If you want to prove you’re a real gun nut, the way to do it is to refer to yourself as a “Second Amendment absolutist.” Now in fact that phrase has no real meaning at all, at least not in any legal sense, but it’s a way of identifying with the group that went nuts at the 2000 NRA meeting when the words ‘not from my cold, dead hands’ were intoned by then-NRA President Charlton Heston, whose movie career was just about over except for a bit part in Bowling for Columbine where Michael Moore tried, unsuccessfully, to pester him to death.
As far as I can figure out, to be a Second Amendment absolutist means that government cannot pass any law that would keep American citizens from getting their hands on guns. Which means bye-bye background checks, bye-bye permit-to-purchase requirements, bye-bye waiting periods and, most of all, bye-bye to any restrictions on walking around with a gun. It also goes without saying that there wouldn’t be any attempts to restrict the types of guns. Well, maybe we’d let the government continue to regulate full-auto guns, if only because these items fall into the category of military, rather than civilian small arms. Otherwise, if you can pull the trigger and the gun goes bang only once, you can own and carry anything that you want.
What the gun nuts really want is a legal system which, when it comes to small arms, really doesn’t operate at all. Which is why I find a new effort to abolish the 2nd Amendment a very interesting response to the absolutist point of view. Because while the absolutists want the amendment ignored, the abolitionists want it to disappear which, to all intents and purposes, amounts to the same thing. The difference, of course, and the difference is crucial, is that the absolutists want limitless Constitutional protection for their gun-nuttery; the abolitionists know that getting rid of the 2nd Amendment will go a long way towards getting rid of the guns.
Ironically, this was somewhat the state of affairs after the SCOTUS handed down its previous 2nd Amendment decision known as United States vs. Miller in 1939. In this case, which involved transporting a sawed-off shotgun across state lines, the Court held exactly the opposite from the way it ruled in 2008, namely, that the Constitution did not protect the private ownership of guns. But interestingly, for at least fifty years following Miller, there was little, if any legislative activity involving gun ownership, and even the landmark GCA68 law which got the Feds into gun regulation big-time, didn’t really touch on Constitutional issues at all. It wasn’t until the Clinton Administration passed two gun laws (Brady and Assault Weapons) in 1994 that arguments over the 2nd Amendment began to heat up, leading eventually to the 2008 decision – a history that is covered thoroughly by Adam Winkler in his well-written book.
The reason I am so taken with this new effort to abolish the 2nd Amendment is that the gun-control community has always been somewhat ambivalent about the statute and, if anything, has found it necessary to defend the amendment from a liberal point of view. In fact, the debate that led up to the 2008 decision was inaugurated by a pro-2nd Amendment article written by a liberal legal scholar, Sandy Levinson. His 1989 article, “The Embarrassing Second Amendment,” called upon liberal legal circles to support the amendment because, like free speech supporters who argued in favor of the Klan, the Constitution protected the bad along with the good.
Ever since Levinson, liberals have fallen over themselves to proclaim their devotion to the 2nd Amendment while, at the same time, invariably calling for more regulation of guns. But I don’t see how the constitutionality of gun ownership has anything to do with the 100,000 people injured and killed each year with guns. Sorry, but the kids and teachers in Sandy Hook would be alive today if Adam Lanza had to leave his gun ‘rights’ at the front door.