The Most Important Amendment
By Bob Gore
In nature, every organism employs some means to protect itself. Camouflage, toxicity, aggression, flight, needles, fangs, and armor are just a few of the ways plants and animals stay alive. Even one celled organisms with short life spans propagate with such rapidity that extermination of an entire species is rare. The theory of evolution implies that those species with inadequate defenses against external threats eventually evolve or succumb. The necessity to respond to threats to its existence, an organism's right of self-defense, so to speak, is as fundamental as life itself.
Certainly humans share this right. However, one aspect of that right differentiates humans from other organisms. Most species do not practice species immolation; one of the biggest dangers to humans, on the other hand, is other humans. A logical requirement for a social order that preserves individual rights is that no individual may initiate the use of force against another, and individuals are justified in resisting such force. Since the acquisition and use of property are essential to human survival, the stricture extends to the initiation of force to acquire another person's legitimately acquired property.
The primary function of government in such a society is to protect individuals from force initiated by others, and to punish those who threaten or initiate force. A government has no right to initiate force against those who have not initiated or threatened to initiate force, since a government's powers are delegated to it by its individual constituents, and constituents can not delegate a right which they do not have. Once a government initiates force, it violates certain individuals' rights for the benefit of other individuals. A legitimate government can only respond to force or the threat of force to protect the innocent and punish those initiating force.
No government since governments began has so restricted itself; every government has at some point violated individuals' rights to security in their persons or possessions. One lesson of history is clear--all governments have illegitimately threatened or initiated force against some or all of its citizens. The right of individuals to resist such force, the right to revolt, is based on their right to survive--nobody has to assent to their own destruction. Of course, resistance to illegitimate and generally overwhelming governmental power requires an ability to wage violence on the part of individuals. Only in the context of the struggle to maintain individual rights against predatory governments can the issues stemming from the private ownership of firearms be analyzed and understood.
It is clear why advocates of either governmental restrictions or the complete abolition of the private right to possess firearms do their best to obscure this central issue. The real mystery is why their opponents allow them to do so. Yes, reams of their contemporaneous writings indicate that the framers of the Constitution regarded private ownership of firearms as a bulwark of liberty. Citizen soldiers, or militias, had just revolted against a tyrannical government and they would have had no chance if an effective ban on firearms had been in place. Only a tortured reading of the Second Amendment, and complete denial of the mindset of the framers, can support the interpretation that the amendment only authorizes possession of firearms by governmentally authorized police and military forces. The amendment should be changed to read: "The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," to eliminate the current ambiguity.
And yes, if defies logic to suggest that criminals, who by definition break the law, will respect gun restrictions or prohibitions and this will lead to a decline in violence. Although the research is preliminary, studies of states which have adopted laws allowing citizens to carry and conceal firearms support the contrary, and logical, contention--violence declines when criminals must face the risk that their potential victims are armed. Gun control opponents certainly have the winning side of both the Constitutional intent and efficacy of restrictions arguments, but those are subsidiary to the real argument against such restrictions, and allow proponents to set the terms of the debate.
If gun control opponents want to win arguments, once and for all, they should ask two questions. Constitution or no Constitution, how can human beings be denied a right we grant to every organism on the planet--the right of self defense? The only plausible answer would be that we renounce the private ability to wage responsive violence and delegate that function to the government. The next question then, is how can we delegate that function to an institution that has, historically, been the greatest threat to the security of persons, property and individual rights? This question allows only the ludicrous response--trust the government. It also exposes the real aim of the gun control crowd--to make it easier for government to violate people's security, deny their rights, and steal their property.
The most evil criminals of this, or probably any other century, were at the head of governments. Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Castro, Pol Pot, and other psychopaths have directly murdered millions, and indirectly killed millions more with their inept policies. No mass murderer sitting on death row could ever aspire to the kind of record racked up by twentieth century dictators, who have had all the benefits of modern technologies and the apparatus of state.
The gun controllers assure us that while such examples remind us of the dangers of unlimited governmental power, the United States has democracy, a Constitution and a tradition of safeguarding individual rights. Such assurances, in the few instances where those giving them actually believe them, betray both an ignorance of history and a fundamental misunderstanding of governments. Adolf Hitler once swore under oath that he would abide by constitutional means and he attained the chancellorship by such means. The old Soviet constitution was replete with guarantees of individual rights, and the Communist party always won elections with huge majorities. Most of the world's dictators have signed United Nations' or other scraps of paper supposedly guaranteeing basic human rights.
Gun control (or prohibition) proponents ignore the shrinking of liberty that has gone on under the very nose, so to speak, of our own Constitution. The separation of powers arrangement at the heart of our Constitution has been obliterated by an alphabet soup of administrative agencies (the FCC, the SEC, the EPA, the IRS, etc.) These agencies promulgate regulations, enforce them, and require citizens to pursue adjudicative remedies through quasi-judicial functionaries of the agency. People caught in the regulatory mire face a fundamentally unfair situation when the same agency legislates, executes and adjudicates. The contract clause, (Article 1, Section 10, U.S. Constitution) prohibiting states from violating the obligations of contracts, is a dead letter. States routinely impair or prohibit private obligations of contract. The original prohibition against direct taxes (Article 1, Section 9, clause 4) has been amended out of the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment prohibits government takings of private property without just compensation, but see how much you get from the government if the bureaucrats decide that your land is a "wetland," or harbors an endangered species.
The shrinking of individual liberty in the U.S. has proceeded relentlessly throughout the twentieth century. The average Americans spends over five months of the year working to pay his tax bill. No American knows all the myriad laws and regulations governing his behavior, yet this inevitable ignorance is no defense should he transgress them. As they see government grow while their resources shrink and the prerogatives of politicians increase while their liberties diminish, the American people are asked to abandon their right of self-defense by the institution that poses the greatest danger. The latest, and most ironic, purveyors of anti-firearms propaganda are the Clintons and their acolytes.
Fundamental individual rights and the Clintons are not even casual acquaintances. Check the internet for the multi-page list of people associated with them who have met mysterious ends. We still have not got to the bottom of the Waco tragedy, but eighty people died and it is clear that, in President Clinton's immortal words from another context, "mistakes were made" by the government assault teams. A jury took twenty minutes to decide that Billy Dale had been fired as head of the White House Travel office on spurious charges. During Watergate, Nixon operatives rightly went to jail for unauthorized possession of a few FBI files. The Clintons attained 900 FBI files of its political enemies. Richard Marbury, who writes the excellent newsletter Early Warning Report, makes a convincing case that President Clinton's foreign military forays (Libya bombing, Sudan and Afghanistan Osama Bin Laden bombings, Iraq bombings, Kosovo) were designed to deflect attention from his assorted domestic woes and served no military purpose.
Yet, we are supposed to relinquish our guns and trust these people for the protection of what remains of our liberties. Perhaps the only thing that will stop those bent on control will be their own incompetence. However, why should we make things easier for them to subjugate us? Those who wish to abandon their weapons, trusting the Clintons and their ilk, are free to do so. For the rest of us, pass the ammo, sooner or later we are going to need it.
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