Last night, I finally had enough of the false narrative that pro-gun control liberals who support the March for Our Lives movement were out to repeal the Second Amendment. It’s just not true, I insisted. And I posted this:
12 hours later, I was eating my lunch and browsing the news sites – and I see this headline: John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment.
Let’s start by saying, I stand by my statement that the overwhelming majority of people do not support a repeal of the Second Amendment. (Former Justice Stevens is, in fact, a Republican. Not that this makes any difference whatsoever, but it feels like it is worth mentioning.)
I cannot, however, deny that I owe someone an apology.
Is there any validity to Justice Stevens’ recommendation?
There is value in reading Stevens’ op-ed in the Times, which outlines how he landed at his “repeal the Second Amendment” conclusion. It’s interesting. Interesting, but not valid.
Stevens argues that for the first 200 years of our country’s existence, it was generally understood that the Second Amendment did not preclude the government from passing gun control legislation. (Curious about my take on the origins of the Second Amendment? Of course you are.) The NRA became a powerful lobbying force only within the past 20 years, at which point “gun control” became thought of as the antithesis of the Second Amendment.
Okay, Stevens – so far, so good.
He then points to the 2008 Supreme Court decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller as the turning point – a decision that enshrined the right for an individual to bear arms for any reason – as the moment that the NRA took over the narrative. Stevens dissented on this ruling, and continues to believe that this ruling should be overturned.
But this is where the Stevens takes a weird turn.
If the 2008 ruling was incorrect, the solution – which Justice Stevens refers to as “simple” – is to repeal the Second Amendment. It’s a bizarre conclusion in the best of times, but in our current political environment where the country is so divided – particularly on this issue – it’s just irresponsible. You can have whatever personal opinions you want to about the Second Amendment, but to distort the current movement into one of a full repeal of the Second Amendment is counterproductive. It’s either an effort to deliberately derail the movement, or a naive and idealistic understanding of politics. Real political and cultural change comes in compromises. It comes over time. Positive change is never achieved by making the worst fears of a large chunk of citizens come true overnight. (The irony of that statement given the last election is not lost on me, y’all.)
I know I have some liberal friends who are reading this and thinking that I’m a sellout and a centrist. Maybe I am. Maybe in another ten years, I’ll look back on this blog post with embarrassment. But for now, I’m going to remain the pragmatist, striving to find the common ground and looking for the solutions in the space between.