I was a little surprised when I came across this article.
It’s from the Orange County Register and I was a little surprised to see a newspaper in California actually debunk an anti-gun argument. It sounded almost pro-gun.
Basically, it slams the whole “an AR-15 is useless against tanks” response to noting that the Second Amendment is about protecting this nation from tyranny. It correctly points out all the ways that argument is idiotic.
Then the author decides he has to be fair–and since he’s writing in California, I get it. He has to poke holes in a pro-gun argument.
Only, it’s here that he gets downright ridiculous.
Which brings us to the second argument I’d like to address: “Gun control infringes on our Second Amendment right to bear arms.” You hear this a lot but I’m not sure what the argument is supposed to be. Is it that the Constitution should never be changed? The Constitution delineates a process for amending itself for a reason and everyone can agree that there are at least some laws that we should change.
This is a strawman argument.
No one is saying the Constitution cannot be changed. The amendment process exists for just that purpose, as he noted. We on the pro-gun side of the debate fully understand this. After all, we support the Second Amendment.
Yet the author here is somehow pretending that saying a law or a category of laws infringes on a right preserved by the Second Amendment, we’re saying that the Constitution could never be changed to stop protecting that right.
Literally no one thinks anything of the sort, at least in theory. We just recognize that it’s unlikely to happen no matter how much California Gov. Gavin Newsom might want it to.
But it gets worse.
Perhaps the idea is that the Constitution lists a set of rights that themselves should clearly never be violated because of their own individual plausibility as fundamentally necessary rights.
For example, consider this analogous argument: “The government should not ban curse words because it would infringe on our First Amendment right to free speech.” The strength of this argument rests on the prima facie plausibility that the right to free speech is fundamental to a just society. Does the Second Amendment enjoy this sort of prima facie motivation?
If it has some initial plausibility as a good right to have, it’s certainly not as strong as the plausibility of the First Amendment. In other words, on the face of it, the First Amendment appears to be a much stronger candidate for being an absolutely necessary fundamental right. The First Amendment also does not suffer from as many countervailing negative social consequences as the Second Amendment.
Therefore, it is not enough to simply claim that gun control is impermissible because it would infringe on a right. Gun rights advocates must provide reasons to think that the social good of protecting gun rights is not outweighed by all of the negative externalities the right produces.
First, no, it really is enough to claim gun control is impermissible because it would infringe on a right. That’s kind of how rights actually work.
Take the free speech example he provided. Sure, a law banning curse words would likely never get very far because there’s no compelling reason to restrict certain words that some people just don’t like hearing.
But free speech goes beyond that.
Imagine if Congress felt that our current political discourse was so egregious that they had to take action. They decided to pass a series of laws that would restrict criticism of government officials and their policies.
I can make a case that such a law would be beneficial to society. Imagine if suddenly, we couldn’t talk about politics and focused instead on things like sports, movies, books, our families, and all the things we used to talk about in polite company. Some might argue such a place would be better than where we are now.
Yet the First Amendment would mean that regardless of any societal good that might arise from restricting people’s freedom of speech, you simply can’t do it.
Further, let’s not pretend we haven’t presented how the “social good of protecting gun rights is not outweighed by all of the negative externalities the right produces.” The problem is that media ignores those arguments, mangles scientific research to produce anti-gun outcomes, and just pushes a narrative that falls apart under examination.
We’ve done our part, but even if we hadn’t, it’s a right. If rights can be removed simply because they’re inconvenient, then they’re not rights in the first place. It’s just that simple, and the pro-gun argument that our rights shouldn’t be infringed upon may not be the only one, but it’s still the one that can’t be dismissed without putting literally every other right at risk.