Monday, May 22, 2000

Week of 05/22/2000

Gunning For Battle
- by David Matthews 2

"From my cold dead hands!"

Those words were uttered by Charlton Heston at last weekend’s annual convention of the National Rifle Association as he prepared to take the reigns of the NRA for an unprecedented third term.

The image itself was striking. Heston, in front of the NRA’s logo, wielding a huge antique musket rifle, uttering the final half of a quote from one of the NRA’s founders that has so described the rebellious tone of that organization: "The only way they will take this gun is from my cold, dead hands!" It was a scene that only Heston could do, in a booming voice of authority that only Heston could make.

Clearly the NRA is preparing to go to war… or at least war in the political sense. But against who?

Well, obviously those in government, and those who need government to do their bidding.

Now normally defending the right to bear arms is not my strong suit. Free speech has been under the attack much longer than the right to bear arms, and can be taken away much faster by people who carry guns. That is not the case when the odds are even.

The NRA has been leading a pretty strong fight against those who would take guns away from private individuals. They have to, because unlike any other constitutional right, they do not get much help from the American Civil Liberties Union. In fact, you might say they don’t get ANY help from the ACLU in preserving the Second Amendment. Oh, the members of the ACLU will give lip service about the "proper" interpretation of the Second Amendment, but they would much rather spend their efforts protecting hardened criminals than to the right to defend oneself from those hardened criminals.

Sad, really, if you think about it. The one group that is pledged to protect the US Constitution turns their backs on the one amendment that keeps all the others in check. If they used the same rationality towards the First and Fourth Amendments as they do for the Second, the USA would be known as the Socialist States of America.

Let’s think about WHY the Second Amendment was created. The Amendment says, and I quote: "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."

Now a lot of people will say that the Amendment applies only to the maintenance of a state-run Militia. Certainly the federal courts have interpreted that much. But if that is the case, can anyone explain why the right was given to "the people" instead of "the state"? Of course, the state was already given that right in the Constitution. It doesn’t need a second reminder that it holds that power. So why give it to "the people"?

There is only one reason why that right was given to "the people" and not to the state, and that is for the people to be able to defend themselves against an intrusive force.

Bear in mind I did not say an "invading" force. That implies an outside force invading America. The federal government is responsible for preventing that from happening. No, I said an "intrusive" force; those that would lay claim to an individual’s property, to their freedom, to their very lives.

That intrusive force could be a criminal, and indeed, the right to defend yourself or your family against people who would seek to do harm is a given in most societies.

Now gun control advocates would claim that the right to defend yourself and your family has been more or less rendered moot with the advent of the police. Under highly optimal conditions, I might agree with that theory.

However, despite the claims of law enforcement, the police cannot adequately defend the individual against a criminal. The police cannot, for instance, protect you from someone breaking into your home unless they are watching your house when it happens. The very motto "to protect and to serve" implies a task that the police by their lack of numbers cannot comply with.

In most instances, the police can only respond after the crime has happened. If they are lucky, they can nail down the person responsible. If they are close enough to the crime when it is reported, they can possibly apprehend the perpetrator while still in the area. Other than that, all they can do is avenge the victim, not protect them. That burden, unfortunately, still rests with the individual.

But there is another intrusive force that the Second Amendment is designed to protect. One that few people talk about with any credibility. That intrusive force is the government itself.

Now let’s get brutally honest here… is America in desperate danger of its own government? Must the people be forced to take arms and, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, "throw off such Government and to provide new Guards for their future Security"? Have we really fallen down the same path that led us to the Civil War?

No… at least not yet.

But we are coming pretty close to it.

We are witnessing the very foundations of George Orwell’s Big Brother being forged in the state and federal governments. Governments that want to create databases on every human activity. Governments that want to tax every human action and interaction. Governments that have turned your Social Security number into what the federal government now refers to as your "Tax Identification Number". Governments that have passed laws in the dead of night, with little publicity if any, that have a direct impact on the individual. Governments that have been, and continue to do everything in their power to erode the very Constitutional protections the public has been given. The same bodies of government that smile and say, in a tone that only the most naïve will believe, "Trust us."

Given all that, it is no wonder why folks in the NRA fight so hard for the Second Amendment. Because of these measures, membership in the NRA has skyrocketed this past year. Those new members have seen the warning signs, and they do not want to be left unarmed.

