Mass murder is a sad but inevitable consequence of the wonderful Second Amendment, according to an inhouse editorial in one of America’s leading conservative magazines. National Review’s editors, writing in response to the recent massacre in Connecticut, delivered a full-throated defense of the right to own guns. When confronted with the reality of mass-killings, the editors said “too bad:”
The practical consequence of living for nearly two-and-a-half centuries under the almost universally benevolent protection of the Second Amendment is a society in which there are hundreds of millions of guns…Those upset with the order of things are welcome to try, and doomed to fail, to repeal the Second Amendment via the constitutional process. But the guns of America aren’t going anywhere any time soon, and generic calls to “do something” — even insofar as doing something is desirable — must reckon with this fact.
On Friday, the president promised “meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.” We doubt that something like this is possible, in a way consistent with the principle and the fact of the Second Amendment. If the possibility of terrors like Newtown are a reminder of why we need politics, their reality is a reminder that politics can do only so much.
The editorial’s authors would do well to familiarize themselves with recent history before they make claims about what’s in the Constitution. In 2008 — which was much more recently than “nearly two-and-a-half centuries” ago — the Supreme Court held for the very first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own a firearm. More importantly, that decision also gave special constitutional status to the most commonly used murder weapon in the country — handguns. So America has only lived under the “benevolent protection” the National Review seeks to protect for about four years. Prior to 2008, a total ban on handguns and other particularly dangerous firearms was entirely permissible.
It’s not clear why the National Review thinks their argument is supposed to convince people that the Second Amendment is a good thing. As Politico’s Dylan Byers writes, their argument essentially boils down to “preventing more tragedies might be possible, but it is not possible unless you repeal the Second Amendment, which you cannot do. Thus, therefore, ergo: The tragedy in Newtown, Conn., is a price that is paid for protection of the Second Amendment.”
Ultimately, however, not even this Supreme Court believes in the kind of Second-Amendment-run-amok that the National Review favors. Though it’s true that the Supreme Court’s overbroad interpretation of the Second Amendment limits policymakers’ options for addressing gun violence, there are a number of clearly permissible gun regulations that have been proven to reduce deaths from gun violence.