Credit: Creative Commons

America magazine, the Jesuit-run magazine which recently published the widely-discussed interview with Pope Francis, has re-posted an excellent editorial calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. The editorial is well worth reading for all who want strong arguments at their side when discussing the gun plague with those, like members of the establishment gun control lobby, who insist on advancing a demonstrably failed political strategy to stem gun violence.

Perhaps one of the more frustrating things to encounter in progressive politics, on any given issue, is when a fellow progressive says to your idea or proposal, “That’s just not politically realistic.” Oftentimes, one may find himself scratching his head and asking in reply, “Well, dear friend, if you’re so realistic and politically savvy, how come you’ve been spinning your wheels on your issue for the last thirty-plus years?”

Indeed, if one is going to claim the high mantle of political realism for themselves and their cause, one should try to back it up with, at the very least, a nod to reality.

Unfortunately, the establishment gun control lobby, whose representatives flood the TV airwaves in the wake of every mass shooting to assure gun owners that “No one is trying to take away their Second Amendment rights,” deliver no such nods to reality, even as they claim to be political pragmatists of the highest order. Even, that is, as they attempt to harness the public’s energy into supporting doomed-to-fail, utterly piecemeal gun control measures. To cite just one example of the latter: a piecemeal gun control measure that would prevent a mentally unstable 20-year-old from purchasing a gun, but would not prevent his own gun-obsessed mother from amassing an arsenal in her own home where, of course, the former resides. Think Newtown.

Referring to Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s majority opinion in the 2008 Heller decision, which struck down D.C.’s handgun ban, America’s editors get to the crux of the issue that has been altogether lost on the so-called “realists” and “pragmatists” of the establishment gun control lobby, writing:

Even those who subscribe to methods of constitutional interpretation other than Mr. Scalia’s brand of modified originalism must concede the basic point: The Second Amendment impedes the power of the government to regulate the sale or possession of firearms. Unfortunately, the grim consequence of this constitutional restriction is measured in body counts.

Though the editorial makes a compelling and rational case for the repeal of the Second Amendment, there is one point in which the editorialists too casually dismiss the specter of government tyranny, for which the Second Amendment was designed to be the ultimate bulwark against. The America editors ask:

Does the threat of tyranny, a legitimate 18th-century concern but an increasingly remote, fanciful possibility in the contemporary United States, trump the grisly, daily reality of gun violence?

Here, I would argue, proponents of Second Amendment repeal should really sharpen our terminology. I could be wrong, but I think what the America editors intended to say was that the threat of political despotism was a legitimate 18th century concern for Americans: the fear that an all-powerful despot, namely a president, would crush all liberty. Political despotism, rule by a strongman, in the United States is indeed an “increasingly remote, fanciful possibility.” Yet all who consider themselves informed citizens in 2013 cannot ignore the litany of proto-tyrannical behaviors on the part of our executive branch of government.

President Obama himself may not be wiretapping the phones of peace activists, journalists, and even members of Congress, but individual employees of the executive branch indeed are and have been carrying out such abuses, particularly in the post-9/11 era.

The America editors also seem to overlook, at least as concerns their framework on the question of contemporary tyranny, that there are government agents, presumably still employed by the executive branch, who have engaged in torture. Likewise, the editors overlook, at least in the tyranny framework, the gulag of the Guantanamo prison, in which hundreds of men are being held without charge.

More broadly, however, on the question of contemporary tyranny, the editors seem a bit disengaged from, or otherwise disinterested in, the core social and political reality that A) repeated instances of human brutality in the executive branch, civilian and military, is a precursor to outright tyranny and B) the United States has an executive branch employment system in place, both civilian and military, which, by any reasonable observation, attracts a number of people who are prone to committing such abuses. People, in other words, who are in that branch of government not to serve the function of our democracy and protection of our liberties, but to throw their weight around – in much the same way gun-obsessed men like to do. Left unaddressed in a comprehensive way, these abuses will continue to percolate as time goes on. Put another way, repealing the Second Amendment and modernizing our bulwarks against executive branch tyranny must, in my view, go hand in hand. One cannot be separated from the other.

Having said all that, the fact that a major editorial board sees the futility of engaging in cat-chasing-his-tail political strategies – those strategies advanced by the Second Amendment-defending establishment gun control lobby – is a major step forward in our discourse on the great American gun plague.

See also related link to this proposed omnibus constitutional amendment, which addresses the interplay of these issues:



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