Since I first published this multi-part series on gun ownership, much has changed in America. Americans, including people who never before were so moved, have continued to buy firearms and ammunition in unprecedented quantities. In many ways, they are responding to the primary reason for the Second Amendment: the deterrence of and resistance to tyranny. It’s a good time to republish that series and to update it. Over the next month and a half or so, I’ll add updated articles each week. I hope to see you here!
Among the issues one must consider with care is summed up by two questions:
(1) Does evil exist?
(2) What must be the honorable man’s—and woman’s—response to evil?
If you deny the existence of evil, you can reasonably stop reading at the end of this sentence. If you admit to at least the possibility evil exists, by all means, read on.
Before we get to my scribblings, however, it would be worth your while to read three related articles, two recent, one 18 years old. My pal Bookworm–whose site should be on your daily reading list–has written two articles on the subject of evil and how rational, moral people should respond to it. The first is here and the second, here. In 1993, Jeffrey R. Snyder wrote a seminal article titled A Nation of Cowards, in which he explored issues of good and evil and provided sound logic on the moral man’s response to evil, which unquestionably exists. Unlike the moanings of intellectual and moral lightweights like Eric Holder–when he’s not violating the Freedom of Information Act , stonewalling the Congress or the American people, or persecuting political enemies of the president–it is one of those bits of reasoning with which all well read people should be familiar.
I would hope you might feel similarly disposed to my writings when you’ve taken the time to consider them.
Gun Ownership: A Rationale, Part 1
This is the first in a series of articles exploring, in depth, the issues revolving around gun ownership. Whether you have never considered owning a gun, are thinking about it or own all you need but not as many as you would prefer, this series may provide some ideas, or possibly provoke the latest round in a lively debate that has been raging for millennia. The first installment:
THE PHILOSOPHY OF GUN OWNERSHIP
Do human beings have an inalienable right to self defense? If you do not accept this, now would be a good time to be sure you have 911 on your speed dial. However, tragically, that will be cold comfort, as this series will reveal. Truisms are true for good reason, and few are more revealing of reality than this old saw:
When seconds count, the police are minutes away.
The Detroit Police, for example, now have a 58 minute emergency call response time, when they answer 911 calls at all. Since that’s what they admit, I suspect the reality is much worse. This is the nature of police emergency response in much of the United States.
If you truly do not accept that human beings have an inherent, inalienable right to self defense, and you wish to live your conviction, it’s possible you’re not around to read this, survival of the fittest being a rather inescapable and final proposition.
What, by the way, does “inalienable” mean? Most dictionaries would indicate that it means something like: “not transferrable to another,” or “cannot be repudiated,” but in the language of the Founders and of our founding documents, the word is most often coupled with an equally important word and is rendered as “inalienable rights.” Inalienable rights are rights that are the inheritance of each human being by virtue of being born a human being. They are bestowed by our Creator—by God. Because they are not granted by governments, they cannot be taken away by governments. The Declaration of Independence makes explicit three “unalienable” rights: “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” but makes clear that these are not the only unalienable rights.
Notice that “Life” is the first of the three Thomas Jefferson chose to make explicit. This is important in that if there is no unalienable right to life, your life is forfeit to any person, to any government that chooses to take it, for it is such a government’s whims that dictate who is worthy of continued existence. It should also be noted that even if the laws and legal traditions of the state do recognize a right to self defense, if the state denies citizens the most effective means to exercise that right, or so restricts its exercise as to make it impractical in application—as is currently the case in Washington D.C. (NOTE: Chicago and Illinois have been dragged, kicking and screaming, by the courts into recognition of the Second Amendment, though complete recognition is still very much in-process) and California–there is little difference to the individual between that state and one that recognizes no right at all.
If there is no right to self defense, no right to mere survival, your life is forfeit to the whims of those cruel and strong enough to take it. This may not be a concern if you are a young, strong, physically imposing male well schooled and practiced in the martial arts. However, even the strongest may be overcome by force of numbers or trickery (ask Samson about that), and no one is young forever, as Edmond Rostand made plain in Cyrano De Bergerac. If you are not young, strong and physically capable, things are rather different. In this understanding we can find the ultimate women’s issue, for women are quite simply and undeniably in trouble where physical size, strength and aggression are the primary determinants of mere survival.
