“High capacity magazines,” “assault weapons,” “gun violence,” and every other scary term those who would infringe on freedom can imagine are being splashed on above-the-fold headlines in the Legacy Media these days. Those who honor the Second Amendment and all our liberties are fighting the good fight, but it seems many fight without understanding the foundation of our liberties, and in so doing, fall into Progressive traps. I hope here to provide useful ammunition in this, the most important battle we face if we are to remain free.
The Intrinsic Worth Of The Individual:
In his important book The Gifts Of The Jews, Thomas Cahill observes that prior to God’s call to Abraham, prior to His making the Jews his chosen people, man lived a cyclical life. Each individual life was part of a never-ending cycle of birth and death, each man and woman merely a cog in an enormous, never stopping wheel, turning inexorably. There were no individual destinies, thus the individual had no real importance. The death of one man was followed by the birth of another, interchangeable components laboring to fulfill specific roles in society. One born into slavery would always be a slave, working only to fulfill the roles allotted to slaves in a given society. Their lives had usefulness only in fulfilling those predetermined roles, in service to their Kings whose life also had little more meaning, but greater temporary importance and authority.
But with the coming of the One True God, everything changed. A God who sees the fall of each sparrow, who knows us in the womb, yet who asks only faith given through free will, bestowed many precious gifts. Among them, the idea that each life has meaning, that each life is immeasurably precious and of inestimable value, the idea that each man and woman has a destiny they shape. The great wheel of life grinds to a halt because time now has a beginning and an end, and each man has his own, unique story which is continually being written and rewritten.
Ultimately, through faith, through our own willing, conscious decisions, eternal life is ours. How weak and pitiful the power of kings in the face of eternity, an eternity available to all because all have equal value.
Because each life is precious, everything changes. It suddenly becomes possible, through our own decisions and actions, for tomorrow to be better than today. Real hope suddenly exists; real progress is possible. And above all, no man’s life is of greater value than another’s. The legitimacy of kings vanishes and the rule of law, law that recognizes the value and sovereignty of the individual becomes the minimum standard for the legitimacy of any political system.
We have seen the reality of these ideas, ideas that changed everything, enacted throughout history. Those societies that tried to retain the old view, that denied the value and sovereignty of the individual inevitably descended into tyranny and mass murder. Mao’s China, Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany were only more recent examples of the utter failure and illegitimacy of denying individual sovereignty in favor of the all-powerful state. It is remarkable–but unsurprising–to what degree such societies must also deny God. It is equally remarkable how the societies that would deny individuals the right to life universally deny them the right and the means to defend life. Such states must always deny citizens arms because the human drive for self-determination, for individual destiny is God-given and cannot be stolen by man, only suppressed and denied. Only by destroying individual sovereignty and substituting state control, by making individuals dependent upon the state for their continued existence, can the state stave off the reality of God for a time. Only in that may the arrogant, narcissistic, self-appointed elite make themselves pale imitations of God.
The Unalienable Right To Self Defense:
Because life is given by God, and because it is His most precious gift, all have the unalienable right to preserve that life. Another way to look at this is that it is the foremost and most meaningful natural right, a right given by nature’s God, the Creator of all things and of all men. Because life is given by God, the right to life may not legitimately be taken by man, and the right to preserve life–the right to self defense–is unalienable: it may not be given or taken by government. Government does not bestow life and the right to preserve life, therefore it may not deprive men of their right to preserve their lives.
If there is no right to life, if there is no right to preserve life–the right to self-defense–what other right matters? If those who are strong and cruel enough to take the lives of others are unrestrained, if governments may legitimately kill those considered unworthy, there is no individual sovereignty, no individual destiny, no hope, no possibility of a better tomorrow, and free will is meaningless. Destiny is shaped by the will of the evil.
When government deprives individuals of the means to defend their lives, even while pretending to recognize the right to self defense, government establishes absolute sovereignty over men and denies them individual sovereignty and ultimate control over government. Government decides it is not the servant of The People, but their master, and this may be accomplished only through the disarmament of The People, and through subsequent terrorism and oppression under the false color of law.
