Gun Control and the Second Amendment

August 10, 2016

Today’s press is full of editorials about Donald Trump’s allegedly coded suggestion that gun owners take matters into their own hands to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming president by exercising their second amendment rights, as Giuseppe Zangara tried to do to President-Elect Roosevelt in February 1933. Subsequently, Sirhan Sirhan in June 1968 and Arthur Bremer in May 1972 achieved their intents and changed U.S. political history. What seemingly sets Trump’s provocative language apart is the involvement of a presidential aspirant invoking the second amendment to win office in a race where he trails his opponent in opinion polls. Even that would hardly make the current situation unprecedented. Tom Friedman’s editorial in today’s New York Times observes that such is exactly the backdrop behind the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in November 1995. Rabin’s rabble-rousing political opponent, Benjamin Netanyahu, happens to be prime minister now.

While even the hint of a call to one’s political supporters to use violence to settle an election is highly irresponsible, other editorials miss an important dimension in this latest bizarre turn of the Trump campaign. If one thinks hard about it, Trump as president is far likelier than Clinton to spearhead an effort to repeal or severely neuter second amendment rights. On a countless number of issues, Trump has been a master flip-flopper, so what he says about gun ownership as a candidate can hardly be processed as firm promise of what he’d do as president. What most qualifies freedom of gun ownership as one of the ten amendments that constitute America’s Bill of Rights is not presumed protection from crime but rather protection from an invading army or from the withdrawal of all sorts of inalienable freedoms by elected officials abusing their power. The biggest negative surrounding Trump, capsuled in the sanitized label that he lacks the proper temperament for the job, is his streak of authoritarianism. Only a leader bent on tyranny against domestic political opponents and foreign rivals alike would feel a need to suspend second amendment rights fully.

Clinton’s stand on gun ownership, making it more difficult for unstable people to obtain a firearm, is actually consistent with the views of a majority of Americans, both those owning guns and those who do not. An attempt to repeal any of the first ten amendments, especially the second, would be ludicrous and a terrible waste of a president’s energy. It doesn’t even make sense politically. It’s a fact that far more Americans living in gun-owning households die from gunshot wounds every year than people living in households that do not own such weapons. So over time, retaining the second amendment will increase, other things being equal, the share of voters predisposed to Clinton’s position on guns than the NRA’s.

Copyright 2016, Larry Greenberg.  All rights reserved.  No secondary distribution without express permission.



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