Geraldo Rivera and the Musket Canard
Geraldo Rivera appeared on Sean Hannity’s show a while back. The topic was the Second Amendment and the law-abiding citizen’s right to own an AR-15. Rivera took a verbal beating once again, as he had in the past from Dan Bongino on Hannity’s show on the same topic. The other night it was Pete Hegseth’s turn to lay into the personable Rivera. But Hannity and Hegseth missed an opportunity to deliver the decisive blow when Rivera trotted out the musket canard.
In interpreting the Constitution and amendments thereto, Neil Gorsuch bids us distinguish between meaning and application. The original meaning of the Constitution remains fixed; it is the range of applications that changes. Speech remains protected despite the fact that at the time of the Founding, electronic means of communication did not exist. (First Amendment). The Fourth Amendment still protects us against "unreasonable searches and seizures" despite the fact that there were no means of electronic surveillance in the early days of the Republic. (See Neil Gorsuch, A REPUBLIC, IF YOU CAN KEEP IT, Crown Forum, 2019, p. 111.)
An example Gorsuch does not give pertains to the Second Amendment. There were no semi-automatic firearms back then; indeed, there weren't any revolvers either. But "the right to keep and bear arms" has the meaning now that it had then. It is just that the application or extension of the term 'arms' has widened to include such semi-automatic long guns as the AR-15.
This is what Hannity and Hegseth should have said to Rivera when he brandished a prop he had brought along, an ancient muzzle-loader, and trotted out what I am calling the musket canard. Rivera’s ‘argument’ was that when 2A was written, the long gun of choice was the muzzle-loading, smooth-bore musket, and that therefore the amendment did not apply to the long guns developed thereafter. The argument is obviously worthless because it ‘proves too much.’ If it were sound, then the First Amendment would not protect speech and expression via telegraph, telephony, radio, television, and the internet. But surely it does. Ergo, etc. Similarly for the Fourth Amendment.
You would think that the lovable and well-informed Rivera, who has had legal training, would be embarrassed to give such a transparently worthless argument. But like most ‘liberals,’ he allows his emotions to cloud his intellect. This is shown by his use of the emotive phrase ‘assault rifle’ when he knows full well that the ‘AR’ in ‘AR-15’ does not abbreviate ‘assault rifle.’