CNS Messes Me Up:
I have had great luck with the press, having never been burned by a reporter using an embarrassing quote that I did or did not say. But this Cybercast News Service story on the Right to Arms panel at the Brookings Institution on Monday really led some people astray. At Brookings, I made the point that those who favor gun control should not use methods of interpretation to negate its meaning that their political opponents can just as easily use against the rights that they support. The two such moves are to appeal to the "underlying" principle or purpose of a provision to limit its scope. The second is to argue that changing circumstances justifies ignoring a part of a written constitution. Speaking after me, Ben Wittes took the honorable position that we should adhere to what a written constitution says and the the Second Amendment clearly DOES protect an individual right. For this reason, he would prefer it be repealed.

Wittes' opinion gained the headline in CNS: Repeal Second Amendment, Analyst Advises. The problem was they then followed with my point making it appear as though I was responding to his proposed repeal by proposing that other constitutional rights should also be repealed! Now the CNS column does not actually put those words in my mouth, but the story is very confusingly written and one blogger unsurprisingly read it this way:
Imagine my surprise. A "guest scholar at the center-left Brookings Institution," Benjamin Wittes, wants to gut the Second Amendment. Wittes told CNSNews "that rather than try to limit gun ownership through regulation that potentially violates the Second Amendment, opponents of gun ownership should set their sights on repealing the amendment altogether."

Georgetown University law professor Randy Barnett, however, did not limit his comments to the Second Amendment, suggesting instead that much of the Bill of Rights has "no contemporary relevance." As an example, Barnett cited the Fourth Amendment. "Sure it was fine that persons should be secure in their papers and effects back in the old days when there wasn't a danger of terrorism and mass murder." According to the professor, the Fourth Amendment is "archaic [and] we don't need it anymore……."
Of course, MY point was that such an argument could be made by those who opposed the restrictions of the Fourth Amendment. Certainly not my view. And VC readers know I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and gun rights, which is why I was on the Brookings program in the first place. See my Was the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Conditioned on Service in an Organized Militia?

One irony is that the motto of another blog site that repeated the above misconstrued report is: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." - Winston Churchill

As a result of the CNS story, this blog, or both, the misinformation is spreading rapidly through the right side of the blogosphere. As a result I have now received some charming emails that I thought VC readers would enjoy reading:
Dear Randy Barnett,
I noticed that you said recently that not only should the second amendment go away but that the Bill of Rights has "no contemporary relevance." That makes you a traitor. You are fascist, New World Order scum. I just pray that a non Council of Foreign Relations candidate gets elected as president so that filth like you have "no contemporary relevance."

Sincrely pissed off,
I find it interesting that you ignore Jeffersons stance on an armed population. You and your masters had better realize that the day gun confiscation begins shall be remembered as the first day of the Second American Revolution. You and your ilk will likely be the first with your backs to the wall.

please do not misconstrue this as a threat. I am merely stating what most of the hunters and sportsmen I know are saying. There are TENS million active hunters in the USA. If you think you can disarm them, I comend your attention to a little place called IRAQ!

I do not hunt. I do, however, Agree with Charlton Heston-FROM MY COLD, DEAD, HANDS!
This one was entitled: "Hey, phony prof, you're full of shit, you damned communist!" and reads:
You'd better start all over again, you communist punk! We smell you comin' from a mile away.

Austin, TX
This one may be my favorite:
Hi Randy:

