CONTRIBUTORS

If Democrats show respect for the 2nd Amendment, Republicans will compromise on safety legislation

Dave Anderson
The Baltimore Sun (TNS)
Britain's Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, places flowers as she mourns at a makeshift memorial outside Uvalde County Courthouse in Uvalde, Texas, on May 26, 2022. (Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

The main reason that Republicans on Capitol Hill and their supporters around the country refuse to pass legislation that would place major restrictions on the use of handguns and assault rifles is fear that imposing restrictions will ultimately lead to the confiscation of handguns and assault rifles.

It doesn’t matter how many horrid mass shootings we experience as a nation, even in schools where 19 fourth graders and two teachers are shot dead as they were in Uvalde, Texas. The U.S. representatives, the senators, and tens of millions of gun and rifle owners are motivated by fear of loss.

The NRA is also motivated by fear of loss — especially fear of loss of money.

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Most Democrats in Washington over the last three decades have not addressed the issue of confiscation head on. Yet if Democrats ever hope to pass major gun safety legislation, they must tell the public that they are not interested in confiscating guns of law-abiding citizens. Instead, they are interested in making it more difficult for citizens who are a threat to others from obtaining and using guns and assault rifles.

Democrats must come forth and defend the Second Amendment, just as they defend the First Amendment. And in the same way that the First Amendment has qualifications — you can’t yell “fire” in a theater, unless there is a fire, for example — the Second Amendment should, too.

If Democrats stand up and support the rights Americans have to purchase handguns in order to protect themselves and their families, they will have a chance of getting enough Republicans on board to pass major legislation. That legislation would presumably include expanded background check requirements, limits on the size of magazines that could be sold, red flag laws and a range of mental health programs. Ideally, assault-style rifles would also be banned or, at the least, the age to purchase them raised.

In other words, the more Democrats demonstrate respect for the Second Amendment, the more likely Republicans will agree to place limitations on gun access.

It is Psychology 101. If you threaten to take away what I love — in this instance, by scheming to round up tens of millions of the country’s 400 million handguns and assault rifles — then I will fight you. On the other hand, if you show respect for what I love, I may agree to some rules and regulations about oversight.

There is no one cause of mass shootings or individual shootings, including suicides by handguns. There are many causes, including more guns and rifles than citizens, weak background check laws and an ongoing crisis in mental health among young American males.

Democrats like Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut bemoan the sorry state of a Congress that refuses to legislate on the side of gun safety. Indeed, Senator Murphy continues to express his outrage, quite eloquently, at Republicans who are doing nothing to stop our children from being murdered. President Biden takes the same stance.

Yet it would help immensely if Senator Murphy and President Biden told the country that they want a compromise, one that rejects confiscation, respects the Second Amendment and establishes a set of regulations and programs that will help reduce the number of gun and rifle deaths in America.

Only compromise will work when it comes to guns. The purely progressive liberals will fail over and over again if they make no effort to see the problem as moderates and conservatives do. Gun politics is highly polarized even though the polls show that the vast majority of the public supports sensible safety regulations.

If Democrats show respect for the Second Amendment, compromise is possible. If they don’t, there will be no end to the slaughtering.

— Dave Anderson has taught political philosophy at five universities in the Midwest, South and Northeast. He ran for Congress in Maryland’s 8th District in 2016.