An alleged “conservative writer” for the New York Times has penned an editorial in which he calls for repealing the Second Amendment as the only solution to mass killings.
Bret Stephens writes:
Repealing the Amendment may seem like political Mission Impossible today, but in the era of same-sex marriage it’s worth recalling that most great causes begin as improbable ones. Gun ownership should never be outlawed, just as it isn’t outlawed in Britain or Australia. But it doesn’t need a blanket Constitutional protection, either. The 46,445 murder victims killed by gunfire in the United States between 2012 and 2016 didn’t need to perish so that gun enthusiasts can go on fantasizing that “Red Dawn” is the fate that soon awaits us.
Donald Trump will likely get one more Supreme Court nomination, or two or three, before he leaves office, guaranteeing a pro-gun court for another generation. Expansive interpretations of the right to bear arms will be the law of the land — until the “right” itself ceases to be.
Some conservatives will insist that the Second Amendment is fundamental to the structure of American liberty. They will cite James Madison, who noted in the Federalist Papers that in Europe “the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” America was supposed to be different, and better.
I wonder what Madison would have to say about that today, when more than twice as many Americans perished last year at the hands of their fellows as died in battle during the entire Revolutionary War. My guess: Take the guns—or at least the presumptive right to them—away. The true foundation of American exceptionalism should be our capacity for moral and constitutional renewal, not our instinct for self-destruction.
Now, remember this is what passes for conservative writing at the New York Times. It is often said:
Those who can, do.
Those who can’t, teach.
Those who can’t do or teach, write for the NYT.
Stephens’ supposition on Madison is Swiss cheese. Comparing the number who were killed in battle during the Revolutionary War against those killed today is comparing apples to oranges. During the American Revolution, the population of the United States was 2.5 million and no more than 48,000 served in the military.
A total of just 6,100 were killed in battle while another 17,000 died of disease. The guns were hugely inaccurate and many times soldiers aimed at a large group hoping to hit someone.
Today the population of the United States is above 320,000,000. And of course his numbers are skewed because they’re somewhat deceptive. For example, in 2012, 64% of all gun deaths were suicides. Also, included in those numbers are criminals who were killed by police during the commission of a crime and homeowners shooting invaders and gun deaths due to gang activity.
Would banning guns cut down on suicides? Not really. People could step in front of a bus, take poison, blow themselves up or slit their wrists. And how many times are guns used in self defense?
The effectiveness and safety of guns used for personal defense is debated. Studies place the instances of guns used in personal defense as low as 65,000 times per year, and as high as 2.5 million times per year. Under President Clinton, the Department of Justice conducted a survey in 1994 that placed the usage rate of guns used in personal defense at 1.5 million times per year, but noted this was likely to be an overestimate.
Between 1987 and 1990, McDowall et al. found that guns were used in defense during a crime incident 64,615 times annually (258,460 times total over the whole period). This equated to two times out of 1,000 criminal incidents (0.2%) that occurred in this period, including criminal incidents where no guns were involved at all. For violent crimes, assault, robbery, and rape, guns were used 0.83% of the time in self-defense. Of the times that guns were used in self-defense, 71% of the crimes were committed by strangers, with the rest of the incidents evenly divided between offenders that were acquaintances or persons well known to the victim. In 28% of incidents where a gun was used for self-defense, victims fired the gun at the offender.
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