Monday, March 06, 2006

On the Second Amendment, new and improved

Okay, so I'll read just about anything you send me, within reason. The Book of Mormon? Sure; they were kind enough to come all the way to my house to bring it to me. The most recent Watchtower? What's the harm? I just plain enjoy reading, and I enjoy learning about things, and I don't really feel equipped to debate anyone on any one subject until I understand where they're coming from. I also believe that a person can be exposed to different and controversial ideas without being contaminated by them; if you're secure in your sexuality, you won't be sullied by watching Brokeback Mountain or listening to the sinful tunes of Clay Aiken.

Anyway, my openness to new reading material is how I found myself flipping through a copy of Death by "Gun Control": The Human Cost of Victim Disarmament (and what is it with these lengthy book titles?), on loan from a dear friend and firearms enthusiast. Written by Aaron Zelman and Richard W. Stevens, it's a look a the history of gun control (they like the scare quotes; I'm not a fan) legislation, concentrating on its use a first step toward further government oppression, as in Nazi Germany, Rwanda and Turkey.

The main idea of the book is that governments exist at the consent of the governed, making the people a kind of fourth branch of government with the right to contradict their own elected officials when they feel they're being governed improperly. The authors, of course, are looking at it from a standpoint of physical self-defense, in which the right to bear arms is necessary to prevent government oppression. They quote Noah Webster's 1787 "An Examination in the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution":
The American Founders knew it well from earlier world history. As just one example, Noah Webster, an influential Federalist who argued for adoption of the US Constitution, explained how government can oppress only when it can overwhelm the people:
Another source of power in government is a military force. But this, to be efficient, must be superior to any force that exists among the people, or which they can command; for otherwise this force would be annihilated, on the first exercise of acts of oppression.
By design of the Constitution, an armed civilian population stops tyranny in America, as Webster concluded:
A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.

Basically, Webster was saying that even if people are unsatisfied by legislation passed by their elected officials, they still have the means to protest against government oppression. And I dig.

The thing is, it isn't 1787, and we can't take on our government militarily. Look at Waco and Ruby Ridge - even with the most expansive arsenal known to civilianhood, your best effort would still be just making a great big mess before going down in a hail of gunfire and a blaze of infamy. The American Revolution took place during a time where the militias had comparable firepower and a better lay of the land; all those days, as they say, are gone.

None of that nullifies the Second Amendment. Americans still have every right to defend themselves when they feel that the government isn't governing at their consent. The difference in technology just makes it all the more important to maintain nonviolent methods of defending ourselves against governmental overreaching.

Gun nuts out there (and I don't mean all firearms enthusiasts, I mean the "cold dead hands" nutsy nuts) are so desperate to keep their guns and defend their Second Amendment that they're willing to sacrifice the fundamental concept behind it - the people's right to defend themselves when they feel that they're being wronged by the government. They're willing to give up their rights voluntarily and accept warrantless government surveillance, unlimited powers under the Patriot Act, government control over a woman's uterus, curtailed freedom of speech in the name of patriotism - things that give the government control over their lives - but then go crazy about their guns, which would be ultimately useless in a face-off with the government.

The authors of Death by "Gun Control" blame victim disarmament for much of the oppression that has been imposed on citizens by their own governments. I don't think that we in the US are anywhere close to being oppressed, I don't think we have genocide in our future (the US is hardly Nazi Germany, so don't go talking tinfoil hats or calling Godwin on me) - but I also don't think we do ourselves any favors by giving up our rights, voluntarily disarming ourselves.

As far as Death by "Gun Control" is concerned, I don't agree with much (okay, most) of its reasoning, but I can't disagree with its facts. Personal rights and civil liberties are what stand between the citizens and a fascist state. We, as Americans, tell the government what we need to keep us safe, rather than letting them tell us to let them handle it, 'cause they got five on us and we can trust them. It's bad enough to have someone take away your only means of self-defense; to give it up entirely is just asking to be abused and taken advantage of.

Freedom of speech, public dissent and a right to privacy aren't just acceptable but necessary to a free and healthy nation. Which is cool, 'cause in case y'all hadn't noticed, I love me some dissent.

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