Thoughts on the two PF resolutions —
I’m a bit torn on the two PF resolutions (hand gun ban vs. background checks), but I plan on voting for the background checks resolution. Basically, I think the debate over handgun ownership is interesting (and good), but I think the fact that no one advocates a constitutional amendment to ban handguns makes any Pro advocacy problematic and makes it difficult for students to research. There is, however, literature on universal background checks.
The issue related to handgun bans springs from two bans that we enacted by Chicago and Washington, DC. These bans were challenged in the courts and the Supreme Court, where the Court consolidated the cases in what is commonly referred to as “Heller”and ruled on a 5-4 decision that the bans were unconstitutional based on the Second Amendment as currently written. So, there is an interesting legal debate about the constitutionality of the bans and there is an interesting and related (because the policy issues deal with the state interest in limiting a 2A right) policy debate about the desirability of the ban.
So, in many ways, it’s a great topic, but there are a few significant problems.
First, advocating for a constitutional amendment makes the constitutionality debate completely irrelevant. The debate in the literature is over whether or not the bans are constitutional based on the 2A as currently written. The Pro’s advocacy would essentially add an amendment to the Constitution that clarifies that handguns specifically are illegal. There would no longer be any relevant arguments about whether the ban is constitutional because now the constitution explicitly says they are not legal. The debate over whether the bans are constitutional is about whether or not the bans comply with the current 2A, and an amendment makes that entire debate moot. On other words, if the Constitutional is amended to ban handguns, I fail to see how the Con could argue the ban is unconstitutional.
Second, I’ve never seen an advocate for a constitutional amendment to ban handguns. I’ve probably read 1,000 articles on this issue, including all of the amicus briefs and most of the law reviews related to the Supreme Court cases. Does anyone have a piece of evidence that says the constitution should be amended to ban handguns? Without a single “solvency” card, I’m not sure how the Pro could justify an amendment. Practically, it makes it more difficult for less experienced students to research the issue because they won’t find any articles discussing whether or not there should be a constitutional amendment to ban handguns.
Third, crafty Con teams who have a judge that will let them get away with an alternative advocacy will simply say the Court should find handgun bans to be consistent with the existing Second Amendment and argue that Constitutional Amendments are bad. There is really good evidence that says we don’t want to start amending the Constitution when Trump is President and the GOP controls the Congress.
A much better resolution would have been, “Hand gun bans in the US should be considered constitutional.” Unlike the proposed resolution, that would access the literature on this issue. As written, the resolution forces the Pro to access it in a way that I don’t think anyone advocates and doesn’t access the constitutionality argument, which I think was meant to be debated and is very interesting.
At least there is a debate in the literature about the core question of universal background checks and it doesn’t require the Pro to advocate them in a way that isn’t argued for in the literature.
Of course, if anyone has any evidence that says there should be a constitutional amendment to ban handguns, I’d be very open to changing my mind. [Note: Not evidence that the 2A should be repealed, as that is a different debate and gets at the larger question of limiting guns, not specifically handguns]