When writing about guns, commentators appeal to credibility and emotion by alluding to their pasts. Even yours truly will and did. Hunter dad. Hunter cousins, whose kids adore hunting too; they all go to Central Florida every fall, an excuse to hang out more than to endure chiggers and humidity. Although I’ve fired a .22 several times, I don’t own a gun — too damn loud. Besides, I have no illusions about saving myself or family, and I’m in excellent shape. How much of a chance does the average overweight American stand? “Protecting my family” carries an implicit sexism too. Guns don’t kill people — people with guns kill people, accidentally or intentionally.
After Sandy Hook, Newtown, Aurora, and Pulse, I too supported compromises with the realities of the Second Amendment. Background checks. Locks. Banning assault rifles. It didn’t matter. Second Amendment fans, not all of whom conservatives, were correct: these measures wouldn’t have stopped the scale of the assault nor the intention. As proof that the gun debate crosses ideological barriers, I agreed with Bret Stephens, Wall Street journal refugee and climate science denier, and his NYT column calling for, get this, the repeal of the Second Amendment. He’s also had it with the compromises. On first reading I missed his point. He doesn’t call for the confiscation of guns nor criminalizing their use; he wants the stripping away of constitutional protections for owning them, in the same way that nothing in the Bill of Rights says that owning a car is a fundamental right. The point isn’t to prevent more Las Vegases and Newtowns; it’s to stop the quiet horrors that don’t make daily newspapers. Suicides. The drunk, infuriated husband shooting a wife or girlfriend. Children reaching for Grandma’s purse, finding a pistol, and shooting themselves. Stephens:
From a law-and-order standpoint, more guns means more murder. “States with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides,” noted one exhaustive 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health.
From a personal-safety standpoint, more guns means less safety. The F.B.I. counted a total of 268 “justifiable homicides” by private citizens involving firearms in 2015; that is, felons killed in the course of committing a felony. Yet that same year, there were 489 “unintentional firearms deaths” in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Between 77 and 141 of those killed were children.
From a national-security standpoint, the Amendment’s suggestion that a “well-regulated militia” is “necessary to the security of a free State,” is quaint. The Minutemen that will deter Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un are based in missile silos in Minot, N.D., not farmhouses in Lexington, Mass.
From a personal liberty standpoint, the idea that an armed citizenry is the ultimate check on the ambitions and encroachments of government power is curious. The Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, the New York draft riots of 1863, the coal miners’ rebellion of 1921, the Brink’s robbery of 1981 — does any serious conservative think of these as great moments in Second Amendment activism?
A sapient portion of Stephens’ essay concentrates on the ignorance of liberals. Few people I talk to on the anti-gun side know shit about guns whereas everyone on the pro-gun side, including my family, can distinguish semi-automatic from automatic weapons and can recite legislation and case law. This situation reminds me of what Robert La Follette used to tell Progressives at the turn of the century regarding tariffs: stop ceding knowledge to the other side; memorize their arguments; learn the boring facts. Yet at the moment every politician who wants Sensible Legislation outlawing bump stocks, this week’s bete noire, like an idiot on television.
I’m just as silly because it ain’t happening. I’m aware of legal precedents. But, yes, repeal the Second Amendment. We’ve repealed silly, dangerous amendments once already.