Arm yourselves & next time attack the attacker.
Nation of Cowards
by Jeffrey R. Snyder
Arm yourselves & next time attack the attacker.
Nation of Cowards
by Jeffrey R. Snyder
ANOTHER GUN FIGHTER SPEECH
BY PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMA
The White House
January 5, 2016
PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much.
Mark, I want to thank you for your introduction. I still remember the first time we met, the time we spent together, and the conversation we had about Daniel. And that changed me that day. And my hope, earnestly, has been that it would change the country.
Five years ago this week, a sitting member of Congress and 18 others were shot at, at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona. It wasn’t the first time I had to talk to the nation in response to a mass shooting, nor would it be the last. Fort Hood. Binghamton. Aurora. Oak Creek. Newtown. The Navy Yard. Santa Barbara. Charleston. San Bernardino. Too many.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Too many.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Too many.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Too many.
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks to a great medical team and the love of her husband, Mark, my dear friend and colleague, Gabby Giffords, survived. She’s here with us today, with her wonderful mom. (Applause.) Thanks to a great medical team, her wonderful husband, Mark — who, by the way, the last time I met with Mark — this is just a small aside — you may know Mark’s twin brother is in outer space. (Laughter.) He came to the office, and I said, how often are you talking to him? And he says, well, I usually talk to him every day, but the call was coming in right before the meeting so I think I may have not answered his call — (laughter) — which made me feel kind of bad. (Laughter.) That’s a long-distance call. (Laughter.) So I told him if his brother, Scott, is calling today, that he should take it. (Laughter.) Turn the ringer on. (Laughter.)
I was there with Gabby when she was still in the hospital, and we didn’t think necessarily at that point that she was going to survive. And that visit right before a memorial — about an hour later Gabby first opened her eyes. And I remember talking to mom about that. But I know the pain that she and her family have endured these past five years, and the rehabilitation and the work and the effort to recover from shattering injuries.
And then I think of all the Americans who aren’t as fortunate. Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns — 30,000. Suicides. Domestic violence. Gang shootouts. Accidents. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their own children. Many have had to learn to live with a disability, or learned to live without the love of their life.
A number of those people are here today. They can tell you some stories. In this room right here, there are a lot of stories. There’s a lot of heartache. There’s a lot of resilience, there’s a lot of strength, but there’s also a lot of pain. And this is just a small sample.
The United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people. We are not inherently more prone to violence. But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close. And as I’ve said before, somehow we’ve become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal.
And instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarized, partisan debates — despite the fact that there’s a general consensus in America about what needs to be done. That’s part of the reason why, on Thursday, I’m going to hold a town hall meeting in Virginia on gun violence. Because my goal here is to bring good people on both sides of this issue together for an open discussion.
I’m not on the ballot again. I’m not looking to score some points. I think we can disagree without impugning other people’s motives or without being disagreeable. We don’t need to be talking past one another. But we do have to feel a sense of urgency about it. In Dr. King’s words, we need to feel the “fierce urgency of now.” Because people are dying. And the constant excuses for inaction no longer do, no longer suffice.
That’s why we’re here today. Not to debate the last mass shooting, but to do something to try to prevent the next one. (Applause.) To prove that the vast majority of Americans, even if our voices aren’t always the loudest or most extreme, care enough about a little boy like Daniel to come together and take common-sense steps to save lives and protect more of our children.
Now, I want to be absolutely clear at the start — and I’ve said this over and over again, this also becomes routine, there is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do — I believe in the Second Amendment. It’s there written on the paper. It guarantees a right to bear arms. No matter how many times people try to twist my words around — I taught constitutional law, I know a little about this — (applause) — I get it. But I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment.
I mean, think about it. We all believe in the First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech, but we accept that you can’t yell “fire” in a theater. We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people. We cherish our right to privacy, but we accept that you have to go through metal detectors before being allowed to board a plane. It’s not because people like doing that, but we understand that that’s part of the price of living in a civilized society.
And what’s often ignored in this debate is that a majority of gun owners actually agree. A majority of gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking feud from inflicting harm on a massive scale.
Today, background checks are required at gun stores. If a father wants to teach his daughter how to hunt, he can walk into a gun store, get a background check, purchase his weapon safely and responsibly. This is not seen as an infringement on the Second Amendment. Contrary to the claims of what some gun rights proponents have suggested, this hasn’t been the first step in some slippery slope to mass confiscation. Contrary to claims of some presidential candidates, apparently, before this meeting, this is not a plot to take away everybody’s guns. You pass a background check; you purchase a firearm.
The problem is some gun sellers have been operating under a different set of rules. A violent felon can buy the exact same weapon over the Internet with no background check, no questions asked. A recent study found that about one in 30 people looking to buy guns on one website had criminal records — one out of 30 had a criminal record. We’re talking about individuals convicted of serious crimes — aggravated assault, domestic violence, robbery, illegal gun possession. People with lengthy criminal histories buying deadly weapons all too easily. And this was just one website within the span of a few months.
So we’ve created a system in which dangerous people are allowed to play by a different set of rules than a responsible gun owner who buys his or her gun the right way and subjects themselves to a background check. That doesn’t make sense. Everybody should have to abide by the same rules. Most Americans and gun owners agree. And that’s what we tried to change three years ago, after 26 Americans -– including 20 children -– were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary.
Two United States Senators -– Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, both gun owners, both strong defenders of our Second Amendment rights, both with “A” grades from the NRA –- that’s hard to get — worked together in good faith, consulting with folks like our Vice President, who has been a champion on this for a long time, to write a common-sense compromise bill that would have required virtually everyone who buys a gun to get a background check. That was it. Pretty common-sense stuff. Ninety percent of Americans supported that idea. Ninety percent of Democrats in the Senate voted for that idea. But it failed because 90 percent of Republicans in the Senate voted against that idea.
How did this become such a partisan issue? Republican President George W. Bush once said, “I believe in background checks at gun shows or anywhere to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.” Senator John McCain introduced a bipartisan measure to address the gun show loophole, saying, “We need this amendment because criminals and terrorists have exploited and are exploiting this very obvious loophole in our gun safety laws.” Even the NRA used to support expanded background checks. And by the way, most of its members still do. Most Republican voters still do.
How did we get here? How did we get to the place where people think requiring a comprehensive background check means taking away people’s guns?
Each time this comes up, we are fed the excuse that common-sense reforms like background checks might not have stopped the last massacre, or the one before that, or the one before that, so why bother trying. I reject that thinking. (Applause.) We know we can’t stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.
Some of you may recall, at the same time that Sandy Hook happened, a disturbed person in China took a knife and tried to kill — with a knife — a bunch of children in China. But most of them survived because he didn’t have access to a powerful weapon. We maybe can’t save everybody, but we could save some. Just as we don’t prevent all traffic accidents but we take steps to try to reduce traffic accidents.
As Ronald Reagan once said, if mandatory background checks could save more lives, “it would be well worth making it the law of the land.” The bill before Congress three years ago met that test. Unfortunately, too many senators failed theirs. (Applause.)
In fact, we know that background checks make a difference. After Connecticut passed a law requiring background checks and gun safety courses, gun deaths decreased by 40 percent — 40 percent. (Applause.) Meanwhile, since Missouri repealed a law requiring comprehensive background checks and purchase permits, gun deaths have increased to almost 50 percent higher than the national average. One study found, unsurprisingly, that criminals in Missouri now have easier access to guns.
And the evidence tells us that in states that require background checks, law-abiding Americans don’t find it any harder to purchase guns whatsoever. Their guns have not been confiscated. Their rights have not been infringed.
And that’s just the information we have access to. With more research, we could further improve gun safety. Just as with more research, we’ve reduced traffic fatalities enormously over the last 30 years. We do research when cars, food, medicine, even toys harm people so that we make them safer. And you know what — research, science — those are good things. They work. (Laughter and applause.) They do.
But think about this. When it comes to an inherently deadly weapon — nobody argues that guns are potentially deadly — weapons that kill tens of thousands of Americans every year, Congress actually voted to make it harder for public health experts to conduct research into gun violence; made it harder to collect data and facts and develop strategies to reduce gun violence. Even after San Bernardino, they’ve refused to make it harder for terror suspects who can’t get on a plane to buy semi-automatic weapons. That’s not right. That can’t be right.
So the gun lobby may be holding Congress hostage right now, but they cannot hold America hostage. (Applause.) We do not have to accept this carnage as the price of freedom. (Applause.)
Now, I want to be clear. Congress still needs to act. The folks in this room will not rest until Congress does. (Applause.) Because once Congress gets on board with common-sense gun safety measures we can reduce gun violence a whole lot more. But we also can’t wait. Until we have a Congress that’s in line with the majority of Americans, there are actions within my legal authority that we can take to help reduce gun violence and save more lives -– actions that protect our rights and our kids.
After Sandy Hook, Joe and I worked together with our teams and we put forward a whole series of executive actions to try to tighten up the existing rules and systems that we had in place. But today, we want to take it a step further. So let me outline what we’re going to be doing.
Number one, anybody in the business of selling firearms must get a license and conduct background checks, or be subject to criminal prosecutions. (Applause.) It doesn’t matter whether you’re doing it over the Internet or at a gun show. It’s not where you do it, but what you do.
We’re also expanding background checks to cover violent criminals who try to buy some of the most dangerous firearms by hiding behind trusts and corporations and various cutouts.
We’re also taking steps to make the background check system more efficient. Under the guidance of Jim Comey and the FBI, our Deputy Director Tom Brandon at ATF, we’re going to hire more folks to process applications faster, and we’re going to bring an outdated background check system into the 21st century. (Applause.)
And these steps will actually lead to a smoother process for law-abiding gun owners, a smoother process for responsible gun dealers, a stronger process for protecting the people from — the public from dangerous people. So that’s number one.
Number two, we’re going to do everything we can to ensure the smart and effective enforcement of gun safety laws that are already on the books, which means we’re going to add 200 more ATF agents and investigators. We’re going to require firearms dealers to report more lost or stolen guns on a timely basis. We’re working with advocates to protect victims of domestic abuse from gun violence, where too often — (applause) — where too often, people are not getting the protection that they need.
Number three, we’re going to do more to help those suffering from mental illness get the help that they need. (Applause.) High-profile mass shootings tend to shine a light on those few mentally unstable people who inflict harm on others. But the truth is, is that nearly two in three gun deaths are from suicides. So a lot of our work is to prevent people from hurting themselves.
That’s why we made sure that the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — (laughter and applause) — that law made sure that treatment for mental health was covered the same as treatment for any other illness. And that’s why we’re going to invest $500 million to expand access to treatment across the country. (Applause.)
It’s also why we’re going to ensure that federal mental health records are submitted to the background check system, and remove barriers that prevent states from reporting relevant information. If we can continue to de-stigmatize mental health issues, get folks proper care, and fill gaps in the background check system, then we can spare more families the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.
