January 21st, 2013


scalia on civilian-legal stingers: no longer limited to the likes of osama bin laden?

Michael Feld points out that “to the extent that the 2d Amendment authorizes citizens to arm themselves against a potentially tyrannical government, whether Federal or State, it simply confounds reason to restrict such arms to small arms, and not to include the shoulder-mounted anti-helicopter missle launchers that drove the Soviets out of Afghanistan; and like that”.

The prevailing understanding of the Second Amendment is that it protects an individual right to keep and bear those, and only those small arms that are commonly used for self-defense and appropriate for service in the militia. Thus brass knuckles and sawed-off shotguns—ungood; handguns and machine guns—doubleplusgood. This is consistent with gun control, e.g. through licensing concealed carry of handguns or registering the ownership of machine guns. But outright bans on ownership and carry have been off the table since Heller and McDonald. Accordingly, I support and expect the reopening of the NFA registry, closed since May of 1986 for newly manufactured machine guns. It never got closed for destructive devices, but the Constitutional bounds of regulating civilian ownership of recoilless gun and rocket-propelled grenade launchers remain to be litigated. I for one do not wish their official distribution to civilians to proceed along the lines whose most prominent success story began with Ronald Reagan’s approval of providing Stingers to Osama bin Laden’s mujahedin confederates in March of 1986, pursuant to the original program finding signed six years earlier by Jimmy Carter.