About the author: Brian P. Levin is a range safety officer and firearms instructor in Sacramento, California. He has over 20 years’ experience working with firearms as a collector, builder, refurbisher, competitive shooter and hunter. Brian is a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
I appeal to my fellow “second amendment people” to consider if Donald Trump is a real friend. If you’re a Clinton supporter, very little of what I have to say may interest you. But I strongly encourage you to read this article in the interests of gaining common ground. The political divides in our country are widening and the current election cycle is pulling us even further apart. Get out of your comfort zone and consider the concerns of your fellow Americans who own and use firearms. What we have in common is far greater than that which divides us.
Though I am a registered independent and I have voted for Democrats and Republicans in the past, like many gun rights’ proponents I tend to swing conservative in national elections. The Democrats advance most of the anti-gun legislation, so I tend to vote Republican (as is probably the case for the majority of Second Amendment People).
I see the issue of gun ownership is an issue of civil liberty. It isn’t about hunting. It isn’t about preserving the spirit of revolution against our government. It isn’t about keeping a state militia, and it isn’t about what our forefathers wanted. Sure, all of those concepts are important factors in a discussion about gun rights and gun culture in the US, but none of them really represent the core of the issue for me or the majority of law abiding gun owners in this country.
The real issue is one of civil liberty. Individual liberty and the freedom to choose one’s own lifestyle is at the core of the American national ethos. Gun ownership by law abiding citizens is in the same category as freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom to marry, freedom to religion.
Yes, I’m an NRA member and gun proponent who is also in favor of traditionally liberal social values such gay marriage, a woman’s right to choose and decriminalization/ legalization/ regulation of recreational drugs. I think it’s important to frame this discussion. In my view, the ability of a law abiding citizen of the US to own and carry a gun is no different than choosing who you want to marry or what you put into your body. It’s just the kind of thing a law abiding citizen of a free country ought to be able to do.
I understand that many readers may disagree with that, especially those of you who are predisposed to vote for Clinton. I am not so disposed. But I am neither disposed to support Trump nor do I believe that any conscientious supporter of individual gun rights should vote for him.
You may think that for a Second Amendment Person, Trump is the obvious choice–the lesser of two evils. This prima facie judgment isn’t made on the basis of anything Trump has said or done, but is more based on the certainty of Clinton’s opposition to private gun ownership in this country.
Does that mean Clinton would “abolish the second amendment” if she were elected President? The answer is a clear and obvious no. Anyone who is familiar with American judicial politics would know that repealing a constitutional amendment is damn near impossible. Furthermore, there is zero precedent for any of the Bill of Rights to be repealed. It simply has never happened, and the likelihood of it ever happening is nil. Trump’s promotion of this argument is both fear mongering and an insult to any politically astute American.
So what’s the big fuss then? If it can’t be done, our gun rights are safe forever, let’s all vote for Clinton and go home, right? Well, it isn’t that simple either. The core of the current fears of gun owners in America has to do with a Supreme Court decision in 2008, in which the Court ruled that firearms ownership is an individual right guaranteed by the constitution.
With the recent passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, the next President will have the power to appoint at least one (maybe more) justice(s), and the 2008 Heller decision could be revisited, amended, or overturned. Clinton has made her opposition to the Heller decision commonly known, and there is no doubt that if she were elected President, she would appoint a justice that would vote the other way if the issue were ever revisited.
Moreover, with a Supreme Court stacked 5-4 against individual gun ownership, the way would be open for not only the President but Congress or state and local governments to enact more restrictions on the second amendment.
Trump, on the other hand, was endorsed by the NRA. He claims to have a concealed carry permit, and he promises to appoint the most conservative judges you could think of to the Supreme Court if elected. Clearly the lesser of two evils, right? Wrong.
Here’s the thing about Trump: He lies. Not just a little, not in such a covert way that it takes a federal investigation to prove it, but in an “I don’t even care if you notice” kind of way. Not only does he tell outright lies, but he has demonstrated, over and over again on the campaign trail, that he will say whatever he needs to say in the moment to win over his audience and he’ll backpedal on it later if he needs to. He has repeatedly proventhat he is not a man of ethics and values, but rather a man of expediency.
Look at his recent endorsements as just one example (of many). When he said he wouldn’t endorse Paul Ryan or John McCain because of their comments about Trump, many Trump supporters raised their fists and said, “See? This is what I’m talking about. He isn’t a political insider. He doesn’t bow to the pressure from the Republican party. He does what he feels is right! He is a man of conscience!” But as his polling numbers dropped, Trump did the expedient thing and (grudgingly) gave the required endorsements anyway.