And for those in Congress who so often rush to blame mental illness for mass shootings as a way of avoiding action on guns, here’s your chance to support these efforts. Put your money where your mouth is. (Applause.)
Number four, we’re going to boost gun safety technology. Today, many gun injuries and deaths are the result of legal guns that were stolen or misused or discharged accidentally. In 2013 alone, more than 500 people lost their lives to gun accidents –- and that includes 30 children younger than five years old. In the greatest, most technologically advanced nation on Earth, there is no reason for this. We need to develop new technologies that make guns safer. If we can set it up so you can’t unlock your phone unless you’ve got the right fingerprint, why can’t we do the same thing for our guns? (Applause.) If there’s an app that can help us find a missing tablet — which happens to me often the older I get — (laughter) — if we can do it for your iPad, there’s no reason we can’t do it with a stolen gun. If a child can’t open a bottle of aspirin, we should make sure that they can’t pull a trigger on a gun. (Applause.) Right?
So we’re going to advance research. We’re going to work with the private sector to update firearms technology.
And some gun retailers are already stepping up by refusing to finalize a purchase without a complete background check, or by refraining from selling semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines. And I hope that more retailers and more manufacturers join them — because they should care as much as anybody about a product that now kills almost as many Americans as car accidents.
I make this point because none of us can do this alone. I think Mark made that point earlier. All of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important — Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well. And we have to be able to balance them. Because our right to worship freely and safely –- that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina. (Applause.) And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek. (Applause.) They had rights, too. (Applause.)
Our right to peaceful assembly -– that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette. Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -– those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.
Every time I think about those kids it gets me mad. And by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day. (Applause.)
So all of us need to demand a Congress brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies. All of us need to stand up and protect its citizens. All of us need to demand governors and legislatures and businesses do their part to make our communities safer. We need the wide majority of responsible gun owners who grieve with us every time this happens and feel like your views are not being properly represented to join with us to demand something better. (Applause.)
And we need voters who want safer gun laws, and who are disappointed in leaders who stand in their way, to remember come election time. (Applause.)
I mean, some of this is just simple math. Yes, the gun lobby is loud and it is organized in defense of making it effortless for guns to be available for anybody, any time. Well, you know what, the rest of us, we all have to be just as passionate. We have to be just as organized in defense of our kids. This is not that complicated. The reason Congress blocks laws is because they want to win elections. And if you make it hard for them to win an election if they block those laws, they’ll change course, I promise you. (Applause.)
And, yes, it will be hard, and it won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen during this Congress. It won’t happen during my presidency. But a lot of things don’t happen overnight. A woman’s right to vote didn’t happen overnight. The liberation of African Americans didn’t happen overnight. LGBT rights — that was decades’ worth of work. So just because it’s hard, that’s no excuse not to try.
And if you have any doubt as to why you should feel that “fierce urgency of now,” think about what happened three weeks ago. Zaevion Dobson was a sophomore at Fulton High School in Knoxville, Tennessee. He played football; beloved by his classmates and his teachers. His own mayor called him one of their city’s success stories. The week before Christmas, he headed to a friend’s house to play video games. He wasn’t in the wrong place at the wrong time. He hadn’t made a bad decision. He was exactly where any other kid would be. Your kid. My kids. And then gunmen started firing. And Zaevion — who was in high school, hadn’t even gotten started in life — dove on top of three girls to shield them from the bullets. And he was shot in the head. And the girls were spared. He gave his life to save theirs –- an act of heroism a lot bigger than anything we should ever expect from a 15-year-old. “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
We are not asked to do what Zaevion Dobson did. We’re not asked to have shoulders that big; a heart that strong; reactions that quick. I’m not asking people to have that same level of courage, or sacrifice, or love. But if we love our kids and care about their prospects, and if we love this country and care about its future, then we can find the courage to vote. We can find the courage to get mobilized and organized. We can find the courage to cut through all the noise and do what a sensible country would do.
That’s what we’re doing today. And tomorrow, we should do more. And we should do more the day after that. And if we do, we’ll leave behind a nation that’s stronger than the one we inherited and worthy of the sacrifice of a young man like Zaevion. (Applause.)
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. Thank you. God bless America. (Applause.)
the short novel by Rawclyde!
What the schmuck am I trying to prove with my rewrapping of “A Nation Of Cowards” by Jeffrey R. Snyder?
I’m merely presenting the right-wing classic amidst links to my own left-wing tall ones in an offering of contrasts. If anybody even notices, Snyder’s classic freedom-of-arms essay, thus, is publicizing my extremely lesser known works on the links. Well, there’s a Sufi sermon too on one of the links. The Sufi sermon kind of fell in there by accident. I left it there cuz it’s relevant. Other than the sermon, what we have here on these links is, well, self-advertizing. What else can I say about it? Ahh, the art! The beautiful artwork discovered & dug-up in artist Genzoman’s deviantart.com gallery is enchanting & just right for the job!
Okay, okay, I’m the first one to admit that I am an idiot.
“A Nation of Cowards” is a classic, a coup d’ grace, a beautiful piece of writing on the freedom to bare firearms. Perhaps having dwelt throughout my lifetime in some fringes of conservative thought, I have a certain affinity with this essay. For example, I like westerns.
I think more left-wingers should be familiar with Snyder’s essay so that they aren’t so silly & redundant to right-wingers. And I’d like right wingers to enjoy my tall ones. And, of course, I’d like to see everybody get along & come up with solutions together. So there!
Am I making any sense? Please scroll on down. Maybe I am. I am. I am.
