(C) 1993 by "The Public Interest".

                                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, noncon-
formity, 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 and the media
that kidnapping, robbery, carjacking, and assault are not about proper-

   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 not to 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 na-
tion 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 2 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

   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 violence.

   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 that 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 employ 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 propo-
sals 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. Some-
thing else is at work here.

                             The Tyranny of the Elite

   Gun control is a moral crusade against a benighted, barbaric citizen-
ry. 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

   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 finger-
prints, 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
still qualifies.

   Passage of this legislation was vehemently opposed by HCI and the me-
dia. 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 im-
mediate 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 l/lOOth 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
carry firearms.

   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 I 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 consti-
tutional 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 higher.

                                 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 recog-
nize 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

                                  Polite Society

   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 vio-
lent 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 fundamen-
tal, 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 ins-
trument 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 majority 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, vio-
lent 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.

Copyright Family Guardian Fellowship

Last revision: March 29, 2009 09:28 AM
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