We hear it ad nauseum every gun-control debate: “No one is talking about taking away your guns. Stop being so paranoid!” But one of the more admirable traits of this post-Parkland round of gun-control debate is activists have been willing to be quite honest about their desire to take drastic measures to take guns away from their fellow Americans.
Just this week, a former Supreme Court justice wrote an op-ed in the pages of The New York Times suggesting we should repeal the Second Amendment as a “more effective and more lasting reform” to “minimize the risk of mass killings of schoolchildren and others in our society.” Just to prevent any misunderstanding of his intent, the op-ed was headlined, “John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment.”
Make no mistake about it. This op-ed, its author, and its placement are a very clear signal that this idea should be taken seriously. In fact, I can think of few clearer signals to and from liberal and elite culture that something should be taken seriously than a Times op-ed by a retired Supreme— the justice who wrote the dissent in the landmark Second-Amendment affirming Heller case, no less!
Yet today, engaging his followers on Twitter as he often does on this subject, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo responded to a follower concerned about repeal of the Second Amendment with this:
he is a retired justice who was talking about ways to get quick legal change on access to weapons. he is not an elected official or part of any effort to repeal 2A. it is a bogeyman to keep people scared and as such resistant to ways to stop the shootings. https://t.co/GpHXVwjcjf
— Christopher C. Cuomo (@ChrisCuomo) March 28, 2018
This is emblematic of an argument I hear all the time, but Stevens is not a bogeyman. He’s a prominent, respected advocate for a position who cannot be accused of naivete or careless misspeaking. His op-ed in the country’s most prominent publication is part of an effort to repeal the Second Amendment. This is the third op-ed the New York Times has run on this exact topic in the last year, the first two by conservative contributor Bret Stephens. In other words, it counts.
It is not the first of its kind, nor is The New York Times the only place from which such calls emanate. The message was pretty clear at times from the National Mall Saturday, from the March for Our Lives’ most prominent speakers— Parkland survivors, who were plenty frank about the rights of gun owners and their intentions.
“All for that assault weapons ban, to keep these weapons of war out of the hands of civilians who do not need them…All for the prohibition of high-capacity magazines because no hunter will ever need access to a magazine that can kill 17 in mere minutes,” said prominent survivor Delaney Tarr. “When they give us that inch, that bump-stock ban, we will take a mile,” she said (emphasis added).
Student activist Sarah Chadwick: “I say one life is worth more than all the guns in America…To the politicians that believe their right to own a gun comes before our lives, get ready to get voted out by us.”
This was not the only message at the march, but if we are to take the arguments of Parkland activists seriously, then they count. They can’t be brushed away as mere figments of our imaginations.
There was the raucous cheering from the crowd assembled at a CNN town hall mere days after the Parkland shooting when Sen. Marco Rubio pointed out some “assault weapons” bans would “literally ban every semi-automatic rifle that’s sold in America.”
Banning all semi-auto weapons may have been popular with the audience at #CNNTownHall, but it is a position well outside the mainstream https://t.co/18rMDwEfGs
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) February 22, 2018
Again, if the arguments of the Parkland community are to shape our policies—and much of the coverage suggests their moral authority makes their ideas not only an option, but an unassailable plan of action—this counts.
There are the legislative attempts banning some 100 types of semi-automatic weapons in various states and federally. There are the calls on media for blanket bans of semi-automatic handguns and long guns, some of which I’ve personally encountered from my liberal counterparts on air. They count, too.
There are the 39 percent of Democrats polled who would support repealing the Second Amendment. To their credit, a majority of them do not, but this discouragingly high minority counts.
In the past, it’s been possible to say that calls for repeal of the Second Amendment or widespread gun bans and confiscation were crackpot calls outside the mainstream of American liberalism. But during the Parkland response, that has become progressively less plausible. Certainly, the combination of all of these things cannot be dismissed as mere right-wing paranoia.
How many Supreme Court justices have to publicly support repeal of the Second Amendment for gun owners to take them seriously without ridicule? For gun-control activists, the right number is probably about five of nine sitting justices. We won’t be waiting that long.