DBB writes on the recent Supreme Court ruling on gun ownership.
I'm one of those "leftists" (insofar as this word has any real meaning) who think the private ownership of guns is a Bad Idea. If the Second Amendment came up for repeal (by a new Constitutional amendment), I would support it wholeheartedly. I could give you a ton of arguments — good arguments — why private gun ownership is a Bad Idea.
But I won't, because the Second Amendment is not up for repeal, and until it is, my arguments and beliefs against private gun ownership are completely irrelevant. That's what the Constitution does: It makes the beliefs of the citizenry — even a majority of the citizenry — pretty much irrelevant. My beliefs against private gun ownership are as irrelevant as other people's approval of "under God" and "In God We Trust". I can argue against private gun ownership until I'm blue in the face, give you pages of facts and figures, and any opponent can simply say, "Second Amendment" and win the debate. The argument against private gun ownership is a non-starter.
The Constitution, and the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution, tells me (barring arguing for another amendment) what I new laws I can and cannot argue for; it doesn't tell me what I have to believe is good. Specifically, I cannot argue for laws that simply ignore the Constitution. Maintaining the integrity of the Constitution is vastly more important to me than having my way about eliminating the private ownership of guns.
On the other hand, the Constitution is not holy writ. It tells us what is legal, not what is good. There's no tension whatsoever between my personal opinion that the private ownership of guns is a Bad Idea and my investment in maintaining the integrity of the Constitution.
Leftists and gun-control advocates are typically not quite as stupid as rightists. We can read, and we know what the second amendment says. We know that the laws and regulations we argue for must be compatible with this amendment. Because the words "well-regulated militia" appear in the amendment itself, we believe that regulations and controls on gun ownership are constitutional. There's a great deal of controversy about precisely what sort of regulations and controls are constitutional, but we have a court system precisely to settle this sort of controversy.
A persistent theme in anti-gun-control arguments is a pure non sequitur/slippery slope fallacy. Gun control advocates want at some level to eliminate the private ownership of guns. For many advocates, myself included, this is true. Therefore any position put forward for regulation and control are designed to eliminate private ownership in open defiance of the Constitution. The conclusion simply does not follow from the premise.
This argument ignores two facts. First, gun control advocates are not just against guns because they are guns. Guns cause death, injury and suffering, and we're against death, injury and suffering. Many of us believe that this death, injury and suffering would be best alleviated by eliminating private gun ownership, but we know we can't have that (at least not easily, without a constitution amendment). So we argue for laws that will alleviate death, injury and suffering without eliminating private gun ownership. If some law is compatible with the second amendment, then it's compatible, even if its advocates and proponents have desires and beliefs that are not compatible with the second amendment.
It is the case, of course, that sometimes gun-control advocates do argue for laws that are unconstitutional. Nobody's perfect. Bad arguments are bad in themselves, not by virtue of the desires of their proponents, and we have the Supreme Court to determine that those arguments are bad. And that's how negotiation works: ask for everything, and then give things up. The opposite, ask for a little, then ask for more, never works (as the Democratic party has proven time and again).
This article is not about gun control per se. It's about the role of the Constitution in shaping and limiting law and political discussion. The Constitution governs laws, not opinions, and constrains what laws we can argue for, enact, and enforce, not what ideas and desires we can hold. It is the laws, not the opinions of their advocates, that must fundamentally be judged.