A NATION OF COWARDS
by Jeffrey R. Snyder
OUR SOCIETY HAS REACHED A PINNACLE OF
self-expression and respect for individuality rare or unmatched in
history. Our entire popular culture — from fashion magazines to the
cinema — positively screams the matchless worth of the individual,
and glories in eccentricity, nonconformity, independent judgment, and
self-determination. This enthusiasm is reflected in the prevalent
notion that helping someone entails increasing that person’s
“self-esteem”; that if a person properly values himself, he will
naturally be a happy, productive, and, in some inexplicable fashion,
responsible member of society.
And yet, while people are encouraged to revel in their individuality
and incalculable self-worth, the media and the law enforcement
establishment continually advise us that, when confronted with the
threat of lethal violence, we should not resist, but simply give the
attacker what he wants. If the crime under consideration is rape,
there is some notable waffling on this point, and the discussion
quickly moves to how the woman can change her behavior to minimize the
risk of rape, and the various ridiculous, non-lethal weapons she may
acceptably carry, such as whistles, keys, mace or, that weapon which
really sends shivers down a rapist’s spine, the portable cellular
Now how can this be? How can a person who values himself so highly
calmly accept the indignity of a criminal assault? How can one who
believes that the essence of his dignity lies in his self-determination
passively accept the forcible deprivation of that self-determination?
How can he, quietly, with great dignity and poise, simply hand over the
The assumption, of course, is that there is no inconsistency. The
advice not to resist a criminal assault and simply hand over the goods
is founded on the notion that one’s life is of incalculable value, and
that no amount of property is worth it. Put aside, for a moment, the
outrageousness of the suggestion that a criminal who proffers lethal
violence should be treated as if he has instituted a new social
contract: “I will not hurt or kill you if you give me what I want.”
For years, feminists have labored to educate people that rape is not
about sex, but about domination, degradation, and control. Evidently,
someone needs to inform the law enforcement establishment & the media
that kidnapping, robbery, carjacking, & assault aren’t about property.
Crime is not only a complete disavowal of the social contract, but
also a commandeering of the victim’s person and liberty. If the
individual’s dignity lies in the fact that he is a moral agent engaging
in actions of his own will, in free exchange with others, then crime
always violates the victim’s dignity. It is, in fact, an act of
enslavement. Your wallet, your purse, or your car may not be worth
your life, but your dignity is; and if it is not worth fighting for, it
can hardly be said to exist.
The gift of life
Although difficult for modern man to fathom, it was once widely
believed that life was a gift from God, that to not defend that life
when offered violence was to hold God’s gift in contempt, to be a
coward and to breach one’s duty to one’s community. A sermon given in
Philadelphia in 1747 unequivocally equated the failure to defend
oneself with suicide:
He that suffers his life to be taken from him by one that hath no
authority for that purpose, when he might preserve it by defense,
incurs the Guilt of self murder since God hath enjoined him to seek
the continuance of his life, and Nature itself teaches every creature
to defend itself.
“Cowardice” and “self-respect” have largely disappeared from public
discourse. In their place we are offered “self-esteem” as the
bellwether of success and a proxy for dignity. “Self-respect” implies
that one recognizes standards, and judges oneself worthy by the degree
to which one lives up to them. “Self-esteem” simply means that one
feels good about oneself. “Dignity” used to refer to the self-mastery
and fortitude with which a person conducted himself in the face of
life’s vicissitudes and the boorish behavior of others. Now, judging
by campus speech codes, dignity requires that we never encounter a
discouraging word and that others be coerced into acting respectfully,
evidently on the assumption that we are powerless to prevent our
degradation if exposed to the demeaning behavior of others. These are
signposts proclaiming the insubstantiality of our character, the
hollowness of our souls.
It is impossible to address the problem of rampant crime without
talking about the moral responsibility of the intended victim. Crime
is rampant because the law-abiding, each of us, condone it, excuse it,
permit it, submit to it. We permit and encourage it because we do not
fight back, immediately, then and there, where it happens. Crime is
not rampant because we do not have enough prisons, because judges and
prosecutors are too soft, because the police are hamstrung with absurd
technicalities. The defect is there, in our character. We are a
nation of cowards and shirkers.
Do you feel lucky?
In 1991, when then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh released the
FBI’s annual crime statistics, he noted that it is now more likely that
a person will be the victim of a violent crime than that he will be in
an auto accident. Despite this, most people readily believe that the
existence of the police relieves them of the responsibility to take
full measures to protect themselves. The police, however, are not
personal bodyguards. Rather, they act as a general deterrent to crime,
both by their presence and by apprehending criminals after the fact.
As numerous courts have held, they have no legal obligation to protect
anyone in particular. You cannot sue them for failing to prevent you
from being the victim of a crime.
Insofar as the police deter by their presence, they are very, very
good. Criminals take great pains not to commit a crime in front of
them. Unfortunately, the corollary is that you can pretty much bet
your life (and you are) that they won’t be there at the moment you
actually need them.
Should you ever be the victim of an assault, a robbery, or a rape,
you will find it very difficult to call the police while the act is in
progress, even if you are carrying a portable cellular phone.
Nevertheless, you might be interested to know how long it takes them to
show up. Department of Justice statistics for 1991 show that, for all
crimes of violence, only 28 percent of calls are responded to within
five minutes. The idea that protection is a service people can call to
have delivered and expect to receive in a timely fashion is often
mocked by gun owners, who love to recite the challenge, “Call for a
cop, call for an ambulance, and call for a pizza. See who shows up
Many people deal with the problem of crime by convincing themselves
that they live, work, and travel only in special “crime-free” zones.
