Glenn Beck Almost Gets It Right (About Guns)

Review of Glenn Beck, Control: Exposing the Truth about Guns (Threshold Editions, 2013), xvi + 189 pgs., paperback, $12.00.

I am not a fan of Glenn Beck. I negatively reviewed his book Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth and Treasure back in 2011.

I am not an advocate of gun control. I have negatively written about the subject on many occasions.

You can imagine my dilemma, then, when I saw that Beck had just written a book against gun control, Control: Exposing the Truth about Guns. Actually, he had some help, for on the title page it says that the book was “written and edited” by Beck and two individuals, with “writing and research” by five other individuals, and contributions from seven additional individuals. That is a lot of help to write a small-in-size 200-page book. Obviously, my loathing of gun control overcame my dislike of Beck or you would not be reading this review.

My brief analysis of the book is simply this: Glenn Beck almost gets it right. Although he is certainly opposed to gun control, and does a good job of skewering liberals who advocate it, there are a few things in the book that are disappointing.

After a brief “author’s note” by Beck, the book is divided into two parts: “The Truth about Guns” and “Winning Hearts and Minds,” followed by an afterword, “The Way Forward,” and twenty-seven pages of notes.

The book is not divided into chapters. Part one (pp. 1-114) contains a series of thirty-six liberal clichés that Beck supports with documented quotes from gun-grabbers like Dianne Feinstein, Stephen King, Pers Morgan, Michael Bloomberg, Barack Obama, Alan Dershowitz, Rachel Maddow, E. J. Dionne, and Michael Moore. Beck demolishes each cliché with facts, logic, wit, and common sense. Part two (pp. 115-151) mainly consists of Beck’s musings about the connection between violence in video games, TV shows, movies, music videos, rap songs and gun violence. (For the record, he doesn’t think the answer is “to ban video games or television shows or movies.”)

So what could possibly be disappointing about the book?

Beck has an overemphasis and overreliance on the Second Amendment. He writes as if Americans would have no right to keep and bear arms without the Second Amendment. But the Second Amendment confers no positive right. The Bill of Rights, of which the Second Amendment is part of, is an additional limitation on federal power to infringe upon gun rights aside from the fact that no authority is granted to the federal government in the Constitution to infringe upon them in the first place. If the Second Amendment didn’t exist, Americans would still have the natural and moral right to keep and bear arms.

Beck defends the gun control regulations mentioned in the Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008). It is true that the Court ruled in Heller that “the  Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.” It is also true that the Court reaffirmed this opinion in McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010). But these cases also made it abundantly clear that government can still infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms. Justice Scalia makes it apparent in Heller that the Second Amendment “does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.” He also goes on to say: “We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those ‘in common use at the time.’ We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”

Beck apparently supports federal background checks for gun purchases. Although he says, referring to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), that he is “not [a] fan of this system,” he also talks about fixing “the system we have”

Beck apparently supports the federal government licensing gun dealers and the federal regulation of “gun stores or home businesses that are routinely engaged in firearms commerce.”

Beck apparently supports some other federal gun control measures. He says he agrees with Mayor Bloomberg that drug trafficking should be a federal crime. He talks about holding off on “rushing a bunch of new laws through in the wake of tragedy until we can reasonably assess whether the ones we already have actually work.” He believes that the federal government should outlaw automatic weapons. He says he agrees with Rachel Maddow about people not being able to “possess artillery capable of shooting an aircraft out of the sky.” (Now that the federal government targets people with drones, this might be a reasonable thing to have.)

What Beck, Republicans, and other conservatives need to get through their head is that the federal government has no authority whatsoever under the Constitution to ban or regulate any guns or ammunition, institute gun licensing or gun registration, mandate waiting periods or background checks, regulate gun sales or gun shows, pass any gun-control legislation, or even have a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

The best thing Glenn Beck ever did is to have my friends Tom Woods and Yuri Maltsev on his television show back in 2010. The best book he ever wrote; that is, the least objectionable to libertarians, is Control: Exposing the Truth about Guns. Here Beck almost gets it right.

This article first appeared on on July 10, 2013.