Some–primarily Democrats–would have us believe that refusing to pay with tax dollars for every woman’s contraception–which is cheap and available at every pharmacy in the nation–constitutes a “war on women.” The real war on women is being imposed by those that continually seek to deny women the most effective means to preserve their very lives.
And if there is no right to self defense—no right that government may grant or rescind–can any other right, inalienable or otherwise, truly be said to matter? It may reasonably be argued that if a right is not inalienable, it is merely a privilege to be granted and rescinded by the state, but do we really want the state to treat our lives with the caring, efficiency and humanity employed by the EPA, the IRS and the TSA, as it body searches three-year old girls with spina bifida in wheelchairs (oh yes: they seized her stuffed animal too), or in the regulation of our privilege to drive?
One of the most important political understandings any free man can have is that government has no conscience; it cares nothing for any individual. No matter how much a given politician claims to care deeply for the welfare of “the people,” “the people” are at best an abstraction, as any one of “the people” may discover when they demand that government recognize and uphold their individual rights. This understanding is the necessary beginning of personal autonomy. Without it, one will always be a vassal of the state, the state the worth of whose vassals is measured always only in their utility to the transient goals of the state.
These ideas did not originate with Jefferson and other founders in the late 1700’s. Thomas Cahill, in his insightful book The Gifts of the Jews, suggests that the paramount gift of the Jews, dating back to the time of Abraham, was the profound and original idea that each individual life has value and that each human being is precious and worthy of salvation, of an exalted existence after mortal existence ends. This idea is easily recognizable as one of the foundations of Christianity. However, ultimately all such discussions are about power and the proper balance of power between the individual and the state. John Locke (1632-1704) was a proponent of natural rights, which are rights established by nature–by nature’s God–and are therefore inalienable. Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) tried to reconcile the inherent conflict between a society full of individuals possessed of competing, inalienable rights and the need of humans beings to live together in communities through the “Social Contract,” the proposition that in order to live together, individuals must surrender some degree of absolute autonomy while still retaining certain unalienable rights, the most important of these being life, liberty and property.
These three rights are the very foundation of democracy. This is the balancing of power–for governments have powers; individuals have rights–that truly democratic republics perform each day, and that, until the age of Obama, when it took a sharp leftward turn toward totalitarian power, America performed far better than any other society. To the degree that America retreats from full respect for and acknowledgment of any of these three, she retreats from democracy to an inevitable state of nature, well described by English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) in his masterwork Leviathan, published in 1651. While some romanticize nature, Hobbes saw it more clearly and wrote that the state of man in a state of nature is “,,,solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” Indeed, how could it be otherwise?
An understanding of these concepts, even a subconscious understanding, is what is driving American’s current desire to be armed. Americans understand–or at least intuit–that with financial collapse and/or tyranny, society is essentially plunged into a state of nature, and even many of the political left wisely do not actually trust Mr. Obama and his allies to protect and provide for them. When Mr. Obama and the former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi deny that our government has a spending problem, people are not reassured.
The Social Contract is part of the foundation of our government. While we retain inalienable rights, they are not absolute, yet can only be infringed in limited fashion by due process of law under the rule of law. When the Founders made references to God, they were not merely expressing personal religious conviction, but participating in a debate millennia old over the nature of God and man and man’s natural rights. They well knew the work of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau and were certainly influenced by them, as are we all whether we know it or not.
My students are always amazed to learn of the existence of the Social Contract. They are often stunned to learn that they inherit it as a condition of birth in America—or any nation—and need not read the fine print or sign on the dotted line. They are equally surprised to learn that they may abandon it at will by moving to another nation with a social contract more pleasing to them. Surprised, that is, until they understand all of the benefits the American contract provides while demanding of them little more than polite, law-abiding behavior.
When the first Constitutional Convention (1787) ended, Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman what kind of government the delegates had given Americans. Franklin is reported to have replied: “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.” Whether we can keep it is still an open question, but there is no question that the Second Amendment is foremost in making its existence possible.
