Today, a local reporter, in discussing proposed gun control laws, said that some people were concerned that such laws would “step on their Second Amendment rights.” It occurred to me that she should have said the were concerned that gun control laws would impair their ability to protect themselves and their families from assaults and other crimes. Instead, she focused on the dry, technical, constitutional argument, and the gun rights advocates have no one to blame but themselves. They constantly focus on the Constitutional provision, to the detriment of their argument on the merits of gun control.
Since at least 1954, 59 years ago, it has been clear that when the people or the government decided they want something, the Constitution is no barrier. Specifically, when the Supreme Court handed down Brown v. Board of Education, they also handed down a decision in a companion case for the District of Colombia. In that case, Chief Justice Warren frankly acknowledged that, “The legal problem in the District of Columbia is somewhat different, however. The Fifth Amendment, which is applicable in the District of Columbia, does not contain an equal protection clause as does the Fourteenth Amendment which applies only to the states.” Bolling v. Sharpe (1954) 347 U.S. 497, 498-99 supplemented sub nom. Brown v. Board of Educ. of Topeka, Kan. (1955) 349 U.S. 294. But, where there is a will there is a way, and the Court discovered that segregated schools not only violated equal protection, but due process, a completely novel and unjustifiable use of the concept of due process. The justices simply could not bear to think that the result could be different for the feds than for the state so they simply made up the law to fit the desired outcome.
The legislatures, administrations, and courts have been making the rules to fit the desired outcomes ever since. There is no doubt they will do so to get around the Second Amendment. Thus, relying on that amendment to protect the right to bear arms is a losing proposition. Instead, gun rights advocates have to engage in the much harder work of convincing the public that gun control is a bad idea — that the world is a safer place when private citizens have the option of being armed.
Bookworm has pointed out that advocates should reframe the discussion from one about gun violence and gun control to one about violence and crime generally (and the role that guns play in both the violence and crime, and in the prevention of violence and crime). To that I would add that advocates should reframe the discussion from one about the Second Amendment to one about the pluses and minuses of gun control. Assuming the Constitution is no impediment (it’s not) why is gun control such a bad idea?