By: Luke Rohlfing
Schoolchildren marching to demand more gun control means the United States should completely repeal the Second Amendment, retired associate Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens wrote in The New York Times this week.
Stevens praised the kids taking part in recent anti-gun protests, writing they “reveal the broad public support for legislation to minimize the risk of mass killings of schoolchildren and others in our society.
“…But the demonstrators should seek more effective and more lasting reform,” Stevens wrote. “They should demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.”
Stevens’ argument for the repeal of the Second Amendment to make society safer completely ignores reality (probably on purpose).
Here are the facts:
Murder Rates Have Dropped Dramatically Since 1980
There has been legislation passed in the past thirty years that has dramatically reduced murders in the United States, and that legislation, contrary to what Stevens asserts, has not been gun control. It’s been the steady loosening of regulations pertaining to concealed carry across the country.
In the early eighties, concealed carry was heavily restricted, with only a handful of states allowing it. In modern America, however, every state allows concealed carry in some fashion, with a dozen states removing the requirement for a concealed carry permit all together (a policy known as “Constitutional Carry”).
During the period in which states began legalizing concealed carry, the U.S. murder rate dropped from 10 murders per 100,000 people in 1980 to 5.3 murders per 100,000 people in 2016.
More than 98 Percent of U.S. Mass Shootings Since 1950 Have Occurred in Gun-Free Zones
Research compiled by the Crime Prevention Research Center shows more than 98 percent of the mass shootings that took place between 1950 and 2016 occurred in gun-free zones.
This shocking statistic clearly shows that shooters attempting to amass large body counts target gun-free zones. With the Gun-Free School Zones Act in place, along with even stricter state-level restrictions across the country, schools are a ripe target for madmen set on destruction. For this reason, there are some politicians in Congress looking to repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act. Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) has filed a bill to just that.
The arguments put forth in Steven’s NYT op-ed aren’t just statistically incorrect, but historically inaccurate, too.
The most erroneous statement made in the article claims, “[For] over 200 years after the adoption of the Second Amendment, it was uniformly understood as not placing any limit on either federal or state authority to enact gun control legislation.”
When making claims about the Second Amendment’s historical intent, it is important to listen to the people who actually drafted the Bill of Rights. The founders were very clear in not only the words placed in the Second Amendment, but also in their comments made during the conventions held to ratify it.
The most important word in the Second Amendment is the reference to “the people” having the right to keep and bear arms. The Supreme Court has ruled on the meaning of “the people” in the Second Amendment twice. In United States vs. Verdugo-Urquidez, it was affirmed that the term “the people” refers to those “persons who are part of the national community,” or in other words, “citizens of the United States.” With that context, it is clear whom the founding fathers meant when they referred to “the people” in the Second Amendment.
The founders made other straight-forward statements showing their unequivocal intent in the Second Amendment. George Mason made what is perhaps the most historically significant statement relating to the Second Amendment’s intent during the Virginia Ratifying Convention when he declared, “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for few public officials.”
Mason’s view was not contended during the convention. He was referring to the people’s militia, not the National Guard, like many anti-gunners like to claim. The National Guard is the opposite of the militia mentioned in the Bill of Rights. Members of the National Guard operate with the government’s guns and ammunition, and when they aren’t on duty, they leave the government’s guns in the government’s armory.
The Second Amendment was designed so the citizenry could fight back if their own government were to become tyrannical. Claiming anything else is historically false.
Oh, and it’s worth noting the following correction appears at the bottom of Stevens’ article, proving The New York Times – and its writers – don’t know much about the weapons they’re trying to control: “An earlier version of a picture caption with this article misidentified the 18th-century firearm depicted. It is a musket, not a rifle.”
Luke Rohlfing is a contributor at Gunpowder Magazine, writing from Colorado. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.