You’ve heard the argument before. The Second Amendment is outdated, outmoded, and anachronistic. These days, we can rely on local police departments to protect us—we don’t need firearms to defend ourselves, our families, or our possessions.
The riots of 2020 have effectively destroyed that argument, according to a new paper by George Mason University law professor David E. Bernstein. Bernstein, who also directs GMU’s Liberty and Law Center, argues that the violence and unrest we’ve seen across the country prove the ongoing necessity of the Second Amendment.
“The unwillingness or inability of local authorities to stop looting, rioting, and other lawless and violent behavior is powerful evidence that… Americans still need firearms to defend themselves,” he says in his article published by the Liberty and Law Center in October.
What’s more, Bernstein argues, the riots prove that the individual right to own a firearm should apply outside the home, and restrictive “may issue” concealed carry laws are not appropriate restrictions on Second Amendment rights.
“The looting, rioting, and general mayhem on display in the Summer of 2020 in cities throughout the United States, often unimpeded by law enforcement, buttresses the argument that a proper right to armed self-defense must include provision for law-abiding Americans to protect themselves outside their homes,” he says.
To make his case, Bernstein provides a detailed, fully cited summary of the violence and unrest in Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Louisville, New York City, Columbus, and Atlanta. In particular, Bernstein highlights how the violence was encouraged and enabled by city officials who prohibited police from restoring peace.
In Seattle, Mayor Jenny Durkan encouraged rioters to set up their own “autonomous zone” and initially compared it to a “block party.” But when it finally ended, Bernstein notes, Durkan admitted that the rioting produced a 525% increase in “person-related crime,” including rape, robbery, assault and gang-related activity.
In Minneapolis, a state senator whose district was overwhelmed by rioters called Gov. Tim Walz to request aid from state law enforcement, describing her district as “on fire, no police, no firefighters, no social control, constituents locked in houses wondering what they were going to do.”
In Chicago, a Democratic city councilwoman told Mayor Lori Lightfoot on the phone, “My ward is a shit show …. [Rioters] are shooting at the police. I have never seen the likes of this. I’m scared.” The call came in July during the city’s deadliest weekend in 60 years: 24 people were killed, at least 61 injured in gun-related incidents, and the city’s 911 dispatchers received 65,000 calls in a single day — 50,000 more than normal.
Even during the chaos, Lightfoot refused to deploy the National Guard beyond Chicago’s central business district, leaving districts on the south and west side of the city unprotected.
Bernstein follows these examples with detailed descriptions of 16 incidents in which city residents used firearms to protect themselves and their businesses. Some of the incidents have been covered extensively, but others received little more than local coverage. Bernstein also points out that the true number is likely much higher since many armed self-defense cases go totally unreported.
In Minneapolis, for example, a restauranteur gathered a group together to arm up and protect the area’s Latino community.
“It’s not something that I would want,” she told local media, “but … we were left alone …. There were no cops that would come around. So, what are we to do? Just stand there and do nothing?”
In Dallas, another group formed to patrol the streets and protect businesses from looting.
“We’re here using our Second Amendment right to enforce and let everybody use their First Amendment right as long as they’re peaceful…,” one resident told the media “If you have a problem with the police, take it up with the police, leave private businesses out of it.”
Those who follow news outlets like GunsAmerica know that Americans use firearms to defend themselves thousands of times every day. But the recent rioting and violence have infiltrated mainstream media coverage, and the value of the Second Amendment appears to have risen in the minds of the public at large.
A new poll from Rasmussen Reports shows that 90 percent of Americans who have purchased a gun recently feel safer, and a survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation suggests that as many as 5 million Americans have purchased a firearm for the first time this year.
It’s unclear how this public support will translate into the election, but it’s worth noting that at the recent Vice Presidential debate, guns and gun control never even received a mention.
If Bernstein is correct, 2020 may be the year that gun rights sees a major boost among the American people.