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Chris Matthews: How can these conservatives believe gun rights are God-given and precede the Constitution?

This makes twice in 10 days that a host on MSNBC has openly marveled at the idea that many, many Americans believe their rights come from God and are recognized in the Constitution rather than derive from the Constitution itself. How can it be that this idea is so inexplicably foreign, even accounting for MSNBC’s left-wing bias? They know the percentage of the country that’s religious; they’ve read that not-unimportant bit in the Declaration of Independence about men being “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”; they’ve read a treatise or two on natural law while in college; they’ve maybe even glanced at the Ninth Amendment now and then and puzzled over what it could possibly mean. I sympathize with their mystification only to the extent that I’m not a religious believer myself, but the idea of God-given rights is as mainstream as mainstream American political theory gets. And it serves a practical function. If free speech is purely a creature of the First Amendment, well, amendments can always be amended. If free speech is a creature of God then you’ve got a valid complaint if it’s taken away, no matter how by-the-book the First Amendment’s repeal might be from a constitutional standpoint.

I’m willing to cut Matthews a bit more slack than I cut Todd because, admittedly, the idea of God proclaiming “Thou shalt have AR-15s” is ridiculous. But gun-rights supporters don’t view the Second Amendment so narrowly. It doesn’t guarantee “arms” so much as it guarantees the right to defend life and liberty through force if necessary. Matthews is a man of the left *and* of the media and therefore feels pressure to signal his disdain for gun rights in theatrical ways, but for fark’s sake, at least nod at a basic understanding of the political culture of your own country.

Oh, and what the hell’s he talking about at the end here where Republicans supposedly insist on the right to bazookas and tanks? The GOP leadership has spent the past few days talking about banning bump stocks, precisely because they make semiautomatics too closely resemble another category of banned weapons, automatics. This is what Republicans get for backing down on a proposed gun-control measure for once.

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