It is now June 1rst, and soon the Supreme Court will render its decision on the case of D.C. v Heller, which may once and for all settle the argument over the intent of the second amendment.
At issue is whether the second amendment guarantees the right of the people to keep and bear arms for individual use, or whether the second amendment solely pertains to the establishment and maintenance of a militia.
Just the other day I received an e mail update from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. For those of you unfamiliar with the Brady Campaign, it is an organization headed by Jim and Sarah Brady. As many may remember, Jim Brady was also shot in the assassination attempt upon President Ronald Reagan. After his recovery the Brady's formed their organization with the following as their mission, "As the nation's largest, non-partisan, grassroots organization leading the fight to prevent gun violence, the Brady Campaign, with its dedicated network of Million Mom March Chapters, works to enact and enforce sensible gun laws, regulations and public policies. The Brady Campaign is devoted to creating an America free from gun violence, where all Americans are safe at home, at school, at work, and in our communities."
The Brady's may be one of the better known organizations which fight for stricter gun laws, however they are not alone in that fight. The list of organizations fighting for tougher gun control laws could fill a book, but here are a few of them that you may, or may not have heard of.
There is the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV), The Violence Policy Center (VPC), Handgun-Free America, Inc. and The Ford Foundation just to name a few. For a more in depth look at who is fighting to pass tougher gun control laws, you can use the following URL's, http://www.nraila.org/Issues/factsheets/read.aspx?ID=14 and http://www.gunowners.org/fs0302.htm.
Getting back to the e mail I received from the Brady Campaign, their update urged their supporters to vote for a presidential candidate that would not nominate 'extremist justices' to the Supreme Court. That is what got the whole idea for this article started, what exactly do they mean by extremist justices? Do they mean those who would rule on the side of tougher gun laws, or do they mean justices who would rule on the side of those who feel the second amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms.
Whatever is the outcome of D.C. v Heller, or any future ruling on gun control issues, there are just a few things that the people of this country need to be aware of. Far too often Americans fly off the handle and support any new gun laws because of their emotions, especially when these new gun laws are put into place after some tragic shooting somewhere. People need to take a breath and decide whether to support these new laws only when they can make an informed decision based upon facts.
From the webpage of the Brady Campaign I found the following quote, "Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke said that he is hopeful that the "ruling will uphold the right of people in communities like the District to enact common sense gun measures they feel are needed to protect themselves and their families."
How do they expect common sense gun measures allow communities and families to protect themselves? When I was growing up everyone I know had guns. Although my father kept it in his bedroom closet, I got my first gun at age ten, a .22 rifle. Kids grew up respecting guns, and understood their potential for harm if handled improperly. We went out shooting with our fathers, we attended hunters safety courses where we were taught the proper safety precautions and handling of firearms. You want to know something, from the time I moved into the town I grew up in until the time I joined the Air Force in 1979, that town had not had a firearm related homicide in fifteen years. Yet kids came to school with hunting rifles, in plain site stored in racks in the rear windows of their trucks. So how can you say that even more gun laws now will make us safer?
Whenever people are deciding whether or not to support stricter gun control laws, they have to consider the intent of the second amendment. The second amendment says, "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." Twenty seven words that are so misunderstood.
Much of the misunderstanding comes when people try to discern the intent, whether the inclusion of "...the right of the people to keep and bear arms..." with "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state..." Are these two separate clauses, or are they tied together. This is the crux of what the Supreme Court is going to rule in D.C. v Heller. Although I am not a Supreme Court Justice, and my opinion carries no legal weight, I would like to explain how I view the intent of the second amendment.
First off we have to ask ourselves, what is a militia? In 1939, the Supreme Court heard the case of U.S. v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174. In their ruling, the Court stated, "The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia- civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion."
The ruling went on to quote from Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Book V. Ch. 1, "Men of republican principles have been jealous of a standing army as dangerous to liberty.' 'In a militia, the character of the labourer, artificer, or tradesman, predominates over that of the soldier: in a standing army, that of the soldier predominates over every other character; and in this distinction seems to consist the essential difference between those two different species of military force."
Finally, the Court stated, "The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. 'A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline.' And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time."
It seems then, that the militia were to be common men who would come to the defense of their county, bearing arms that they had supplied themselves, which were of the type that were in common usage at the time. This is similar to the sentiments of George Washington, when he said, "It may be laid down as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every Citizen who enjoys the protection of a Free Government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defense of it." This is in stark contrast to what we have today, National Guardsmen who are nothing more than part time soldiers, components of a standing army, something which the founders were particularly wary of.
The true intent of having a well armed militia is something that not many wish to come to terms with, that one day we may have to take up arms against our own government to defend our liberties, much as the founders did during the Revolutionary war.
George Washington understood this, as he explained, "Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people's liberty teeth and keystone under independence. To secure peace, securely and happiness, the rifle and the pistol are equally indispensable. The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that is good."
John Adams, our second president understood that "The right of a nation to kill a tyrant in case of necessity can no more be doubted than to hang a robber, or kill a flea."
James Madison said, "The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation where the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."
None were more prolific on this subject than Thomas Jefferson, "No free man shall ever be de-barred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain their right to keep and bear arms is as a last resort to protect themselves against tyranny in government."
Jefferson went so far as to justify open rebellion should the need arise, "God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. ... What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."