Invariably, they react with shock and hurt surprise when they discover
that criminals do not play by the rules and do not respect these
imaginary boundaries. If, however, you understand that crime can occur
anywhere at anytime, and if you understand that you can be maimed or
mortally wounded in mere seconds, you may wish to consider whether you
are willing to place the responsibility for safeguarding your life in
the hands of others.
Power and responsibility
Is your life worth protecting? If so, whose responsibility is it to
protect it? If you believe that it is the police’s, not only are you
wrong — since the courts universally rule that they have no legal
obligation to do so — but you face some difficult moral quandaries.
How can you rightfully ask another human being to risk his life to
protect yours, when you will assume no responsibility yourself?
Because that is his job and we pay him to do it? Because your life is
of incalculable value, but his is only worth the $30,000 salary we pay
him? If you believe it reprehensible to possess the means and will to
use lethal force to repel a criminal assault, how can you call upon
another to do so for you?
Do you believe that you are forbidden to protect yourself because
the police are better qualified to protect you, because they know what
they are doing but you’re a rank amateur? Put aside that this is
equivalent to believing that only concert pianists may play the piano
and only professional athletes may play sports. What exactly are these
special qualities possessed only by the police and beyond the rest of
us mere mortals?
One who values his life and takes seriously his responsibilities to
his family and community will possess and cultivate the means of
fighting back, and will retaliate when threatened with death or
grievous injury to himself or a loved one. He will never be content to
rely solely on others for his safety, or to think he has done all that
is possible by being aware of his surroundings and taking measures of
avoidance. Let’s not mince words: He will be armed, will be trained in
the use of his weapon, and will defend himself when faced with lethal
Fortunately, there is a weapon for preserving life and liberty that
can be wielded effectively by almost anyone — the handgun. Small and
light enough to be carried habitually, lethal, but unlike the knife or
sword, not demanding great skill or strength, it truly is the “great
equalizer.” Requiring only hand-eye coordination and a modicum of
ability to remain cool under pressure, it can be used effectively by
the old and the weak against the young and the strong, by the one
against the many.
The handgun is the only weapon that would give a lone female jogger
a chance of prevailing against a gang of thugs intent on rape, a
teacher a chance of protecting children at recess from a madman intent
on massacring them, a family of tourists waiting at a mid-town subway
station the means to protect themselves from a gang of teens armed with
razors and knives.
But since we live in a society that by and large outlaws the
carrying of arms, we are brought into the fray of the Great American
Gun War. Gun control is one of the most prominent battlegrounds in our
current culture wars. Yet it is unique in the half-heartedness with
which our conservative leaders and pundits — our “conservative elite”
— do battle, and have conceded the moral high ground to liberal gun
control proponents. It is not a topic often written about, or written
about with any great fervor, by William F. Buckley or Patrick
Buchanan. As drug czar, William Bennett advised President Bush to ban
“assault weapons.” George Will is on record as recommending the repeal
of the Second Amendment, and Jack Kemp is on record as favoring a ban
on the possession of semiautomatic “assault weapons.” The battle for
gun rights is one fought predominantly by the common man. The beliefs
of both our liberal and conservative elites are in fact abetting the
criminal rampage through our society.
Selling crime prevention
By any rational measure, nearly all gun control proposals are
hokum. The Brady Bill, for example, would not have prevented John
Hinckley from obtaining a gun to shoot President Reagan; Hinckley
purchased his weapon five months before the attack, and his medical
records could not have served as a basis to deny his purchase of a gun,
since medical records are not public documents filed with the police.
Similarly, California’s waiting period and background check did not
stop Patrick Purdy from purchasing the “assault rifle” and handguns he
used to massacre children during recess in a Stockton schoolyard; the
felony conviction that would have provided the basis for stopping the
sales did not exist, because Mr. Purdy’s previous weapons violations
were plea-bargained down from felonies to misdemeanors.
In the mid-sixties there was a public service advertising campaign
targeted at car owners about the prevention of car theft. The purpose
of the ad was to urge car owners not to leave their keys in their
cars. The message was, “Don’t help a good boy go bad.” The implication
was that, by leaving his keys in his car, the normal, law-abiding car
owner was contributing to the delinquency of minors who, if they just
weren’t tempted beyond their limits, would be “good.” Now, in those
days people still had a fair sense of just who was responsible for
whose behavior. The ad succeeded in enraging a goodly portion of the
populace, and was soon dropped.
Nearly all of the gun control measures offered by Handgun Control,
Inc. (HCI) and its ilk embody the same philosophy. They are founded
on the belief that America’s law-abiding gun owners are the source of
the problem. With their unholy desire for firearms, they are creating
a society awash in a sea of guns, thereby helping good boys go bad, and
helping bad boys be badder. This laying of moral blame for violent
crime at the feet of the law-abiding, and the implicit absolution of
violent criminals for their misdeeds, naturally infuriates honest gun
The files of HCI and other gun control organizations are filled with
proposals to limit the availability of semiautomatic and other firearms
to law-abiding citizens, and barren of proposals for apprehending and
punishing violent criminals. It is ludicrous to expect that the
proposals of HCI, or any gun control laws, will significantly curb
crime. According to Department of Justice and Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) statistics, fully 90 percent of violent
crimes are committed without a handgun, and 93 percent of the guns
obtained by violent criminals are not obtained through the lawful
purchase and sale transactions that are the object of most gun control
legislation. Furthermore, the number of violent criminals is minute in
comparison to the number of firearms in America — estimated by the ATF
at about 200 million, approximately one-third of which are handguns.