This has been, of necessity, a whirlwind tour of issues that have filled thousands of volumes over the centuries. By all means, read Hobbes, Locke, Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, even Rostand (everyone should know Cyrano), and certainly The Declaration of Independence (Jefferson) and particularly The Constitution (primary author, James Madison—4th President of the US). The Bill of Rights may be found here. If you do, you’ll almost certainly be better read than the average Congressman or Senator. But without the basic understanding provided by this admittedly sketchy overview, it’s difficult to appreciate the gravity of the question that began this essay: Do human beings have an inalienable right to self defense?
Allow me, please, to add a second, related question: Does evil exist?
The answer to this question represents a fundamental dividing line between conservatives and socialists (for that is what the contemporary Democratic Party has sadly become). Socialists believe that human beings are inherently racist, sexist, and a variety of other ists, but are perfectible. This utopian perfection can be reached if only there is sufficient (absolute or near absolute) governmental power and the right kinds of taxes, redistribution of wealth, laws and regulations to make people behave in appropriate ways, to perfect them for their own good, a good they are unable to recognize or seek unaided. These laws and regulations will be composed and enforced by a small class of elite socialists who are already, by virtue of their education, sophistication, beliefs and highly attuned sense of social justice (generally best understood as whichever social and economic policies elite socialists prefer at the moment), perfected.
Therefore, for the socialist, the only true evil is resistance to the evolved social consciousness of the elite socialist. One might quibble about labels, and might be more comfortable with the labels “progressive” or “statist,” but I trust, gentle readers, you understand that I am not engaging in gratuitous name-calling, but merely trying to clearly explain fundamental philosophical and political trains of thought. I trust that if you apply them to the policies and stated beliefs of our current “leaders”–if “leading from behind” can actually be called leadership–you’ll find my descriptions to fit rather well.
For the Socialist/Progressive/Statist, inalienable rights do not exist; indeed they cannot exist. The only rights are those allowed at any given moment by the state. In this polity, rights are reduced to the reality and force of mere privileges. Religion, with its quaint, superstitious adherence to the doctrine of an eternal battle between good and evil, is just that, quaint and superstitious. It may be, from time to time, politically useful, particularly when the votes of believers might be won through stealth or outright subterfuge, or when a denomination takes up the banner of preferred leftist social causes, advancing it before religious doctrine, but religion is always dangerous and to be feared and suppressed because of its inherent resistance to progressive socialist enlightenment, which is always ongoing and evolving because it can never be falsified.
This is another fundamental conflict between the religious and the socialist. Religion relies upon certain God-given, unchanging truths and principles. Socialism constantly evolves as ever more intelligent, elite scientific socialists perfect it and labor to perfect the ungrateful masses against their will. The only unchanging truth and principle of socialism is that socialism represents the only hope of man—despite millennia of failure–and may never be falsified.
If glorious socialist perfection has not been reached, it is only because the unenlightened resist and because insufficient socialism has been applied. Because man is always in the necessary process of being perfected by his betters, neither inalienable rights nor adherence to a moldy, faded, yellowing document written by privileged white men in the late 1700’s can be allowed to stand in the way of the brave, inevitable march of socialist progress. The greatest weakness of socialist thought and policy is always a fundamental misunderstanding, even willful ignorance, of human nature. That, and as Margaret Thatcher said, you always run out of other people’s money.
Conservatives have no doubt of the existence of evil or of its eternal work in the world. They overwhelmingly embrace Christian theology and its bedrock understanding of men as fallen sinners who can never attain perfection on Earth. Mankind cannot be perfected—he will sin; it is his very nature and for those who will see, the evidence of history is irrefutable–yet the social contract works best when he has the greatest possible freedom and autonomy. Consequences for misbehavior must be made swift and certain and must be justly applied while upholding the essential dignity and worth of the individual. Thus do Conservatives accept the necessity of the Social Contract, of the equality before the law of all men, of the rule of law, and of a supreme law of the land–the Constitution–which may not and should not change–as the Founders put it–for light and transient reasons, because the fundamental nature of human beings does not change. This is why conservatives are so alarmed and disgusted by President Obama’s lawless behavior. For conservatives, any balance of power that favors the state at the expense of the inalienable rights of the individual is illegitimate, tyrannical and must be resisted, and if necessary, overthrown by the force of arms recognized and affirmed for The People by the Second Amendment. This is its real purpose and the reason it is so hated by Socialists.