Murder vs. Killing:
The Bible, the Judeo-Christian tradition, makes clear the difference between justifiable killing and murder. The Commandment “Thou shalt not kill,” is properly understood as “Thou shalt nor murder.” Murder is the unlawful taking of a life; justifiable homicide is not.
It is this clear Biblical distinction that is the basis for the Common Law and for our criminal law. One may be lawfully killed when they trespass on that reserved for God, or for the state, deriving its powers from the consent of the governed. Thus, one who unlawfully tries to take the life of another may be lawfully killed. One who has taken the life of another may be lawfully killed by the state. However, one who has acted in lawful self-defense, who has killed to avoid being unlawfully killed, is innocent; they have not committed murder because they have preserved God’s greatest gift.
Because good and evil exist, and because each man has the free will to choose between them, God allows men to establish governments which have the power, given them by The People, to institute laws, even laws that would take the lives of those who kill unlawfully. However, because the right to self-defense is bestowed by God and not man, man–and governments created and empowered by men–may not revoke it or infringe upon it.
If there is a distinction between lawful and unlawful killing, clearly there must be a right to avoid being unlawfully killed. There must, therefore, be a right to self-defense, a right that may not be denied or infringed by others or by the state.
The Second Amendment:
It is not widely known that many of the Founders initially opposed the passage of The Constitution because it did not include a Bill of Rights. It was signed only upon the understanding that a Bill of Rights would soon be added, and so it was.
The Founders were remarkable men in their time or in any time. Among the most well read, intelligent and savvy men to ever live, they were well versed in the types of government that had been tried and inevitably failed. They intimately knew the works of the philosophers whose ideas inspired and informed the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They understood human nature well and knew that power corrupts and absolutely power tends to corrupt absolutely.
Men who had lived under tyranny, they were determined that it never again take root in America, yet they knew that without the Constitution, and the will and means to see it eternally upheld, America would inevitably devolve to tyranny. They understood all of the dangers inherent in democracy, dangers we see being enacted and brought to fruition all around us. Their writings are full of warnings of those dangers, dangers easily understood despite the pathetic whining of contemporary Progressives, who despite imagining themselves intellectually superior super men, claim they cannot read and understand the English of the late 1700s.
They were revolutionaries, men who understood, and clearly wrote, that tyranny would always be possible. Thomas Jefferson wrote:
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
Vigilance, of course, against tyranny, against those who would deprive The People of liberty.
They understood that liberty is not usually lost at once. More commonly, it is taken away a bit at a time, a type of semiautomatic rifle here, a magazine there, quietly and insidiously, so that people one day awaken to find themselves subjects rather than free men, the ruled rather than the rulers. They knew well that bits of liberty were often exchanged for ephemeral promises of safety and security, promises people would be tempted to believe. Benjamin Franklin said:
They who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
They also understood that only the militia, who they unambiguously identified as the whole people–every man (and now, every woman) capable of bearing arms–could guard against those who would destroy freedom. It should go without saying that the militia was therefore composed of sovereign citizens, men who would band together in common cause to preserve liberty out of enlightened self and collective interest. The militia’s ability to be armed sprung directly from the unalienable right of each individual to self-determination and self-defense and to their individual ownership of the weapons necessary to preserve self and country.
Therefore they wrote the Second Amendment, not to give the right to keep and bear arms, but to affirm it, to remind all would be tyrants that free men not only would be armed, but they must be armed, for that fact alone was the most powerful restraint on those who would rule us. The Founders took hunting for granted. There was no need to affirm in the Constitution a fact of life, a practice necessary for mere survival. There was no need to affirm target shooting, for it too was a necessary practice and skill for mere survival. The Second Amendment clearly has nothing to do with sportsmen and hunters. These skills and practices are the essentials of life. To deprive men of them is to deprive them of life itself.
