Bret Stephens: Repeal Second Amendment; Restrictions On "So-Called" Gun Rights Imperative For Safety

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New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who identifies as a conservative, defended his call to repeal the Second Amendment in an MSNBC roundtable discussion on Thursday about guns.

Stephens said there has not even been a "moment of silence and compassion and thoughtfulness" by gun advocates and called it "inhumanly repetitive" to say guns are essential to American liberties.

"There doesn't seem to be even a moment of silence and compassion and thoughtfulness on the part of gun advocates for what has happened," Stephens said to MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace. "There is something kind of aggressively and inhumanly repetitive about this line that guns are essential to American liberties, hard one to stomach when so many thousands of people are dying every year for this so-called liberty."





Stephens said something is different about the Parkland school shooting and likened it to the '#MeToo movement.'

"This doesn't feel like after Columbine or after Sandy Hook, this feels like another #MeToo movement, that something has changed, people simply say that is enough," he said.

The NYT scribe said we can not get at the root of the problem until and unless we tell people, "no, in fact, you do not have an automatic constitutional right to buy these kinds of weapons often in unlimited quantities."

"I've been saying in the pages of the Times, we should repeal the Second Amendment," Stephens touted. "And I say this for a variety of reasons, but one of them is often piecemeal gun control efforts don't work because if you can buy one kind of gun in Indiana, you can bring it into Illinois."

"The other thing is it's going to be very difficult to get at the root of the problem, which is about 300 million guns swimming around in the United States, unless you say, no, in fact, you do not have an automatic constitutional right to buy these kinds of weapons often in unlimited quantities," he said.

He also said NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre is and "unwitting" agent of Russia.

"This plays into the Russian agenda because what Russia really wants to do is sow profound distrust among Americans at basic federal and state institutions," Stephens said of the gun debate. "That is, that is their goal. It is essentially operation chaos from the Kremlin, and they now have an agent, an unwitting agent, I hope, in the name of Wayne LaPierre."

Stephens also lamented that conservatives and Republicans don't reflexively defend government law enforcement institutions, calling it an "attack on the core functions of government.

"It tells you how far the Republican party and the conservative movement have fallen because I remember ten years ago, five years ago, certainly 20 years ago if conservatives stood for anything, they were on the side of law enforcement, right? That was the standard Republican position, trust the cops, trust the Bureau, trust the institutions. Now, civil libertarians might have complained for legitimate or illegitimate reasons," he said.

"What you now see is this decisive shift at the heart of the conservative movement, which is an attack on the core functions of government," he said. "I get if you're a conservative and you're saying, I don't know, government shouldn't be mandating what's taught in classrooms, or government is too intrusive in our economic life, well that's standard conservatism."

Stephens also argued that restricting gun rights has led to a dramatic turnaround of homicides and crime in New York City. He claimed it is a "huge reason" why the city went from 2000+ homicides a year to under 400.

"The NRA is not buying politicians. It's representing a broad segment of opinion which means that it falls to opinion makers and shapers to change those views," he said. "I mean, here we are in New York City. New York City has registered some of the most historic drops in crime in the last two decades, accounting for a large -- which is a large reason why crime nationwide has fallen so much. Talk to Bill Bratton, talk to Ray Kelly, talk to anyone who has been in charge of security. They will tell you that aggressive enforcement of gun laws has been a huge reason why this city went from north of 2000 homicides a year to whatever it is, I think under 400, historic lows, not seen since the 1940s or '50s."

Stephens also said "greater restrictions" on the "so-called gun rights" of Americans is "imperative" for public safety. He called it "an argument we can win," talking about conservatives.

"So, if conservatives are supposed to believe in the empirical evidence, here is the empirical evidence," he began. "I don't think it is impossible to make the case to sensible Americans that far greater restrictions on their so-called gun rights is imperative for public safety. It is an argument we can win. That being said, one of the reasons they succeed is the view like we're here to take your guns."

Stephens ended his argument by declaring he is not here to take away your guns.

"I'm not here to take people's guns," he claimed. "I'm simply here to say guns should be owned by responsible people and there should be high tests and a high bar to prove your responsibility."

BRET STEPHENS, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, there doesn't seem to be even a moment of silence and compassion and thoughtfulness on the part of gun advocates for what has happened. There is something kind of aggressively and inhumanly repetitive about this line that guns are essential to American liberties, hard one to stomach when so many thousands of people are dying every year for this so-called liberty.

There is also -- other than saying no, you don't hear a lot -- maybe banning bump stocks, you don't hear a lot from the gun lobby that says what exactly do you have to say to the parents and the families of these children? And the truth is they have nothing to say. They have an ideological dogma to offer them. And I think that also is galvanizing this moment. It really is I think. We agree entirely. This doesn't feel like after Columbine or after Sandy Hook, this feels like another #MeToo movement, that something has changed, people simply say that is enough...

Part of the failure of efforts so far is that there hasn't been a great goal toward which to work. I've been saying in the pages of the Times, we should repeal the Second Amendment. And I say this for a variety of reasons, but one of them is often piecemeal gun control efforts don't work because if you can buy one kind of gun in Indiana, you can bring it into Illinois.

But the other thing is it's going to be very difficult to get at the root of the problem, which is about 300 million guns swimming around in the United States, unless you say, no, in fact, you do not have an automatic constitutional right to buy these kinds of weapons often in unlimited quantities.

Now, I know that that right now when I say that, people say it's a pipe dream, it's never going to happen but 25 years ago if you had said marriage equality -- you set out the goal and then you work toward it.

...

It also tells you how far the Republican party and the conservative movement have fallen because I remember ten years ago, five years ago, certainly 20 years ago if conservatives stood for anything, they were on the side of law enforcement, right? That was the standard Republican position, trust the cops, trust the Bureau, trust the institutions. Now, civil libertarians might have complained for legitimate or illegitimate reasons.

What you now see is this decisive shift at the heart of the conservative movement, which is an attack on the core functions of government. I get if you're a conservative and you're saying, I don't know, government shouldn't be mandating what's taught in classrooms, or government is too intrusive in our economic life, well that's standard conservatism.

When you're going after what a core function of government is, which is public safety, right, a core constitutional function, then you're talking about a very different kind of Republican party and what you're saying is exactly right.

This plays into the Russian agenda because what Russia really wants to do is sow profound distrust among Americans at basic federal and state institutions. That is, that is their goal. It is essentially operation chaos from the Kremlin, and they now have an agent, an unwitting agent, I hope, in the name of Wayne LaPierre.

...

The NRA is not buying politicians. It's representing a broad segment of opinion which means that it falls to opinion makers and shapers to change those views. I mean, here we are in New York City. New York City has registered some of the most historic drops in crime in the last two decades, accounting for a large -- which is a large reason why crime nationwide has fallen so much. Talk to Bill Bratton, talk to Ray Kelly, talk to anyone who has been in charge of security. They will tell you that aggressive enforcement of gun laws has been a huge reason why this city went from north of 2000 homicides a year to whatever it is, I think under 400, historic lows, not seen since the 1940s or '50s.

So, if conservatives are supposed to believe in the empirical evidence, here is the empirical evidence. I don't think it is impossible to make the case to sensible Americans that far greater restrictions on their so-called gun rights is imperative for public safety. It is an argument we can win. That being said, one of the reasons they succeed is the view like we're here to take your guns.

I'm not here to take people's guns. I'm simply here to say guns should be owned by responsible people and there should be high tests and a high bar to prove your responsibility.

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