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Never surrender

Eugene Volokh argues that if the Supreme Court fully supports the individual rights interpretation of the Second Amendment, that this could help proponents of gun control:

And the right, if firmly accepted by the courts, may actually facilitate the enactment of modest gun controls. Today, many proposals, such as gun registration, are opposed largely because of a quite reasonable fear that they'll lead to D.C.-like gun prohibition.

But if the courts can make clear that the Constitution takes such a prohibition off the table, this slippery slope concern may become less serious. And some people may thus become willing to support compromise legislation, precisely because the core of the right will be protected--just as the radical and alarming Bill of Rights commands.

It's an interesting theory, but Rand Simberg disagrees...
While this may be true for "modest gun controls" in general, I don't think that it will have much effect in terms of resistance to registration. Even with a formally-recognized right to own guns, many will still view registration as a potential prelude to a rapid and preemptive confiscation, because any government that contemplates consfiscating guns is likely to be indifferent to Constitutional concerns.
...and I think he has the stronger point. In fact, I'd go further, arguing that even the "modest gun controls in general" would lead to furious fights.

We have an empirical data point to work with: abortion. Abortion has been constitutionally protected for three decades, through the terms of five Republican and two Democratic presidents. The right has been upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court, even though almost the entire Court has turned over since Roe v. Wade was decided (with only Chief Justice Rehnquist remaining). In sum, it's about as settled as a controversial Supreme Court ruling can possibly be.

And yet, this has not led to the end of the abortion debate. It has not led to the acceptance of "modest abortion controls." Every restriction, no matter how small, is treated as the camel's nose in the tent. Whether the issue is parental notification or "partial birth abortions" or a waiting period or mandatory counselling, the fight over abortion rights is as vicious as it ever was.

Why hasn't the Supreme Court's definitive stance ended the acrimony? Maybe it's because the abortion debate -- not just abortion itself -- is an industry. There are too many people, too many groups whose existence depends on the fight. The first rule of bureaucracies is that they're self-perpetuating. The National Organization for Women, the National Abortion Rights Action League, the Pro-Life Action League, the National Right to Life Committee -- these groups all have employees and vast fund-raising apparatuses. Sure, the 24-hour waiting period may be a relatively trivial issue, but if NARAL didn't make a mountain out of the molehill, what else would it have to do?

Similarly, on the gun control debate, you have the National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, the Violence Policy Center, the Brady Campaign, Americans for Gun Safety, and others. If the Supreme Court "settled" the gun control debate, and if both sides accepted it, what would these groups do to raise money? What incentive would the Violence Policy Center have for supporting only the "modest gun controls" Eugene Volokh mentions? How would the NRA stay in business unless it kept a high profile by fighting the "compromise legislation?"

We shall see.


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