The Second Amendment, in plain language, acknowledges and affirms the fundamental, unalienable right to, using the most effective military weapons available, kill tyrants and their agents to preserve liberty. Its secondary purposes are enabling men to defend the lives of them selves and others, for none of the Founders envisioned–or would desire–an all-powerful government capable of answering every need a citizen might have, including the need for self-defense.
Contemporary politicians who ridicule the idea of armed resistance to tyranny show themselves to be utterly unaware of the philosophy underlying our constitutional republic, unqualified to honor and apply their oaths of office, potential tyrants, useful idiots or all of the above.
Common and Usual Weapons:
Those who would destroy liberty often claim “if the Founders only knew about X, Y or Z, they would have never written the First Amendment, or the Second Amendment, or the Fourth Amendment, etc.” Such statements reveal a profound lack of knowledge of the Founders, of their intent in writing the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and of the mechanisms they established for amending the Constitution.
The Founders were content that the common man owned and carried the most powerful and effective military weapons of their day. Cannon were commonly privately owned. There is no reason, none at all, to believe they would have been shocked at the invention of more advanced and effective weapons, quite the contrary. Since the primary purpose of the Second Amendment is to deter tyranny and to enable citizens to fight it if necessary, it defies the historical record, logic and common sense to imagine the Founders would not want citizens to keep and bear the most effective weapons possible, weapons as effective as those available to a tyrannical government. A correct understanding of the philosophy underlying the Second Amendment, its intent, and the two recent Supreme Court decisions interpreting it admits no other options.
The government severely restricts fully automatic weapons and does not allow citizens to keep or bear cannon, missiles, suppressors, explosives (except in highly restricted ways) and other truly military weapons in common use. In addition, exploding ammunition (true cannon rounds) and actual armor piercing ammunition is illegal for civilians to own or use.
With this in mind, the Founders would surely have no difficultly with citizens–the militia–keeping and bearing far less effective, though in some cases look-alike small arms such as semiautomatic pistols and rifles. Likewise, the magazines that are standard equipment in these firearms are fully consonant with the intent and express purpose of the Second Amendment. Should active armed resistance of tyranny ever become necessary–and the Founders had no doubt this was not only possible but likely–the kinds of firearms, magazines, ammunition and accessories contemporary enemies of freedom seek to ban are precisely those necessary to fulfill the promise of the Second Amendment by resisting the forces of tyranny.
Certainly, one of the chief guarantees of freedom under any government, no matter how popular and respected, is the right of the citizen to keep and bear arms. … The right of the citizen to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America but which historically has proven to be always possible.
Semiautomatic handguns, many with standard magazines holding as many as 20 rounds, are the most common and popular handguns in contemporary America. They are sold everywhere and used for every imaginable lawful purpose. Such handguns are also standard military equipment. The AR-15 rifle and its variants are the most popular and common semiautomatic rifles in contemporary America. They are sold everywhere–even at WalMart–and are used for every imaginable lawful purpose. Their standard magazines hold 30 rounds. These ubiquitous rifles are not standard military equipment. Standard military rifles, while based on the AR-15 design, are virtually all fully automatic.
Under the Supreme Court’s Heller decision, it is clear that these common handguns and rifles meet the court’s criteria for constitutional protection. The government may not arbitrarily ban entire classes of common and usual firearms and presumably, the common and usual magazines that are integral to their design and effectiveness. If, for example, limiting magazines to only 10 rounds is constitutionally permissible, what’s the lower limit? Two rounds? One? After all, it can be argued that a single round magazine still allows a citizen a functional firearm, despite essentially regressing firearm technology–and self-defense capability–hundreds of years.
UPDATE 11-15-13 2040 CST: My former Confederate Yankee (closed since 11-01-12 to all but archival access) co-blogger Bob Owens reports that the New York legislature has passed legislation not only outlawing all magazines of more than seven round capacity, but have given residents only a year to actually remove all larger magazines from the state. An entire American state has now turned hundreds of thousands, even millions of its citizens into instant criminals for possessing property that a day earlier, was completely legal. I have recently seen other politicians suggesting five round magazine limits.