Such republican (as in our federal republican form of government) rhetoric is often decried with mock horror by Socialists who cry “anti-Americanism,” but this is merely one of the straw men Socialists—such as Mr. Obama—reflexively erect. Understanding the real purpose of the Constitution and particularly of the Second Amendment, one realizes that Conservatives are not at all radical and merely reflect and adopt the thinking of the Founders and the text and intent of the foundational documents of the Republic including The Federalist Papers, The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. Socialists tend to reject all of these documents, or to so twist their clear intent and meaning as to render them self-contradictory and meaningless, when they’re not claiming that the English of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s cannot be understood by contemporary Americans.
Count among them Newsweek and Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein who observed that the Constitution could not be understood because it was written in the English of more than 200 years ago. Perhaps this is the plight of the contemporary, educated, self-imagined elite and politically evolved socialist, but my 15 year old students manage, year in and year out, to understand the English of William Shakepeare as it was written in the late 1500’s and early 1600’s. Odd that Texas teenagers, benighted denizens of flyover country, God and gun clingers most, should be capable of reading and understanding Elizabethan English while our current, self-exalted elite cannot read and understand the American English of nearly two hundred years later, though it does tend to explain many things.
If there is no right to self defense, are you, gentle soul, truly willing to meekly surrender your life to anyone cruel enough to take it? Will you, sensitive, caring Socialist, allow your life to be taken by one of the recipients of wealth distribution in order to fully live your convictions? Do you believe that right and sufficient law and regulation will eliminate any tendency toward human evil, and that the power of the state will protect you and those you hold dear? Would you truly do nothing to prevent the loss of your own life? The loss of the life of your spouse? Your children? Are the lives of those you love and your own life of so little value and the value of the lives of evil brutes so great? Truly?
You may not believe that evil exists or that it can possibly interrupt your life, but to paraphrase an aphorism attributed to many, you may not be interested in evil, but evil is interested in you. As a student of history, as a veteran of nearly 20 years of service in police work, I have no doubt that evil exists and that any one of us may meet it, in human form, at any time as I so often have. Had I been unaware of its existence or unwilling to acknowledge it, I would not have survived. Hundreds of the wounded, maimed and dead with whom I have been involved would attest, if they could, to that reality. They would also attest to the fact that good intentions, a life lived virtuously and “enlightened” social consciousness are not proof against evil, but serve only to encourage its propagation.
Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Perhaps the best illustration of the reality of Burke’s aphorism is the case of Kitty Genovese.
On March 13, 1964, in Queens, NYC, at 3:00 AM, 28 year old Kitty Genovese was repeatedly attacked, raped and stabbed to death over 35 minutes. During that time, her screams awakened her neighbors, at least 38 of whom were aware of what was happening. Not one intervened despite the fact that the killer was frightened off at least once by their voices and lights. Not one actively helped Genovese. Only one woman called the police after Genovese was already dead and the killer escaped. The most famous and telling quotation to come out of this horrific event came from at least one—potentially more—witnesses who explained that they did nothing because they “didn’t want to get involved.”
The facts of the case are somewhat different than media accounts—no surprise there—and there is evidence to believe that the police were called, but wrongly categorized and broadcast the call as a simple assault rather than a murder in progress (such mistakes happen far more often than the police will admit). However, an understanding of the case is useful to illustrate cultural issues with some clarity.
There is no doubt that Genovese’s neighbors did not come to her aid. The response of my Texas teenagers is illustrative. Hearing of the case, they, to a boy and girl, assert that in a similar situation, every neighbor within range–including themselves–would obliterate the killer as soon as they could lay sights on him (in their world, everyone owns and is completely comfortable with firearms). I have no reason to believe they are insincere, nor do I doubt they would have immediately come to Genovese’s aid, medically as well as in defense of her life. Kittey Genovese met evil that night. How do you stand in morality to a classroom of Texas teenagers who don’t for a second doubt the existence of evil, or their response to it?
