Once upon a time, I was willing to entertain the idea of passing gun control laws. I’d heard all the media reports, and it sounded like it made sense. If people couldn’t get guns, they couldn’t do bad things with guns.
Well, no. I know better now, but back then I was willing to buy into it.
What changed me was a line from a liberal television show. The show was The West Wing, and a character commented on liberals thinking there are only nine amendments to the Bill of Rights.
That made me think and, as a result, I changed my opinion on guns completely.
The truth is, the Second Amendment is probably the most important part of our Constitution. It’s the insurance policy for the entire republic. But has it become a “second-class right?” Well, some sure think so.
A specter is haunting the Supreme Court — disrespect for the Second Amendment. Perhaps you haven’t realized that the Supreme Court’s disinclination to expand on its landmark 2008 decision creating an individual right to gun ownership means that the justices are treating the Second Amendment as a “second-class right.” A “watered-down right.” A “disfavored right.”
If you are unaware of these outlandish claims, then you haven’t tuned into the rising chorus of judicial voices demanding more from the Supreme Court than gun fanciers already won in that intensely disputed 5-to-4 decision a decade ago, District of Columbia v. Heller.
Why is this happening, and why now? To understand why the “second-class right” meme is suddenly penetrating the judicial conversation, we have to begin with Justice Clarence Thomas. He is not the first member of the current Supreme Court to use the phrase; Justice Samuel Alito Jr. used it in his 2010 opinion that extended the analysis of the Heller decision, which had applied only to Washington, D.C., as a federal enclave, to the states. The court was being asked, Justice Alito wrote in McDonald v. City of Chicago, “to treat the right recognized in Heller as a second-class right,” which he said the court would not do.
But it is Justice Thomas who has taken up the phrase as a weapon, using it in a series of opinions over the past four years to accuse his colleagues of failing in their duty to keep pushing back against limitations on gun ownership and use. The opinions were all dissents from the court’s decisions not to hear particular gun-rights appeals.
While the op-ed goes on to argue that it’s not, Justice Thomas is quite correct to call it such. So is everyone else who has used the phrase.
The reason is that we see time and time again, a desire to curtail that right in a way we don’t see with most other constitutional rights. For example, the Left applauded when schoolchildren walked out of classes last year in a coordinated protest calling for gun control. These children aren’t old enough to vote, yet the press invoked their free speech rights to defend these kids from criticism.
This is the same press that applauds efforts in Florida, Washington, California, and elsewhere that make it illegal to sell long guns to law-abiding adults because they haven’t reached a particular age.
While certain parts of the Left are screaming for regulation of speech, many self-described liberals oppose these measures, rightly understanding that free speech has to mean freedom for all speech or else it means freedom for no speech. Yet they think nothing of pushing for limits on people’s constitutional rights to keep and bear arms.
So yeah, it’s a second-class right, and that’s a bit of the problem in this country right now. The curtailing of rights needs to end, especially with regard to our Second Amendment rights.