I’ve been covering the Second Amendment since way back in 2004, and I lost track long ago of the number of pundits who’ve written think pieces about repealing the Second Amendment. It’s a regularly occurring feature for fans of gun control, particularly when things aren’t going their way. Here’s one from March of this year. Another from back in May. Last year we even saw an entire book published that was all about repealing the Second Amendment. And now cartoonist and columnist Ted Rall has weighed in with his take on the verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial by once again repeating the tired trope that the right to keep and bear arms is an anachronism that should be repealed posthaste.
If you don’t think the law should allow a 17-year-old kid to take an AR-15 military-style assault rifle to a riot, play junior vigilante supercop and wind up shooting three people, I agree. The root of that craziness, however, is not to yell vague complaints about “the state of America”—it’s to repeal or amend the antiquated Second Amendment.
The constitutional right to keep and bear arms is a uniquely American oddity. Only two other nations besides the U.S. have one—Mexico and Guatemala. And those two countries’ gun laws are nowhere as liberal as ours. Mexico bans the sale or possession of automatic or semi-automatic firearms entirely; there’s only one gun shop in the whole country, on a heavily-guarded army base in Mexico City. Guatemalans can buy semi-automatic weapons, handguns, rifles and shotguns but only with a permit that is hard to get. And ammunition is rationed.
Ah yes, if we only de-liberalized our gun laws then we could be as safe as, uh, Mexico and Guatemala. Do you think Rall is completely oblivious to the fact that Mexico’s homicide rate is about five times higher than the U.S. homicide rate, or that Guatamala’s murder rate is slightly worse than Mexico’s? I’m pretty sure he’s aware; he just doesn’t want his intended audience informed of those facts.
Still, I’ll give some credit to Rall for acknowledging that an honest approach to gun control would center around repealing the Second Amendment instead of pretending it doesn’t mean what it says (which is the gun control lobby’s preferred strategy). But here’s the thing; no matter how many opponents of gun ownership opine about the supposed need to repeal the Second Amendment, I’ve yet to see any of them launch a serious attempt to do so. In fact Rall says outright that it’s just too hard.
We haven’t successfully amended the Constitution in half a century—and barely then. Which is really weird. “Most liberal democracies—including the nice, stable ones in Western Europe—amend their constitutions with great frequency,” University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner pointed out in 2014: “Germany amends its Basic Law almost once per year, and France a bit more than once every two years. Indeed, most states in the U.S. amend their constitutions every couple of years.”
I don’t think it’s weird that we haven’t amended the Constitution since the early 1970s. I think it’s reflective of the fact that we’re pretty closely divided country, and amending the Constitution can only happen when a clear and overwhelming majority of both Congress and the states are in favor of doing so. Does that make it difficult to amend the framework of our government? Absolutely, and that’s by design. But the real reason why there hasn’t been a serious attempt to repeal the Second Amendment is that it would be an embarrassing failure. Michael Bloomberg could spend every last one of his tens of billions of dollars on lobbying in favor of repeal and he still couldn’t get 3/4ths of Congress to sign on, much less 3/4ths of the states.
Even the (now outdated) polls that Rall cites as evidence that Americans are ready for repeal of their right to keep and bear arms doesn’t work in his favor.
One of three Americans own a gun, so guns would probably remain legal. But there would be regulations limiting firepower and some sort of licensing regime. Following endless mass shootings, Americans currently favor stronger gun-control laws by a 64%-to-28% margin, according to an April 2021 Politico poll. “Almost half — 46%— said that limiting gun ownership was more important than protecting the Second Amendment, while 44% said that gun ownership rights were a higher priority,” reported The Hill. If gun rights made it into our new constitution, odds are that such a provision would be far weaker than what we have now.
It’s awfully deceptive of Rall to cite a poll from April of this year when we’ve seen several polls taken in just the past few weeks showing a stark decline in support for more gun control laws. The number of Americans who believe that handguns should be banned has dropped to an all-time low according to Gallup, yet Rall seems convinced that 75% of us are ready to vote away our right to armed self-protection.
My advice to those like Rall who would like to see our Second Amendment disappear into the dustbin of history? Try it. No, seriously. Try to repeal the Second Amendment instead of just complaining that it exists. Make your best attempt. And after you lose in spectacular fashion, maybe then we can have a real conversation about reducing violent crime that doesn’t involve criminalizing the exercise of a constitutional right. Okay, probably not, but seriously, put up or shut up already. If you want to repeal the Second Amendment, make the attempt. Otherwise, just acknowledge that you’re the one out of step with the American people and on the wrong side of history; trying to erase a fundamental right rather than ensure it can be exercised by we the People.