An October 5 New York Times op-ed by Bret Stephens calls for an all-out repeal of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
He introduces the op-ed by claiming “more guns means more murder” and transitions from there to claim that guns were only used for “justifiable homicide” 268 times in 2015. He cites an FBI Extended Homicide Data Table for this figure but the table only tracks the number of times a private citizen shot and killed a felon during the commission of felony.
Obviously a the number of times a private citizen justifiably shoots a felon is going to be far lower than the overall number of times a citizen uses a gun justifiably, so that FBI table actually undercuts his point rather than bolstering it.
Stephens goes on to suggest that the idea of armed citizenry in general–and the need for a group like the iconic Minutemen in particular–is long past. He says our defense now lies in missiles and the like. Moreover, he makes clear that he finds the whole idea of a citizenry being armed to repel tyranny quite “curious” to begin with.
He then goes on to explain what he sees as a quagmire. He does not believe the NRA has bought influence and he believes late night host Jimmy Kimmel is wrong to say the NRA has. Instead, Stephens believes the NRA has influence with Congress because the NRA is “popular.” At the same time, he does not believe the so-called “common sense” gun laws pushed to counter the NRA really make sense. He believes the laws are “feckless” and simply “tinker at the margins” of what could be done.
Stephens then unveils his ultimate suggestion–“Repeal the Second Amendment.”
He acknowledges the difficulty of accomplishing this, but believes it is possible by persuading people that repealing the amendment is not the same as banning gun ownership. Rather, it is just making sure gun ownership does not enjoy “constitutional protection.”
Stephens tries anticipates arguments against repealing the Second Amendment, and tries to address some of them by writing: “Some conservatives will insist that the Second Amendment is fundamental to the structure of American liberty. They will cite James Madison, who noted in the Federalist Papers that in Europe ‘the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.’ America was supposed to be different, and better.” He then presumes to speak for Madison and suggests that if the great Founding Father were alive today, he would be for taking guns away or “at least…[taking] the presumptive right to them away.”
This is quite the assumption when one considers the gist of Madison’s writings in Federalist 46. It was there he stressed that the citizenry has “the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation.” In other words, Americans are exceptional because they are armed.
I do not think Madison would give that American characteristic up as easily as Stephens suggests.
AWR Hawkins is the Second Amendment columnist for Breitbart News and host of Bullets with AWR Hawkins, a Breitbart News podcast. He is also the political analyst for Armed American Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @AWRHawkins. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.