“I’m here by myself with my infant baby,” the slight, 18-year-old widow told the 911 dispatcher. Two burly men, armed and dangerous, were breaking down the door to her remote rural home.
Sarah McKinley faced impossible odds. The police could not arrive in time to save her. One week earlier, her husband had died of cancer.
The violent intruders wanted McKinley’s leftover prescription drugs. One of them was a drug addict.
“It was either going to be him or my son,” McKinley later said. “And it wasn’t going to be my son.”
The men broke down the door, one of them brandishing a foot-long hunting knife.
McKinley fired, averting a tragic ending to a harrowing experience. The other intruder fled.
Guns make women safer. It’s an uncomfortable fact for opponents of the Second Amendment. Most violent offenders actually do not use firearms, which makes guns the great equalizer.
Over the most recent decade, from 2001 to 2010, “about 6% to 9% of all violent victimizations were committed with firearms,” according to a federal study.
States with nondiscretionary concealed handgun laws have been shown to have 25% fewer rapes than states that restrict or forbid women from carrying concealed handguns, as John Lott detailed in his book, “More Guns, Less Crime.”
“There are large drops in overall violent crime, murder, rape, and aggravated assault that begin right after the right-to-carry laws have gone into effect,” Lott found. “In all those crime categories, the crime rates consistently stay much lower than they were before the law.”
Concealed-carry laws are particularly powerful. For a would-be criminal, they dramatically increase the cost of committing a crime, paying safety dividends even to citizens who do not carry.
Among the 10 states that adopted concealed-carry laws over a 15-year span, there were 0.89 shooting deaths and injuries per 100,000 people, less than half the 2.09 per 100,000 experienced in states that did not adopt such laws, Lott shows.
Of course, a mass murderer who is bent on slaughtering innocents will find a way to wreak havoc. Earlier this year, a teenager in China used a knife to kill eight victims and wound five. In 2010, a series of knife attacks in China killed nearly 20 people.
Opponents of the Second Amendment argue that guns increase the death toll in these cases, ignoring the fact that unarmed targets provide less deterrence and only increase the body count.
In recent memory, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in two related 5-to-4 decisions, that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.
You would think this was an unremarkable conclusion. For one thing, the constitutional text expressly guarantees the right “to keep and bear arms.” For another, the right is specifically enumerated — not implied — and applies to “the people.”
In other words, unlike many of the individual rights that the Supreme Court has recognized — some would say invented — you can actually find the right to bear arms in the literal text of the Second Amendment.
The Constitution guarantees a “right of the people” only two other times, both clearly describing individual rights. The First Amendment protects the “right of the people” to assemble and to petition the government, and the Fourth Amendment protects the “right of the people” against “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
Even so, the dissenting liberal justices in the Second Amendment cases decried “the Court’s announcement of a new constitutional right to own and use firearms for private purposes.”
This claim, without a hint of irony, comes from the crowd that finds fundamental individual rights hiding within — I am not making this up — “penumbras” that are “formed by emanations” from “specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights.”
The liberal justices maintain that the Bill of Rights generates these “penumbral emanations” from which we get assorted individual rights. But, when the conservatives enforce an individual right actually spelled out in black and white in the letter of the Constitution, the liberals call it the “announcement of a new constitutional right.”
Let’s see here. Shadowy secretions reveal the hidden meaning of rights secretly embedded in the Constitution and simply awaiting judicial divination, but a specifically enumerated guarantee in the Bill of Rights is “a new constitutional right.” Okay, got it.
But that’s not all. The liberal justices claimed that it’s perfectly fine for a local law to ban private possession of any form of operable firearm because “the adjacent states do permit the use of handguns for target practice, and those states are only a brief subway ride away.”
They called this a “minimal burden” on the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Facing down an attacker? Not to worry! Just coax him onto the subway and take a brief ride to the adjoining jurisdiction’s nearest target range.
You can bet your bottom dollar that these same liberal justices would take only a few nanoseconds to reject any local law infringing on one of their judicially invented rights — even if “a brief subway ride” would transport aggrieved citizens to another jurisdiction where the penumbral emanations flow freely.
Barack Obama notoriously described “small towns in Pennsylvania” and “small towns in the Midwest” where “bitter” Americans “cling to guns or religion.” Since that famously unintended moment of candor, the Supreme Court’s liberal justices have shown their similarly elitist outlook on the Second Amendment itself.
We do not elect our federal judges, but we do elect the person who appoints them, and that determines the judicial philosophies of the judges we get.
On the left, we have an approach that routinely invents new rights found nowhere in the Constitution while unapologetically limiting the Second Amendment to protect only the right to have a gun in the army, as bizarre and dangerous as that would be.
On the right, we have an approach that takes seriously the people’s enumerated rights — the ones actually written in the Constitution — and respects the Second Amendment.
In a few short weeks, we face a stark choice between these two alternatives.
Gayle Trotter is general counsel of the Independent Women’s Forum. Her comments are made in her personal capacity and are not intended to represent IWF’s views.