by Patrick Nohrden
Note: Since this article first published in February 2013, world political and political situations have changed. Some things never change.
“Oh, okay! Now I see! These people are paranoid and think the criminals will kill them. That’s why they want the military weapons. But what if the government took the military weapons away from the criminals?” wrote my good friend who has been engaging me in an argument by email regarding gun control. I could not respond without sounding insulting, which I try to avoid with my friends. Is there still any reasonable person who believes that there are not already laws that prevent criminals from having guns? I suppose one might reason that the more law-abiding citizens that own guns, there is a greater possibility that the guns belonging to these good people may eventually end up in the hands of the criminals. After all, our own Justice Department, who was entrusted with the control and destruction of thousands of seized firearms managed to let the slip into the hands of the Mexican drug cartels, so I suppose this proves my friend’s point.
Then she went on to say that with so many guns out there in the hands of common people, it is much harder for the police to protect us. Furthermore, she was nonplussed with she learned that there was nothing in the Constitution to protect the people without a gun. Of course. It is absurd to think that there can be anything in the Constitution to protect people without guns, especially from people with guns. That cannot be done. But what can be done is to protect people’s rights to own guns so they can protect themselves, and our Founding Fathers did just that with the Second Amendment.
All of the controversy surrounding gun control revolves around the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Some say it is antiquated and should be amended to make it currently relevant. Some say it if a right to maintain a militia, for which there is no need because of the existence of the National Guard. None of these arguments take into consideration the fact that it was the second amendment. The First Amendment, that which deals with the right to free speech, to practice religion without interference, and to assembly with whomever one pleases was the most important. That is why it was listed first. The First Amendment is actually a prohibition against the government from interfering with the rights enumerated in it. Second in importance to the ten amendments in the Bill of Rights is the right to form a militia and to bear arms. This was not third, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc. It was second, second in importance only to our freedom of speech, religion, and assembly. It is more important than the right to not incriminate yourself, to the right to a fair trial, a right to avoid unreasonable searches, a right not be inhumanely punished. It was second.
The Second Amendment was not about protecting the rights of hunters. Although that is an important issue and likely considered by those who ratified the amendment, because when the British soldiers took away our guns, we had no way to put meat on the table. But the real purpose of the amendment was to keep soldiers from taking away our guns. Not only was this a prohibition against the government, it included a right for the people, not the government, to form a militia to protect itself from the government. One of the inherent features of our Constitution was that government should not be trusted. The fact that our center of government moved from London to Washington (via New York) does not make government more trustworthy. As Americans, the Second Amendment gives us the right to protect ourselves, whether from home invaders or our own government.
Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that people should expect the government to protect them. The police cannot be everywhere, nor do we want the police to be everywhere. Part of society’s problem today is that it expects the government, along with its emergency responders, to protect them from every variety of calamities. As though it was somehow the fault of the government, people not only demanded, but expected compensation when their loved ones were killed by the hands of terrorists at the World Trade Center. Likewise, the government was blamed for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. And the government now accepts blame for the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The first time I taught English in China, I was assigned to a large provincial university that was undergoing major construction. My classes were held in a building that was still under construction, and it had new desks and chairs for the students. In an effort to protect these new desks and chairs, the school administration limited access to the building by locking all but three of 27 different exits. When lunch time came, it could take as long as 30 minutes to leave the building as more than a third of the students and faculty in that eight-story building filed through a single door. Considering the ongoing construction, with numerous ongoing welding projects, I wondered what would happen should there be a fire or explosion. I took comfort in knowing that there were many windows that people could easily use to exit the building.
About a week later, I came to teach in my class on the third floor and noticed that stainless steel bars had been erected over the windows on the first three floors, thereby preventing any quick exit in the case of a fire. Because at the time I was teaching conversational English as a second language, I thought this would make a good group discussion subject. I asked my students to work in groups and to come up with their “procedures” in the event of a fire or earthquake while classes were in session. I told them to consider the steel bars on the windows and the fact that only three of 27 doors were unlocked. Most of the groups concluded that they should trust the government and all they needed to do was to make a call on a cell phone and wait for the firefighters to arrive, who would then rescue the students. I asked whether this was too much trust in the government, and most of my students looked at me with shock. The students were bewildered at my lack of trust in the Chinese government. This occurred in 2003, six years before the Sichuan earthquake that destroyed more than 60,000 classrooms, most occupied by students.
People with any amount of intelligence know that the government cannot protect its citizens from hurricanes, deranged terrorists, or insane gunmen. But people can protect themselves so long as the government does not take that ability away. But these days, people seem more accepting of the government doing for them. Politicians are now adamantly talking about gun control, limiting our access to the types of guns we own, how many bullets they can hold, and even the shape of the guns. Even worse is their talk about registration.
After Hitler came to power, the government started a series of various kinds of censuses. The government was so thorough, it not only knew who had guns and what kinds of guns, but where the guns were kept, as well as other assets. The German people trusted its government, as people are inclined to do, never realizing that the government cared less for the people than preserving its own power. People say that this is America, and such a thing can never happen in America. But you will notice that there are subtle changes all the time, and very few of those changes are liked by the majority of the people. We get lulled into a sense of security when the government does everything for us, and we stop watching the government. But the government is no better than a much better organized and much stronger mafia. For the government to steal from us, to extort us, all it takes is a group of legislatures to approve a piece of legislation. And with Obama signing so many executive orders lately (25 in one day), the government is shortcutting around the legislature. When the time came, German agents visited every German home with a list of property to be confiscated, which included all of the people’s guns. It made it much more difficult for the German underground to combat its own government. I hope to God we never have to combat our own government, but you can’t forget we did it before when our capital was in London.
Mao Zedong said it best when he wrote “True power can only be achieved at the end of a barrel of a gun.” Then he took away the people’s guns. It is now illegal to own any kind of a firearm in China. Is it any safer in China? Maybe, but in China people are not allowed to move from one city to another without the government’s permission. People cannot have more than one child without a special license issued by the government. People cannot even have a baby without first obtaining a permit for birth of a child. People cannot sell their home without first obtaining a permit. People cannot own a pet without first obtaining a permit. People cannot buy a car without first obtaining a permit. People cannot start a business without first obtaining a permit. And in China, not everybody gets to go to school, especially high school and university. A farmer is not allowed to sell his land, because he does not own it.
Yet people in China go crazy and kill children at schools. They don’t use guns, though. In China the preferred method for killing school children is with a machete or a cleaver. Pensioners upset at having been screwed out of their pension wait at the gates of schools and chop up little children as school lets out. Owners of kindergartens will poison the students at a competing kindergarten hoping to capture the business from the newly discredited school. School bus drivers have likewise hacked students to death because they were noisy. But they have no guns, because as Mao said, without guns, people have no power, and in China only the government has power.
But even in China one can buy a gun. One merely needs to read the scrawling on many restaurant bathroom walls. In China, where capitalism has possessed the soul of every citizen, graffiti is only used to advertise illegal documents, illegal drivers licenses, and just about anything else one might want to purchase, even guns. For some reason, these guns, illegally purchased, are not being used for crime. One can only wonder why people are buying guns in China, except maybe to eventually protect themselves from the only other entity with guns, the government.