Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens testifies on the ever-increasing amount of money spent on elections as he appears before the Senate Rules Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. The panel is examining campaign finance rules which have been eased since 2010 court decisions opened the door for wealthy political action committees that can accept unlimited donations as expressions of political speech.  (AP Photo)
Retired Justice: Repeal Second Amendment
01:23 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

You don’t ever really know what President Donald Trump is going to tweet about on any given morning, but sometimes they are the most predictable things in the world.

Take Wednesday, when he vowed to protect the Second Amendment from the mostly non-existent specter of Democrats who want to repeal it.

“THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED!” he declared (all caps are his). “As much as Democrats would like to see this happen, and despite the words yesterday of former Supreme Court Justice Stevens, NO WAY. We need more Republicans in 2018 and must ALWAYS hold the Supreme Court!”

The source of his outrage and his pledge was the opinion piece published one day earlier in The New York Times by retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, whose unease with the Second Amendment is well-documented. Stevens wrote a dissenting opinion in the landmark 2008 decision that interpreted the Second Amendment as guaranteeing an individual right to bear arms (as opposed to something having to do with a “well-regulated militia.”)

Other Republicans were taking the cue from Stevens, too. Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Fox News that he thinks every Democrat should have to take a position on Stevens’ idea.

“I’m up here to defend the Second Amendment rights of citizens, my constituents, not take them away … I want every Democrat to answer that question,” he said.

“This is a very bad idea. I’m glad he’s retired,” Graham said of Stevens.

The NRA was in on the action, too. It posted a video on Twitter with signs from the “March for Our Lives” and the tagline: “The March for our Lives exposed the goal of ‘commonsense gun reform,’ a full repeal of the Second Amendment and a ban on all guns. Join us in the fight to protect YOUR right to own a firearm for self-protection. #DefendTheSecond #2A #NRA”

Never mind that leading Democrats aren’t talking right now about repealing the Second Amendment. And never mind that there’s no evidence right now of any sweeping movement to do it (it would be a many years-long effort involving supermajorities of Congress and state legislatures, both of which currently have more Republicans than Democrats).

There were echoes of Trump’s warning on CNN Wednesday morning. A debate on school safety and guns with teenagers on CNN’s “New Day” turned heavily on race and did not specifically mention the Second Amendment, but Jacob Scott, a 17-year-old from Florida, warned about gun control efforts as “gun grabbing.”

“I think we should stop this playing this racial politics and get to the issue of trying to protect children in schools and to stop gun grabbing … you guys are using tactics like race and things of that sort to try to grab guns from people that rightfully can own them,” he said.

The idea that government wants to take your guns is one of the most entrenched conspiracy theories on the conspiracy theory market. Google it.

Trump will try to wield the issue (likely with help from the NRA) into November, especially as he tries to shore up support in the Rust Belt states that delivered him the White House, but where Republicans have faced headwinds in special elections that may presage a strong November for Democrats.

It’s important to note that Stevens did not suggest taking guns but rather the repeal of the amendment. It’s not clear what would follow such a repeal other than laws would be have to be interpreted as not guaranteed by an individual right. Some supporters of gun control see plenty of legal room for gun control measures. The problem is political will; even bipartisan proposals for federal gun restrictions are stymied on Capitol Hill. It’s something of a different story at the state level, where there is a patchwork of gun laws. New restrictions were passed in Florida after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in February.

Democrats, generally, want tighter gun laws, there is no doubt. So do a growing number of Republicans. And as we documented, there is bipartisan support in opinion polls for things like banning bump stocks, limiting high-capacity magazines and even putting restrictions on guns like the AR-15. But it’s hard to find polling on the idea of repealing the Second Amendment, which should tell you something. It hasn’t really been a part of the national conversation.

That could change now, sure. But it’s unlikely, since Democrats have their eyes on taking the House majority in 2018. And they won’t want to spook all of the 42% of Americans (according to Gallup) who have a gun in the home.