Wholly misleading half truth: Repealing an amendment

2016-09-20_12-14-42

Technically speaking, this is true. However, it is also a strawman. In practical terms, the constitution can be changed by reinterpreting it, which is within the purview of the Supreme Court.

The constitution states the amendment process:

Article. V.

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

However, this ignores the fact that the Supreme Court can “reinterpret” the constitution.

For example, the federal government is barred from taking powers not explicitly granted by the constitution by the tenth amendment:

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Between 1917 and 1919, this was interpreted to mean that the government may not outlaw foods or drinks, especially if they are manufactured and consumed in the same state. Therefore, to pass prohibition it was necessary to pass the 18th amendment:

AMENDMENT XVIII

Passed by Congress December 18, 1917. Ratified January 16, 1919. Repealed by amendment 21.

Section 1.
After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Section 2.
The Congress and the several States shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Section 3.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

Yet today, without any relevant change in the constitution itself, the federal government runs the Drug Enforcement Agency that forbids other drugs.

Very few people are afraid that the government will abolish the second amendment from the written constitution. But if it is interpreted to mean “the state militia may bear arms”, or “only such arms as existed when the Bill or Rights was ratified”, it becomes dead letter.

This fear is based on:

  1. Gun control laws that restricted the right to bear arms, and were approved by the supreme court as not violating the second amendment.
  2. Statements, including from Hillary Clinton herself, supporting further restrictions on the right to bear arms.

Bad Comparison: Dissimilar Events

This is not a valid argument, because the two events were very different.

In Garland, TX it was an event guaranteed to upset Muslims. The event organizers, very prudently, hired guards to keep the events safe. An attack was expected, guards were there, and it was resolved successfully.

In San Bernardino, CA the attack was unexpected. While having CHL holders might have helped matters, we cannot be sure. People are much easier to attack when they think they are safe. Therefore, this comparison is invalid. A better comparison would be to an unexpected act of violence, such as this one.

Wholly Misleading Antiquated Statistics Abuse: Number Killed by Handguns

There are several issues wrong with this meme.

First, the figures are probably out of date, considering they include a country that has not existed for the last quarter century.

Second, the figures aren’t normalized on a per-capita basis. The US has a much higher population than the other countries, so even if everything else was equal the number of people killed by handguns would have been higher. The effect would still be there without this statistics abuse, but it would be smaller:

Country Killed by handguns Population in millions Killed by handgun per million
Japan 48 127.3  0.377
Great Britain 8 64.1  0.125
Switzerland 34 8.1  4.198
Canada 52 35.2  1.477
Israel 58 8.1  7.16
Sweden 21 9.6  2.188
United States 10,728 318.9  33.65

So the difference between the US and Switzerland, for example, is less than a factor of ten instead of the factor of 300 that the meme shows.

Third, even if the figures were up to date and presented per-capita, it would still be a half-truth and therefore wholly misleading. The meme doesn’t state it, but the obvious interpretation is that the killings by handgun are bad things that wouldn’t have happened in the absence of those handguns.

But a certain percent of killings are justifiable homicide, for example self defense. The people who are most inclined by nature to be violent are precisely those that don’t need guns to be violent. Richard Rapist can overpower Veronica Victim, and Robert Robber can overpower Elmer Elderly. But in both cases, it would only go into the statistic if Veronica and Elmer shot Richard and Robert with a handgun. In the US, that is a lot more likely to happen.

Note: I wanted to say that most handgun deaths are suicides, but it looks like the meme already took care of that, and restricted itself to homicides. The ~10,000 a year value is only for homicides. Suicides are about twice that, and as tragic as they are, it is hard to blame the gun when in other countries people suffocate or poison themselves.

h/t Philip Docfather Wohlrab