The Second Amendment exists to protect the First Amendment, as well as the other eight amendments – the Bill of Rights.
On March 5, 1770, British soldiers fired on peaceful protesters; five Bostonians died. The “Boston Massacre” inflamed the colonies, and was mentioned during the Constitutional Convention. Concerns about the right to assemble guaranteed that it was included in the First Amendment. If we limit the Second, should we also limit the Fourth (searches), Fifth (cruel punishment) or the First (free speech, religion and press)?
The United States is not a democracy, it’s a constitutional republic. The difference is that lawmakers are “bound by the chains of the Constitution” ( Jefferson). As Benjamin Franklin left Constitution Hall, he was asked by a woman if it was to be a democracy or a republic. His reply: “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”
Unlike most of our elected legislators, I’ve read the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers, and the Militia Act of 1792. A theme throughout all of these papers is the right of the individual to keep and bear arms.
There is a spurious argument that the founders did not intend that private citizens own military-grade weapons – nonsense. The musket was the assault rifle of 1775; had they known about automatic weapons, they’d have wanted one in every house. As I’ve read the above papers, I never saw references to hunting or sport; never duck or elk, either. Phrases like “the tyranny of government” and “for the common defense” appear throughout all of them. The Second Amendment was written so that every citizen had the right to armed rebellion against his government or to repel foreign invaders. “… that every man be armed” was echoed from Charleston to Boston, from John Adams to Patrick Henry.
Safety of our children is a recurrent theme in anti-gun proposals. In 1938, Nazi Germany passed The Regulations against Jews Possession of Weapons. Jews were not allowed to possess firearms, ammunition, knives or clubs. This law was passed “for the safety of the German people.” As a result: the Holocaust. Had Jews owned guns would they have resisted? Yes!
On April 19, 1943, a handful of Jews began the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. With two obsolete pistols and three old rifles, against the most formidable army in Europe, they started shooting German soldiers and taking their weapons. The alternative: be quietly shipped to the Treblinka concentration camp. For three weeks, these brave souls held off 2,000 SS and Wehrmacht soldiers and were only defeated by poison gas and by burning the entire ghetto.
Nancy Pelosi recently stated that she “hoped” outlawing bump-stocks would become a slippery slope – this is what gun owners fear. Like California, Australia, England and Germany, innocent-sounding laws, for safety, snowball into confiscation. I doubt that the United States could ever follow the path of Germany, but no one thought that a civilized country like Germany would become what it did, either.
I’m a gun owner, Vietnam combat veteran and retired Alaska state trooper. I’ve never committed a crime of violence or a crime using a firearm, but have carried one almost daily since 1970. I own what are incorrectly called assault rifles and large-capacity magazines. I have lost friends and comrades; I fully understand the pain of losing someone to violence.
I don’t advocate armed rebellion or treason. I want to be left alone, to own and use what I want to own; I’m a threat to no one. If the proposed legislation passes, I’d be a felon for taking an unlocked rifle to my gunsmith! The killer at Newtown, Connecticut, murdered his mother, broke into a locked safe, stole three firearms (five felonies) and murdered 26 human beings (26 more felonies).
Instead of the tool, let’s focus on the actor and the act. Changing mental health laws, restricting violent video games and movies, and scrutinizing social media would go a long way to prevent massacres. Mental health issues have shown up from Columbine to Newtown to Texas, so look at the underlying problems and find a solution, before you try to limit our guaranteed rights.
Ms. Pelosi was correct about a slippery slope, but incomplete – if we limit the Second, all of the amendments are in danger.
Jeff Hall is a firearms and martial arts teacher. He teaches law enforcement, military and qualified civilians to properly defend themselves.