|Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.|
by Vin Suprynowicz
JULY 9, 2000
I don't know if they're the two biggest lies told by the victim disarmament gang, but they're easily the most threadbare, climbing out of their graves over and over to spread their stench like rotting vampires that have been killed but never properly staked.
First, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore and others of his ilk keep insisting the reason we need "mandatory child safety trigger locks" is to substantially stop the "12 children killed by firearms every day in America."
Let's give a tip of the hat to historian Clayton E. Cramer (writing in the July 1 edition of Shotgun News) for going directly to the web site of the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/nchs/datawh/statab/unpubd/mortabs/gmwki.htm — search under ICD 922.0) and looking up the actual number of American children under the age of 15 who are killed in handgun accidents each year.
For 1997, that number was 21 — down from a high of 55 in 1990.
No, that's not a typo. Twenty-one children dead in handgun accidents in the whole of America in the entire year 1997.
Now, those are sad incidents. But compare them to the number of Jewish and Gypsy children who died in Europe — not as collateral casualties of war but at the hands of "legitimate" governments — in each of the years 1939 through 1945, because their parents allowed themselves to be disarmed under "gun control" laws which never disarm government police or other criminals.
Government-mandated airbags seriously injure more children than die in handgun accidents. Lightning and amusement park accidents and drowning in mop buckets beat out handguns in causing accidental deaths of children under 15. So why the national hysteria — and more importantly, where do Mr. Gore and the "gun control" gang come up with that "12-a-day" statistic?
They get to "12 a day" by adding in all deaths of "children" up through the age of 19 which are firearm related, including suicides, 18- and 19-year old drug gangsters shooting each other in disputes over drug distribution turf, and even 19-year-old "children" righteously shot dead by cops or law-abiding citizens while in the act of committing rapes, murders, and armed robberies.
The question I'd like to hear someone stand up and ask candidate Gore (assuming we still had a system in which real citizens could ask unscreened questions of our candidates, of course) is: "Mr. Vice President, I was the victim of a sexual assault, but I managed to get to my nightstand and get my dad's old Smith and shoot my assailant after he'd blackened both my eyes and broken my jaw. You say mandatory trigger locks would stop 12 child gunshot deaths every day — I assume you're leading up to a law that would require those locks to be in place all the time.
"But the CDC says that in order to get to that number, you're including in the so-called 'children' in your statistic 18- and 19-year-olds righteously shot while committing rapes and other serious crimes. Is the death of my 19-year-old assailant one of the 'child gunshot deaths' you want to prevent? Is it your plan to require my gun to be locked up in such a way that I won't be able to use it to defend myself the next time a 19-year-old thug decides to break into my house and try to rape me? Are you saying it's 'safer' for me to be beaten and raped than for me to have an unlocked gun to defend myself?"
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The second most threadbare and putrescent "gun control" lie is that those of us who want to maintain the great American tradition of a populace armed and thus free, consistently misquote and misunderstand the Second Amendment.
(For the record, by the way, the Bill of Rights only acknowledges pre-existing human rights — these rights would not disappear even if the populace were foolish enough to attempt a repeal.)
Anyway: As this argument goes, we gun nuts insist on quoting only the second clause of the amendment: "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," while purposely dropping and ignoring the introductory clause, "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, ..."
What this introductory clause proves is that the Founding Fathers didn't want each and every law-abiding American to continue owning firearms of military usefulness, the victim disarmament gang patronizingly explains. Instead, it proves that Americans were meant to retain a right to carry firearms only when they're actively on duty in the regular army or the National Guard.
Don't laugh — this bizarre reading was actually offered up with a straight face by U.S. Attorney William B. Mateja in oral arguments before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month in the case of U.S. vs. physician Timothy Joe Emerson, a Texan charged with illegally possessing a firearm because his wife had filed a routine restraining order against him during his divorce proceedings.
(A federal grand jury indicted Dr. Emerson, who was "greatly surprised" to learn he may have violated any law, but the case never got to trial. In April, U.S. District Court Judge Sam Cummings in Lubbock properly found that the law denying guns to those under a restraining order was an unconstitutional infringement of the "individual right to bear arms." The federal law, Judge Cummings wrote, "is unconstitutional because it allows a state court divorce proceeding, without particularized findings of the threat of future violence, to automatically deprive a citizen of his Second Amendment rights.")