With so abundant a supply, there will always be enough guns available
for those who wish to use them for nefarious ends, no matter how
complete the legal prohibitions against them, or how draconian the
punishment for their acquisition or use. No, the gun control proposals
of HCI and other organizations are not seriously intended as crime
control. Something else is at work here.
The tyranny of the elite
Gun control is a moral crusade against a benighted, barbaric
citizenry. This is demonstrated not only by the ineffectualness of gun
control in preventing crime, and by the fact that it focuses on
restricting the behavior of the law-abiding rather than apprehending
and punishing the guilty, but also by the execration that gun control
proponents heap on gun owners and their evil instrumentality, the NRA.
Gun owners are routinely portrayed as uneducated, paranoid rednecks
fascinated by and prone to violence, i.e., exactly the type of person
who opposes the liberal agenda and whose moral and social
“re-education” is the object of liberal social policies. Typical of
such bigotry is New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s famous characterization of
gun-owners as “hunters who drink beer, don’t vote, and lie to their
wives about where they were all weekend.” Similar vituperation is
rained upon the NRA, characterized by Sen. Edward Kennedy as the
“pusher’s best friend,” lampooned in political cartoons as standing for
the right of children to carry firearms to school and, in general,
portrayed as standing for an individual’s God-given right to blow
people away at will.
The stereotype is, of course, false. As criminologist and
constitutional lawyer Don B. Kates, Jr. and former HCI contributor
Dr. Patricia Harris have pointed out, “[s]tudies consistently show
that, on the average, gun owners are better educated and have more
prestigious jobs than non-owners…. Later studies show that gun
owners are less likely than non-owners to approve of police brutality,
violence against dissenters, etc.”
Conservatives must understand that the antipathy many liberals have
for gun owners arises in good measure from their statist utopianism.
This habit of mind has nowhere been better explored than in The
Republic. There, Plato argues that the perfectly just society is one
in which an unarmed people exhibit virtue by minding their own business
in the performance of their assigned functions, while the government of
philosopher-kings, above the law and protected by armed guardians
unquestioning in their loyalty to the state, engineers, implements, and
fine-tunes the creation of that society, aided and abetted by myths
that both hide and justify their totalitarian manipulation.
The unarmed life
When columnist Carl Rowan preaches gun control and uses a gun to
defend his home, when Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer seeks
legislation year after year to ban semiautomatic “assault weapons”
whose only purpose, we are told, is to kill people, while he is at the
same time escorted by state police armed with large-capacity 9mm
semiautomatic pistols, it is not simple hypocrisy. It is the workings
of that habit of mind possessed by all superior beings who have taken
upon themselves the terrible burden of civilizing the masses and who
understand, like our Congress, that laws are for other people.
The liberal elite know that they are philosopher-kings. They know
that the people simply cannot be trusted; that they are incapable of
just and fair self-government; that left to their own devices, their
society will be racist, sexist, homophobic, and inequitable — and the
liberal elite know how to fix things. They are going to help us live
the good and just life, even if they have to lie to us and force us to
do it. And they detest those who stand in their way.
The private ownership of firearms is a rebuke to this utopian zeal.
To own firearms is to affirm that freedom and liberty are not gifts
from the state. It is to reserve final judgment about whether the
state is encroaching on freedom and liberty, to stand ready to defend
that freedom with more than mere words, and to stand outside the
state’s totalitarian reach.
The Florida experience
The elitist distrust of the people underlying the gun control
movement is illustrated beautifully in HCI’s campaign against a new
concealed-carry law in Florida. Prior to 1987, the Florida law
permitting the issuance of concealed-carry permits was administered at
the county level. The law was vague, and, as a result, was subject to
conflicting interpretation and political manipulation. Permits were
issued principally to security personnel and the privileged few with
political connections. Permits were valid only within the county of
In 1987, however, Florida enacted a uniform concealed-carry law
which mandates that county authorities issue a permit to anyone who
satisfies certain objective criteria. The law requires that a permit
be issued to any applicant who is a resident, at least twenty-one years
of age, has no criminal record, no record of alcohol or drug abuse, no
history of mental illness, and provides evidence of having
satisfactorily completed a firearms safety course offered by the NRA or
other competent instructor. The applicant must provide a set of
fingerprints, after which the authorities make a background check. The
permit must be issued or denied within ninety days, is valid throughout
the state, and must be renewed every three years, which provides
authorities a regular means of reevaluating whether the permit holder
Passage of this legislation was vehemently opposed by HCI and the
media. The law, they said, would lead to citizens shooting each other
over everyday disputes involving fender benders, impolite behavior, and
other slights to their dignity. Terms like “Florida, the Gunshine
State” and “Dodge City East” were coined to suggest that the state, and
those seeking passage of the law, were encouraging individuals to act
as judge, jury, and executioner in a “Death Wish” society.
No HCI campaign more clearly demonstrates the elitist beliefs
underlying the campaign to eradicate gun ownership. Given the
qualifications required of permit holders, HCI and the media can only
believe that common, law-abiding citizens are seething cauldrons of
homicidal rage, ready to kill to avenge any slight to their dignity,
eager to seek out and summarily execute the lawless. Only lack of
immediate access to a gun restrains them and prevents the blood from
flowing in the streets. They are so mentally and morally deficient
that they would mistake a permit to carry a weapon in self-defense as a
state-sanctioned license to kill at will.