I read an article that claims your interested in dismantling the Constitution. Well, sir, that is not for you to decide. I believe you should be charged for treason. Are you making these statements because your paid off? Are you making these statements because of information received and/or based on the main stream media?
Are you aware of the current standoff with Ed and Elaine Brown in New Hampshire? I bet not. Have you even spent an ounce of effort to research the undeniable facts of 9/11? I mention 9/11 because it was the precursor for the ever evolving police state we are entering.
Have you heard of the scholarlars for truth? How about Dr. Stephen Jones phd-former physicist professor at B.Y.U. ? He has a piece of molten metal from the twin tower debris which contains thermate. OO, you didn't know that? Albert Einstein said," Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance."
How about the fact that Jet A-1 (jet fuel), kerosene based, can only burn at a max tempature of 1800 degrees F. That is considering the fuel has a constant and proper mix of Oxygen( a controlled burn). Also, Structural steel melts at 2750 degrees F. Put the two together and what do you get? We know the Towers were a dirty burn-due to the black smoke emitted-indicating a low oxygen supply. Did you know that the Solomon Brothers building(WTC-7) wasn't hit by any aircraft, but yet collapsed in 6.5 sec.(faster the the law of gravity will allow) in it's own footprint? Also. Rudy G. is on video saying he was told the towers would collapse, and then on later video saying he had no prior knowledge? Why didn't the 9/11 commission report even mention WTC-7?
Who is Dr. Ray Griffin?
Now, I am a veteran. I love the United States and I love the U.S. Constitution, (and I took an oath, probably as you did, to uphold the Constitution), but most of all, I love freedom.

I would like to know, why you are bent on destroying the Constitution? And what you are basing your reasoning on?

A response back would be greatly appreciated.
C*SPAN taped the program. I have not seen it on the schedule and will post if I find out in advance when it will run.
Anonymo the Anonymous:
The last guy loves the Constitution so much that he would see you charged with treason for speaking against it (not that you did, in fact, do that.) Like they say, love is blind...
6.14.2007 2:52am
That's a different Steve. Or maybe not!
6.14.2007 2:52am
Joe Hiegel:
The CNS story is, to be sure, suboptimally clear, but I can't imagine that anyone who reads it other than cursorily should construe the present version of the story as attributing to RB the "scrap multiple constitutional rights" view (to which Martin's response might well be appropriate in spirit, if not in tone); has the story been edited since it was malunderstood?
6.14.2007 3:05am
abw (www):
Did you know that the Solomon Brothers building(WTC-7) wasn't hit by any aircraft, but yet collapsed in 6.5 sec.(faster the the law of gravity will allow) in it's own footprint?

My God the Neoconspiracy is even more powerful than we thought. They aren't just melting steel, they are breaking the law of gravity!!!
6.14.2007 3:11am
DustyR (mail) (www):
Glad to see you've retained your sense of humor with the e-mails, you damned comunist. :) At least I hope you are.

I have to admit, articles such as the one by CNS probably would have had my blood boiling, too, several years ago, but if reading blogs taught me anything in only a short time of reading them, it has taught me one thing -- do not believe what you read in a news report on anything without backup of source material and links and, then make sure to check them yourself. That goes equally for blogs -- no links, no source material, then I'll wait for those things before I jump to their conclusions.

As such, it's kind of disappointing to see you got those e-mails. It seems to me they are not from veritable blog reading newbies. Is the lesson I learned harder to learn than I thought?

BTW, your link to that blog site just refers back to this post. I tried googling the text but it takes me to a site that doesn't have that motto.
6.14.2007 3:12am
Hmmm.........interesting that i just recently put that Winston Churchill quote as the motto......This really is an info war..So it is, the best way to hide the truth is to throw both truth and lie into the muck.........War With Words
6.14.2007 3:27am
DustyR (mail) (www):
Dig the Heavy, stick to using "Another Day in the Empire" blog and dump the "War of the Words" blog. The former has better graphics and the 'read more' script for your post actually works.
6.14.2007 3:52am
Armen (mail) (www):
I think I sat next to Steve (possibly not the commenter) on a flight once. I was reading for one of my classes in the window seat. The guy in the middle seat spotted the legal textbook and started chatting. He turned out to be an associate somewhere. Then the aisle guy (Steve) chimed in with almost the same questions as in his e-mail. Had I known he meant "your" when he was saying "you're" I really would have been annoyed.