A strict interpretation of the Second Amendment would inevitably lead one to argue for widespread ownership of actual fully automatic weapons that citizens be better capable of resisting rogue military units supporting a tyrant.
The most momentous and contentious issue left undecided by Heller was the “bear” portion of “keep and bear.” Heller affirmed the right of citizens not otherwise disqualified from firearm ownership to own–to keep–common and usual firearms and to carry them in their own homes and on their own property, but did not address the application of the right elsewhere. Nothing should be read into this. The Heller case was only the second Supreme Court decision touching directly on the Second Amendment in the history of the Republic, and the Court commonly deals only with the most pressing current issues at hand rather than expanding into other implications of every case that comes before it.
However, at the beginning of the republic, there were no gun free zones, nor do the voluminous writings of the Founders suggest they contemplated or would approve such things. This makes logical sense. In fact, a wag has recently started a petition to eliminate armed guards for the President, VP and their families and establish gun free zones like those that protect” school children instead, that sort of “protection” being sufficient for the children of “common” Americans, why would it not be sufficient for the President and his children?
UPDATE, 11-16-13, 2045 CST: The White House has, on 11-16-13, raised the petition signature limit from 25, 000 to 100,000 signatures before providing a formal response to the petition. I’m sure this particular petition has nothing to do with it (heh-heh).
If each man has the right to self-defense–and our traditions and laws clearly reflect this reality–and if the Second Amendment affirms the fundamental, unalienable right to keep and bear arms–and the Supreme Court in Heller says it does–where is the constitutional authority for denying citizens the right and ability to protect their lives in certain places and at certain times? A right to protect one’s life that begins and ends at their property line is not a right at all, but a privilege bestowed and revoked by the whim of government functionaries. It is an abrogation of an unalienable right, and removes the deterrent effect of the Second Amendment, for those intending tyranny can disarm The People who would oppose them at will. If one may be prevented from carrying a concealed handgun in a hospital or school, why not a restaurant, a public park or a city street? And if those places may be restricted, why not restrict the law abiding from carrying a firearm everyplace but their home or property? Indeed, why stop there? Why allow even that much liberty?
So-called “gun free school zones” are perhaps the most obvious example of good intentions and feel good policies horribly gone wrong. Virtually every mass shooting in recent years, with the obvious exception of the Giffords shooting in Tucson, took place in gun free zones, many of them schools, where killers could be certain no one would be present to effectively resist or stop them, and where they could be equally certain they would have more than sufficient time to kill before the police could arrive.
The parents of children murdered in school shootings have, in nearly every state, the ability to carry concealed handguns to protect them selves and their families. They are extensively vetted by their respective states. How then can one argue that those parents should be able to protect the lives of their children virtually everywhere, but that right and ability must end the moment they set foot on school property? Do their lives suddenly lose their value? Who, if they thought carefully about it, would gladly turn the care of their children over to adults who refuse to take the minimal, rational steps necessary to protect their lives in case of deadly attack, and what do we make of the fact that school officials proudly announce their intention not to protect the lives of children by prominently posting “gun free” school zone signs?
“Oh, we have sophisticated door locks and if attacked, plan to run and hide,” educators might say. No doubt, that’s what was said in Newtown, Connecticut, for they had those locks and plans, and they cost rather than saved lives.
Every state in the nation except Illinois currently has a concealed carry law (Illinois is under court order to write one, but is resisting). Nearly 40 of those states have “shall issue” laws that require the state to issue permits to citizens not lawfully disqualified from gun ownership. While the best evidence indicates that violent crime decreases in those states that adopt concealed carry, at the very least, there is no evidence that it increases, and the kinds of angry shootouts at traffic accidents and Little League baseball games that anti-freedom advocates predicted have utterly failed to materialize. No state that has ever adopted concealed carry has seriously considered rescinding it.
