In the last week, liberal corporations and anti-gun interests have launched a new salvo in the gun control battle.
But this time they are not merely advocating gun control policies or limiting the sale of firearms in certain stores. Instead, they are attacking America’s gun culture itself. By gun culture, I mean the culture that appreciates the value of firearms, promotes the lawful use of firearms, and respects the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Two different developments have occurred.
First, the Kroger retail giant announced that it was removing from its stores any magazines or publications that feature “assault rifles.” Kroger wasn’t specific about which magazines would go, but that could potentially remove everything from Guns & Ammo to Outdoor Life. Kroger owns nearly 3,000 supermarkets and retail stores including Kroger, Dillon’s, Fred Meyer’s and Harris Teeter. Unlike restricting the sale of firearms to buyers 21 or older, this move attacks the very notion that firearms can be the subject of collecting, sport shooting, hunting use, and popular interest. In other words, it rejects the fact that reasonable people have a legitimate interest in reading about guns.
Second, YouTube announced that all videos that demonstrate firearms, promote the sale of firearms, or provide instruction on the assembly of firearms will be banned from its platform. That is a major change that will affect millions of gun owners. Gun owners often check out reviews and demonstrations posted on YouTube before buying a firearm, just like other consumers check out reviews on YouTube.
It’s also unclear just how extensive the YouTube ban will be. I and many other gun owners sometimes check out instructional videos on gun maintenance on YouTube. Those videos demonstrate firearms and sometimes involve the assembly of firearms. Will they be banned as well? And what about gun safety videos? Hunting videos? Those too involve the demonstration of firearms, and they indirectly promote the sale of firearms.
YouTube has become a virtual public square where millions of Americans communicate with each other on a variety of topics. It appears that this public square will soon exclude communication that involves firearms in any demonstrative way.
Both of these moves are designed to inhibit the expression of ideas that is an important part of the gun culture in America. Our Founding Fathers appreciated the importance of an armed citizenry. Indeed, they declared in the Second Amendment that it was “necessary to the security of a free State.” But an armed citizenry requires a culture that supports the safe and lawful use of guns by a significant portion of the population. That culture is now under threat.
Kris W. Kobach is the elected secretary of state of Kansas. Prior to becoming secretary of state, he was a professor of constitutional law at UMKC Law School from 1996 to 2011. An expert in immigration law and policy, he coauthored the Arizona SB-1070 immigration law and represented in federal court the ten ICE agents who sued to stop President Obama’s 2012 DACA amnesty. During 2001-03, he was Attorney General John Ashcroft’s chief adviser on immigration law at the Department of Justice. He is also a 2018 candidate for the office of governor of Kansas. His website is kriskobach.com.