That is the true purpose of having a well trained militia, to defend our nation from its own government should the need arise. Therefore any law that takes away an individuals right to possess firearms, that are "...of the kind in common use at the time" is a violation of the second amendment, in both spirit and intent.
There are those who also believe the second amendment guarantees us the right to keep and bear arms for other purposes, such as self defense. Those who favor stricter gun control legislation say that we do not need guns to protect us, that is why we have the police.
While many police officers do a fine job in protecting the public, they are often overwhelmed, understaffed and just cannot be everywhere all of the time. In an article from the city of San Francisco's webpage, they brag about dropping their police response time to priority crimes from almost ten minutes to just under six.
If someone were to break into your home and threaten you, and your family, six minutes would seem an eternity. I would much rather have a loaded pistol or shotgun that was readily available to protect myself, instead of cowering in fear, praying that the police get there in time to prevent any harm to me or my family.
It is not only the fact that it often takes the police far too long to arrive at your home in case they are needed, they are also not legally required to provide you with protection.
In the case of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, a woman had taken out a restraining order against her former husband, yet he was able to come to her home, kidnap, then kill her three children, even after repeated calls to the police. This happened even though on the rear of the restraining order it was clearly printed, "NOTICE TO LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS,” "YOU SHALL USE EVERY REASONABLE MEANS TO ENFORCE THIS RESTRAINING ORDER. YOU SHALL ARREST, OR, IF AN ARREST WOULD BE IMPRACTICAL UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES, SEEK A WARRANT FOR THE ARREST OF THE RESTRAINED PERSON WHEN YOU HAVE INFORMATION AMOUNTING TO PROBABLE CAUSE THAT THE RESTRAINED PERSON HAS VIOLATED OR ATTEMPTED TO VIOLATE ANY PROVISION OF THIS ORDER AND THE RESTRAINED PERSON HAS BEEN PROPERLY SERVED WITH A COPY OF THIS ORDER OR HAS RECEIVED ACTUAL NOTICE OF THE EXISTENCE OF THIS ORDER.” The Supreme Court ruled, "We do not believe that these provisions of Colorado law truly made enforcement of restraining orders mandatory. A well established tradition of police discretion has long coexisted with apparently mandatory arrest statutes."
This was not an isolated case. In 1856 the Supreme Court ruled, in South v. Maryland, that "local law-enforcement had no duty to protect individuals, but only a general duty to enforce the laws."
In DeShaney v. Winnebago County Dept. of Social Services, it was ruled that, "There is no merit to petitioner's contention that the State's knowledge of his danger and expressions of willingness to protect him against that danger established a "special relationship" giving rise to an affirmative constitutional duty to protect."
In 1982, in Bowers v. Devito, it was ruled that, "There is no constitutional right to be protected by the state against being murdered by criminals or madmen. It is monstrous if the state fails to protect its residents against such predators but it does not violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, or, we suppose, any other provision of the Constitution. The Constitution is a charter of negative liberties; it tells the state to let the people alone; it does not require the federal government or the state to provide services, even so elementary a service as maintaining law and order."
In 1975 Ruth Brunell called the police twenty times to ask for protection from her husband. The police told her to call back when he got there. Before she could call her husband stabbed her to death. The courts, in the ensuing lawsuit ruled, "The court held that the San Jose police were not liable for ignoring Mrs. Brunell's pleas for help."
Need I go on? While the police have a general duty to enforce laws, protection of an individual lies directly upon that individual. If they choose not to own firearms for their protection, they cannot expect the police to respond in a timely fashion to prevent harm from befalling them.
I have heard people say that they will gladly turn in their guns if the criminals turn theirs in first. First off, by their very nature, criminals are not apt to obey the law. So to ask them to turn in their guns is a waste of time.
Our laws state the penalties for the use of a firearm in the commission of a crime. 18 USC, 924(c)(1)(A) states,
"Except to the extent that a greater minimum sentence is otherwise provided by this subsection or by any other provision of law, any person who, during and in relation to any crime of violence. . . uses or carries a firearm. . . shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such crime of violence. . .
(i) be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years;
(ii) if the firearm is brandished, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 7 years; and
(iii) if the firearm is discharged, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 10 years."
The right of the people to keep and bear arms has yet to be decided, but with the evidence I have provided, I would hope that people understand that there is more to it than just preventing needless deaths.
How many do you think are going to die at the hands of criminals if the law abiding citizens turn in all their guns? Criminals would have a field day with an unarmed citizenry, we would be like sitting ducks to them.
We also have to remember the flip side to the second amendment, that it enables us to protect ourselves from our own government should they gain too much power and refuse to submit to the wishes of the people.
History has given us many examples of what happens when guns are taken away from the people.
In 1929 the Soviet Union established gun control. - From 1929 to 1953, approximately 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
Germany established gun control in 1938. - From 1939 to 1945, 13 million Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally ill, and others, who were unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
China established gun control in 1935. - From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
And in more modern times, it has been only recently that gun owners in Australia were forced to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed, a program costing the government more than $500 million dollars. - The results Australia-wide; Homicides are up 3.2%, Assaults are up 8 %, and Armed robberies are up 44%. In that country's state of Victoria, homicides with firearms are up 300%.
Firearms are a vital part of our nations history and are necessary for us to maintain or personal protection, as well as to protect us from tyranny. Gun control laws only serve to limit our ability to do either and place us at the mercy of both criminals and an abusive and overreaching government. I hope you will ponder these facts before committing your support for any new gun control laws.