By any reasonable measure, concealed carry laws are not only supportive of, and a logical extension of, the Second Amendment, they are an unqualified success in crime reduction. Firearms in the hands of citizens are used as many as 2.5 million times per year to defend against criminal attack. Even the anti-gun Clinton administration researched the issue hoping to find more support for anti-gun policies, but were forced to admit they found the number to be as much as 1.5 million defensive uses per year. They tried to bury the information, but it was eventually published.
The Castle Doctrine:
Castle Doctrine laws are a relatively recent, but entirely constitutional and rational outgrowth of the unalienable right to self-defense. In fact, their foundation is equally old and is often expressed by the aphorism that a man’s home is his castle, a fact also recognized by the search and seizure requirements of the Fourth Amendment. Anti-freedom advocates have strenuously resisted these laws as well.
Common castle doctrine laws commonly state that as long as a citizen is where he is lawfully allowed to be, if attacked and placed in reasonable fear of imminent seriously bodily harm or death, he may use deadly force against his attackers and has no duty to retreat. The attackers are presumed to be in the wrong, and the citizen may not be sued by the attackers or their survivors. Another common feature of these laws is the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove that the citizen acted wrongly, not on the citizen to prove that he acted rightly. In other words, innocent until proved guilty. Imagine that.
These laws apply to one’s car, one’s business, or any other place a citizen might find himself. If there is no right to bear–to carry–arms, such laws would be superfluous. However, as to the states, at least 13 have very strong CD laws, 17 have somewhat weaker laws, and eight apply the law strongly to the home, but less strongly outside the home.
Such laws make complete sense. Why should a citizen confronted by a crazed criminal in his bedroom in the middle of the night be forced to abandon his own home and flee for his life? Why should a woman being carjacked be forced to abandon her vehicle? Why should a citizen forced to defend his very life be subject to prosecution and financial ruin? If so, what is the value of a “right” to self-defense? If the price of saving one’s life or the lives of family is decades in prison and financial ruin, one can reasonably argue this is no right at all.
This, gentle readers, is why everyone should be utterly outraged by politicians and others who demand gun and magazine bans and who try, in every way imaginable, to obstruct and make difficult the exercise of fundamental, unalienable rights. The right to self-defense is the foundation for every right; without it, no other right has meaning. The Second Amendment is merely recognition of that right, and even it if were repealed, the right to self-defense, which cannot be bestowed and taken by government, would still exist. Without the right to keep and bear the most common and usual firearms, the right to self-defense is equally meaningless, as is the ability of citizens to resist tyranny. The semiautomatic rifles and handguns and the magazines and other accessories anti-liberty forces seek to ban are equally common and usual.
The mere suggestion that such weapons and accessories should be banned is nothing less than an cynical and dangerous assault on the most fundamental right of all.
A tyrannical government, or one hoping to establish a tyranny, will always try to disarm its citizens, or failing that, to limit them to the most outdated and weakest possible firearm technologies. Governments that rightfully see them selves as the temporary and limited servants of the people have no fear of the most modern and effective arms in the hands of the law abiding.
Likewise, governments that seek to prevent qualified adults from carrying concealed weapons in schools, hospitals and other places do so not out of concern for the lives of children or the infirm–we know without any doubt what happens when criminals ignore their feel good signs and attack the unarmed and helpless–but because they know if they lose the ability to ban guns in these places, it will initiate the domino effect and make plain the illegitimacy and utter lack of effectiveness of their gun banning desires everywhere. This will be particularly true and undeniable when criminals attack armed schools and are quickly stopped with minimal or no loss of life other than their own. This is why such people also resist placing armed security guards in schools.
Any politician who suggests infringement of the Second Amendment is spitting on their oath of office and seeking to take the fundamental freedom absolutely essential to the existence of our constitutional republic. Every citizen should be rightfully alarmed, and should not only treat them, from that moment forward, as the social and political pariahs they are, but should seek their recall and/or impeachment, and failing that, should see they are voted out of office at the next opportunity. Our lives, liberty and sacred honor may depend upon it.