Anyway, I hope you and your co-conspiring commies keep posting these e-mails. They're great.
6.14.2007 3:57am
It is too bad that happened, but I am beginning to think that Churchill quote is no longer operative. In the blogosphere, it seems to me that the truth is often chasing right after lies full speed, in part because there are now so many people like Dusty around, and many of them are willing to instantly fact-check any claims they see on blogs or in news articles. In other words, I wonder if that Churchill quote in some sense depended on certain people and institutions having a disproportionate power to publish/broadcast, a power which the internet has been distributing much more widely.
6.14.2007 5:51am
Dave1L (mail) (www):
I am moderately pro gun rights so long as the 2nd Amdmnt. is in effect. However, emails like those make me realize just how scary it is to provide a right to bear arms to any crazy citizen that cares to exercise it (whether on the left, the right, or from the planet Xylizoth). Repeal!
6.14.2007 6:21am
The most offensive implication there is surely that Winston Churchill would say "pants".
6.14.2007 7:27am
Curt Fischer:

[Things Randy Barnett believes that gun control advocates should not do:] The second is to argue that changing circumstances justifies ignoring a part of a written constitution.

I do not understand your point here (but I have not seen the debate). First of all, you report that Ben Wittes advocated repealing the Second Amendment, not ignoring it. Do you nonetheless claim that such a view is a "method of interpretation" that gun-control advocates should not do? If this is the case, why do you think that our constitution provides a mechanism for its own amendment? I am not a lawyer or legal scholar, but to me it seems that the Founders well anticipated the idea that parts of the Constitution would lose "contemporary relevance" over the years. What are things gun-control advocates "should" do to argue their case, if arguing for a repeal of the second amendment is taboo?

Or are you merely proscribing against the tactic of skirting the Second Amendment with so many restrictive rules and regulations that its protections are completely eroded, WITHOUT advocating or attempting a repeal? In that case, I agree with you, because such a tactic is intellectually dishonest and violates the spirit of the Constitution.
6.14.2007 7:41am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Deal with journalists, you get screwed. This shouldn't be a surprise.
6.14.2007 8:58am
Ouch. My sympathies.

The irony has a particularly bitter taste here since Prof. Barnett is probably one of the last ones who would say that the Bill of Rights has no contemporary relevance.

You'd think CNS would know better. It's a common form of argument to describe the parade of horrors that would follow from the principles ones opponents embrace. Any competent journalist should have been able to get this right.
6.14.2007 9:28am
PatHMV (mail) (www):
I'm always amazed how willing people are to take some comment reported in a paper somewhere and assume it to be true, no matter how crazy it seems to them, without doing at least a bit of research into the matter. If something sounds treasonous to you, folks, you should do a little more digging to verify some basic facts before leaping to that conclusion.
6.14.2007 9:48am
The CNS article maybe misunderstands the context of Prof. Barnett's argument, but it's not confusing as to his stance on repealing Constitutional protection of rights-- read it. It introduces Barnett's argument with "But..." and concludes:
Barnett recommended that gun control advocates "not favor methods of interpretation [to criticize the legitimacy of the Second Amendment] that you wouldn't want to put in the hands of political opponents."
The blogger is the one who messed up, not CNS.
6.14.2007 9:54am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Maybe it's just me but I didn't find the CNS story confusing. But then I always make reverse arguments like Randy was trying to make.
6.14.2007 9:58am
AceTachyon (www):
I'm with Duncan. I didn't find the CNS story confusing. Randy's comment was perfectly clear to me.
6.14.2007 10:05am
Zathras (mail):
This article just shows that laziness is a better explanation than bias for the problems in journalism today.
6.14.2007 10:20am
Jim at FSU (mail):
It was pretty clear to me the point he was getting across. My impression from the article was that it was outstandingly good news that anti-gunners are conceding such an enormous point.

But the way the article is written, a person with little understanding of the current debate could perceive it to be advocating a repeal of the bill of rights or something equally silly.