Another illuminating example of Trump’s willingness to say whatever he feels is most expedient at the time can be found directly relating to the gun issue. Not many people are aware of it, but Trump, during the 90’s, spoke out publicly against guns many times.
Trump supported for the Brady Bill for example. For those of you who aren’t familiar, I suggest you Google the Brady Bill. It was a ban on certain rifles (which was instigated by an assassination attempt carried out with a handgun…) that cost American gun owners and law enforcement billions of dollars and had absolutely zero effect on gun crime.
The Brady Bill is an excellent example of how, when you legislate policy out of emotional reaction to a tragedy, you get policy that doesn’t accomplish anything other than infringing on people’s rights. The ban was passed in 1994 with a 10 year sunset clause. It was not renewed in 2004 (despite the protestations of media people like Donald Trump) because every report on the legislation showed it accomplished nothing positive.
Not only did Trump support the Brady Bill, but in many of his books he has clearly and emphatically fallen in line with common anti-gun proposals. For example, he has written statements in favor of “assault weapons bans” and magazine capacity restrictions. These positions are fundamentally the same as those voiced by Clinton.
Any discussion of Trump and the second amendment would be incomplete without discussing his recent remarks about us, the so called “Second Amendment People.” I watched these remarks a few times to make sure I heard it right. He said if an anti-gun Supreme Court Justice got appointed, “there’s nothing you can do folks. Except maybe the second amendment people, I don’t know.”
If he had stopped there, you might be able to say he was talking about gun owners going to the ballot box or the power of the NRA as a lobby. But, he continued to say, “And that would be a sad thing”, making it clear he is talking about gun owners shooting and killing people. That last line clinches it; Trump has now suggested that if Clinton appoints an anti-gun justice, that second amendment minded voters might go so far as to use violence against her or her appointee. This comment is officially TOO FAR, and if you value your gun rights, now is the time to disengage from the Trump campaign and quick.
Trump, the person who is supposed to be the better pro gun candidate, has made a thinly veiled threat of gun violence against his opponent. This kind of rhetoric makes the average American see Second Amendment People as violent, trigger happy rednecks that we are constantly trying to prove we ARE NOT.
It is counterproductive to make an argument in favor of a culture that respects the heavy responsibility of gun ownership and promotes their safe use for tasks other than murder by advocating (on the national stage) gun violence. Trump’s “support” is not only unhelpful, it fosters the very negative image of Second Amendment People we are trying to correct.
If some nut actually does make an attempt on Hillary Clinton, the result (just like after the Reagan assassination attempt) will be more onerous gun laws. Not less. Shooting public figures does not result in a reduction of gun regulations, it results in an increase.
The fact that this needs to be said out loud is just another reminder of just how low Donald Trump has brought the national discourse. What if Trump wins? In the long run, I don’t think that playing into Trump’s image of gun ownership is in the best interests of us Second Amendment People.
Even if he kept his promises and appointed a pro-Heller justice, what else would a Trump appointee bring with them to the highest court in the land? A deep and abiding xenophobia, as Trump has displayed? A court that favors big business over the common man? Chances are, it would be all this and worse, and the judge wouldn’t even be that pro-second amendment to begin with. In short, Trump is too spotty on the gun issue and holds so many other toxic positions that he isn’t a safe choice, even for a single issue voter on guns.
In addition, Trump is a liar and a man of expedience. We have no reason to believe that his positions on gun ownership coincide with those of true Second Amendment People.
In fact, with his recent comments, any Second Amendment Person with a conscience should disavow the Trump campaign and distance themselves from him. I do not want my way of life to be associated with a fat New York businessman who thinks that my conscientious and well reasoned adherence to the Second Amendment is his to use as a weapon against his opponents when he sees fit.
No, Donald, this is one “second amendment person” you don’t speak for. If Clinton wants to take my guns, I will fight it at every level, but I would never ever use my guns to hurt or kill a fellow human being except in a clear cut case of self-defense. That is part of being a responsible gun owner as opposed to a murderous, ignorant yahoo, a distinction which seems lost to Donald Trump.
I cannot support Clinton. For many Americans for many reasons, this election has presented the most disheartening and difficult choice of our lives. Not because we have two great candidates to choose from, but because both candidates are so undesirable to so many people for so many reasons. I have no advice on what you should do when you go the polls this November. I will merely quote Senator Ted Cruz’s comments from the RNC which got him booed off the stage: Vote your conscience.