The Left's Hatred of the Second Amendment Is Both Inconsistent and Hypocritical
On the heels of the terrible Orlando terrorist attack came another tragic, albeit predictable, assault: the obligatory vilification of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Indeed, before officials could even confirm the final death toll at Pulse, cries erupted from celebrities, politicians, and left-wing activists alike for tighter restrictions on Americans’ ability to access firearms. These so-called “appeals to reason” ran the gamut of hysteria, from incoherent rants against the National Rifle Association/Republicans/white males, to one Huffington Post author demanding that we “ban every single gun within U.S. borders until we get our f*cking problems figured out.”
I have never understood this approach. For starters, the logic falls flat -- the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history happened in gun-free zones, and I am unsure why more laws will deter mass murderers (who are particularly adept at ignoring laws). Nor is it clear if tighter gun laws will actually solve the problem of gun violence; studies designed to answer this question, in addition to their predilection for bias, are usually oversimplified and conflicting.
Perhaps most confounding is how gun control advocates view firearm ownership itself. Specifically, they tend to forget the authority for individual rights to firearms is constitutionally enshrined in twenty-seven words: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (Note: In fairness, some argue there is no individual right to own a firearm, and instead insist that the Second Amendment is only a guarantee to a “collective defense” administered by each citizen’s state via the “well regulated Militia.” That interpretation, in my opinion, is dubious -- why would the Framers guarantee a state’s ability to defend itself against the federal government, only to then grant the federal president power over the same Militias in Article 2?).
Take, for example, the recent decision in Peruta v. City of San Diego out of the Ninth Circuit, which held there is no Second Amendment right to carry a concealed weapon in public. The case dealt with a California law requiring concealed-carry applicants to provide a “particularized reason” as to why they needed to carry a concealed weapon. The statute stood as a part of a much larger, more invasive regulatory scheme, including a prohibition on carrying loaded firearms on the person or in a vehicle in any public place or on any public street, as well as a prohibition on carrying unloaded handguns openly on the person in a public place or street.
Imagine, for a moment, if the same restrictions were placed upon the First Amendment. What if Americans had to provide a “particularized reason” before publishing an article, or saying a prayer in public? What if there was a cap as to how many words a newspaper could print, as is the case with limiting ammunition and magazine capacity? What if citizens were subject to a background check prior to organizing a peaceful demonstration?
Some might argue the Second Amendment is different; that an armed citizenry, if unchecked, would lead to a spike in violence and loss of life. This may be true, but pointing to a risk of harm as justification to suspend constitutional rights is patently un-American, even by liberals' standards.
When the National Security Agency’s PRISM program came to light, did the left forsake the Fourth Amendment in favor of the extra security provided by the surveillance state? As the blood dried in Paris following the attack on Charlie Hebdo, did the left question the legitimacy of the First Amendment and censor our art, speech, and culture to avoid provoking the Islamic State? Did the left deny Yaser Esam Hamdi due process of law and the right to an impartial tribunal under the Fifth Amendment solely because his being free risked threatening American safety?
Of course not. Such constitutional guarantees were viewed as unyielding and uncompromising. Americans understood, without question, that the blessings of the constitution’s provisions form the bedrock of American exceptionalism, and required no explanation or defense.
Why, then, is the Second Amendment treated so differently? Why does the left narrowly interpret the words “shall not be infringed” into virtual meaninglessness (as the Ninth Circuit did) but, in Roe v. Wade, broadly define “life, liberty, or property” to encompass the outright murder of unborn children? How can the left consider commerce “among the several States” to include crops planted, grown, harvested, and consumed on a single family farm, as was the case in Wickard v. Filburn, but then contend the right to “keep and bear arms” contemplates not even a right to possess a firearm?
For reasons beyond my understanding, today's liberals remain fixated -- indeed, obsessed -- with arbitrarily singling out and destroying the one constitutional guarantee that is perhaps the most valuable: an assured means to defend against tyranny.
Currently, millions of people on social media are cautioning Muslims and members of the LGBT community not to see one another as enemies, lest we undermine our values as a free and open society. They may not realize it, but included in those values is the sanctity of the Second Amendment.
Like every other constitutional guarantee, the individual right to keep and bear arms is a mainstay in our republican form of government. And like the Second Amendment, when other constitutional freedoms are vigorously enforced, the result can be sometimes heartbreaking and unfair. That is, however, the cost of living in a truly free society, and we owe it to the victims and their families in Orlando, as well as every other place guns have killed, not to betray this simple truth.
Thomas Wheatley is a law student at the Antonin Scalia Law School in Arlington, Va. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @TNWheatley.