The Corner

Politics & Policy

Please, Democrats, Take Bret Stephens’s Advice.

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Please, Democrats, Take Bret Stephens’ Advice.

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens – allegedly one of the right-of-center voices on the newspaper’s editorial page — is going to get a tsunami of grief for today’s column, which is not-too-subtly titled, “Repeal the Second Amendment.”

And if you take all of his arguments at face value, Stephens demonstrates an infuriatingly snobby contempt for his fellow citizens — “gun enthusiasts fantasizing that ‘Red Dawn’ is the fate that soon awaits us” and gets basic facts wrong. He declares, “from a personal-safety standpoint, more guns means less safety,” ignoring the fact that crime rates have steadily declined as gun ownership has increased.

But then we come to this section:

In fact, the more closely one looks at what passes for “common sense” gun laws, the more feckless they appear. Americans who claim to be outraged by gun crimes should want to do something more than tinker at the margins of a legal regime that most of the developed world rightly considers nuts. They should want to change it fundamentally and permanently.

There is only one way to do this: Repeal the Second Amendment.

Call me crazy, but I think Stephens’ proposal is a giant bear trap for liberals and Democrats.

We haven’t amended the Constitution since 1992, when we decreed any law affecting Congressional salaries cannot take effect until the next election – i.e., banning members of Congress voting themselves a pay increase. We’ve never repealed a part of the Bill of Rights. And that’s just what Stephens is urging Democrats to openly embrace, promise, and campaign on.

Can you picture some Democratic candidate supporting the repeal of the Second Amendment? The attack ads would declare: “John Smith thinks the U.S. Constitution gives you have too many rights… and he wants to cut the Bill of Rights by ten percent!”

Or even better: “If John Smith doesn’t think you deserve your Second Amendment rights… how many more of your Constitutional rights does he want to take away?”

If the Democrats made a sustained push for a Constitutional amendment repealing the right to bear arms, Republicans would never have to worry about getting out the vote again. NRA membership would explode. Pro-gun Democrats would switch parties. Portions of key groups within the party could recoil, no pun intended. According to the most recent Pew Research Center survey, 32 percent of African-Americans say either they or someone else in their household owns a gun.

The most incendiary Republican accusation of Democrats – that they don’t really care about the Constitution, that they just want ever-expanding government power and the authority to micro-manage every little decision in your life – would be largely verified in many American minds.

(Democratic Congressman Phil Hare of Illinois in 2010, when asked where in the Constitution it authorized Congress to make Americans purchase health insurance: “I don’t worry about the Constitution on this.” When pressed he said, “I believe that it says we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” When informed that he has just quoted the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution, he responded, “it doesn’t matter to me.”)

And when asked by Gallup in October 2016 whether there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons?”, just 23 percent supported it, 76 percent of respondents opposed it.

The Democrats have 48 senators, 194 House members, 15 governors, and 3,114 members of state legislatures, their fewest number of elected offices held in generations. And now Bret Stephens wants them to spend the next few cycles campaigning for the repeal of America’s gun rights? This is some Iago-level manipulation right here.

I didn’t even mention how a campaign to repeal the Second Amendment contradicts or undermines other popular arguments on the Left. To clarify, Trump is a fascist, the nation’s police forces are abusive, racist, and unaccountable, the government uses unnecessary violence against peaceful protesters, significant numbers of young minority men sit in jail for running afoul of strict urban laws banning unlicensed firearms possession… and they want to take away citizens’ right to own a firearm? 

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