When the Second Amendment no longer protects the things it was proposed and ratified to safeguard, the right in view has been infringed.
The federal push for still more gun laws appears to be bogged down for the present, but several states have passed ambitious new laws purporting to make residents safer from guns.
I would like to return at this time to the question of what right the Second Amendment affirms, and in what circumstances it is infringed. When we look at the amendment itself, and its penumbra of traditionally associated rights, we find several interrelated rights and responsibilities.
- The right to defend yourself against crime and the responsibility to do so only in narrowly defined ways that fall under the heading of justifiable self defense.
- The responsibility to come if lawfully summoned, with your weapons, to defend civilization in time of turmoil.
- The right and responsibility to resist tyranny foreign or domestic.
It seems clear that a gun law that makes it impossible to do any of these things, or even excessively difficult, is an infringement of what rights the amendment seeks to acknowledge and secure.
Scenario 1: Your home is invaded by multiple armed criminals. A 30 shot rifle would be a good thing for you to have. Most shots fired in real life gunfights miss, which is the real motivation for magazines that hold plenty of ammunition. The rationale is the same whether you are a policeman, a soldier or a private citizen defending home and hearth.
Because, under any sensible assumptions you can make, the criminals may be armed with guns carrying large magazines, saying the householder may not have the same reduces his ability to defend himself, presenting him with long odds: ten shots or seven, against multiple criminals with 30 shots apiece. This is an infringement because it places the home defender at a fatal disadvantage. The right to arms means efficient arms, suitable to your own defense. What is suitable is dependent upon the kinds of arms possessed by your adversaries.
Scenario 2: Society falls into anarchy and your state governor sends out the call for armed and able bodied citizens to form up in irregular light infantry units, that is, authorized state militias. It would be a good thing if your rifle, and your magazines, were at least approximately equal to the tasks of present day combat. The new laws of some states deny you such arms. This too is infringement.
Scenario 3: Through some series of unfortunate episodes, tyranny comes to America. As they always do, the tyrants seek to disarm the public and especially those people whose opinions or beliefs are at odds with the new social order. Guns--or at least the effective ones--will be unavailable. Perhaps the powers that be will allow certain rural people to have Biden shotguns, for pest control and pot hunting. But effective arms, of the kinds that might be used to enforce justice and remove tyranny, will be off limits to the hoi polloi.
That situation--of course everyone hopes we shall always avoid it--did not seem far fetched to our nation's founders, for they had seen something like it in their own times. In the years since, tyrannies have arisen in various nations abroad. We ought not be too sure that we are immune to the same happening here. What you need if it does is an effective fighting rifle, and no registration record that ties you to the specific weapon: no master list with which an oppressor may go around sweeping up the inconvenient arms owned by inconvenient people.
Of course the new, infringing laws of some states would make a tyrant's job very easy if and when he arrives: few modern rifles or large magazines in private hands, and registration lists to assist in picking up the remaining ones. Anyone who does not see why that looks suspicious has misunderstood the history and the reasoning behind the right to keep and bear arms.
It is perhaps a hopeful sign that these infringements are proceeding state by state, rather than nationally. It will give us an opportunity to compare the practical results of the laws, by observing the states that have them alongside those that do not. Of course the laws will prove ineffective for their stated purposes, which under liberal logic is invariably a pretext for still more laws. But anyone who takes a thoughtful view of gun violence will be able to see that the real problem is thugs and crazies, far more than it can be said to consist in modern rifles and magazines.
When the infringement states find out that their laws do not deter criminals or thwart the criminally insane, but do work to reduce their citizens' ability to protect themselves against the same, then perhaps we can have a real and honest "broad national conversation" about gun violence. It is not the guns that are the problem so long as the good guys are holding them, the honest and levelheaded citizens. It is the bad guys and the lunatics who are the problem. They are less of a problem if the good guys are not outgunned.
The idea here is that the good guys will always outnumber the bad guys. That, if you think about it, is the whole idea behind democracy. The Second Amendment holds, if it means anything, that the good guys should be armed against the bad guys. Thugs, crazies, tyrannical usurpers, we should be ready for them all -- and after all, they differ only in degree not kind.
I wrote a thing or two previously about the nearly hysterical campaign of smears and lies that has accompanied the leftist push for the new gun laws. With little solid reason on their side, the anti-gun people took refuge in emotionalism and untruths. Gun owners are irresponsible to want modern guns. Evil, and probably racist too! You don't need an AR-15 to defend yourself. You should not have one. AR-15's are machine guns, or just like machine guns, or something. The NRA is complicit in murdering children. Oh the humanity!
You cannot put the gun technology genie back in the bottle. By attempting to restrict the sane and law abiding to owning only weapons long obsolete, you weaken the defensive abilities of the very people who ought to have strong abilities to defend themselves. This is a problem in light of the Second Amendment and the reasoning, history and traditions in back of the amendment. It is infringement.