Saturday, January 12, 2013

The 2nd Amendment - The Wrong Conversation For The Last Time?

Two very good posts make the argument that "gun control" is not the "national conversation" we need to be having in the wake of Sandy Hook. At the American Thinker, Randall Hoven makes the point that we are in the midst of declining rates of crime, even as gun ownership in the U.S. has been liberalized in a number of states. Addressing FBI crime statistics, he notes:

. . . the murder rate [in the U.S.] is historically low and is already trending downward. In fact, the murder rate in 2011 was the lowest since 1961: 4.7 murders per 100,000 people. In only 5 years since 1910 has it been lower: 1955-59, when it was only slightly lower at 4.5 or 4.6. . . .

Hoven compares our murder rate against those of Europe. He notes that the U.S. murder rate is not high in comparison to Europe as whole. Moreover, Hoven the decidedly not politically correct fact that when you parse the U.S. murder rate, it shows that over half of all murders are committed by blacks, even though they constitute only 13.6% of the population. Discount for that fact, and the murder rate in the U.S. drops to 2.6 per 100,000 of population, a rate in line with Western European nations. This suggests that any honest conversation about gun violence in our nation would needs to begin with addressing problems unique to blacks in our nation. Lastly, Hoven notes:

[T]here is no evidence here that the availability of guns leads to more murders. Two of the most heavily armed countries, Finland and Switzerland, have murder rates of 2.2 and 0.7, among the lowest in the world. On the other hand, every country with a murder rate at least 5 times greater than the U.S.'s has at least 5 times fewer firearms per person than the U.S.

Bookworm Room takes note of these numbers, and then looks beyond the murder rate to total violent crime statistics, where the most disarmed societies experience are some of the most violent. Ultimately, she concludes:

[I]t’s very hard to avoid looking at the above data (fewer guns and more crime versus more guns and less crime) without coming to the conclusion that, in a nominally Judeo-Christian society with a rule of law, guns add to, rather than subtract from, public safety.

As both Bookworm Room and Mr. Hoven point out, in light of the above, talk of greater restriction on gun ownership is not the conversation we need to be having. As Bookworm Rooms adds:

Do we want to debate gun control, which is the current nomenclature of choice, or do we want to debate lessening violence overall? The former discussion presupposes government restrictions on gun ownership, with the only question being how much restriction the government can and should impose. The latter discussion, however, forces people to confront the fact that the best way to lessen violence would be to arm more law-abiding citizens, rather than to leave guns as the exclusive preserve of the criminal and the insane.

I would add that this should be the last time we have a "gun control" conversation. Unless something happens to change the makeup of the Supreme Court between now and 2016, or unless John Roberts decides to make more political, rather than judicial decisions, the major push of the "gun control" crowd should be foreclosed, assuming the Court continues the logic of its seminal 2nd Amendment decision, Heller.

In the wake of Sandy Hook, the left is pretending that the 2nd Amendment is a nullity. Just the other day, as NY's Gov. Cuomo announced sweeping new restrictions on gun ownership in his state, he attempted to justify it by distinguishing his restrictions from anything that would impact on hunting. But the Supreme Court, in Heller, ignored hunting. As the Court made crystal clear, the 2nd Amendment's purpose, distilled to the modern era, is to allow individuals to defend themselves against “public and private violence.”

With that in mind, when you hear a primal scream from the left that “assault weapons” are only meant for killing people, the correct response ought to be . . . “and your point is?” When one is forced to defend against "public or private violence" with a weapon, the idea is to end the threat as soon as possible. THAT is precisely within the ambit of the 2nd Amendment. And indeed, a strong case can be made that there is no more family friendly weapon for effective self defense in the home than an AR15.

Moreover, the Heller decision directly addresses what type of weapons are within the ambit of the 2nd Amendment. Heller explicitly gave its approval to continuing restrictions on machine guns and sawed off shot guns. But as to other weapons, Scalia characterized the argument that the 2nd Amendment applied only to 18th century weapons as “bordering on frivolous.” As he explained,

Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications, . . ., and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search, . . ., , the Second Amendment extends, prima facie,to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”

Given that semi-automatic weapons have been around in the U.S. for over a century – and given that the AR15 has been in civilian circulation for half a century – it is questionable indeed whether any limitation on ownership of semi-automatic “assault rifles” would be held constitutional by the SCT.

Lastly, as to states that give government officials the power to subjectively deny concealed carry permits for reasons other than a criminal background or mental illness, we await a future Supreme Court decision. The operative language of the 2nd Amendment gives a right to “keep and bear arms.” As the Heller decision explained, to ”bear,” in 18th century parlance, meant to “carry.” Being forced to leave your weapon at home, thus limiting your ability to defend outside of the home, conflicts with both the language and intent of the 2nd Amendment. This surely points to the fact that “may carry” laws are likely to be held unconstitutional.

We do need to have a conversation about violent crime. And it needs to be one that includes all the relevant facts, whether politically correct or not. Hopefully, we will soon arrive at the point where the contours of the 2nd Amendment are fleshed out, and a tragedy like Sandy Hook serves as an impetus and oppurtunity to discuss actual solutions to such problems, not as an opportunity to be exploited by a ghoulish far left bent on making of the 2nd Amendment a nullity.

No comments: