Friday, December 19, 2008

The Salad Bar of Rights: We don't get to pick and choose

It is a common flaw in gun control rhetoric that somehow the Second Amendment is about hunting rights. The Second Amendment and the Oregon Constitution do not say that there is a “right to keep and bear sporting goods.” The primary purpose of these constitutional provisions is to protect citizens from tyranny — not to preserve a right to shoot deer.

And don’t forget that Oregon Constitution affords its citizens broader protections than the Second Amendment and specifically covers self-defense.

Gun control advocates are often quick to point out that there are more than 30,000 people shot to death each year in this country. However, they routinely neglect to point out how many of those deaths were in self defense or by criminals against an unarmed victim. Additionally, their usual statistics never take into account how many crimes are deterred and deaths prevented by citizens with firearms.

In the last 100 years, governments have murdered millions more people than were killed by common criminals. More importantly, those government-sponsored murders were preceded by gun control laws making the citizenry easier to control and kill when they were unable to resist.

It is amazing how quickly we forget the gun control laws of the Soviet Union, Nationalist China, Nazi Germany, Communist China and the Khmer Rouge that preceded their killing of more than 60 million people. And that still leaves us to ponder the gun control legislation that preceded the death of the one million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turkey, or the indigenous peoples and other political enemies killed at the hands of Guatemala or genocide at the hands of government in Rwanda and Uganda.

Our Founding Fathers knew the threat of a government to its people, hence the Second Amendment. History has unfortunately reaffirmed this lesson again and again.

We do not get to pick and choose which constitutionally guaranteed rights we will support like we are at a salad bar of rights. It is disingenuous to complain about the neo-cons stepping on our civil liberties (First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments) — by their dispersing lawful assemblies, illegal wiretaps, deprivation of the right to counsel, torture, etc. — but completely ignore what the Framers found so important of a right that they listed it #2. We should protect all of our civil rights, including the right to keep and bear arms.

C. Michael Arnold,
Attorney at Law
Eugene, Oregon


Zak Johnson said...

I agree entirely, Mike. This is why I am continuously dismayed when people talk about disarming "urban" dwellers or that we need special controls on "urban" gun ownership. What they are actually advocating, perhaps unintentionally but still, is disarming minorities. As you point out, we've seen ample examples of how that turns out in the long run. "It" CAN happen here or anywhere; all it takes is a disarmed population.

EthanPDX said...

I totally agree. After the last 8 years, I would hope that Americans of all political stripes would reaffirm our commitment to ALL of our Rights. With a President-Elect who is a Constitutional scholar, for me, the expectation for this to happen is very high indeed.

There will always be a compelling case to ignore or creatively re-define our rights in the pursuit of some laudable aim, but it is a very slippery slope. We have now seen how the blowback from torture, privacy erosion, and denial of due process has damaged our world standing and reputation. Whatever intelligence was gleaned from these ill-advised actions is now being paid for with interest. The same is true of willfully eroding gun rights.

We had a drive-by shooting in our neighborhood a couple of weeks ago, all of my neighbors were understandably on edge. I get why many gun activists want to do whatever they can to keep guns out of the hands of gangs, youth, criminals etc. No doubt many of them have had their families touched by violence.

Unfortunately, no incident of gun violence invalidates why the 2nd amendment was included in the Bill of Rights, nor can it justify prohibitions which, by and large, really only impact law-abiding citizens. Gun control activists seem unwilling to just sit down and read the fairly plain language in our Constitution. I have always maintained, that if gun rights need to be abridged, then amending the Constitution is the established method, not subterfuge and end-runs.

I am also rather taken with the idea that the 2nd Amendment was intended to preclude the federal government from maintaining a huge standing army. After seeing the disasterous adventures of a naive President with access to such a military, I come away with a renewed sense that this important article does indeed have application in today's world, far more than most people realize. Now that we have a large federal army, the other half of the 2nd Amendment, protecting citizens from tyranny, is much more important than it was in the days of the country's founding.

Richard E. Goche said...

The food reference in the title of your article reminds me of a recent letter I got from a friend. The message refered to a program that proposes that people trade in their guns for food. I find several things distrubing about this.
Firstly, that things can be so desperate for people, they would need food so badly, they would consider such a trade.
Second, that some one would propose such a concept as proper.
To me it smacks of the same sort of big picture manipulation of the masses that has made the economy such that, for many of our youth, the only path out of poverty is through the military.
I agree with EthanPDX in the hope Obama will, with our help, protect our constitution.