Now I am not one that believes that any old armament would do. I do believe that individuals have the right to bear arms, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the right to stockpile more arms than most third world countries. However, I seriously doubt there could be a credible and meaningful discussion on how much armament is enough, given the current players in this game.

For starters, you have the Clinton Regime and their endless drivel about wanting to enact "common sense" laws. Coming from a president that once asked what the definition of "is" is, one has to seriously question Clinton’s use of the words "common sense."

Bill Clinton’s definition of "common sense" legislation includes barring gun show dealers from selling guns until their customers pass a background check conducted within three business days. But let’s use some of that "common sense" for a minute. Three business days are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Most gun shows happen on Saturday and Sunday. Under Clinton’s proposal, most gun show dealers would not be able to sell their guns at all.

Tell you what… when the liberals and gun control advocates start proposing some real "common sense" ideas, maybe then the gun rights advocates will start listening to them.

This situation is made even worse with the constant bantering by politicians and members of the media. Every tragedy is met with yet another subtle dig about gun control. Every life lost by guns met with cameras shining on some pork-laden politician who is eager to show up at the scene and babble on for more legislation and more government bureaucracy. Despite the fact that they appear to hate such scenes, in the back of their poll-driven minds they relish such tragedies, because it gives them more camera exposure. Those in government DO allow a certain level of loss in order to further boost their political careers. Former NRA chairman Wayne La Pierre was right in that regard.

There is a term used to describe these PR parasites that should be uttered whenever they show their faces at these sad scenes: tragedy whores.

The double standard in the media regarding gun use is well documented. For every story of a criminal using a gun, or a student who brings a gun to school, there is a story that does not make the news of a life saved because the potential victim used a gun to defend himself or herself. It is understandable why the media would be quiet about these stories. After all, what kind of message does that send to the public? That people can defend themselves instead of being cowardly little sheep waiting for Big Government to protect them.

Then there is the pervasive argument by the gun control advocates and members of government that it is not really the fault of individuals for their actions, but rather because of an inanimate object in their possession. They want to blame the gun for the evils that men do, not the person wielding that gun. They choose the coward’s way of assessing responsibility for truly tragic incidents.

Blaming the object is just one step away from having the government take control of that object. After all, people have rights. Property does not.

Given these factions, it is no wonder why the NRA believes they are preparing for battle. The sides are more polarized than Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in The War Of the Roses.

Yet somewhere in the rhetoric, there is room for a middle ground. Some real, legitimate, common sense solutions that try to make the world around us a little bit safer, while at the same time preserving the Second Amendment.

The key point is properly assessing where the blame lies for gun-related deaths. If the gun control advocates really want some meaningful solutions to the problems with guns in America, they must first stop trying to blame the gun for the evils of the person wielding that gun. That is a lesson that crusaders against drunk driving have had to grudgingly admit to. It is how the object is used that should be the issue, not the object.

Next, stop trying to turn to government at every opportunity for new laws. There are literally thousands of laws already on the books across America. Instead, hold the politicians to doing everything in their power to enforce those laws.

It probably would also help if the police weren’t so burdened with enforcing victimless crimes, and enforcing some puritanical thug’s twisted definition of right and wrong. Maybe if we shut down the so-called "vice" departments there would be more cops out on the streets doing the job that the gun control advocates claim they should be doing, namely protecting the public.

Both sides on this issue can also afford to give up a little bit of the political rhetoric. To the gun control advocates, recognize that guns are here to stay, and that the best way to deal with them is not to stick your heads in the sand, but rather to show people – especially children – how to use them properly. To the gun rights people, how about laying off the desire for high-caliber military weapons? Yes, an M-18 with grenade launcher and mounted bayonet would look great in your display case, especially with the 50-round ammunition clip. But it is also very hard to explain that having one is for home security… unless, that is, if your home is in the middle of an Eastern European war zone.

I’ll let you gun control advocates in on a little secret… I have no doubt that many members of the NRA would also live for the day when those initial stand for "Not Relevant Anymore." With the exception of those who yearn for the limelight, most people involved in political activism would much rather do other things. They don’t like licking envelopes and making phone calls to their congressman any more than you do. They would much rather spend their time and energies with their families, safe and secure in the belief that their lives and their property would be protected. They don’t seek to make the world any more dangerous than it already is. Quite the contrary. They look forward to the day when they don’t need their weapons.

Until that day happens, though, both sides on this issue will be preparing for a battle that neither side can afford to lose… nor can they afford to win.

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