Real talk about repealing the Second Amendment

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont says he’s moving ahead with efforts to ban the continued possession of so-called assault weapons, even though several Democratic lawmakers in the Nutmeg State have shown little appetite for the governor’s gun confiscation plan. But Lamont’s bill doesn’t go far enough for one longtime politico in the state. Steven Stringer, who’s served as a press secretary on Capitol Hill and did a stint as a PR flack and adjunct professor for Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, says in a new column that the gun control movement needs to quit “tiptoeing around the Second Amendment” and start pushing for what they really want: a full repeal of the Second Amendment and the eradication of the right to keep and bear arms.


It’s hard to imagine in the wake of the most recent mass school shootings, but I recall fondly when guns were a regular part of my adolescence in Connecticut.

My large public high school had a rifle range in the basement. We on the rifle team were introverts and unathletic kids who still wanted a team sport experience. Every afternoon, our coach would unlock the flimsy cabinet that held ten .22 caliber Winchester target rifles and we would practice for matches against other state high schools.

Our safety training was rudimentary but effective; mainly “never leave a bullet in it and don’t point it at anyone.” Our worst incident was the theft of a prized shooting jacket from a rival team; an appeal to good sportsmanship eventually got it back. One day, a National Rifle Association (NRA) membership card in my name arrived in the mail.

Gun violence — murder — has escalated dramatically since the early 1970s when we fired away in that school basement. In the wake of the transformation of the NRA from a sportsman’s association to a hard right activist organization, guns are much more prevalent in American political life. Even as mass shootings become commonplace and calls for gun safety protections grow, the NRA continues to use the Second Amendment as an excuse to successfully nurture the powerful, countervailing gun rights movement.

Despite Stringer’s claims, murder has not “escalated dramatically since the early 1970s”; in fact, the nation’s homicide rate is substantially lower than it was 50 years ago. The FBI’s estimated homicide rate for 2021 was 6.9 per 100,000 people; a noticeable increase from the 5.0 per 100K seen in 2019, but still far lower than the murder rate of 8.6 per 100K recorded in 1971.


To be fair, we’ve seen some peaks and valleys in both the homicide and violent crime rates between now and then. Crime rates actually increased throughout much of the 1970s and 80s before peaking around 1991. Between 1991 and 2019 violent crime and homicide rates both fell by more than 50% only to spike again in 2020 amidst the double whammy of COVID-19 and the widespread riots and unrest following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Not that statistics matter that much to Stringer. When crime rates are falling gun control advocates simply argue they’re not falling fast enough and we need to pass more “common sense gun safety laws” to help. When they’re climbing, these same activists claim that a lack of gun laws is to blame. But according to Stringer, these anti-gun activists are still providing too much lip service towards the Second Amendment for his liking.

One tenet of the Overton window concept is that elected officials generally seek to stay within that range of conventional positions. Currently, the idea of a Second Amendment that negates most gun laws is so ingrained, political leaders committed to reducing gun violence are forced to uniformly state that they’re not talking about intruding on this basic right, that they are not seeking to “take away your guns.” They fear being seen as being too radical and give away too much ground, leaving the center of the debate too far to the right.

This leaves it to the gun safety movement, to teachers and students and every one of us concerned about the 35,000 Americans killed by gun violence so far this year, to take up a call to repeal the Second Amendment. It is up to gun safety advocates to be bolder and more aggressive, to provide the air cover for like-minded people in the legislative trenches to move more incremental but currently controversial measures forward.

There is evidence that a bold repeal campaign could be useful and effective. A recent academic study found that use of “Radical tactics by one flank led the more moderate faction to appear less radical…This perception led participants to identify more with and, in turn, express greater support for the more moderate faction.”


Amusingly enough, while Stringer complains that gun control activists are too deferential towards gun ownership, he does the exact same thing in his column; assuring readers that even if the Second Amendment were repealed it wouldn’t impact them.

To be clear, a ‘Repeal the Second Amendment’ campaign would not be to argue that nobody should have guns, but that not everyone should be able to have assault weapons on demand. It would not mean competitive shooters and hunters and people in need of personal protection should not have guns, but it could mean that the principal obstacle to any reasonable laws would be removed.

And who defines “reasonable” in Stringer’s view? The same ones who are trying to make it as difficult and legally dangerous as possible to exercise your right to carry in self-defense. The same ones who object to any new gun range where folks can get training or participate in competitive shooting.The same folks advocating for repealing the protection of a fundamental civil right.

At that point, why not go even bigger than what Stringer’s proposing and call for the repeal of the entirety of the Bill of Rights. Just think of how much more efficient our criminal justice system would be if we didn’t have those pesky protections provided by the Fourth or Fifth Amendments, or how much money our men and women in uniform could save on housing costs if they were allowed to move in to the homes of civilians without having to pay rent.


The only thing that Stringer’s call to repeal the Second Amendment has going for it is its honesty, unlike all those false promises and empty campaign pledges to respect the right to keep and bear arms from politicians who in the same breath boast about their support for “reasonable restrictions” on gun ownership like banning guns or restricting the right to carry to handful of public locations. But that’s precisely the reason the gun control lobby will never follow Stringer’s advice; they know that demanding the repeal of the Second Amendment would bring an even bigger backlash to their movement than their current decades-long attempt to re-define what the Second Amendment means.

Just as we saw with the abortion issue after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, a right being declared null and void will generate a response even among those who aren’t normally all that engaged with politics. The same would hold true for any attempt to negate the Second Amendment. There are tens of millions of American gun owners who aren’t normally political activists who would be very engaged and highly opposed to any attempt to repeal the right to keep and bear arms, and given that the numbers aren’t there in either Congress or the states to pass a repeal there’s no reason for the gun prohibition movement to poke that particular bear at this moment in time.

I haven’t even brought up the widespread civil disobedience that would come from any successful attempt to repeal the Second Amendment, which is a broad enough topic that it could be its own post, but suffice it to say that in our current political environment not only would you have a substantial number of gun owners choosing to hang on to their guns, but dozens of states and thousands of counties that would continue to protect the rights of gun owners thanks to language similar to or even stronger to the Second Amendment found in state constitutions; including the constitutional amendment just approved by Iowa voters last month.


Of course, the anti-gun lobby’s current attempt to re-define away our Second Amendment rights has largely failed thanks to activists, advocates, and several good SCOTUS decisions. Five years from now the gun control lobby may very find their path to a ban on so-called assault weapons and other high-priority items on their agenda blocked by the courts, and at that point pushing for repeal may be the only real option for the gun control lobby. For now, however, stripping the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights is something that most anti-gun activists (Stringer not included) may dream about but rarely speak of.




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