This year’s class of Publius Fellows headed from the Claremont Institute to the West End Gun Club in the Los Angeles area’s San Gabriel Mountain foothills for an Independence Day of shooting, learning about the Second Amendment, and consuming mass quantities of barbecue.
The Publius Fellowship is one of four educational programs offered by the Claremont Institute to up-and-coming young conservatives headed for careers in scholarship, journalism, or government.
Graduates of the Publius Fellowship and the other Claremont Institute fellowships come from all over the U.S. and some from other countries. Many have gone on to fame and influence as political commentators and media personalities (Laura Ingraham, Dinesh D’Souza, Ben Shapiro, Mark Levin, the late Andrew Breitbart), politicians (U.S. Senator from Arkansas Tom Cotton), and political advisors, staff, and speechwriters in the federal government.
This year’s class of fourteen Publius Fellows was made up of the usual mix of bright, ambitious young conservatives either aiming at or already in careers in think tanks, congressional staff offices, and similar high-powered pursuits. One is a research associate at the law firm that is suing Harvard University for racial discrimination against Asian American applicants. Several Fellows are active journalists, a profession in dire need of balance in covering firearm issues. Another is a communications consultant for Donald J. Trump, Inc. and vice president of the University of California-Berkeley College Republicans. Read the impressive credentials of each one here.
A surprise member of the group was Publius Decius Mus (google it for his real name), a former National Security official in the Trump administration. He’s also a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute who is famous for his August 2016 political call to arms, “The Flight 93 Election.”
We all met on the public range at my gun club, the West End Gun Club, up in Meyer Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountain Foothills north of Fontana, California. Instructors were Claremont Institute Senior Fellows Professors Dan Palm and Ed Erler, Vietnam veteran and crack shotgunner John Schmutzer, and yours truly.
After a review of the Four Rules and the range’s policies and rules, and with eye and ear protection in place, we started the Fellows out shooting a lineup of rifles. Each rifle came from an era in American military history, briefly described by Drs. Palm and Erler, from the M1 Garand and M1A rifles of World War II, on to semiauto civilian versions of the M14 of the Korean War and early Vietnam War, to the AR 15 of Vietnam and after, to a rail-equipped AR representing the current iteration of this incredibly versatile, modular sporting rifle.
After a couple of hours on the rifle end of the range, we moved over to the pistol side. I reviewed once again the Four Rules, then the fundamentals of handgun shooting including stance, grip, sight alignment, sight picture, and trigger control. Then all hands blazed away on the firing line with a mix of 1911-model .45 ACP pistols, Sigs and Rugers in .22 caliber and 9 mm., a Ruger revolver in .357 Magnum, and the classic Dirty Harry handgun—a Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver chambered for .44 Magnum.
After the shooting session, and with all spent brass policed up, the group moved off the firing line to a layout of barbecue with all the sides and nonalcoholic beverages. Professor Ed Erler continued his tradition of a lunchtime lecture on The Second Amendment as an Expression of First Principles. This 2013 Imprimis article was widely circulated when first published, and it gives the Publius Fellows intellectual background on the Second Amendment that they would never get in most university political science courses.
This year’s group were less experienced shooters overall than last year’s, but all were the good students we already knew them to be. And new to this year’s group were two junior shooters, the children of two of the party.
I am always heartened by the reaction of other club members we run into during this annual event when they find out our group are smart, young people in public life who not only know about guns, but fully support our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The club’s range officer this year was particularly happy to learn about them.
DRGO has roots in the Claremont Institute. Remember that the Claremont Institute’s president at that time, Dr. Larry Arnn, adopted Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership as one of the Institute’s projects in 1994. Our fledgling project was greatly assisted by the capable staff there, including editing and public affairs support. Most recently DRGO was the client of the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, with the Center’s Clinic Director Anthony T. Caso authoring DRGO’s 2012 amicus curiae brief for the state in the federal court case Wollschlaeger v. Governor of the State of Florida.
The Claremont Institute’s mission is “to restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life.” To understand how vitally important this restoration is, we need only look at how badly the Second Amendment had fared in American politics up until a decade ago, and how poorly it is honored in some places even today. The Claremont Institute’s work over the years has guided policy makers in following the Constitution, without which private gun ownership in America would be a thing of the past. DRGO is proud to have been part of the Claremont Institute and to retain ties of friendship with its good people.
I’m looking forward to Independence Day 2020, when we will infuse another class of Publius Fellows with the spirit of the Second Amendment.
—Timothy Wheeler, MD is the founder and former director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, and a retired head and neck surgeon.