Did the dire predictions come true? Despite the fact that Miami and
Dade County have severe problems with the drug trade, the homicide rate
fell in Florida following enactment of this law, as it did in Oregon
following enactment of similar legislation there. There are, in
addition, several documented cases of new permit holders successfully
using their weapons to defend themselves. Information from the Florida
Department of State shows that, from the beginning of the program in
1987 through June 1993, 160,823 permits have been issued, and only 530,
or about 0.33 percent of the applicants, have been denied a permit for
failure to satisfy the criteria, indicating that the law is benefitting
those whom it was intended to benefit — the law-abiding. Only 16
permits, less than 1/100th of 1 percent, have been revoked due to the
post-issuance commission of a crime involving a firearm.
The Florida legislation has been used as a model for legislation
adopted by Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Mississippi. There are, in
addition, seven other states (Maine, North and South Dakota, Utah,
Washington, West Virginia, and, with the exception of cities with a
population in excess of 1 million, Pennsylvania) which provide that
concealed-carry permits must be issued to law-abiding citizens who
satisfy various objective criteria. Finally, no permit is required at
all in Vermont. Altogether, then, there are thirteen states in which
law-abiding citizens who wish to carry arms to defend themselves may do
so. While no one appears to have compiled the statistics from all of
these jurisdictions, there is certainly an ample data base for those
seeking the truth about the trustworthiness of law-abiding citizens who
Other evidence also suggests that armed citizens are very
responsible in using guns to defend themselves. Florida State
University criminologist Gary Kleck, using surveys and other data, has
determined that armed citizens defend their lives or property with
firearms against criminals approximately 1 million times a year. In 98
percent of these instances, the citizen merely brandishes the weapon or
fires a warning shot. Only in 2 percent of the cases do citizens
actually shoot their assailants. In defending themselves with their
firearms, armed citizens kill 2,000 to 3,000 criminals each year, three
times the number killed by the police. A nationwide study by Kates,
the constitutional lawyer and criminologist, found that only 2 percent
of civilian shootings involved an innocent person mistakenly identified
as a criminal. The “error rate” for the police, however, was 11
percent, over five times as high.
It is simply not possible to square the numbers above and the
experience of Florida with the notions that honest, law-abiding gun
owners are borderline psychopaths itching for an excuse to shoot
someone, vigilantes eager to seek out and summarily execute the
lawless, or incompetent fools incapable of determining when it is
proper to use lethal force in defense of their lives. Nor upon
reflection should these results seem surprising. Rape, robbery, and
attempted murder are not typically actions rife with ambiguity or
subtlety, requiring special powers of observation and great
book-learning to discern. When a man pulls a knife on a woman and
says, “You’re coming with me,” her judgment that a crime is being
committed is not likely to be in error. There is little chance that
she is going to shoot the wrong person. It is the police, because they
are rarely at the scene of the crime when it occurs, who are more
likely to find themselves in circumstances where guilt and innocence
are not so clear-cut, and in which the probability for mistakes is
Arms and liberty
Classical republican philosophy has long recognized the critical
relationship between personal liberty and the possession of arms by a
people ready and willing to use them. Political theorists as
dissimilar as Niccolo Machiavelli, Sir Thomas More, James Harrington,
Algernon Sidney, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau all shared the
view that the possession of arms is vital for resisting tyranny, and
that to be disarmed by one’s government is tantamount to being enslaved
by it. The possession of arms by the people is the ultimate warrant
that government governs only with the consent of the governed. As
Kates has shown, the Second Amendment is as much a product of this
political philosophy as it is of the American experience in the
Revolutionary War. Yet our conservative elite has abandoned this
aspect of republican theory. Although our conservative pundits
recognize and embrace gun owners as allies in other arenas, their
battle for gun rights is desultory. The problem here is not a statist
utopianism, although goodness knows that liberals are not alone in the
confidence they have in the state’s ability to solve society’s
problems. Rather, the problem seems to lie in certain cultural traits
shared by our conservative and liberal elites.
One such trait is an abounding faith in the power of the word. The
failure of our conservative elite to defend the Second Amendment stems
in great measure from an overestimation of the power of the rights set
forth in the First Amendment, and a general undervaluation of action.
Implicit in calls for the repeal of the Second Amendment is the
assumption that our First Amendment rights are sufficient to preserve
our liberty. The belief is that liberty can be preserved as long as
men freely speak their minds; that there is no tyranny or abuse that
can survive being exposed in the press; and that the truth need only be
disclosed for the culprits to be shamed. The people will act, and the
truth shall set us, and keep us, free.
History is not kind to this belief, tending rather to support the
view of Hobbes, Machiavelli, and other republican theorists that only
people willing and able to defend themselves can preserve their
liberties. While it may be tempting and comforting to believe that the
existence of mass electronic communication has forever altered the
balance of power between the state and its subjects, the belief has
certainly not been tested by time, and what little history there is in
the age of mass communication is not especially encouraging. The
camera, radio, and press are mere tools and, like guns, can be used for
good or ill. Hitler, after all, was a masterful orator, used radio to
very good effect, and is well known to have pioneered and exploited the
propaganda opportunities afforded by film. And then, of course, there
were the Brownshirts, who knew very well how to quell dissent among
In addition to being enamored of the power of words, our
conservative elite shares with liberals the notion that an armed
society is just not civilized or progressive, that massive gun
ownership is a blot on our civilization. This association of personal
disarmament with civilized behavior is one of the great unexamined
beliefs of our time.
Should you read English literature from the sixteenth through
nineteenth centuries, you will discover numerous references to the fact
that a gentleman, especially when out at night or traveling, armed
himself with a sword or a pistol against the chance of encountering a
highwayman or other such predator. This does not appear to have
shocked the ladies accompanying him. True, for the most part there
were no police in those days, but we have already addressed the notion
that the presence of the police absolves people of the responsibility
to look after their safety, and in any event the existence of the
police cannot be said to have reduced crime to negligible levels.
