How many are you willing to repeal?

As I’ve discussed previously, advocates of gun control are more and more calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment.  The hurdles to achieving that goal are clear and are blessedly high, but the desire to repeal may be overwhelming other things that gun control supports are likely to value.

While the position we take on gun rights isn’t determined by the political party we identify with, if any, it is true to say that support for gun control skews strongly toward Democrats.  A recent poll done by the Pew Research Center finds three quarters of Americans who identify with that party are in favor of stricter gun laws.  The subject of repeal wasn’t addressed in this study, so support for that extremity may be softer, but repeal is on the continuum of measures for reducing the number of guns in America.  With that in mind, let’s consider other rights that people on the left of our political spectrum tend to value.

Take abortion to start with.  Some fifty-five percent of Americans support for a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, but looking at different regions in this country shows the largest number in favor to be in New England, followed by the Pacific Coast.  In between, the numbers are more evenly divided, and considering the majorities in Congress, the potential to ram through an amendment to ban abortion is much higher than a repeal of the Second Amendment.

Or consider trends in attitudes toward free speech.  Americans generally believe that government has no business banning so-called hate speech, but among millennials—young adults ages eighteen to thirty-four—support for such restrictions is forty percent.  Traditionally, support for freedom to express our ideas has been a tenet of groups such as the ACLU and others on the left, but people who identify as Democrats may be shifting in their views on this right.  But just as with guns, banning offensive statements would require a significant change to a constitutional amendment.

One case of this is to be found in South Carolina, where a representative in the state legislature, Mike Pitts, this week has introduced a bill to require journalists to pass background checks and be registered to practice the profession.

While this is likely a bill to make a point, rather than a serious attempt at legislation, this and my other examples show the risks of demanding new laws without thinking through the potential consequences.  This is especially the case in periods of external threats and internal turmoil.  The rapid passage of the PATRIOT Act serves as a warning to anyone who values privacy rights protected by the Fourth Amendment, and the years since 2001 have shown how trading away our freedoms for the promise of safety is a self-inflicted wound.

That amendment is important to bear in mind when considering the Second.  Both refer to “the right of the people.”  If gun control advocates insist on reading “the people” in the Second Amendment only in the collective sense, a reading that came to prominence in the latter half of the twentieth century, it’s a good question to ask them what prevents us from taking “the people” in the Fourth Amendment collectively.  Interpreting the Fourth in the same way that opponents of gun rights want to interpret the Second, we could come to the conclusion that our right to privacy is either tightly limited—not to cars, not to garages and backyards—or perhaps even something that can only be exercised on behalf of the people as a whole, just as we’re told that gun rights are to be exercised.

The best defense of rights is to be found when all supporters of rights join together to protect not only the ones they exercise personally, but also those they might never imagine having a use for.  If we decide that one right should be removed, we show the way to opponents of other rights and hand them the tools.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of

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