New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Bret Stephens generated the predictable firestorm of controversy by demanding that Americans “Repeal the Second Amendment” on October 5.
Stephens’ argument is that the Second Amendment should be repealed to solve what he considers “public health problems;” namely homicide and suicide. Tinkering with the Constitution to give the government power to deal with public health problems is a horrendous idea but it has happened before: remember Prohibition.
What is most disturbing are the erroneous thinking and shallow arguments Stephens employs in his demand for Constitutional change. The basic errors of fact and logic he commits should convince us to ignore Bret Stephens and his arguments.
What Stephens Gets Wrong
Stephens makes and repeats several basic errors that doom his argument. Those errors include:
- The Second Amendment and gun rights are “conservative issues.” Not true there are liberals, leftists, and even elected Democratic officials that strongly support the Second Amendment. A good example is Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat and lifelong gun owner who has a section outlining his support for the Second Amendment on his campaign website. There are conservatives; such as Stephens, who support gun control and liberals that oppose it.
- All or most Democratic voters support gun control and oppose the Second Amendment. Not true in the Montana governor’s race in November, 50.1% of voters supported the pro-Second Amendment Bullock, but only 35.4% of them cast their votes for the anti-gun Hillary Clinton. Bullock won, and Clinton lost. Clinton might have been able to carry Montana; which Trump won by around 55%, if she had simply voiced her support for the Second Amendment.
- All gun owners think that an “armed citizenry” is necessary for national security, national defense, the maintenance of law and order, and the preservation of liberty. The almost mindless reverence that gun owners seem to give law enforcement and the military refutes this argument. Other evidence is shown by the vast numbers of gun owners that are willing to vote for the Republican Party; which believes in higher-defense budgets and a strong military. It is obvious that a majority of America’s gun owners and Second Amendment advocates do not buy the “armed citizenry” argument.
- The Second Amendment guarantees a “right to own a gun.” The right to own a gun comes not from the Second Amendment, but from a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a case called District of Columbia v. Dick Anthony Heller. All the Second Amendment grants is a very vague “right to bear arms.” Lawyers and constitutional scholars have been arguing about the meaning of that phrase since the Amendment was written.
- The Second Amendment is an obstacle to gun control. Courts have found restrictions on guns Constitutional on numerous occasions, even since the Heller Decision. For example on June 9, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found a California law that required permits to carry concealed weapons constitutional in a case called Peruta v. County of San Diego.
These facts show us that Stephens demand for “repeal” is unnecessary and potentially fatal to the Democratic Party’s electoral efforts. Hopefully, this terrible idea will quickly get buried in the trash dumpster of history, where it belonged in the first place.