Friday, November 12, 2010

Guns and Moses

This is not a retrospective on the life of Axel Rose although he may be nearly as old as Moses. This entry is an exploration of the necessity for an armed citizenry. In the perfect world there would be no need for citizens to bear weapons. Today’s world is not perfect, however, and members of our society should be armed for a number of reasons. Obviously, one of the primary reasons is for personal protection. The United States has become an increasingly dangerous place, and even our smaller communities have not escaped the turmoil. Although crime prevention is a component of police work, most often the law enforcement officers do not become involved until after a crime has been committed. Their efforts are primarily directed toward investigation and apprehension. It seems, therefore, a prudent move for a citizen to have the means for self-defense and self-preservation.

A second justification for a citizen’s possession of firearms is for sporting purposes and varmint control. Target shooting and hunting are noble, healthy pursuits. They are the types of activities that an entire family can enjoy. The varmint control element may not be a huge issue in many neighborhoods—one doesn’t find too many Norwegian rats in Scarsdale, but in my small patch of the country, we do encounter the occasional pest. Woodchucks (we call them groundhogs around here), raccoons (nasty critters when threatened), and the increasingly annoying coyote are all threats to livestock, pets, crops or gardens. These feral critters are often too wily for effective trapping, so a well-placed shotgun blast or rifle shot is usually an effective determent.

Resisting tyrannical government is a serious endeavor. One does not cavalierly initiate armed activity against the power structure of the nation. The Founders and Framers of our country anticipated that at some time in the future, the citizens would feel compelled to rise and resist an overreaching governmental apparatus. As Thomas Jefferson wrote:

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.

The implication is that if the government becomes too big, too oppressive or too unresponsive, then the people must aggressively wrest the reins of power and self-determination from the entrenched power structure. The huge government entity will resist any attempt to contain it. Laws and regulations will be advanced that limit the ability of the people to assert their control over the leviathan. In June of 1788, George Mason prophetically identified a key element of government’s restrictive control.

“To disarm the people…. was the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”

Mason’s sentiment was further advanced by Patrick Henry:

O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone… Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation… inflicted by those who had no power at all?

The Founders and Framers, when considering additions to the Constitution that would protect individual God-given rights and secure ratification votes from some reluctant colonies, enshrined the individual right of the citizen to bear arms in the Second Amendment. Fortunately, the United States Supreme Court in the 2008 D.C vs. Heller decision upheld the historical understanding that the right to own and possess firearms is an individual one. That’s the good news. The alarming news is that the Court affirmed more than 220 years of common practice by a mere 5 to 4 vote! Our individual Second Amendment right is hanging by a thread even as our government becomes more oppressive and invasive.

So, why is the reference to Moses in the title of this piece? Our Judeo-Christian heritage informs us that if God is with you, then the size of your army or the power of your arsenal is incidental. David needed but a few smooth stones and a slingshot to vanquish the mightiest warrior of the Philistine nation whereupon their army surrendered. Samson slew a thousand of those pesky Philistines using the jawbone of an ass. I suspect that our country may have forfeited God’s blessing if we’ve ever had it. We cannot rely on His divine intervention to help us secure our liberty.

If the time should come that freedom-loving citizens are compelled to battle for their God-given liberties, then the right to bear arms is critical. Slinging stones and swinging jawbones will not achieve the objective. We must protect and defend our individual right to bear arms. Every branch of the federal government has, to some degree, undermined the Constitutional certainty that was understood at the founding. In many speeches I’ve advanced the notion of the “triad of liberty.” When we perceive that Government is exceeding its limits, we use the 1st Amendment to reason, to protest and to persuade. Our next remedy for relief is the 10th Amendment wherein our states resist the encroachment of the federal government that has run amok. Finally, we resist force with force by exercising our 2nd Amendment protections.

Asses’ jawbones do not contain enough firepower. They are readily available, though. You can find a career politician lurking around every corner.

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