Pick a mass shooting that’s happened in America (any mass shooting will do).
Following the immediate horror and outrage of the shooting comes debates about gun control and gun rights. The gun control folks opine that stricter gun laws will help to keep guns out of the hands of people who would take countless Americans’ lives. Gun rights advocates say if everyone had a gun, the bad guy could be dealt with immediately.
They also cry, “The Second Amendment!”
Debating what the Second Amendment means in our modern world is useful and necessary. However, that’s not my point in this posting. My point is that when the gun rights people say, “Second Amendment,” I’m not entirely sure it’s actually the Bill of Rights that concerns them.
With the campaign of Donald Trump and his recent ascension into office of President of the United States, the First Amendment has been constantly under attack. Not only was the idea of a Muslim ban and registration thrown around during the campaign without immediate denouncement, a little over a week ago Trump followed through and enacted a ban of Muslims from seven different countries (Trump and many others will argue it is not a “Muslim” ban, but let’s be honest--it is).
During his campaign, Trump revoked press credentials from the Washington Post so no reporters from that publication could attend his rallies. Trump and his surrogates have had no shame in depicting journalism as the enemy (Steve Bannon even went so far as to literally call the press the opposition party), and citing anything they don’t like--including polls reflecting negatively on Trump and/or his policies--as “fake news.” Kellyanne Conway became the mouthpiece for the Owellian “alternative facts” liberals have become so adept at mocking (mock we may, but it is with an awareness of how terrifying propaganda is). While the campaign was in full swing, the Republic--a conservative newspaper in Arizona--endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, endorsing a Democrat for the first time in the paper’s history. After the endorsement reporters at the paper started receiving death threats. (This, of course, isn’t Trump himself, or surrogates. However, it would be foolhardy to suppose death threats on reporters are unrelated to Trump’s antagonism towards them.)
The attacks on the free press go on and on.
With attacks on the free press, free speech isn’t far behind. Protest (the right to assemble) and differing viewpoints are belittled and called un-American. People who for eight years derided President Obama are stunned that Trump dissenters would dare disagree with him.
And yet, during all of this, what I observe is that the same people who loudly cry, “Second Amendment!” are not only silent about the First Amendment, but are often included in the groups of people getting in line with policies and ideas that are clear attacks on the amendment without which the amendments that follow would wax superfluous.
In the spirit of being forthcoming, I acknowledge this is speculation. I can see the behavior and reactions of various people, but that doesn’t necessitate my knowledge of motivations. However, I have to wonder: Why are the people who are so comfortable citing the Second Amendment silent when the First Amendment is clearly under attack? While I disagree on how to handle guns in America (multiple studies show that better gun laws mean fewer lost lives), and disagree that guns are actually under threat of being taken away (liberals want more sensible gun laws, not to take guns away from people), I accept their concern over the Second Amendment. Our amendments are part of what makes the U.S. Constitution a great document--the living nature of being able to update our laws according to how society and culture change through time is beautiful--thus being concerned about amendments is necessary and commendable.
But, when your concern is limited to only one… I start to think it’s less about the amendments and more about guns--and that is frightening.
I’ve never been a fan of guns. I will fight mightily with my pen and my voice and political activism and through civil disobedience, but I’ve always abhorred violence--and I associate guns with violence. But it isn’t caring about guns that I find frightening, it’s more the “selective freedom” I wrote about last week. By all means be worried about the Second Amendment. But if that’s where your concern about the Constitution begins and ends, I can’t take your arguments seriously. I can’t believe that it is truly the Constitution or the safety of Americans you’re worried about.
Maybe I’m wrong. Will you prove me wrong?