To Win the Second Amendment War

Whether or not bump stocks end up banned is a trivial matter.  The war over the Second Amendment will not hinge on the outcome of this particular battle.  Both sides know this; the importance of the issue is entirely psychological.

For progressives, a win would be a move in the right direction, evidence that conservatives are vulnerable.  It would be comparable to the Doolittle Raid against the Japanese homeland in 1942 – a strike of no great strategic import but invaluable as a way to shift national confidence from the Japanese to the American side.

For conservatives, there is little to be gained by thwarting this progressive gambit (which is the reason some are prepared to make a tactical retreat).  Why expend resources on such an insignificant matter when winning it will not much advance the Second Amendment cause?  Why, indeed!  The answer is that a defensive mindset leads to defeat.  Fainthearted people rarely win at war.  This is no less true for a political war than it is for a military one.

If either side in a war is not totally committed to the principle for which it stands, then the other side wins.  It may take a week, or it may take years, but ultimate victory almost always passes to the side that more strongly believes in its cause.

This brings us to this particular war over this particular constitutional amendment.  As it stands, conservatives are doing nothing more than defending an existing arrangement.  Progressives are out to change it.  Let us not be deluded by any protestations that their agenda is to refine rather than eliminate the Second Amendment.

We know the progressive strategy: disengage with the enemy until a (real) shooting crisis occurs, at which point initiate a political blitzkrieg that links that shooting to a lack of gun control.  This aggressive tactic is working, and conservatives must counter it with something similar. 

Here is a suggestion: as soon as the next mass shooting takes place, conservatives should unite around the following message.

"Our government is incapable of protecting us from such attacks, as proven by the countless times it has failed to do so.  Until it is able to afford adequate protection against mass shootings, the people must be permitted to protect themselves as best they can.  The government must assist the citizens by doing two things.

"First, encourage gun ownership.  Second, and even more importantly, train all people on proper gun use and gun safety."

Ownership can be encouraged by subsidizing the purchase of guns.  Conservatives oppose subsidies on principle but agree with progressives that the epidemic of mass shootings in this country requires extraordinary measures.  Having people armed is more sensible and more in keeping with the Constitution than having them disarmed.

Hand in hand with this proposal, conservatives must simultaneously advocate for gun safety by offering a free and readily available course to everybody on the safe and proper use of guns and by insisting that retail gun purchases be tied to completion of this course.

The course should be implemented by a dedicated branch of the military and taught by properly vetted veterans who have actually fought in wars.  Since the military is one of the few truly effective branches of our federal government, it retains the respect of the American people.  A gun safety course taught by those who have actually fought for our safety would help mend the growing divide between the civilian and military sectors of our society.

Conservatives must emphasize to the American people that modern technology has created a world in which a degree of destructive power that until recently was only available to countries now is available to individuals.  Our national government is not to blame for this (at least not completely), but the reality is that it does not know how to cope with the problem.  Since it has no answer and since its main job is to protect people, the federal government needs to encourage self-protection.  It is that simple.

If conservatives take seriously the task of promoting (and not merely defending) the Second Amendment, the prospects for crushing the barbaric progressive attack on it will greatly improve.  Government really is unable to defend against mass shootings, and most Americans recognize this truth.  There will be natural public support for any sensible proposal for thwarting mass shootings.  Progressives are trying to capitalize on this need, but their proposals for disarmament – partial as they may be at present – are not convincing to most people.

Make a proposal, conservatives; identify a course of action.  Do not simply hide behind the Second Amendment stockade.  There is a war out there, and you must abandon safety and go fight it.  If you do not, you will be increasingly isolated, and in time overrun.

There is a long-standing principle in natural law that although violence against another is unacceptable, it is justifiable when someone threatens or exacts violence against you.  We as conservatives must accept that an unfair tactic employed against us opens a door through which we may pass.  Otherwise, we will constantly be ambushed by an adversary free to engage in a practice that we abhor.

War is dirty.  War is dehumanizing.  We all know this, but most of us never have to confront its immorality directly.  Those who fight a shooting war inevitably do confront it, and if they survive, they must live with moral scars.  This is the reason they come to be viewed as heroic even when their direct participation had little or no effect on the final outcome.

Is the struggle over the Second Amendment a war, or is it not?  If it is, we must fight the good fight.  If not, we should surrender now, for the enemy thinks otherwise and will impose its will.