Daydreaming the Guns Away

We find ourselves living in a highly consequential time for the legal clarification of the 2nd Amendment. Extremely aggressive, wide-ranging bans of semi-automatic firearms have been enacted in various parts of the country, drawing legal challenges. While the ultimate resolution of these challenges is unknowable, many observers believe the Supreme Court will eventually arrive at a decision prohibiting the wholesale banning of semi-automatic firearms. Those who dream of eliminating all private gun ownership in the United States face the prospect of a devastating legal defeat.

One can imagine their looming disappointment. They have failed to appoint Supreme Court justices who would effectively redefine the 2nd Amendment out of existence, and they are about to bear the consequences of that failure. But from their perspective, there is comfort to be had in the prospect of eventually stripping the 2nd Amendment from the Constitution altogether, no matter how long it may take.

Such is the hope that animates aspiring intergenerational social reformer Allan Goldstein, who, in his "Let's get serious and repeal the Second Amendment" has stepped forward to boldly launch a 50-plus year plan to eradicate all privately owned firearms in the United States.

Perhaps the piece might have been better entitled "Let's Get Hysterical." How galling it must be to be deprived of so obvious a good -- a gun-free society -- on account of something as frivolous as an obsolete, suicidally-construed constitutional amendment. On Goldstein's account "[t]he Supreme Court has decided that 'a well-regulated militia' includes gang bangers and wild-eyed loners with a grudge." What a shame Goldstein did not bother to provide a citation to the Supreme Court decision in which this is asserted.

Goldstein wants to convey the impression that in upholding the 2nd Amendment as an individual right, the Supreme Court has established a right to criminally misuse firearms. We are inclined to grant Goldstein the benefit of the doubt here: we do not think he actually believes this. We think he knows better. But why let the truth hinder you when a flashy, tendentious little distortion better serves your cause? If this kind of smear were to be relentlessly trumpeted at an ill-informed public for another 50-plus years without rebuttal, then perhaps that public -- sufficiently agitated -- would violently clamor for a fascist plebiscite to rescind the 2nd Amendment. Goldstein's distortion showcases what passes for intellectual integrity and political responsibility on the progressive left.

Goldstein finds inspiration in the travails of the abolitionists, gay rights activists, and marijuana users who, in his telling, put in the work over the course of decades to achieve the legalization of their once unpopular causes. He envisions the same success for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment.

The criminal misuse of firearms is undeniably a serious social problem in the United States, but beneath this social problem are other, deeper social problems: drug addiction, mental illness, family breakdown, urban blight, failing schools, and the political cowardice and cynicism that sabotages prospective solutions to these problems. For example, the use of "stop, question, and frisk" policing in high-crime neighborhoods, coupled with stiff mandatory sentences for illegal gun possession, saves lives. When young gang members refrain from illegally arming themselves for fear of going to jail if they are caught with a gun they should not have, there are fewer gang-related gunfights. But when "stop, question, and frisk" policing is forbidden by political cowards (to avoid creating the impression of a disproportionate racial impact) then the gang bangers (the ones that Goldstein claims the Supreme Court has dedicated itself to arming) realize their rivals are more likely to be armed, and arm themselves in anticipation. Unmolested by the police, they illegally conceal their illegal firearms, get into gunfights with each other, and leave a trail of carnage, often including innocent bystanders.

Rather than addressing festering pathologies like this in a direct and courageous fashion, rather than implementing any concrete, targeted solutions that might actually stem the carnage (to say nothing of elevating the culture), smarmy little fantasists like Goldstein salivate at the prospect of brainwashing the public into demanding the government empower itself to take guns away from millions and millions of their lawful owners -- away from people who are in no way involved in, or responsible for, the criminal misuse of firearms. Like all gun confiscationists that yearn for a gun free society, what Goldstein really yearns for is a police state freed from any constitutional restraint.

We ourselves do not aspire to the lofty station of an intergenerational social reformer, but let us modestly propose the following principle: when seeking to address a social problem afflicting a vast, diverse, highly populous nation, one should opt for the least drastic, least disruptive, and least divisive set of solutions that are compatible with, and respectful of, the rights of the law abiding. Gun control is often presented as a remedy to violent crime, but it is little more than a phony activist posture tailor made for political cowards. It is far easier (and less politically risky) to aggressively push an unrealistic, drastic proposal than it is to solve a real problem. Gun control efforts, invariably aimed at the law-abiding, are little more than simpleminded, misdirected nonsolutions, and as for the drastic, fascistic demand to disarm the entire American population -- it is fundamentally unserious.

Image: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

If you experience technical problems, please write to