DANIEL VAUGHAN: Defend the Second Amendment

October 9, 2017

“I have never understood the conservative fetish for the Second Amendment.” That’s how New York Times columnist Brett Stephens began his most recent column entitled: “Repeal the Second Amendment.”

In reply, I’d tell Stephens I’ve never understood the liberal obsession with failed gun control policies. Nor do I know why they hide behind “common sense gun control” when they mean “repeal and confiscate,” as Stephens argues.

From a law and order standpoint, gun owners are among the most law-abiding citizens in the country. In fact, concealed carry gun owners are ironically more law abiding than police officers.

From a personal safety standpoint, concealed carry gun owners provide a check against criminals when law enforcement isn’t available. Stephens dismisses the 286 justifiable homicides by private citizens as less critical than other innocents who die.

He cherry-picks his facts — not every shooting ends in death. Recently, near my hometown, a man walked into a church and began firing a gun. The near mass shooting event ended after a church attendee fought the shooter, causing the shooter to shoot himself, and then the man in the church retrieved his gun to subdue the criminal. Without such bravery, far more people would have died.

From a personal liberty standpoint, Stephens dismisses, out of hand, that an armed citizenry is a check against the government. He cites, as an example, various small rebellions against the US government. Once again, however, he’s cherry-picking.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, before Jim Crow segregation, Southern states first tried to institute Black Codes that forbade blacks from owning guns. They believed, as did Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision that blacks would be a threat to racist whites and the KKK if they were allowed to arm and defend themselves. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 gave those rights back to black citizens, granting them the legal authority to protect themselves from racist state and local governments.

The need for black citizens to defend themselves, as an outright necessity, continued well into the 20th century. There are countless examples from American history where minority groups required guns as a means for self-defense because the government either wouldn’t help or was complicit in attacking them.

If you prefer global examples, go no further than Jews defending themselves from anti-Semitism across Europe. Jews had to form groups to protect themselves from overwhelming mobs in Russia and Austria-Hungary in the 19th and 20th centuries.

There’s a reason we only talk about gun control in the aftermath of a mass shooting tragedy: it’s when anti-gun groups have their strongest emotional argument. Gun control advocates don’t have evidence on their side, so they resort to overly wrought emotional arguments.

As Stephens himself notes, most gun control proposals are “feckless,” and make very little difference. What he neglects to say, however, is that all gun control proposals are useless – including outright gun confiscation.

In a recent piece in the Washington Post, Leah Libresco describes how she and her colleagues at FiveThirtyEight ran statistical analysis across all types of gun control measures, trying to measure if they achieved any of their stated goals. Their conclusion: no gun control policy produced anything measurable.

Their analysis includes the United Kingdom and Australia confiscation programs, where Libresco found: “Neither nation experienced drops in mass shootings or other gun related-crime that could be attributed to their buybacks and bans.”

In other words, we have no statistical proof repealing the Second Amendment and confiscating guns will lead to the utopian vision of a gun-violence free world. All it will likely do is merely shift the tools a mass killer uses in his plot.

James Paddock had other means to kill people at his disposal in Las Vegas; police found ammonia nitrate, one of the substances used in the Oklahoma City Bombing, in Paddock’s car. Men like Paddock, bent towards evil, will use whatever tool is at their disposal.

Let’s say we did repeal the Second Amendment, as Stephens wants. What then? The government would have to enforce gun confiscation laws on the public. Most conservatives and even some liberals would agree that owning a gun is a God-given inalienable right, not a privilege granted by the government.

The Federal Government would have to expend considerable resources to forcibly confiscate the more than 300 million guns in circulation in the United States. The hardest hit areas would be poor minority communities that are under liberal control, those most eager to enforce gun bans. Minorities would bear the brunt of enforcement, as they have with the drug war.

The amount of state violence it would take to disarm Americans is startling to consider. It would be worse than prohibition and the drug war combined.

In that world, everyone is defenseless against criminals, gangs, and even animals (if you live in rural America). Vulnerable Americans at risk from corrupt or racist local governments would have no recourse or defense.

It’s unreal to believe that “moral and constitutional renewal” is the path forward in a world where evil thrives. It’s naive to think our modern culture is somehow morally superior to all previous generations and won’t succumb to evil like them.

Nothing in the history or technological progress of mankind suggests that we are beyond harming one another when disarmed. One only needs to see the rise of extremist groups like neo-Nazis and Antifa to see a need for personal protection.

The Second Amendment provides a crucial check on both government and private abuse of power. When a state either causes injury or turns a blind eye to evil happening to its citizens, those people have an inalienable right to defend themselves. When one individual tries to harm another, the victim has an absolute right to defend themselves with lethal force.

The Second Amendment is not a fetish. It’s a pillar of the American Experiment and crucial to ensuring that America remains exceptional.

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Daniel Vaughan

Daniel Vaughan is a columnist for the Conservative Institute and lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee. He has degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and Regent University School of Law. His work can be found on the Conservative Institute's website, or you can receive his columns and free weekly newsletter at The Beltway Outsiders. Connect with him on Twitter at @dvaughanCI.