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.
Second Amendment, United States Constitution
In nature, every organism has means to protect itself. Camouflage, toxicity, aggression, flight, needles, fangs and armor are 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 that right of self-defense. However, one aspect of that right differentiates them from other organisms. Most species do not practice species immolation. One of the biggest dangers to humans, on the other hand, is other humans. In a social order that preserves individual rights, no individual may initiate force against another, and individuals are justified in resisting such force. Because 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 governed delegate to their government the power to use force to protect themselves and their property from violence and punish those who initiate it. A government has no right to use force against those who have not initiated or threatened to initiate force. A government’s powers are delegated powers, and constituents cannot delegate a right to it that they do not have as individuals. Once a government initiates force against individuals, it violates those individuals’ rights. A legitimate government can only use force or the threat of force to protect life and property and punish those who initiate force or threaten to do so.
No government since governments began has so restricted itself. Every government has violated individuals’ rights to security in their persons or possessions, illegitimately using force or its threat 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 must assent to his or her own enslavement or destruction. Resistance to illegitimate and often overwhelming governmental power requires an ability to counter with force on the part of individuals. Only in the context of the struggle to maintain individual rights against illegitimate governments can the issues stemming from the private ownership of firearms be analyzed and understood.
Advocates of restrictions on or the complete abolition of the private right to possess firearms do their best to obscure this central issue. The mystery is why their opponents let them do it. 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 police and military forces. The amendment should be changed to read: “The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” to eliminate any ambiguity.
And yes, it defies logic to suggest that criminals, who by definition break the law, will respect gun restrictions, leading to a decline in violence. Studies of states that allow citizens to carry and conceal firearms support the contrary, and logical, contention—violences declines when criminals face the risk that their potential victims are armed. Gun control opponents have the winning side of the Constitutional intent and inefficacy-of-restrictions arguments, but those are subsidiary to the primary argument against such restrictions and allow proponents to shift the terms of debate.
Constitution or no Constitution, how can human beings be denied a right essential to every organism: the right of self-defense? The only plausible answer: we renounce our ability to protect ourselves and delegate that function to the government. But 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 dubious response: we must trust our government. It also exposes the real aim of the gun control crowd—to make it easier for government to violate our rights.
The most evil criminals in history were heads of governments. Hitler, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung, Idi Amin, Pol Pot and other psychopaths directly murdered millions and indirectly killed millions more with their inept policies. No mass murderer sitting on death row can aspire to the record racked up by these dictators. Virtually every dictatorial regime either instituted a prohibition on the private ownership and possession of firearms or that prohibition was already in place when the regime assumed power. It is, of course, much easier to tyrannize the population when the population can’t shoot back.
While such examples remind us of the dangers of unlimited governmental power, we are assured by gun controllers and prohibitionists that the United States has democracy, a Constitution, and a tradition of safeguarding individual rights. Adolf Hitler legitimately attained the chancellorship of Germany and swore to uphold its constitution. 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. The assurances—when those giving them actually believe them—betray an appalling ignorance of history and an inexcusable naivety about government.
They ignore the shrinking of liberty that has gone on under the very nose, so to speak, of our own Constitution. The separation of powers at the heart of that document has been obliterated by administrative agencies, which promulgate, enforce, and adjudicate laws and regulation. The contract clause, prohibiting states from violating the obligations of contracts, is a historical curiosity. The original prohibition against direct taxes has been amended out of the Constitution. The Fifth Amendment prohibits government takings of private property without just compensation, but governments routinely condemns property for crony capitalistic redevelopment schemes, and see how much recompense you get if the bureaucrats decide your land is a wetland or harbors an endangered species. The average taxpayer spends over five months of the year working to pay his tax bill. No American knows the tens of thousands of laws and regulations on the books, yet this inevitable ignorance is no defense should they be transgressed.
The government has access to your electronic communications and computer records, and most of the time it can track where you are. It increasingly has access to your medical records. Drones roam the world, killing those that have been deemed to be terrorists by our government, without trail or judicial recourse. Many in the government would affix that label to anyone who doesn’t like the government. Officially defined “terrorists” have been detained indefinitely and either harshly interrogated or tortured, depending on one’s definitions of those terms. Presidents have repeatedly used the IRS and FBI to intimidate, harass, and persecute political opponents. The Justice Department has gone after reporters.
Civil asset forfeitures allow the governments to take private property for their own use if they decide the property has some connection to a possible crime. No adversarial proceeding or determination of the owner’s guilt is required, and trying to reclaim property seized in this manner is so convoluted and time consuming that many owners don’t bother. Most executive branch agencies have their own arsenals and SWAT teams. At the state and local level, police departments have become increasingly militarized, with SWAT teams, military munitions, and armored vehicles.
The government’s growth has been as relentless as the shrinkage of the people’s liberty; the latter a concomitant of the former. As they see government grow while their opportunities and wherewithal contract, as the power of its officials increase while their freedom fades, the American people are asked to abandon their right of self-defense by the institution that poses the greatest threat to their security and rights. If the Second Amendment goes the rest are dead letters. Relentless propaganda implores us (and never-ending legislative and bureaucratic efforts attempt to force us) to register (the penultimate step before confiscation) or relinquish our guns and trust government to protect what remains of our dwindling liberties. Those who want to accept that proposition are free to do so. The rest of us must stock up on ammo—sooner or later we’re going to need it.
This Saturday, 12/13/14, everyone is invited to join the I Will Not Comply rally from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the Washington State Capital, Gateway Park, 416 Sid Snyder Avenue SW, Olympia, Washington. The rally is civil disobedience in defiance of new, unconstitutional gun legislation, i594, passed in Washington on November 4, 2014. Participants will openly exchange, buy, sell, and trade guns to violate i594 in every way possible. There are a variety of speakers. For further information: https://westernrifleshooters.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/this-saturday-washington-state-capitol-1100-pst/ and http://callmegav.com/ral/.
A TESTAMENT TO FREEDOM