While Washington state gun rights are in the national spotlight, another battle over firearms is raging in Alabama, where pro-gun activists are fighting one another over a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot, and it’s caused the Alabama House Republicans to issue a statement Monday, explaining Amendment 3.
According to the House GOP, “There is overwhelming support by gun rights organizations for Amendment 3, including: the National Rifle Association, the Alabama Gun Rights Association, the Second Amendment Foundation, Gun Owners of America, and the Citizens Committee on the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.” The proposed amendment would require that any restriction on the fundamental right of citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves or the state “shall be subject to strict scrutiny,” according to George Owens, director of legislative affairs for Alabama Gun Rights.
He spoke with Examiner at the September Gun Rights Policy Conference, and subsequently via telephone.
Strict scrutiny is the highest level of judicial review, which would essentially assure that – no pun intended – the right to keep and bear arms in Alabama would be virtually bullet proof from legal erosion. At least, that’s what supporters say.
According to an e-mail from Owens, Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, issued a statement that says “Amendment 3 would strengthen the current Alabama right to keep and bear arms amendment by ensuring the highest level of constitutional protection. Amendment 5 would protect Alabama’s hunting traditions from well-funded extremist groups that seek to ban hunting. These amendments are critical to protect the constitutional freedoms of law-abiding gun owners and sportsmen in Alabama. On behalf of the NRA’s five million members, the NRA-PVF is proud to endorse Statewide Ballot Amendments 3 and 5.”
But not everybody is on board. Conservative writer and radio commentator Gina Miller has come out swinging against the measure, asserting that Amendment 3 “leaves (a back door) wide open for future courts or state legislatures, under the sway of leftists, to impose restrictions on Alabamans’ gun rights – after ‘strict scrutiny,’ of course!”
She expressed astonishment that the various gun rights organizations listed above, plus the TEA Party and Alabama Gun Rights, all support the proposed amendment. In an Oct. 15 blog on “Renew America,” Miller wrote in part, “…it’s deeply disturbing that all these gun rights groups are supporting this amendment. We must remember that it is leftist, tyranny-pushers who have worked their way into positions of power in courts and legislatures who have used twisted ‘legal’ arguments under the guise of terms like ‘strict scrutiny’ to shred the United States Constitution and our natural rights.”
But yesterday, Cameron Smith, national director of the Liberty Foundation of America and frequent contributor to the Alabama Media Group, wrote, “Anyone arguing that Statewide Amendment 3 somehow undermines gun rights is simply wrong. If anything, the amendment might be used to strike down existing gun regulations rather than creating a new opportunity to restrain gun ownership.”
The battle in Alabama underscores a national problem within the firearms community, while at the same time puts the lie to claims by gun prohibitionists that the so-called “gun lobby” is a monolithic bloc of narrow-minded “nuts” controlled from the Virginia headquarters of the NRA. Gun rights activists are famous for beating back threats to the Second Amendment, and they are equally adept at beating up on each other. Visit any gun rights forum and one will find often bitter feuds in progress. At other times, of course, the same gun activists will be shoulder-to-shoulder fighting to defend their common interests.
The Alabama GOP House caucus statement on proposed Amendment 3 essentially says Miller’s claim of gun rights erosion is a myth. It also wades into the thorny debate about “God-given rights” that has probably ruined more friendships over the years than money, infidelity or cheating at cards.
The situation in Alabama seems light years away from the scenario in Washington. Instead of arguing over a clearly pro-gun constitutional amendment, Evergreen State rights activists are fighting an effort to erode their privacy and criminalize perfectly legal activity. Many liken the Washington situation to the Alamo, where local activists are up against overwhelming odds, while others suggest that this is the early stage of a cancer that threatens to metastasize across the country if it is not stopped north of the Columbia River.