“It’s time for a conversation about guns.”
“We need to talk about the Second Amendment.”
“Why don’t these gun nuts ever want to have a dialogue?”
Gun control activists love to claim that they’re ready and willing to have a discussion about the right to keep and bear arms and their desire to curtail it, but inevitably any conversation quickly turns into a one-sided lecture. That’s the case with Iowa writer Jane Yoder-Short, who’s recent column calling for “a way to talk about guns that crosses our divisions” only ends up creating more barriers to a real discussion.
On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we take a closer look at Yoder-Short’s latest screed, which is less about finding common ground with gun owners and more about crafting an anti-gun narrative in opposition to a proposed state amendment to the Iowa constitution that would ensure the right to keep and bear arms is taken seriously in state courts.
Guns have become a hot button issue. Guns divide us. It’s become difficult to have calm conversations about guns. It may be even harder to have productive conversations about our Second Amendment.
The Second Amendment may not be as noble as we like to think. Are we ready to recognize it was included, at least in part, to satisfy southern states, where plantation owners wanted protection from slave revolts? This doesn’t sound as noble as protecting oneself from tyranny. Do we care that this sacred amendment is stained by the blood of slaves?
Gee, Jane, I wonder why you’re having such a hard time finding productive conversations about our Second Amendment. Do you think it might have anything to do with your casual rewriting of American history? As Second Amendment scholar Dave Kopel has pointed out, it’s actually the gun control movement that’s steeped in racism, not the right of the People to keep and bear arms.
Unlike American gun culture, gun control in America did grow out of slavery. Most colonies at one time or another attempted to limit arms sales to hostile Indians, which were, legally speaking, foreign nations. None of these gun controls had much success.
But gun controls for blacks were a different matter.
The colonies with large slave populations also had significant populations of free blacks. South of the Mason-Dixon line, various laws were enacted against unauthorized arms possession by slaves, and sometimes against free blacks as well. In the South, slave patrols searched slave quarters to look for unauthorized arms.
Today, some people believe a bogus theory that the Second Amendment was created for the sole purpose of suppressing slave insurrections. But this can’t explain the ardent support for arms rights in Massachusetts, where slavery had already been abolished by 1791, or in Pennsylvania, where slavery was rare and already on its way to extinction.
In fact, American abolitionists such as Joel Tiffany and Lysander Spooner later used the Second Amendment to argue that slavery was unconstitutional: The distinction between a free person and a slave is that the latter is forbidden to possess arms. Because the Constitution guaranteed all persons the right to keep and bear arms, it thereby implicitly forbade slavery.
So, Jane Yoder-Short is short on facts when it comes to the history of the Second Amendment, but her ignorance doesn’t stop there. Turning her attention to the proposed constitutional amendment that Iowa voters will decide during next year’s elections, the writer wonders why more gun owners aren’t interested in curtailing their rights for the promise of increased safety.
We have different ideas of what keeps us safe. The dance we haven’t learned very well is how to balance individual rights with the broader concerns for the well-being of our communities. Does this proposed amendment make Iowa a safer place?
I have a feeling that Yoder-Short is fine with restricting Second Amendment rights because she fundamentally views them as unimportant. I’m curious to know if she’d feel the same about restricting our Fourth Amendment right to be secure in our persons and property from unreasonable searches and seizures, so long as it was supposedly done to protect us. Would she be okay with stopping and frisking people in high-crime neighborhoods on the assumption that they might be armed? What about snooping through people’s smartphones in search of any illicit behavior?
Yoder-Short has previously written about the need to “reimagine policing,” so something tells me she’d have a few problems with law enforcement treating the Fourth Amendment as a second-class right, even though she wants to do the same for the Second Amendment. In truth, all of our individual rights are important, and none of them should be eroded or infringed simply because politicians promise we’ll be safer as a result.
I’d be happy to sit down and talk about this issue with Jane Yoder-Short or any other gun control advocate, but I’ve learned that most anti-gunners prefer a one-sided diatribe to an actual dialogue. In an actual debate, after all, they stand a good chance of losing, so they’d much rather craft strawmen to knock down instead of participating in a conversation with real give-and-take.