Frank B. Cross
> Herbert D. Kelleher Centennial Professor of Business Law
> McCombs School of Business
> University of Texas
> CBA 5.202 (B6500)
> Austin, TX 78712-0212
> To post, send message to Conlawprof at lists.ucla.edu
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