Trigger Issues | Letters | Chicago Reader

Trigger Issues 

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Let me thank Michael Miner for injecting into the gun debate at least a little common sense, historical perspective, and even truth--things so rarely seen in the mainstream press coverage (Hot Type, May 7).

Still, he got a few things wrong--which is no surprise: the Clinton-era phenomenon of school massacres is making rational discussion of guns increasingly difficult, and the antigun propaganda is reaching blizzard proportions. So I don't blame Mr. Miner for getting a little lost in the whiteout.

He was correct in pointing out the obvious: the First and Second Amendments stand or fall together. Those who claim they would spill their blood to protect the former should be willing to do the same for the latter.

Firearms have a long, noble history in this country. The antigun movement, in contrast, is of relatively recent and disreputable origin: its roots lie in Nazism, "liberal" state-supremacist ideology, and the crime explosion of the last 35 years or so--an explosion fueled largely by the policies of the very same hypocrites who are now howling for gun bans and trying to strike it rich suing gun makers. The antigun rhetoric serves as a convenient diversion from their colossal failure (refusal?) to do anything about crime. (The Clinton administration's hypocrisy in calling for more and more draconian measures, while failing to enforce and prosecute those already on the books, has been well exposed.)

Johann von Goethe observed that "there is nothing more terrifying than ignorance in action." The antigun movement thrives on ignorance: that of the yuppies and cultural elite--especially journalists--who inhabit places like New York, Washington, LA, and yes, Chicago. By and large, they are ignorant of history (thanks to the government school system and the Marxist reeducation camps advertised as "universities") and they don't know the first thing about guns except what they see in action movies and TV news, where "if it bleeds, it leads."

They don't know that someone prevents a crime with the help of a handgun every 48 seconds, according to data from a poll financed by the antigun lobby. Good news isn't news, or so goes the theory--so we never hear about the lives saved. And the ignorance continues.

It is augmented by a cultural snobbery and bigotry against small-town and rural America, the major strongholds of (gasp--white male!) gun owners, who are scorned by the cosmopolitan elite as intellectually, culturally, and morally backward. But for all the contempt directed at them, they're not responsible for our crime problem.

What is so perverse--even criminal--about gun control in its extreme forms is that it's the lazy, unprincipled politician's dream (railing against guns lets them off the hook from doing anything real); it denies the fundamental human right to self-defense; it undermines justice by transferring responsibility from people to inanimate objects; and it only disarms the law abiding, not the lawbreakers--who can get guns anywhere, anytime regardless of the law. Despite the 20,000 local, state, and federal gun-control statutes already on the books--including many outright bans--we have seen a drastic net increase in crime in recent decades, not a decrease. Why?

Here's another one to chew on: why weren't school massacres happening 50 years ago, when guns were much more common and gun-control laws almost nonexistent?

Syndicated columnist Charles Reese pointed out on May 18 that "for the majority of America's history, guns were as common in an American household as a broom or cooking pot....I received my Daisy BB gun at age five, and I shot it unsupervised. I received a .22 caliber rifle for my eighth birthday, and I already possessed my own pistol, a .380 semiautomatic, which had been given to me by my brother-in-law, who had fought at Normandy. It was among a duffel bag full of pistols he brought back from the war. American soldiers brought home all kinds of enemy weapons--pistols, rifles, true-assault rifles, submachine guns."

Both of my grandfathers, who enjoyed hunting and occasionally put food on the table that way, kept rifles in the house, as did many readers' parents or grandparents.

Of course, as long as there have been guns, there have been occasional accidents--as with automobiles, knives, electrical appliances, and just about any other potentially dangerous tool in the hands of incompetent users. But until very recently, there were no murderous teen gangbangers or small-town school massacres.

Consider the example of Switzerland--a veritable symbol of peace and neutrality. According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center Web site, "The superbly trained Swiss militia was composed of every able-bodied Swiss man, aged 20-60. Every militia man kept his uniform, personal weapon and ammunition at home."

Columnist Walter Williams wrote in 1995, "Among the six million Swiss, there are an estimated two million guns, including 600,000 fully automatic assault rifles, and their murder rate is 15 percent of ours." Recently the militia was reduced in number, but it still operates.

Denmark, Norway, and Sweden also have a form of the militia or "home guard" system, which may help explain their enviably low crime rates in comparison to ours.

Proven beyond a shadow of a doubt: the mere presence of guns does not cause psychotic murder sprees, as the propagandists would have you believe; if anything, it prevents them.

Mr. Miner left some questions unanswered, implying they were open to interpretation--which they are not. The "well regulated militia," for example. The most basic research will show that the militia is the people, intended to counterbalance excessive government force. Patrick Henry stated, "The militia, sir, is our ultimate safety....The great object is that every man be armed....

Everyone who is able may have a gun."

George Mason of Virginia said, "Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers." The armed populace should be "well regulated"--meaning well organized, not government controlled.

I also was disturbed by Mr. Miner's claim that the Constitution is a "sacred text...full of meanings that need to be divined." To put it politely, that is one of the biggest cow pies that the socialists have ever dumped on us. It's essentially a pretext for twisting the Constitution to their own agenda.

