There are many reasons why the Left and the Right in this country have reached an impasse on the issue of guns and mass shootings. The one-sided media coverage—as I’ve lamented many times in these pages—certainly doesn’t help, nor does the inflammatory language bandied about by partisans on both sides who seem to be driven more by their hatred for one another than any actual desire to solve problems. When you get right down to it, though, there’s an immutable obstacle getting in the way of any serious compromise—one very neatly illustrated in a recent tweet by CNN’s Chris Cuomo:
Simply put, most segments on the Left—and certainly the loudest, most influential ones—do not accept that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms. They read it in such a way so as to construe it as a group right, and as such is subject to restriction—and even rescinding—by the state.
Never mind that the text clearly states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” And never mind that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment does indeed protect an individual right to keep and bear arms. Since this is a right that liberals don’t like, they are keen to read the text in the narrowest possible way, focusing on the “well-regulated Militia” aspect while ignoring the “right of the people.”
I won’t get into the history of militias at the time of the country’s founding. Suffice it to say, the men who comprised those militias brought their own guns, since they weren’t regular military—something that would have been very difficult to do if they hadn’t been allowed to have those guns in the first place. I will point out, however, that the legal default for reading of the Bill of Rights is to construe them in the most expansive way possible—hence the need for the government to prove in court cases that it is not placing an undue burden on citizens from exercising their Constitutional rights. For the same reason it is extraordinarily difficult for the government to prevent a newspaper from running a story, it should be extraordinarily difficult for that same government to prevent a citizen from owning a firearm.
And yet that’s not how leftists see it, which makes compromise with them well-nigh impossible. They simply don’t accept an American citizen’s right to bear arms—so if today they succeed in banning AR-15s, tomorrow it will be all semi-automatic rifles. Then handguns. Then pretty soon, the Second Amendment will have been rendered all but meaningless—a right in name only.
That’s why it’s important to remember that the Founders correctly decreed that the rights enshrined by the Constitution are granted by God—and what has been granted by God cannot be taken away by the state.
That hasn’t stopped the Left from trying, though—and so we find ourselves in a situation not unlike the one between Israel and the Palestinians. Peace has evaded them largely because one side, the Palestinians, refuse to accept Israel’s right to exist. When you begin from that standpoint, there is nothing to negotiate. Similarly, when the Left refuses to accept that an individual right to bear arms exists, what else is there to talk about?
The Left will need to compromise on that point before they can expect gun rights advocates to do any compromising of their own.