While watching Donald Trump's recent televised whatever-that-was in Dallas, during which the GOP frontrunner rambled on from one self-congratulatory superlative to the next, I wondered how long it'd be before he upped the ante and appeared on stage carrying an assault rifle.
After all, Trump's months-long crusade to vilify Mexicans is beginning to wear thin, and as of last week, while he remains the clear frontrunner, candidates Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina have started to make inroads in the polls. It only makes sense that Trump would segue onto another topic that'd inspire googly-eyed rage from the his fanboys. And what better topic than firearms and gun rights? Not only would he loop in the libertarian and "liberty movement" crackpots, but the Second Amendment always tends to bring out racists. The core of Trump's support has been built around bigoted nationalists, so why not?
Thus, it comes as no surprise that Trump finally added his second position page to his official campaign website last week. Now, in addition to "Immigration," we can learn about Trump's views on "Second Amendment Rights." Finally. Because I'm sure he's been hunkered down with his policy advisers discussing truly groundbreaking approaches to both resolving gun violence while somehow preserving the notion that the Second Amendment is an absolute right to own as many guns of all varieties as we want.
In truth, there's nothing particularly innovative on Trump's Second Amendment page, even in the context of a subculture that speaks in fragmented NRA bumper-sticker zingers. Right off the bat, his position is absolute: "The Second Amendment to our Constitution is clear. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed upon. Period."
But if there's one thing we know for sure about the Second Amendment is that it's far from clear. If it were clear, there'd be no ongoing debate. But given how there's that thing about militias and how they should be "well-regulated," we have an amendment that's vague enough, especially in a modern context, precipitating vocal positions on all sides. Trump evinces no such nuance in his position, saying the right to bear arms "shall not be infringed upon. Period."
So, it's not unfair to assume this means unlimited guns for everyone. It appears as though Trump's position is that any American can own any firearm, and as many firearms as they want. This'd ostensibly include military-style arms such as RPGs, artillery, tanks, missiles and even nuclear warheads, if we're following his statement to its logical conclusion.
But wait, the policy statement continues with the following: "The Second Amendment guarantees a fundamental right that belongs to all law-abiding Americans." A ha! There's the exception. Only "law-abiding Americans" should be allowed to own as many firearms of any variety as they want. Put another way, he supports infringing upon gun-ownership rights. To repeat: according to Trump, you can only own firearms if you're law-abiding. But where does it say that in the Second Amendment? There's nothing in the text specifying that this fundamental right is restricted to "law-abiding" Americans. This means Trump interpreted the Second Amendment in absence of constitutional language to support his position. To be clear, Trump is okay with infringing on the rights of certain Americans who commit crimes.
Why, then, is it okay for Trump and other gun rights activists to individually interpret the Second Amendment, adding new details that aren't enumerated there, but anyone else who says that perhaps Americans aren't capable of handling military-style semiautomatic weapons, or that we simply don't need extended magazines to annihilate a deer, is somehow unconstitutionally bastardizing the original intention of the amendment's authors?
Yes, breaking news. Trump contradicts himself a lot and his positions don't make any damn sense. Shocker.
Next, Trump writes: "We are the only country in the world that has a Second Amendment." If we take this sentence literally, yes, he's right. No other nation has something called "The Second Amendment." But at least three other nations have similar protections: Mexico, Cuba and Switzerland. Once again, Trump doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.
Speaking of being wrong, there's this, too: "We need to get serious about prosecuting violent criminals. The Obama administration’s record on that is abysmal." No only has violent crime continued to decline over recent years, but Politifact evaluated a similar claim by Ted Cruz and determined it was "mostly false." Oops.
This, however, was perhaps the biggest chunk of hooey on the entire page:
"Several years ago there was a tremendous program in Richmond, Virginia called Project Exile. It said that if a violent felon uses a gun to commit a crime, you will be prosecuted in federal court and go to prison for five years – no parole or early release. Obama’s former Attorney General, Eric Holder, called that a 'cookie cutter' program. That’s ridiculous. I call that program a success."
Project Exile, using the most superficial analysis possible, might appear to have been successful back when it was implemented in the late 1990s. But digging deeper into gun-related crime statistics, it becomes clear that Richmond's crime reduction had much to do with a prosperous economy and job growth rather than the draconian use of "mandatory minimum" laws like Exile. NBC's John Flowers looked at the numbers and concluded the following:
- Crime went down nationally in the late ’90s (thank you ’90s boom). In fact, one of the authors of the “prison enhancement study” told the Judiciary Committee eight years ago that Richmond’s crime rates would have come down “even in the absence of the program.”
- “Exile” also gets the benefit of starting during a one-year spike in the violent crime rate. Rates were slowly receding from their highs in 1994-1996; in 1997 they spiked. “Exile” began later that year, and afterwards rates began to fall again, albeit more dramatically.
- Oh, and did I mention that, “One of the primary concerns raised is the issue of Project Exile being heralded a success in the absence of evaluation.”? Probably should have mentioned that first.
A similar program in Rochester, NY, appeared to work, too, until the economy dipped and crime spiked again.
That said, the Exile program is, as Trump writes, "a success" -- but strictly when it comes to unfairly targeting African Americans, since its generally laser-focused on inner cities. Surprising that Trump would support a mandatory minimum law that lop-sidely incarcerates black people.
Trump continues by supporting more citizen vigilantism: "Here’s another important way to fight crime – empower law-abiding gun owners to defend themselves." What could possibly go wrong? In the same breath, Trump announces, "That’s why I’m a gun owner, that’s why I have a concealed carry permit, and that’s why tens of millions of Americans have concealed carry permits as well."
Sleep tight, America.
The candidate goes on to tell us that he doesn't support expanded background checks because the system is broken, which naturally raises the question: why not fix the system? He also doesn't believe in any gun bans or restrictions on the sizes of magazines -- the latter being the preference for mass-shooters. Once again, in the magazine ban section, Trump notes: "Law-abiding people should be allowed to own the firearm of their choice. The government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own." No restrictions on varieties? Looks like it. Say hello to imbeciles and militia goons with ground-to-air anti-aircraft artillery because, in Trump's America, why not?
All told, Trump's Second Amendment page is just about as incoherent and nonsensical as his immigration posture and, hell, everything else he says on a daily business. But it'll give him a really good excuse to wave around an AR-15 at his next rally. Lord knows he could use the polling bump it'd provide -- as long as he doesn't accidentally shoot anyone.