The Constitution is not some arcane cult text; it is a legal document. It is not fathomable only by an elite priesthood with the right secret codes, handshakes, and esoteric knowledge. The framers wrote it to be read literally and understood by the common man. The context, where unclear, should be "divined" by consulting reliable historical records, especially those of the Constitutional Convention itself--no tea leaves or chicken entrails are needed.

"The present Second Amendment is old and incoherent and discredited," Mr. Miner opined. Old? Well, yeah, as old as the rest of the Bill of Rights. Incoherent? Only to those who don't bother to learn history and are confused by the obfuscatory smoke screen, the torrent of lies and propaganda pouring forth from antifreedom interests. Discredited? Nonsense. It is still there and still as viable and necessary as ever--no, more necessary.

"Americans who pray each morning that the Second Amendment was last night's bad dream"? Perhaps they ought to start shopping around for friendlier accommodations, beginning with Red China, Cuba, and maybe even Saddam's socialist regime. The pseudo-America they imagine is closer to the former Soviet Union than to the republic envisioned in our founding documents.

Especially troubling was this flippant remark, "It might be possible to write a coherent new amendment that strikes a balance, one that lets adults put their hands on certain arms but not easily, doesn't confuse the free trade of arms with God-given rights, and doesn't tolerate carnage as the price of liberty."

I don't know where to start--the whole sentence, from beginning to end, is founded on outrageously flawed and dangerous assumptions:

1. That the Second Amendment is "incoherent" and "unbalanced" (it is not).

2. That the right to have and trade arms is not God-given--which it is, as much as the right to live, eat, breathe, speak, and all the other "unenumerated rights" alluded to in the Constitution. Of the guiding philosophy behind the Constitution, John Adams stated, "You have rights antecedent to all earthly governments, rights that cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe."

3. That it is the government's prerogative to "let" adults have weapons. A fundamental principle of the Constitution is that we, the people, let the government have very limited powers to do its job--not that the government mercifully deigns to let us have a few rights. We are the masters and government the servant--not vice versa. Of course, the government schools don't teach that either.

4. Carnage the price of liberty? To the contrary, history shows carnage and crime are the price of giving up liberty. Thomas Jefferson, in his "Commonplace Book," quoted criminologist Cesare Beccaria: "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes....Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."

Duh.

In the decade after Chicago imposed its handgun ban in 1983, the rate of handgun-related homicides doubled. In contrast, states that have relaxed their concealed-carry laws have actually seen violent crimes drop. After legalizing concealed carry in 1987, Florida's homicide rate dropped 21 percent while the U.S. rate rose 12 percent, according to 1992 FBI statistics. The examples go on and on.

In addition to that, the biggest killers in history have been governments, and the biggest victims have been their own subjects. Every dictator knows disarming the citizenry is a prerequisite to controlling them--or eliminating them. It was for good reason Jefferson said, "Never trust a government that does not trust its own citizens with guns."

When the Nazis came to power, they took advantage of the previous regime's "moderate, sensible" gun- registration records to go around confiscating firearms. Who knows how many Jews and others would have escaped but for those antigun measures? (I especially cannot fathom why any Jew would support gun control.)

The Nazi gun laws, not surprisingly, became the foundation of U.S. gun laws, as shown by Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership (www.jpfo.org), a group previously featured in the Reader ["Arming the Tribe," May 2, 1997; Caught in the Net, June 11].

The foxes in charge of this henhouse are wittingly or unwittingly following in the Nazis' goose steps. They are determined to give government a monopoly on force and so turn the founders' guiding philosophy--not to mention the Constitution--on its head. The surreptitious manner in which they are doing it, one slice at a time, makes it all the more insidious and dangerous. The manner in which they are exploiting tragedies such as Littleton is contemptible.

What creates unstable, amoral kids capable of bombing and shooting up their school? How about the moral and spiritual decay in postmodern America--a decay that has been feverishly promoted by some of the very same types now crying for gun control? The Ten Commandments, of course, are banned from the government schools (wouldn't want kids to be irreversibly traumatized by reading "Thou shalt not kill").

What about divorce and broken homes? What about media and video-game violence (which has a direct link to the Littleton massacre)? What about the drugging of the nation's kids with Prozac and other agents that have been linked to violence (another Littleton connection)? One thing is clear: Guns are not the problem, and any attempt to frame them as the problem and to frame the nation's 60-65 million gun owners (in media speak, "the gun lobby") as the scapegoats ought to be held in deep suspicion. As Patrick Henry said at Virginia's U.S. Constitution ratification convention, "Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel."

The political panic peddlers who would would sieze that gleaming jewel ought to be feared more than the common criminals whom their gun-control rhetoric shelters. That's not at all an unreasonable statement. For if the Constitution is the highest law in this land, to subvert it is the highest crime.

If you support gun control, just remember: Freedom Is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength, and Gun Control Is for Your Own Good.

David Harrell

Flossmoor

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