First things first.
The right to self-defense is a cornerstone of the most basic human prerogative of all: the right to survive. If your life is threatened, no law should prevent you from fighting back to save it.
In America, however, unanswerable questions about the intent of the Second Amendment (aka “the right to keep and bear arms'') continues to incite those who refuse to compromise over what it means, what it allows, and what – with frightening frequency – it may be fomenting.
After all the children slain in Parkland and Columbine and Newtown, after all the random carnage in El Paso and Odessa and Gilroy, how can doing nothing still be an option, even if we are unsure what that option should be?
The president, a consistent Second Amendment defender, is promising renewed action against gun violence, possibly through expanded background checks.
The Democrats, predictably, are aiming their rhetorical fire at the president and all who oppose a ban on semi-automatic weapons. The grandstanding grand meister of this policy, Beto O’Rourke, wants to confiscate those guns, all of them, fueled with declarations of defiance and palates of “Hell Yes!” t-shirts.
The media, sensing growing fear of more gun-related mayhem, are highlighting polls showing most Americans favor stronger background checks, “red flag” laws that identify people with guns who could be a danger to themselves or others, and an assault weapons ban.
The U.S. Supreme Court, with a conservative majority armed with the District of Columbia v. Heller decision 11 years ago, will likely resist meaningful gun control incursions.
Then there’s the National Rifle Association.
Recently beset with internal strife, and blacklisted as a “terrorist group” by liberal terrorists in the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the NRA is rallying their faithful to oppose any move that might abridge members’ arms closets.
However, there is a much more powerful reality in play.
The 5-million card-carrying members of the NRA won’t count nearly as much as the 100-million Americans who own guns (including 17.5-million carrying concealed weapons permits). One hundred million citizens won’t take kindly to calls for prohibition.
Yes, Americans want sensible gun laws.
Yes, we want to make sure we don’t arm dangerous people.
Yes, we want to stop the morning massacres of schoolchildren and the afternoon annihilation of Walmart shoppers.
But stop and ask yourself: Who is going to really do something about that?
The Congress, the elite “electeds” who promise to make everyone safe but end up protecting only their own prospects for re-election?
The gun control groups, who muster big headlines but secure far smaller triumphs?
The media, who regularly dismiss gun ownership as the choice of Neanderthals?
At the last presidential debate, Cory Booker, the former mensa Mayor of Newark, said it will take a movement (Hillary-talk for “it takes a village”) to get it done.
He’s right. There’s too much money flowing into political pockets, on both sides of the issue, to move the needle.
The answer lies with “we, the people.” Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution provides for the power of amendment, for changing the rules of the game as the passage of time changes all of us.
Yet instead of waiting for changes to come from Congress, use the emergency evacuation route of moving it to Congress from the states.
Want stronger universal background checks, some kind of limit or ban on assault weapons? Have at it. Spark a movement.
That leaves us with one philosophical/moral question: In a nation founded on freedom, can we legitimately claim a right without bearing any responsibility for exercising it?
If not, doesn’t that violate the central rationale of the social contract, one which calls for individuals to forfeit some of themselves for the sake of the common good?
This is where you don’t have to be an constitutional scholar to know the answer.
This is where the First Amendment experience applies to the Second Amendment.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble…”
Freedom of speech does not mean you can shout fire in a theatre.
Freedom of the press doesn’t mean they can knowingly libel and lie.
Freedom to assemble does not mean you and I can rob and riot.
Like it or not, rights come with a price tag: responsibility.
99 percent of gun owners are very big on that.
Let’s do everything we can to stop those who aren’t.
And if Washington won’t do even that, we will.
Adam Goodman is a national Republican media consultant based in St. Petersburg and the first Edward R. Murrow Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.