Saturday, April 14, 2018

The "Nice Girl" Who Saved The Second Amendment

You better thank your lucky stars for Joyce Lee Malcolm.
Some excerpts:
She learned the truth in 1995, when House Republicans invited her to testify before a subcommittee on crime. The subcommittee’s ranking member was Representative Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York (and today’s Senate minority leader). In his opening remarks, Schumer scoffed at Malcolm and other witnesses. “The intellectual content of this hearing is so far off the edge that we ought to declare this an official meeting of the Flat Earth Society,” he said. “Because the pro-gun arguments we will hear today are as flaky as the arguments of the tiny few who still insist that the Earth is flat.”
Malcolm still bristles at those words. “I was a Democrat at the time,” she says. “I was raised a Democrat. I was just there to tell them what I had found out. It wasn’t a political issue for me. But the Democrats were nasty. Schumer was nasty.” After the hearing, Malcolm came to a realization: “For some people, opposition to individual gun rights is an article of faith, and they don’t care about the historical evidence.” Ever since, she has received regular reminders of this fact. In 1997, for example, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia praised Malcolm’s “excellent study” but also erroneously called her “an Englishwoman.”
Even so, some people continue trying to keep Malcolm down. The latest slight occurred at a symposium sponsored by the Campbell University School of Law in February, when the legal scholar Paul Finkelman equated the Supreme Court’s Heller decision with its notorious 1857 ruling in Dred Scott, which denied citizenship to blacks. Right after this provocative claim, Finkelman raised the old canard about Bentley in a bid to damage Malcolm’s credibility moments before she addressed their audience.
A simple idea has motivated her work: “For me, trust in the common man is such a basic principle. Few governments actually allow it. They want to keep their people vulnerable and disarmed. I find it awful that people wouldn’t be allowed to protect themselves.” She also calls attention to a cultural aspect: “City people who grew up without guns think it’s just a bunch of rednecks.” She recalls an incident at Bentley, years before Heller: “I was in my office one day and a groundskeeper came up. ‘I just want to shake your hand and thank you,’ he said. What else could I have been writing about that anyone would want to thank me for?” She pauses. “There’s just so much vilification of the people who want to ‘cling’ to their guns,” she says, echoing the words of Barack Obama, who as a presidential candidate in 2008 said of rural and working-class whites — future Trump Republicans — that “they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”
Malcolm is now a Republican herself. When she hears gun-control advocates say they don’t want to ban all guns — “just the ones that look scary,” as she puts it, with a tone of contempt — her thoughts turn back to Britain. In 2002, she published Guns and Violence: The English Experience. It showed, among other things, that crime rates were low in the 19th century, a period with few gun restrictions. Things are different today: Crime has worsened in the United Kingdom, while gun ownership is rare. “Britain has gone down the road of taking away guns,” she says. “And look where it got them.”
She points to a website of the U.K.’s Police National Legal Database, which includes an online forum called “Ask the Police.” One question inquires about self-defense products. Are any legal? The answer: Only one, a “rape alarm” that looks like a car remote. Its panic button emits a screeching sound. The website also warns against using nontoxic sprays against assailants. If “sprayed in someone’s eyes,” such a chemical “would become an offensive weapon.” In other words, potential rape victims can push panic buttons but must not dare to injure attackers — not with sprays, let alone knives or guns. “Can you believe it?” asks Malcolm. “They don’t let people protect themselves.”


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