Respect for the Second Amendment should not be a partisan issue. The vast majority of Americans understand this fact. After all, the Constitution is not a partisan document.
Before the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms in District of Columbia v. Heller, a February 2008 Gallup poll found that 73 percent of Americans possessed this understanding of the Constitution while a mere 20 percent had the incorrect collective-right interpretation. This wide-ranging respect for the Second Amendment holds. According to a November 2019 Rasmussen poll, a mere 24 percent support repealing the Second Amendment.
With a broad bipartisan majority in favor of preserving the Second Amendment, support for the right to keep and bear arms need not break down along party lines. However, the leaders and donor class of the national Democratic Party are intent on making it that way.
Consider the Draft 2020 Democratic Party Platform. The document contains a gun-control plank that is replete with many of the worst gun controls put forward by the party’s most anti-gun politicians.
The platform declares that the party will criminalize the private transfer of firearms by requiring every firearm transaction to take place pursuant to a government background check. The platform expresses support for the elimination of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System’s three-day safety-valve provision, which permits a firearm transfer to proceed three days after a NICS check has been initiated if the FBI has not determined the transferee to be prohibited from possessing firearms. This vital provision ensures that the federal government cannot delay lawful gun transfers indefinitely and ensures that firearms transfers can take place even if the NICS system is overwhelmed. Further, the platform calls for gun owner licensing.
Taken together, these measures would undo the Second Amendment right by turning it into a privilege bestowed by government—something on which no one attempting to exercise a Constitutional right should be forced to rely.
Then there are the even more flagrant violations. Chief among these is a ban on the manufacture and sale of commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and their magazines. In Heller, the Court made clear that the Second Amendment protects ownership of firearms “in common use at the time” for “lawful purposes like self-defense.” The principal target of such bans is the AR-15. As the AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America and owned almost entirely by law-abiding Americans, it is indisputably “in common use” for “lawful purposes.” Heller author Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas reiterated as much in a 2015 dissent from denial of certiorari in the case Friedman v. Highland Park.
While the 2020 Democratic Party draft platform is even more hostile to the Second Amendment than in 2016, this wasn’t always the case. Absent is any recognition of the Second Amendment, a conspicuous omission given the language in previous iterations.
2012: We recognize that the individual right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms.
2008: We recognize that the right to bear arms is an important part of the American tradition, and we will preserve Americans’ Second Amendment right to own and use firearms.
Lip service, perhaps, but there have also been practical changes in the party’s conduct. As Second Amendment attorney and scholar David Kopel pointed out in 2010, 81 House Democrats and 19 Senate Democrats signed onto an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court case McDonald v. Chicago supporting incorporation of the individual-rights interpretation of the Second Amendment to the states.
The national Democratic Party’s relatively recent near-uniform contempt for the Second Amendment coincided with billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s decision to employ his almost unlimited wealth in service of dismantling gun rights. After pledging $50 million to confront the NRA in 2013, the former New York City mayor has spent untold millions in federal and state elections to shift the Democratic Party to a radical anti-gun position.
Nevertheless, there is a limit to what money can buy. This year Bloomberg attempted to purchase the Democratic Party outright, seeking its nomination for president. According to ABC News, the would-be oligarch spent more than $1 billion on the venture, only to win American Samoa’s primary. Talk about a bad investment.
In the end, votes are what count. While the current national Democratic Party is being driven by its anti-gun donor class, the party’s servitude need not last forever. Support for the Second Amendment has been, and should be, bipartisan. The way to make this clear to the national Democratic Party and Michael Bloomberg is through the ballot box.