2nd Amendment- Rights vs Responsibilities

At one time I wondered what our founders would think if they were to see what we have done as a nation to all their hard work and sacrifice.  

The more I’ve studied them, the more I have come to the conclusion that they would not be shocked.  In fact, they not only expected it, but they also witnessed the initiation of it in their lifetime.  Jefferson lamented over the Supreme Court exceeding its powers.  So the stage was set for two dangers-  leadership that exceeds its prescribed limits, and people who are not educated and awake to the slide to tyranny.

It has been said that power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.  The lust for power and money drives a certain segment of mankind.  This is often tied in with the arrogance that they alone can make choices for people who are not capable of determining their own destiny.  Of course, this is not compatible with a free republic.

There is also a segment of people who are content to be lazy, they have no drive to improve themselves or those in their family or community.  Being a slave is much easier than being free.  In Democracy in AmericaAlexis de Tocqueville wrote, “Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.”

People tend to pick what they want out of the Constitution and either ignore parts they do not like or invent ways to undermine them.  Today my thoughts are on the 2nd Amendment.

To begin with, I do not believe the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to keep and bear arms.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men..”

There was a significant argument as to whether we needed to list specific rights.  The above excerpt from our Declaration states that we all have equal rights.  That they are certain- established beyond doubt.  The protection of these rights is why governments are established.  During the 10th century, individual communities began to band together for protection against foreign invasion.  These early kingdoms did not take long to become tyrannical…after all, it is good to be king.

In the end, Anti-federalists, such as George Mason, (who many call the author of the Bill of Rights) won the concession to have the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution to win ratification.  Of course, now I am reminded of the adage, “Careful what you ask for, you just might get it.”  There is validity to both sides of the Federalist argument, and I’ll not rehash the debate here.  Looking at the writings of the founders and our history, we do indeed have the right to personally own, keep and bear arms.  The initial infringement of that right did not come for 158 years until the National Firearms Act was enacted in response to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929.

Eastwood

Thus began the idea that the government must respond and take away the rights of all those who did nothing.

First, they made alcohol illegal, which gave rise to the underground alcohol trade, and the associated crime.  So infringement of our rights was the answer to an infringement on our rights.

I intend to make a case here on responsibility.  Now some might say that calling for responsible gun ownership and handling is nothing new.  And they would be right about that fact, and wrong about what I mean.

I am not going to lecture anyone on the proper way to handle your guns, store your guns, or protect your guns.  I’m not talking that type of responsibility.

When Benjamin Franklin was leaving the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, he was asked, “What sort of government have you given us?”  He replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”  Everything about our republic requires the action of the people.  George Mason said, “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.”  The belief was that our national security was the responsibility of the people as a whole.

Is there really a difference in providing our own security against foreign invaders, tyrannical leaders, or a common criminal? Each of them seeks to take your natural right to life, liberty, and property.  I maintain that we do not simply have a right to keep and bear arms, but a responsibility.  While our colonies and early states had “watch” systems, actual police departments did not come on the scene until the mid 19th century., and then, only in major cities.

seconds

 

It has always bothered me that many police and sheriff departments have the slogan, “To serve and protect.” Would “To respond and report” not be more accurate?

While there is a certain amount of crime that is prevented if law enforcement is present, the vast majority of what law enforcement does is enforce the law.  That can only be done after the law is broken.  So officers are there to gather evidence for an eventual trial, and hopefully, arrest the perpetrator.  As the meme says, “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”

If we are to believe the actual wording of the 2nd Amendment, it tells us that our security is incumbent on the people actually keeping and bearing arms.  It is not that we have the right to run to Walmart if the need arises.  It is not that we have the right to buy the government approved weapon, magazine, and ammo.

People may say times have changed, or that this is not the old wild west.  Times have changed, but our responsibilities have not.  The wild west was not nearly as wild as the movies would have us believe.  The myth of the gunslinger is that most were killed in ambushes, not shootouts in the street.

Dr. John Lott has documented how more guns equal less crime in his book “More Guns, Less Crime.”  Guns are not a problem. They are a solution.

 

Thankfully, we are seeing a reverse in the trend of more gun control, which infringes on our responsibility as a citizen.

less guns

After the tragic shooting in Sandy Hook, New York and Connecticut passed legislation restricting even further the type of firearms allowed and magazine capacity.  They also began to require registration of certain guns.  It has been estimated that more than 90% of affected gun owners have refused to comply with these laws.  In most cases, it seems that state employees are practically the only ones complying as their employment is contingent on the compliance of employees.  California has also passed very restrictive laws on guns and ammo, unless you are a politician, in which case, you are exempt.

However, in the face of these three states, infringement on rights and responsibilities of their citizens, others are becoming freer.  Eleven states now have “constitutional carry,” meaning citizens are not required to ask permission to fulfill their responsibility.  Twenty-two states have or are planning to introduce legislation for Constitutional Carry in 2017.  The vast majority of states offer a “permission slip,” a conceal carry permit, to allow citizens to protect themselves, and it is often reciprocal with other states.  Since each state recognizes each other’s driver’s license (and driving is neither a right nor a responsibility), should not each citizen have the right and responsibility in every state?

On January 3rd, Rep Richard Hudson (NC) introduced a bill that would require national reciprocity.  Currently, each state decides whether to accept another’s concealed-carry permit.  This would force states to accept.  I used to have mixed emotions about this because of states rights and sovereignty, however, in the end, the protection of rights is essentially one of the federal government’s few defined powers.

While we still have an uphill battle in many areas, the freedom to exercise your responsibility is getting better.  I do hope in the future people will look at it more as a responsibility than a right.  Teddy Roosevelt was famous for “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  It is better to be prepared, ready, and not need it.

“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed-  as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.”  -Noah Webster

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