Have you noticed the anti-gun argument of “Nobody wants to take your guns away” has now shifted to “Nobody’s trying to take your guns away”? That’s because, over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen a number of commentators on the left acknowledge that yes, actually, they would like to take your guns away. Well, not them personally. They would like someone else to take your guns away.
But they, like the “deputy ideas editor” for the website Quartz, believe that “the country remains loyal to a flawed, centuries-old piece of parchment written by a bunch of white men who didn’t believe women should have the right to vote and who thought that slavery was an economic necessity. There is nothing sacrosanct about our Founding Fathers.” They believe, as a writer for the website Salon believes, “that the Second Amendment is a failed amendment, a hopelessly entrenched piece of legislation that has continually fallen short of its expectations and has contributed more to depriving Americans of the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness than to protecting those same rights.”
Got that? Your right to keep and bear arms is the product of dead racist white guys who had all kinds of awful ideas. I happen to think that’s a gross simplification and misreading of American history, but let’s just leave that alone for now. Chances are, the folks making this argument don’t think everything the Founding Fathers came up with was a crummy idea. I’ll bet they like the freedom of the press (including the right to advocate for changing the Constitution), think the Third Amendment is hunky-dory, and even support things like due process and the prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures. They just don’t like this one, therefore it’s just as bad as slavery.
That’s an argument, but it’s a bad one. And as I mentioned recently, you didn’t see former slaves advocating for a repeal of the Second Amendment. They wanted to be able to exercise their right to keep and bear arms instead.Your right to keep and bear arms is the product of dead racist white guys who had all kinds of awful ideas.
The idea that the Second Amendment is a “failed amendment” is a strange one, given the dramatic decrease in violent crime over the past two-and-a-half decades (a period of time in which more than 100 million privately owned firearms entered circulation, and the number of concealed-carry holders climbed to 13 million). This falls under the “If we didn’t have guns, we wouldn’t have crime” argument. The problem with this argument is that: A.) we do have guns (over 300 million of them, as a matter of fact); and B.) plenty of countries that have banned firearms have seen their crime rates go up. The anti-gun side loves to talk about Australia, so much so that you have to wonder if they know that countries like Venezuela have banned gun ownership outright. Maybe they really have no idea that Caracas has become one of the most violent cities in the world, even after the sweeping gun prohibitions in 2012. In fact, many of the most violent places in the Western Hemisphere have restrictive gun laws. If we were to suddenly adopt Mexico’s gun laws, for instance, why would we think they would work any better here than they do in Mexico?
Even without a Second Amendment at the federal level, 44 state constitutions protect the right to keep and bear arms. There’s no reason to think you wouldn’t have dozens of states move to protect that right to keep and bear arms, even if a new constitutional amendment specifically banned gun ownership. Already there are four states that have passed laws legalizing possession of marijuana, and 25 other states allow the drug to be prescribed medicinally in violation of federal law. I can guarantee you there would be plenty of states who’d make the same move to protect the existing right to keep and bear arms. I’ve yet to see one advocate of repealing or rewriting the Second Amendment address this inconvenient truth, by the way.
Sadly, it’s not just online opinion writers making the argument that the Constitution has seen its day. Judge Richard Posner recently opined that law school students shouldn’t waste their time studying the Constitution. In his view, there’s no way the Constitution, the Bill of Rights or even the 14th Amendment can have any relevance to the 21st-century world we live in. And yet, if we just start to read the Bill of Rights, we can clearly see that Posner is wrong when he asserts that these documents aren’t relevant. As I wrote earlier this year for America’s 1st Freedom, the people who ratified the Constitution were incredibly skeptical of giving the newly formed federal government too much power, and wanted to explicitly tell that new government where they were not allowed to intrude. We may be even more skeptical of the government today than the generation that ratified the Constitution, and we’ve been deeply skeptical for several decades now, with the exception of a brief period after the attacks of 9/11.
I don’t think there’s ever a really good time to come out and renounce your support for the Constitution and to proclaim that the people and their rights are the real problem in the country. But to do it when mistrust in government is so high, when we are so polarized, seems like a really bad idea. While a majority of the country say the federal government is a threat to personal rights and freedoms, the argument from Posner and the like is “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” This is one of the most basic choices we face as voters this November. Will we progress toward a more perfect union using the Constitution as our rulebook, or will we boldly decide to let judges and politicians make up the law as they go along and as they see fit?
The Second Amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, are still relevant in 2016. Self-defense is still relevant. Privacy is still relevant. Freedom of speech and of worship are still relevant. Due process is still relevant. Most importantly, “We the People” are still relevant, and it is sad and scary that we, along with the Constitution, are seen as an impediment by so many in politics, media and entertainment.