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Reinterpreting the Second Amendment
Conservatives would do well to take Scalia’s interpretation of the Second Amendment.


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Kevin never addresses one of my core arguments, which is that embracing unrestricted gun access is bad politics. For a conservative, that might seem too unprincipled. After all, Republicans such as John Boehner worry about things like elections, deals, and compromises. They concern themselves with silly trifles like what other people think, how things are perceived, and how to ensure their party has a seat at the table. Conservatives, apparently, stick to principles — all the way down to the bottom of the ocean.

Nor does Kevin suggest how we might address massacres such as the one that occurred at Sandy Hook, although he does point out rightly that even the cops are bad guys sometimes, and that power corrupts. Perhaps the answer to Sandy Hook is we do nothing. They are, after all, “unusual” and “come out of nowhere.” Perhaps we are okay with the police functioning as a “janitorial service” for dead five- and six-year-olds.

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I do not suggest that Kevin, or any conservative that I know for that matter, takes this horror lightly. We can debate whether more guns make us safer and whether each school should have armed guards — that may be a very viable option, although perhaps not the only one. I certainly do not accept, however, that we are powerless to do anything to lessen the chances of another Sandy Hook.

I also pointed out that, as a conservative, I worry about the potential for government abuse when adjudicating mental illness and preemptively incarcerating people. Those options should be thoroughly considered, no question, but they do raise due-process concerns that must be factored in as well. One thing I do not propose, and never have, is discarding the Second Amendment. I will not, however, pretend it means or says something it does not — that it prohibits us from regulating or banning especially deadly firearms. But take Justice Scalia’s word for it, not mine.

If you find these arguments unpersuasive, and believe that the government lacks the ability or the authority to impose reasonable regulations on gun ownership, then we simply will have to disagree on the Second Amendment’s meaning and, perhaps, how we can respond to these tragedies. Maybe we will also disagree about the fact that if the government decides to go door-to-door, you and your arms, no matter how powerful, stand no chance. The rest of us can worry about preventing the next Sandy Hook.

— Brett Joshpe is an attorney in New York City and co-author of Why You’re Wrong About the Right (Threshold Editions, 2008). 



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