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The Progressive Case for the Second Amendment

Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale. He is from the area near El Paso, the site a recent mass shooting.

Americans today value the Second Amendment as much as ever.

Americans today value the Second Amendment as much as ever.

"Firearms are the teeth of Liberty."

— Attributed to President George Washington in an address to the First Continental Congress

Our Second Amendment

The irony of the present progressive lockstep on gun control is that the political left, going back to the Vietnam War, has borne the brunt of a tyrannical government. Nevertheless, it is from the left that almost all calls for the banning of assault-style rifles and "high-capacity" magazines originate. The shooting of four peaceful anti-war protesters at Kent State in 1970, by soldiers of the Ohio National Guard seemed a premonition that even in the US, the government could become oppressive and turn on its own citizens. This is one of the main arguments for a strong Second Amendment.

A high-capacity magazine is generally defined as one holding over ten rounds, with twenty and thirty-round magazines being popular among legal gun owners. Second Amendment defenders cite the possibility of tyrannical government as a reason for keeping substantial arms among the people, not just handguns and hunting rifles.

Every Democrat running for federal office in 2020 has fallen in line with calls for a ban on "assault weapons," a flexible term, but more specifically a ban on "high capacity" magazines.

But most mass shootings are not committed by people wielding "assault rifles." Most, about half, are committed to handguns, with shotguns accounting for another 25% or so. Together, handguns and shotguns are the overwhelming weapons of choice in about three-quarters of mass shootings. Assault-style rifles account for the remaining quarter. Therefore banning assault rifles and the high-capacity magazines they employ would do little to stop mass shootings.

When the Black Panthers formed in 1966 to address overt police brutality and engage in community-building, being armed was a requisite in their philosophy. In the end, they reasoned, the last line of defense between a man's family and community, and marauders of any stripe were the man himself, whether the marauders were violent mobs, home invaders, or tyrannical government.

In Korea Town in Los Angeles during the 1992 Rodney King riots, the sight of citizens with rifles on rooftops, some of them "assault rifles," deterred violent mobs from looting shop owners' stores, and possibly attacking their families.

Koreatown shop owners, 1992 LA riots.

Koreatown shop owners, 1992 LA riots.

In the present debate, one of the main, if not the main, points of contention is whether high-capacity assault rifles are necessary for self-defense. To someone not understanding a real-world home invasion gunfight, ten rounds might sound like enough bullets.

In the US, there are on the order of 40,000 to 50,000 home invasions a year, classified as "residence robberies" by the FBI. Robbery is defined by the FBI as:

"the taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear."

Almost half, 40-plus percent, involve a gun wielded by the assailant or assailants. That is about 20,000 or so armed home invasions a year, or conservatively, one every half hour somewhere in America, involving robbery. No statistics are published by the FBI on how many of these turn violent, although unsubstantiated sources indicate on the order of 10%.

These are conservative estimates. Although the data is spotty, other government sources such as the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicate higher numbers which take into account "intent" in burglaries gone bad when a home was unexpectedly occupied and the number of break-ins that turned into assault, rape, or murder. Between 2003 and 2007, 430 burglary-related homicides occurred on average annually.

The Second Amendment is about rural people. One of the biggest disconnects between city and rural folk over gun control is the understanding that, in huge swaths of America, many people live in areas where one county sheriff or one state trooper has 500 square miles to cover.

A police officer is not around the corner like in most large municipalities, at least the ones that are still financially solvent. In many places, help is a half-hour, 45 minutes away, depending on what's going on in the rest of the sparsely populated county at the moment.

In other words, until help arrives, you are the police. People have guns even if they don't like hunting, especially women living alone. What are reasonable gun laws in one part of the country may not be reasonable in another? Gun laws are not a one-size-fits-all proposition.

Multi-assailant home invasions have been on the increase in America, judging by news reports, since hard statistics from the FBI website do not seem to exist. Amoral thugs have figured out that they have a better chance of overpowering a family if they attack in a group, typically three.

If you have ten rounds, do you just pick them off as they come at you as in a video game, a shot apiece? That is not combat, which is surreal and topsy-turvy, and your arms are shaking from adrenaline.

Take the best-trained, most experienced civilian gunfighters in the country: police officers. In 2018 the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, again, what law enforcement knows, that in a life or death gunfight, it's really hard to hit something.

When SHTF, our finest hit what they are aiming at only 20% of the time. These are often competition shooters in their off time, men and women who do this for a living.

In the landmark lawsuit District of Columbia v. Heller, in which a federal judge struck down a California ban on "large capacity magazines" after an exhaustive study of home attacks, the judge cited three in his decision. Two in which women defending their families against aggressive intruders emptied their guns and ran out of bullets, and one who did not run out of bullets.