Question, when you are done with your work on the 11th amendment, what next? You were one of the best speakers we had last year at FSU.
6.14.2007 10:26am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Tangential to this tangential point, repealing parts of the Bill of Rights is of course necessary, but not necessarily sufficient, to eliminate "fundamental" rights, you stinking communist traitor you.
6.14.2007 10:45am
shecky (mail):
Gun advocates, such as the ones who bothered to send those emails, provide the most inspiration to gun control advocates.
6.14.2007 10:51am
Rhode Island Lawyer:
The CNS article was not confusing to anyone who read it even halfway carefully. You were messed up by lazy readers, not lazy reporting. Judging from the content and tone of many of the folks who sent email, the ability and inclination to read carefuly and critically is not high in their skill set.
6.14.2007 11:36am
guest (mail):
The article was poorly written.

I've been to lots and lots of public meetings, and then read the newspaper account the following day. Often wondered if we were at the same meeting.

Reporters botch things pretty often. Too bad. I guess you have to be careful what you say. Nuance or irony can get mis-reported even without any hidden agendas.
6.14.2007 11:52am
mariner (mail):
In most other contexts extremists are not popularly referred to as "nuts". How often do you read about "abortion-rights nuts", or "free speech nuts" or "Fourth Amendment nuts"?

But Second Amendment supporters are routinely referred to as "gun nuts", and this broad brush keeps us from making important distinctions.

The people who emailed Randy aren't "gun nuts" -- they're nuts, period.
6.14.2007 3:00pm
Pub Editor:
My sympathies, Prof. Barnett. The CNS story stripped your words from context and then juxtaposed them with those of Ben Wittes so as to give almost exactly the opposite meaning that you were trying to convey. I don't know if this was intentional or negligent on the writer's part, but it is inexcusable either way. Maybe not surprising, though; whenever journalists without legal training report on a law-related story, well...

I guess this is why career politicians aim for the short sound bite or pithy statement and don't attempt nuance.

As for your email correspondents, clearly they did not read the transcript, or your faculty page, or anything beyond the CNS story. To think that the man who argued for freedom from federal interference in smoking marijuana would argue that the Bill of Rights no longer applies...
6.14.2007 3:13pm
metapundit (mail) (www):

Did you know that the Solomon Brothers building(WTC-7) wasn't hit by any aircraft, but yet collapsed in 6.5 sec.(faster the the law of gravity will allow) in it's own footprint?

I want to know what this guy is suggesting! Perhaps a giant leaned on the building to speed it's fall? Gravity generators operated from silent black helicopters? Perhaps the whole attack was a fraud to cover up the research into miniature black holes being conducted in the basement? What malevolent powers are at work here?
6.14.2007 3:32pm
...and an even more important question: Is Kevin Bacon connected to this somehow?
6.14.2007 3:39pm

"Condemnation without investigation is the height of ignorance."

To quote Southpark, "If irony was made of strawberries, we'd all be drinking a lot of smoothies right now!"
6.14.2007 5:04pm
Bleepless (mail):
Those people who accused you of those things are wrong. Those few who are sane ARE CLEARLY (note how this shows truth) have been fooled by your masters, the sinister globular-Earth plot answer the phone.
6.14.2007 7:03pm
dwlawson (www):
The 2nd Amendment has MORE cultural relevance today than it did in the 18th century. If Presidents Washington, Adams, or Jefferson were magically transported into the office today and were informed of the level of violence in the inner cities of Chicago, New York, D.C., etc they'd send in the militia. Actually Washington wouldn't send in the militia, he'd lead the militia in.

We have more crime to defend ourselves from today. We have more reason to fear our Federal government today than they did back then.

I know, I know...I'm just another gun nut!

Speaking of email, Mr. Barnett, did you get my email in praise of your article on the militia? Your article is one of the inspirations for my attempt to resurrect the citizen militia movement.

We need more "Militia Attitude" today, not less. Resistence is not futile, it is essential.
6.14.2007 10:13pm