On March 26, the Tampa Bay Times responded to the numerous pro-Second Amendment bills making their way through the Florida legislature by suggesting that “gun rights are not absolute.”
In other words, “shall not be infringed” does not mean “shall not be infringed.”
According to the Times, the numerous gun rights bills–especially campus carry–show that Republican legislators are controlled by the NRA and do not understand that if certain limits are not placed on Second Amendment rights, public safety is sacrificed.
In an attempt to prove this premise, they touch on the “contrived” arguments for campus carry–arguments that rest on the idea of armed women stopping “murderers and rapists.”
The problem with this line of thinking is that conservatives believe women are as capable of stopping murderers and rapists as men are, given one important tool–a gun. Conservatives do not agree with the Times, Salon, Shannon Watts, Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, and others who pretend the idea of arming women is foolish.
Their attackers are armed, so why not level the playing field?
Yet to be fair, the Times‘ opposition to campus carry goes deeper than the simplistic view that women cannot handle being armed. Their opposition ultimately rests on their conviction that “gun rights are not absolute,” the belief that the phrase “shall not be infringed” does not mean shall not be infringed at all.
In this, they are mistaken.
On March 18, Breitbart News reported on an October 1788 letter James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson–a letter in which Madison explained that certain rights needed to be hedged in by a Bill of Rights because they were “essential.” Among those “essential” rights was the right to keep and bear arms. Madison wrote that hedging gun rights in would protect the exercise of those rights from the “whims” of the “majority.”
These very “whims” are on display when the Times points to groups that oppose campus carry, groups that oppose the open carry of firearms during a disaster, and groups that oppose the legality of carrying firearms in one’s car without a permit. In doing these things, they want to give the impression that the “majority” opposes expanding the exercise of Second Amendment rights.
But Madison’s message is clear: we are not to be concerned with the “whims” of the “majority,” be that majority real or imagined. Rather, the majority is concerned with protecting and enjoying the exercise of the right to keep and bear arms.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.