But surely the police will protect me? It’s their job and they are professionals. It is surely one of the great ironies of all time that socialists tend to hate the police, regarding them as barely sentient, stupid, racist, sexist, (add your favorite “ist” here) brutes, resist paying them more, yet simultaneously expect them to protect their very lives and the lives of those they love. An even greater irony is that the police have no duty to protect any individual citizen. None.
In June, 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision in Castle Rock v. Gonzales. Gonzales defied a restraining order and kidnapped his three daughters, ages 7-10, from his estranged wife. Gonzales killed the girls and committed suicide by cop by shooting up a police station. The police were called when the girls were kidnapped, but did nothing over many hours until they were forced to respond to Gonzales’ gunfire. By then the girls were dead, killed earlier by Gonzales and driven to the police station in his pickup. Gonzales followed them not long after. My December 25, 2011 PJ Media article explores this incident in greater depth.
Cold comfort may be found in such situations only in the belief that Gonzales’ final destination was surely 180° opposite that of his innocent children. In handing down this decision, the Court relied upon decades of precedence that holds that the police have a duty only to deter and investigate crime for the benefit of the public at large. They have no duty to protect the life or property of any individual. Even though they did nothing to assist Mrs. Gonzales who so piteously and repeatedly cried out to them for help, even though they did nothing to save the lives of her children, they could not and cannot be held liable.
This might seem outrageous and unjust, but it is rational and absolutely necessary. Most people would be utterly shocked to discover how few police officers are patrolling their community at any time of the night or day. It is practically impossible for the police to guarantee protection to anyone, and if they could be successfully sued for failure to render such protection, what city could possibly afford a police force? Who would volunteer to become a police officer knowing financial ruin from never-ending lawsuits awaited them at any moment? Police agencies are always understaffed. They staff their shifts with the most officers when most are needed: evenings in general and Friday and Saturday nights in particular. In smaller communities across America, only two or three officers may be patrolling between 6 AM and 6 PM, often, fewer. In semi rural or rural areas, the nearest available officer may be an hour or more away at top, lights and siren, speed. The police love to catch bad guys in the act. They love to stop rapists, killers, child molesters, you name it, but there are very few police officers, more than enough bad guys to go around, and many of us. This is the nature of reality, of human beings.
Police officers know several common aphorisms: “Call for the police, call for an ambulance and call for a pizza. See which one shows up first.” They know that all too often, it won’t be the police. In many urban areas–not just Detroit–even 911 calls are often left unanswered or put on hold, so great is the volume of emergency calls and so few are the police. Police lore is full of true stories of citizen’s panicked 911 calls that didn’t get through, were hung up, were ignored, improperly dispatched or just couldn’t be handled because of a lack of manpower, resulting in beatings, robbery, rape, mayhem, torture even murder.
And with unprecedented budget crunches, particularly in Democrat-controlled blue states and cities, police agencies are being forced to lay off police officers or to otherwise cut back on even emergency services. Recently, the San Bernardino, CA City Attorney advised local residents to “lock your doors and load your guns,” something that would have been unthinkable even a short time ago. This is surely the trend of the future and almost certainly until at least Mr. Obama’s term in office ends and likely beyond. Whether that damage can then be reversed or repaired is anyone’s guess, but even so, the reality of police vs individual responsibility will not change.
The police have another common aphorism, which, like the first they know to be true, but which makes them cringe nonetheless, the aforementioned: “when seconds count, the police are minutes away.” This too is the nature of reality, of human beings. Ask any experienced police officer if evil exists, but not if you really don’t want to hear the answer.
So. Evil exists. The police would love to protect you from it, but they can’t and you can’t sue them and win when, not if, they don’t. What options remain? Gated communities? Locks? Alarm systems? Anything made by man can be defeated by man. Will you spend your life within that gated community, behind those locked doors with your security system engaged? Don’t you occasionally need to venture out, if for no other purpose than to buy groceries?