On the bright side, the three judges hearing the appeal in New Orleans could barely conceal their incredulousness when the U.S. attorney told them yes, even the shotguns at home in the judges' closets could be outlawed with a flick of the wrist, since they weren't using them in the course of their National Guard duties — see www.saf.org/EmersonViewOptions.html.
Now, Congress enacted the law which gave birth to the American "National Guard" as we know it in the year 1917, partially in horror at the demonstrated effectiveness of citizen militias in giving hives to the central authorities in Mexico in the recent revolution there, and during that same decade of hideous "progressivism" which brought us the personal income tax, the Federal Reserve Board, alcohol Prohibition, and the beginnings of our delightful and long-running Drug War via the Harrison Narcotics Act.
That the Founding Fathers gathered together in 1789, peered into their crystal ball, and wrote a Second Amendment which meant the word "militia" to be read in light of a statist ordinance which wouldn't even be written until the First World War would require a bit of a leap of faith, even if we didn't have Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, who drafted the Second Amendment along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, on the record advising us (in 1788): "A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves. ... All regulations tending to render this militia useless and defenseless, by establishing select corps of militia or distinct bodies of military men not having permanent interests and attachments in the community (are) to be avoided. ... To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
I, and others deluded into believing we were engaged in a rational discussion, where facts and evidence might count for something, have offered up reams of documented statements from the Founding Fathers that "no free man is to be debarred the use of arms" (Thomas Jefferson's proposed draft for the Virginia constitution) and that "The main thing is that every man be armed — everyone who is able must have a gun" (Patrick Henry, 1788), etc.
But the other side just keeps croaking out their memorized little chant about "ignoring the first clause."
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So imagine the interest with which I received last week from Yale University Press a copy of the weighty and definitive new 400-page tome of history and analysis, "The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction," by that leading constitutional scholar, current Southmayd Professor of Law at Yale University, Akhil Reed Amar.
For those who have been in a cave for some little time, let me point out that the law school at Yale is not what we would call a nest of right-wing militia activism. In fact, I don't think it would be unfair to characterize professor Amar's politics as leaning somewhat to the left.
Yet how does professor Amar deal with the "You forgot the first clause, nyah nyah nyah" argument?
Beginning on page 51, he explains: "Several modern scholars have read the (second) amendment as protecting only arms bearing in organized 'state militias,' like SWAT teams and National Guard units. ...
"This reading doesn't quite work. The states'-rights reading puts great weight on the word militia, but the word appears only in the amendment's subordinate clause. The ultimate right to keep and bear arms belongs to "the people," not the states. As the language of the Tenth Amendment shows, these two are of course not identical: when the Constitution means 'states,' it says so.
"Thus, as noted above, 'the people' at the core of the Second Amendment are the same people at the heart of the Preamble and the First Amendment. Elbridge Gerry put the point nicely in the First Congress, in language that closely tracked the populist concern about governmental self-dealing at the root of earlier amendments: 'This declaration of rights, I take it, is intended to secure the people against the mal-administration of the Government.'
"What's more, the 'militia,' as used in the amendment and in clause 16, had a very different meaning two hundred years ago than in ordinary conversation today. Nowadays, it is quite common to speak loosely of the National Guard as the 'state militia,' but two hundred years ago, any band of paid, semiprofessional, part-time volunteers, like today's Guard, would have been called "a select corps" or " select militia" — and viewed in many quarters as little better than a standing army.
"In 1789, when used without any qualifying adjective, 'the militia' referred to all citizens capable of bearing arms. The seeming tension between the dependent and the main clauses of the Second Amendment thus evaporates on closer inspection — the "militia" is identical to "the people" in the core sense described above. Indeed, the version of the amendment that initially passed the House, only to be stylistically shortened in the Senate, explicitly defined the militia as 'composed of the body of the People.' This is clearly the sense in which ' the militia' is used in clause 16 and throughout The Federalist, in keeping with standard usage confirmed by contemporaneous dictionaries, legal and otherwise. As Tench Coxe wrote in a 1788 Pennsylvania essay, 'Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves?' "
Thus endeth today's reading from professor Amar.
A word of advice to those who would deprive law-abiding Americans of their historical and unalienable right (not a "privilege" subject to license or permit or registration or taxation — or do you propose to start having Americans apply for "Freedom of Religion permits" and "Freedom of Speech licenses"?) to keep at home and carry in their cars weapons of military usefulness, including belt-fed machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and shoulder-launched, heat-seeking missiles:
Get yourself some new lies; the old ones are wearing thin.
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the
Las Vegas Review-Journal.
9 jul 2000