Through recent conversations, I've observed that many Americans believe that if you support our 2nd Amendment rights, you're the sort who doesn't support marriage equality and wants to ban abortion. This is absurd. The right to keep and bear arms is fundamentally a liberal cause. For various historical, political, and economic reasons, this debate was reframed to a largely inconsistent characterization: "liberals hate guns", and "conservatives are gun nuts". Because these two groups have been constantly told this (by their own leadership, even), they have come to believe it is true. It is not.
Who the hell I am
Before I make that case, I would like to firmly establish my liberal credentials, since my views on 2nd Amendment rights are the most visible of my politics. I've donated to NPR, the ACLU, and the EFF. I also support environmental groups such as the Sierra Club. I believe it is society's responsibility to take care of all of its members, whether with universal healthcare, food, education, or other things humans require. I stand for universal marriage rights, am pro-choice, and believe that the "war on drugs" is a pointless exercise that only destroys lives, families, and nations. I believe in taxing and regulating big business, and have some ideas on how the government can make money off the wealthy- in a way they'll actually like. In short, if you ask me about anything other than 2nd Amendment rights, you'll come away saying "Damn, he's almost past 'liberal'". Damn straight.
Whose movement is it anyway?
But what is liberalism anyway? If we go by Wikipedia's "Liberalism in the United States" article, it "is a broad political philosophy centered on the unalienable rights of the individual." Cool. Freedom of speech, and of the press, freedom of/from religion, due process, and so forth are all here. Essentially, if an individual has an unalienable right, liberals champion that. If someone tries to infringe upon it, liberals fight tooth-and-nail (see ACLU vs. everyone ever) to stop that. Do note that these are rights of the individual, not actually of organizations or governments.
Keeping bear arms
One right that springs to mind is the right to keep and bear arms. Something so important that it was number two on our founding father's list of "shit that can't rightfully be taken away from a population". While the arguments for what it means and how to interpret it have been hashed and rehashed over and over again, I'd like to hit a few basic points. Here's the text, to start:
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
Given the grammar and word usage of the time, there's three important points here. One; the thing about the militia and the right of the people are two separate clauses. It's not about the right of the militia nor the people in the militia. Two; militia didn't mean "military", nor did "well regulated" mean "regulated by the government". It meant a "well organized and trained group of citizens". Three; "shall not be infringed". Ironically, this is the only Amendment that is infringed upon by laws justified by "you might do something", rather than "you did something". Think of it like duct-taping theater patrons' mouths so they can't yell "Fire!"
But hold on! How is owning an assault rifle with a 100-round magazine a right? Our founding fathers had muskets in mind, and anyway it's overkill and not necessary since the police will protect us!
It is and I'll explain, no, no, and no. Respectively. Our founding fathers did not, in fact, have musket in mind per se. They had weaponry that was sufficient to defend one's self from anyone who would try and rob them of their life or liberty. Because, you know, they had just finished doing that. It is, in fact, an inalienable human right to be able to defend one's self from physical threat.
It is not the government's place to say what is sufficient to protect yourself any more than it is their place to say who you should marry. When that physical threat is a 200 lb. rapist attacking a 100 lb. woman, a .380 ACP handgun is sufficient and necessary. When a tyrant is attacking innocent protestors, an assault rifle is necessary. Even in our society, just remember; when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.
So the question is not "how many lives could be saved by banning various firearms" (although I have yet to find a valid study that conclusively says bans work), but "whether or not we should take this basic human right away". Framed in this manner, it's a clear-cut liberal cause, even if most of my fellow liberals don't see it that way. It is my individual right to secure my person against those who would do me harm, whether they be an individual, group, or organization (though our country's not that far down the shitter).
Juking Chucking the stats
While I could quote stats on how less-restrictive gun laws nearly universally coincide with significantly lower violent crime rates, or point out that a huge majority of the last decade's shooting sprees occurred in "gun-free zones", that's not what this is about. Nor is it about how violent crime has plummeted in the last 20 years, yet news coverage of it has skyrocketed, giving us the impression that it's getting worse. It's not even about how the Brady bill had (when adjusted for other factors) zero effect on violent crime. It's about championing fundamental human rights.
I want peace. I will even go so far to say that anyone who doesn't want peace, liberty, and equality for everyone is, frankly, a bad person. But the way to peace isn't by giving up essential liberty and our ability to defend ourselves agaisnt those who would do us harm. It's to stand up to them and say "No."
If you're a liberal, you should stand up and defend that which defends everything you stand for. I do.