But I live in a good neighborhood! Consider the case of a car burglar I investigated. Responsible for hundreds of felony crimes, during his many and lengthy confessions, he told me of how he and two of his fellow burglars set out to steal the side view mirror of a vehicle by removing the entire door, which was actually the fastest way to get the mirror. As they set to work at 2 AM, the owner unexpectedly came home and they barely had time to scramble under the vehicle they had just begun to burglarize as his pickup truck pulled into the driveway, inches away. The door they intended to steal was standing open a few inches, but the man did not see it and went into his home, leaving the burglars to hastily complete their work and leave with the door. This too, was a good neighborhood, but the story does not end here.
The burglar had, only a half hour earlier, burglarized another car not far away and found, to his surprise and delight, a loaded and chambered 9mm semiautomatic handgun which he hastily stuffed into his pants, the better to play the role of the manly gangster/burglar. As the owner of the soon to be stolen car door stepped from his truck onto his driveway, mere inches away lay the burglar, hopped up on speed, the unfamiliar handgun tightly clutched in his sweating, shaking hand. The man lived only because he did not notice the open car door. The burglar was ready to shoot him; he would have shot him, a man who had no reason whatever to imagine, let alone expect, a 2 AM meeting in his own driveway with unthinking, irrational, doped up, stupid evil. Don’t for a moment think someone like him may not be under your car as you come home any evening.
Postscript: I put the burglar and many of his pals away for a long time and recovered the handgun and even the car door–absent the mirror–which I fished out of a creek near the bridge where he threw it. Ironically, he broke the mirror trying to remove it from the car door. He would have killed and not even got the mirror he sought for his trouble. He did not see the horrible irony inherent in this, but I’m sure you, gentle readers, do. Sadly, it’s not common for crimes of that kind to be solved and the property recovered, but that’s a story for another post and another time. Evil is interested in you, and evil is always out there, watching and waiting. This too is the nature of reality and of human beings.
Even understanding all that I’ve presented here, at least intellectually, there will always be some portion of the public determined to cling to socialist philosophy in the expectation that their intellectual and moral superiority will, in some way, magically protect them. Or perhaps they merely have unshakeable faith in an all-powerful, benevolent state, even a state that manifestly cannot protect them, cares little or not at all for protecting any individual, and will never allow itself to be held accountable for failing to protect them. It is for these people that the term “prey” was created, and it is to them that another famous aphorism may someday apply (if they survive the experience):
A conservative is a liberal who has been robbed at gunpoint.
Unfortunately, even that kind of intimate encounter with evil does not always suffice. Some portion of even those victims will choose to blame the gun wielded by the miscreant threatening their life with it. However, some are capable of reevaluating their philosophy when reality is visited upon them in ways that cannot be easily ignored.
If no inalienable right to self defense exists, what other right or privilege actually matters? What is the point of continuing education if one’s life may be taken at any moment? If no right to self defense exists, there can be no crime of murder, as no life has value, value that compels society to impose the ultimate penalty for its unlawful taking. In such societies the ultimate penalty tends to be imposed for crimes against the state rather than crimes against individuals who are of value only in their utility to the state. How can anyone plan for the future if life is reduced to a state of nature where, as Hobbes said, life is “…solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”?
Quite unlike Socialist orthodoxy, it is not an armed society, a society where the lawful, productive, moral and decent have the most effective means immediately at hand to protect their lives and the lives of others that is lawless, violent and dangerous, but a society where only government has the power provided by arms and where only the lawless, idle, amoral, immoral and evil are armed because they don’t obey the law. Contemporary America provides myriad examples of the truth of this assertion. In those states where concealed carry is common, by any honest measure, citizens are safer. In those states and cities, particularly, where honest citizens are disarmed, it is quite the opposite. Cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Newark, Los Angeles and Washington DC are commonly more dangerous than active war zones, which they closely resemble.
But let us assume that this article has, at least, persuaded you to the point that you are willing to tentatively concede that an individual, inalienable right of self defense is probably necessary. Or perhaps you’ve just been enraged to the point that you’re anxious to see what lunatic ravings I present in the next article. What then? The next installment of the series explores the legal, moral and spiritual issues revolving around taking the life of another, legally and illegally.