In real life, it is dark, and you are shooting at shadows, and you are not as good as a policeman who hits his target 20% of the time. The attackers are not standing still like targets at the range, waiting for you to shoot them. They are usually young and agile—crime is a young man's game—and they are practiced at jumping, dodging, and running like antelope.

Once you are out of bullets, even if you had the presence of mind to grab another magazine, it is hard to reload in the dark. You might drop it, then good luck fumbling for it on the floor in the dark. Your hands are shaking. It is different if you are a fabulously trained Special Forces soldier. But most of us are not.

An AR-15 with a 30-round mag in the hands of a single woman living alone in the sticks is an extremely liberating feminist concept.

The remarkable video below is the case that the judge cited as one of the cases where the would-be victim did not run out of bullets. The woman fended off three invaders who had stormed into her door, all of them armed, killing one of them.

So making the generous assumption that the ordinary citizen defending home and family can shoot half as well as a trained police officer and hit his target in a hellish, chaotic gun-fight in the dark 10% of the time if there are three invaders, ten rounds is not enough.

A single bullet hit often does not stop an attacker or attackers. Depending on many variables, studies show that one bullet incapacitates an attacker only 15% to 40% of the time.

In 2016 in Texas, a CBS News affiliate reported:

"Awoken in the middle of the night by two home intruders, a 61-year-old Terrell woman reached for her gun and shot one of the burglars. However, when the woman’s gun ran out of bullets, she said the uninjured burglar attacked her.

“He must of heard me clicking it because that’s when he came back and beat me up really bad,” said the woman, who asked CBS11 not to use her name out of fear for her safety."

In District of Columbia v. Heller, Judge Roger Benitez recounted:

"As two masked and armed men broke in, Susan Gonzalez was shot in the chest. She made it back to her bedroom and found her husband’s .22 caliber pistol. Wasting the first rounds on warning shots, she then emptied the single pistol at one attacker. Unfortunately, now out of ammunition, she was shot again by the other armed attacker."

If I am defending my wife and children, the one thing I don't want to be is out-gunned. To the most reasonable extent possible. Does that mean, as some gun control advocates assert "ad absurdum," that Second Amendment defenders want everyone to have a .50 caliber machine gun? Or a bazooka? Of course not. Those truly are "weapons of war." They are meant for taking out armored vehicles.

Gun owners want what is effective in personal combat foisted upon them by criminals, nothing more, nothing less.

Why the Second Amendment?

Many Americans seem to understand that in the final analysis, their own safety is their own responsibility. In El Paso, after the recent mass shooting, more people than ever enrolled in classes to qualify for a concealed-carry license. Most of these were Hispanic, a traditionally Democratic constituency, and the alleged targets in the El Paso shooting.

The Second Amendment is about those Kent State soldiers, not about hunting, if they ever become the Army. It is about soldiers like Lt. William Calley, one of the officers who ordered the My Lai Massacre, killing mostly women, children, and elderly, hundreds of them, until Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson stopped them.

They didn't stop because Thompson appealed to the soldiers' reason and mercy. They stopped because Thompson told his men to point a .50 caliber machine gun at the American war criminals, with orders to "open up" on them if they "opened up" on him. Hugh Thompson was an unsung American hero.

Washington and the Founders knew that while common armaments change, human nature does not. That's why the Second Amendment says nothing about arms limited to utility in hunting.

Democrats and Gun Control

On this issue, Democrats are placing themselves at a huge disadvantage with people who might otherwise be open to voting for them. Many will vote for Trump because he is all that stands in the way of a nationwide grab of high-capacity (i.e. normal capacity) magazines, and will give Trump what they consider an undeserved second term, despite issues they may disagree with him on like climate change.

The only thing that happens after every major mass shooting, despite calls for gun control, is people run out and buy more guns. The best they can afford. They know those politicians are not coming to stand on their doorsteps to defend them if the world goes to hell.

The Second Amendment is not an anachronism of the 18th century. None other than Democratic President John F. Kennedy said in 1961:

"Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom."

President John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy

Americans are loath to give up their personal defense weapons and firepower when trust in the government, and its institutions, is at an all-time low. Despite being told that they are "conspiracy theorists" by the media, two-thirds of Americans do not believe that Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide, but that he may have been murdered. It would rightfully follow that if the government and media are lying about that, what else are they lying about?

When a mass shooting involves an assault rifle, the media and politicians play that up to the hilt. When it does not, you will notice there is little mention of the weapons used. This indicates an agenda.

Yes, mass shootings are a problem, but a deeply social one. Trying to solve it by targeting one kind of weapon is like trying to solve obesity by banning forks. Perhaps more study should be devoted to the recurring controversy over the link between mass violence and the over-prescription of certain kinds of psych medications.

The Founders never once mentioned hunting in their many documented quotes about the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. They were thinking of something else entirely. That's why so many Americans say, "Gimme 30 onboard pardner." Then pray to the Good Lord that you never have to shoot another human being.

© 2019 Ralph Lopez