For most gun owners, there is scant interest in the debates about the 2nd Amendment which break out whenever a particularly senseless act of mass gun violence occurs. The latest discourse started off last week when retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens published an op-ed calling for a repeal of the entire amendment, as if such an idea has even the slightest chance of ever taking place. Thank you Justice Stevens for filling up some space in The New York Times criticizing the 2008 Heller decision by repeating much of what you said in your Heller dissent.
But now another voice has emerged in the form of Laurence Tribe, not just a Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard, but the oracle whenever the Establishment feels that a constitutional legal issue needs to be to be explained to the unwashed, semi-literate masses like you and me. Professor Tribe takes issue with Stevens, noting that eliminating the 2nd Amendment would probably make it more difficult to pass specific gun regulations, noting further that the Heller decision already gives the government authority to ‘regulate’ gun sales.
Further, according to Professor Tribe, repealing the 2nd Amendment is a sideshow when the real problem is protecting our children from the carnage and the fears of carnage represented by events like Parkland and Sandy Hook. And what is the real problem says Professor Tribe? It’s the “addiction of lawmakers to the money of firearms manufacturers and other unimaginably wealthy funders.” So what he’s suggesting is not getting rid of the 2nd Amendment, but getting rid of the ability of gun companies and other ‘unimaginably wealthy funders’ to pay the costs of pro-gun, political campaigns.
And exactly what does Professor Tribe hope would happen if his solution to the problem of gun violence was actually invoked? Let me break the news to you gently, Professor Tribe, nothing would happen, nothing at all.
I bought my first, real gun in 1956 when I was 12 years old – bought it at a tag sale in Florida, thus engaging in my first ‘straw’ sale. Over the next 52 years, until 2008, I personally bought and sold 500 guns, at the rate of 10 guns a year isn’t such a big deal for a gun nut like me. During that same half-century, the arsenal of guns privately owned in this country probably grew by roughly 100 million guns, if not more. Know how many of those millions of transactions were protected by some kind of constitutional shield? Not a single one.
I went to my first NRA show in 1980 held in a large auditorium in Philadelphia not far from Constitution Hall. I think Reagan came through and gave a quick speech because this was during his Presidential campaign, but I don’t recall that people walked away from the exhibits to listen to the Gipper, nor did anyone seem to care. It’s seductively easy to promote the idea that the reason we have so many guns around is because there’s this great, big conspiracy between the gun manufacturers, right-wing politicians, Conservatives with money and the NRA. But that’s not the reason why Americans own 300 million guns.
Last night I debated John Lott at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. We drew a pretty big crowd, perhaps half were local folks, many of whom came over from the nearby Upper Peninsula, which is about as strong a gun area as anywhere within the USA. I began by asking the gun-nuts in the audience to identify themselves, and a lot of older, white men raised their hands. They also smiled and laughed – they liked the idea that the guy who was about to lecture them on why we need more gun control also knew how to use the language they use among themselves.
If Professor Tribe believes for one second that these guys own guns because they want to be ‘free,’ – oops, I forgot. Professor Tribe’s a Constitutional scholar, but he doesn’t know anything about guns.