Our 21st-Century Second Amendment
What part of ‘unalienable’ do you not understand? A progressive correspondent asks: “If you were drafting the Constitution in 2017, would you include the Second Amendment?” It’s an ignorant question, but one that was asked in good faith, and the answer may be illuminating to some of our friends who are mystified by conservative thinking on the question. The short answer is: Yes, of course a 21st-century Bill of Rights should codify the right to keep and bear arms. The document does not create the right; the right precedes the document, which merely recognizes it and ensures that the government is constrained when, inevitably, its all-too-human members are tempted to violate that right. Progressives take a tabula rasa view of the human condition, the human animal, the human experience, and human society. In this view human beings, individually and corporately, can be shaped into . . . whatever we desire to shape them into. Rights, in this understanding, come from the state: We decide together, through democratic and other political means, what rights and obligations people are to have, and the state acts (in theory) as our instrument in that matter. If you take that view, then the progressive attitude toward the right to keep and bear arms — that it is more trouble than it is worth and that it therefore should be reduced or eliminated altogether — is entirely understandable.