Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Second Amendment- Part Four: Why?

In parts One, Two and Three of this series on the Second Amendment I adeptly demonstrated that the amendment does in fact protect an individual right of citizens to keep and bear arms. Laying that issue to rest in my usual artful, inspired, yet unassuming manner, only one question probably remains in the now-expanded mind of you, the reader: “Why is an individual right to keep and bear arms needed?” I’m glad you asked.

As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit wrote in their Parker decision, this right “was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government (or a threat from abroad).” Joseph Story, the famous jurist and Supreme Court Justice put it this way: "The importance of this article [Second Amendment] will scarcely be doubted by any persons, who have duly reflected upon the subject. The militia is the natural defense of a free country against sudden foreign invasions, domestic insurrections, and domestic usurpations of power by rulers."

So, besides hunting (a subject on which I defer to Bawb), the right to bear arms provides a defense against crime, foreign invasion and tyrannical government. Let’s examine each of these.


John Jay
"Even if it was practicable, would it be wise to disarm the good before 'the wicked cease from troubling?'" [Job 3:17]

This is probably the most relevant issue to modern day Americans. It’s only common sense that police can’t (and a free society shouldn’t) be everywhere. Reaffirming this fact, courts have routinely ruled that the police have no legal obligation to protect any individual, only society at large. They have no obligation even to enforce court-issued restraining orders. This means that the only duty to protect the individual resides with the individual himself. Some places have recognized that fact while others have tried to hide from it.

Even a cursory look at crime rates from around the country shows that areas with the most restrictive prohibitions on civil gun ownership have the highest crime rates (i. e. Washington D.C.), while areas with the least restrictive gun laws have some of the lowest crime rates (i.e. Vermont). States that legally recognize the “right to carry” (RTC) concealed firearms have lower violent crime rates on average: total violent crime lower by 26%, murder by 31%, robbery by 50%, and aggravated assault by 15%.

After hitting a record high in 1991, national violent crime rates declined steadily and hit a record low in 2004. This decline in crime happened while the number of guns and gun owners increased to all-time highs, states issuing RTC permits increased from 15 in 1991 to 40 today, and many state, federal and local gun laws were loosened or repealed. Compare these results to those of England and Australia which have seen their violent crime rates (including gun crimes) skyrocket after passing near-total gun bans. According to the U.N., these two countries now have higher violent-crime rates than America. Noted crime researcher Professor John Lott summed it up succinctly in the title of his book, “More Guns, Less Crime.”

Foreign Invasion:

Thomas Paine:
"[A]rms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property... Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them."

Admittedly the risk of foreign military invasion is pretty remote. Fortress America is protected by oceans on two sides and friendly (I think) neighbors to the north and south, but who knows what the future holds. Any nation foolish enough to send an invading army into the United States would be in for a fight. Even if they were able to defeat American military forces and capture certain areas, the armed citizenry would be able to conduct a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the occupiers. As Vietnam, Iraq, and numerous other examples have proven, armed civilians are often harder to defeat than trained, professional armies.

Perhaps the best real-world example of the deterrent effect that an armed people have against invasion is Switzerland. During World War Two, Hitler had designs on controlling Switzerland, mostly because it irked him that the largely Germanic Swiss didn’t want to be a part of his “glorious” Reich. Although the Nazis didn’t think twice about starting fights with France, Russia, or England (the military superpowers of the day), they shied away from tiny Switzerland. It’s tough military, imposing terrain, and, most importantly, it’s resilient and heavily armed civilian population seemed like too tough of a nut to crack. (Stephen Halbrook has two good books about Switzerland during WWII, “Target Switzerland” and “The Swiss and The Nazis.” Bawb and I recommend them.)

Domestic Tyranny:

Joseph Story:
"The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium (safeguard) of the liberties of a Republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them..."

The history of gun control is the history of tyranny and oppression. From Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot to Rwanda and Darfur, nearly every despotic, murderous regime has had one thing in common: gun control. While our forefathers considered taxes on their tea to be tyrannical, the blood-soaked tyrants of the modern era have given new meaning to the word tyranny. Every major genocide of the 20th Century involved gun restrictions of some sort upon the oppressed people.

Adolf Hitler:
"The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subjected people to carry arms; history shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subjected people to carry arms have prepared their own fall."

Even in America, gun control has historically been a tool of tyranny and oppression. The earliest gun control laws denied slaves the right to bear arms, for obvious reasons. After slavery was abolished, these laws returned as “Jim Crow” laws denying black freedmen guns once again. It was much easier to keep blacks under the thumb of segregation if they were disarmed. Ending these racist gun laws was one of the primary reasons for passing the 14th Amendment, which essentially made the bill of rights applicable against state laws.

Other gun laws would forbid selling guns to the Indians, and later gun laws were designed to limit gun ownership among “lowly” Irish and Italian immigrants. These laws were used to oppress, not to elevate these groups. Ironically, in what must be the biggest political spin of all time, opposition to gun control is now considered intrinsically racist by many elites.

The U.S. Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA68) was, in many parts, a verbatim translation of Nazi gun laws used to oppress the Jews and other conquered people. The author of this legislation, Senator Dodd, had worked at the Nuremberg trials and later asked the Library of Congress to translate the old Nazi laws to be used in his GCA 68.

"Cato" (Nov. 27, 1787):
"[Y]ou do not believe that an American can be a tyrant? If this be the case you rest on a weak basis; Americans are like other men in similar situations, [...] your posterity will find that great power connected with ambition, luxury, and flattery, will as readily produce a Caesar, Caligula, Nero, and Domitian in America, as the same causes did in the Roman empire."

Our founding fathers understood that an armed populace was the final, last ditch safeguard against government suppression of the people’s liberty, when all the other “checks and balances” had failed. It was freedom’s reserve parachute, if you will.

George Mason:
"To disarm the people [is] the best and most effectual way to enslave them."

Noah Webster:
"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States."

Alexander Hamilton:
"[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights and those of their fellow citizens."

Reverend Nicholis Collin:
"While the people have property, arms in their hands, and only a spark of noble spirit, the most corrupt congress must be mad to form any project of tyranny."

St. George Tucker:
"Whenever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms, is under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction."

Richard Henry Lee:
"[T]o preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."

George Mason:
"I consider and fear the natural propensity of rulers to oppress the people. I wish only to prevent them from doing evil... Divine providence has given to every individual the means of self-defense."

Thomas Jefferson:
"And what country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."
"When governments fear the people there is liberty. When the people fear the government there is tyranny."

Benjamin Franklin:
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."

Patrick Henry:
"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined."

The Second Amendment reads: “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.” The militia that the framers referred to was all citizens capable of fighting. The amendment therefore protects an individual right of the people to keep and bear arms, which is necessary to defend themselves from crime, invasion and tyranny. I hope that the Second Amendment will remain strong well into the future, preserving the right of the people to preserve their rights.

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