At this point in the gun control debate, the claim that we’ve been given over and over that no one is coming for our guns is one that cannot be sustained with any honesty. Advocates of control are coming out into the open to call for a repeal of the Second Amendment. The latest example of this comes from Salon.com‘s article, “Inevitability or pipe dream?: Meet the Second Amendment repealists.”
Perhaps this honesty is a fad that has infected the thinking of writers for Salon or the New Republic. But the concept of repeal is at the heart of any proposal for control. If ownership and carry of firearms are rights, permissible regulations are many fewer and much less invasive than if those things are privileges granted to some of us but not to all. As long as guns are enumerated for protection, control can only work at the margins.
So advocates for control are now admitting that they want to repeal the amendment. They try to be reassuring, but several points raised in the Salon article show the dangers.
For one, we’re told that repealing one amendment won’t put others at risk. This strikes me as ungrounded optimism. Consider Apple’s refusal to allow the FBI a backdoor entrance to iPhones. America’s concern over terrorism could easily create a demand to modify or repeal the protections of the Fourth Amendment—one that also uses the phrase, the right of the people. Marriage equality has reached the point of increasingly general support in popular opinion, though opinion can shift. But what about speech? What about religious freedom? Saying that we can repeal the protection of one right while leaving all other protections safe is wishful thinking.
I’ve recommended a study of the Eighteenth Amendment. The history of Prohibition shows that in fact, several amendments were tied to the banning of alcohol, contrary to the claim made by Lee Goodman in the Salon article that “the amendment enacting Prohibition did not result in a cascade of other amendments, and neither did the amendment repealing it.” Goodman is an attorney running for Congress and the founder of a group pushing for the repeal of the Second Amendment. He apparently is unaware of reason for the Sixteenth Amendment allowing an income tax, which—as Daniel Okrent discusses in his book about Prohibition, Last Call—was adopted to replace the revenue that would be lost once alcohol taxes went away. The Nineteenth Amendment, asserting that the right to vote belongs to women as well as men, was delayed on grounds that women would try to ban alcohol if they could cast ballots. Another example of amendments coming in groups is to be found in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth, passed after the Civil War.
The key promise, though, that repeal of the Second Amendment won’t result in confiscation of all guns is the hardest to accept. We’re asked to believe that changing the status of gun ownership and carry from a right to a privilege under the law won’t mean that the government will demand all guns to be turned in. But why not? Can we rely on the good intentions of people who don’t respect basic rights? The experience of states like New York and California leads me to believe that there is no last gun law short of total bans that will satisfy advocates of control.
And that’s why we can never rest easy. Compromise with gun control is never real compromise—give some, get some. We are never offered anything in return for new measures to restrict gun rights. For that reason alone, repeal of the key legal protection of those rights is something we cannot accept.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.