It is by no means obvious why it is “civilized” to permit oneself to
fall easy prey to criminal violence, and to permit criminals to
continue unobstructed in their evil ways. While it may be that a
society in which crime is so rare that no one ever needs to carry a
weapon is “civilized,” a society that stigmatizes the carrying of
weapons by the law-abiding — because it distrusts its citizens more
than it fears rapists, robbers, and murderers — certainly cannot claim
this distinction. Perhaps the notion that defending oneself with
lethal force is not “civilized” arises from the view that violence is
always wrong, or the view that each human being is of such intrinsic
worth that it is wrong to kill anyone under any circumstances. The
necessary implication of these propositions, however, is that life is
not worth defending. Far from being “civilized,” the beliefs that
counterviolence and killing are always wrong are an invitation to the
spread of barbarism. Such beliefs announce loudly and clearly that
those who do not respect the lives and property of others will rule
over those who do.
In truth, one who believes it wrong to arm himself against criminal
violence shows contempt of God’s gift of life (or, in modern parlance,
does not properly value himself), does not live up to his
responsibilities to his family and community, and proclaims himself
mentally and morally deficient, because he does not trust himself to
behave responsibly. In truth, a state that deprives its law-abiding
citizens of the means to effectively defend themselves is not civilized
but barbarous, becoming an accomplice of murderers, rapists, and thugs
and revealing its totalitarian nature by its tacit admission that the
disorganized, random havoc created by criminals is far less a threat
than are men and women who believe themselves free and independent, and act accordingly.
While gun control proponents and other advocates of a kinder,
gentler society incessantly decry our “armed society,” in truth we do
not live in an armed society. We live in a society in which violent
criminals and agents of the state habitually carry weapons, and in
which many law-abiding citizens own firearms but do not go about
armed. Department of Justice statistics indicate that 87 percent of
all violent crimes occur outside the home. Essentially, although tens
of millions own firearms, we are an unarmed society.
Take back the night
Clearly the police and the courts are not providing a significant
brake on criminal activity. While liberals call for more poverty,
education, and drug treatment programs, conservatives take a more
direct tack. George Will advocates a massive increase in the number of
police and a shift toward “community-based policing.” Meanwhile, the
NRA and many conservative leaders call for laws that would require
violent criminals serve at least 85 percent of their sentences and
would place repeat offenders permanently behind bars.
Our society suffers greatly from the beliefs that only official
action is legitimate and that the state is the source of our earthly
salvation. Both liberal and conservative prescriptions for violent
crime suffer from the “not in my job description” school of thought
regarding the responsibilities of the law-abiding citizen, and from an
overestimation of the ability of the state to provide society’s moral
moorings. As long as law-abiding citizens assume no personal
responsibility for combatting crime, liberal and conservative programs
will fail to contain it.
Judging by the numerous articles about concealed-carry in gun
magazines, the growing number of products advertised for such purpose,
and the increase in the number of concealed-carry applications in
states with mandatory-issuance laws, more and more people, including
growing numbers of women, are carrying firearms for self-defense.
Since there are still many states in which the issuance of permits is
discretionary and in which law enforcement officials routinely deny
applications, many people have been put to the hard choice between
protecting their lives or respecting the law. Some of these people
have learned the hard way, by being the victim of a crime, or by seeing
a friend or loved one raped, robbed, or murdered, that violent crime
can happen to anyone, anywhere at anytime, and that crime is not about
sex or property but life, liberty, and dignity.
The laws proscribing concealed-carry of firearms by honest,
law-abiding citizens breed nothing but disrespect for the law. As the
Founding Fathers knew well, a government that does not trust its
honest, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens with the means of self-defense
is not itself worthy of trust. Laws disarming honest citizens proclaim
that the government is the master, not the servant, of the people. A
federal law along the lines of the Florida statute — overriding all
contradictory state and local laws and acknowledging that the carrying
of firearms by law-abiding citizens is a privilege and immunity of
citizenship — is needed to correct the outrageous conduct of state and
local officials operating under discretionary licensing systems.
What we certainly do not need is more gun control. Those who call
for the repeal of the Second Amendment so that we can really begin
controlling firearms betray a serious misunderstanding of the Bill of
Rights. The Bill of Rights does not grant rights to the people, such
that its repeal would legitimately confer upon government the powers
otherwise proscribed. The Bill of Rights is the list of the
fundamental, inalienable rights, endowed in man by his Creator, that
define what it means to be a free and independent people, the rights
which must exist to ensure that government governs only with the
consent of the people.
At one time this was even understood by the Supreme Court. In
United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the first case in which the Court
had an opportunity to interpret the Second Amendment, it stated that
the right confirmed by the Second Amendment “is not a right granted by
the constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that
instrument for its existence.” The repeal of the Second Amendment
would no more render the outlawing of firearms legitimate than the
repeal of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment would authorize
the government to imprison and kill people at will. A government that
abrogates any of the Bill of Rights, with or without majoritarian
approval, forever acts illegitimately, becomes tyrannical, and loses
the moral right to govern.
This is the uncompromising understanding reflected in the warning
that America’s gun owners will not go gently into that good, utopian
night: “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”
While liberals take this statement as evidence of the retrograde,
violent nature of gun owners, we gun owners hope that liberals hold
equally strong sentiments about their printing presses, word
processors, and television cameras. The republic depends upon fervent
devotion to all our fundamental rights.
(and just one more link)
art courtesy of Genzoman