I was recently asked to write an article which would be of interest to people who cherish the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution says, “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Few people have more experience talking to others who cherish the 2nd Amendment than me. I am the only attorney who is regularly invited to speak to groups of people in Arizona who attend the huge Crossroads of the West gun shows about their rights and responsibilities as firearms owners. Indeed, I enjoy talking to people who cherish the 2nd Amendment, and I acknowledge, agree and respect the rights of free and responsible adults to acquire, possess and sell whatever weapons they peacefully obtain. I am far more concerned about the government bearing arms than I am about responsible citizens bearing arms.
However, I often wonder if the people who cherish the 2nd Amendment also cherish freedom. They are not the same concepts. Like everything else in the Constitution, the 2nd Amendment is subject to interpretation. Until the year 2008, it was a subject of much debate whether the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right to bear arms or a “collective right” to allow the states to organize a national guard. Incidentally, I have no understanding of what a “collective right” is, and I suspect neither would any of the drafters of the Constitution. Although the United States Supreme Court determined an individual right is indeed protected, I wonder if those same 2nd Amendment cherishers would have such warm feelings towards the 2nd Amendment had the Supreme Court sided with the collectivists? Moreover, recent cases have already proven that there is no doubt the lower courts will now march toward restricting such individual right as they have with all other individual rights “protected” by the Constitution.
The 2nd Amendment, as with everything else in the Constitution, is subject to interpretation, limitation, expansion, or virtual nullification by those nine political appointees on the United States Supreme Court. How many of your rights are protected by the Contracts Clause or the Privileges and Immunities Clauses or the 9th Amendment? With a different group of nine political appointees, those could have been important sections of the Constitution in terms of protecting freedom. Of course, the 2nd Amendment could be repealed. I suspect many people would not be inclined to turn their firearms into the government for want of a right to bear arms.
I admit there is no escape from the necessity of interpreting written words. Our language and thoughts are not precise enough for perfect communication. However, we should recognize and admit the 2nd Amendment, as well as the rest of the Constitution, is merely a collection of words written on paper. By themselves, they have no power to do anything at all. The mindset of the people interpreting and enforcing those words is what matters.
I would much prefer to live among liberty minded people without any constitution or written laws whatsoever than big government loving busy bodies who live pursuant to a written constitution which grants them rights to do whatever the government deems appropriate. There is no substitute for liberty minded people, and nothing else whatsoever can preserve liberty; not the words of the 2nd Amendment or the Constitution or the congress or your favorite politician; nothing. Freedom is either respected by your neighbors or it is not. No words can get the job done.
Whether a person cherishes the 2nd Amendment is of little importance to me. I am more interested in knowing what respect, if any, they accord to the rights of others to control their bodies, their money, their property and their time. There are endless arguments, restrictions, interpretations, and outright lies anti-freedom inclined people will advance in attempts to impose their will on others.
As an example, some people, with agendas to ban firearms, argue firearms are responsible for much of the horrible violence in our society. However, as research has shown, a greater number of guns in a community does not equate to more violence. Indeed, the opposite is true as has been pointed out by John R. Lott Jr. in his book More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. Nonetheless, as a consequence of the erroneous “firearms cause violence” assertion, many people will support laws from registration and licensing to outright bans on firearms.
Always ignored within the “guns cause violence” crowd, is the reality that anti-freedom government policies, not guns, are the root cause of the violence in question. Government policies which restrict freedom result in black markets where disputes are not settled peacefully in court but rather violently in streets. If a pro-freedom policy was adopted regarding drugs, the horrible drug cartel related violence, which always involves firearms, would be more akin to the peaceful purchase and sale of alcohol. I never hear about the Budweiser guy and the Miller guy breaking into violence in the streets. I suspect they don’t even carry guns. In any event, the gun is not responsible for the violence.
There are undoubtedly bad and violent people in the world who cannot be dissuaded, under any circumstances, from violence involving firearms, knives, bats, fists, whatever. However, nothing creates and nurtures a culture of violence and conflict like anti-freedom government policies.
We will not have peace in our world unless and until people realize freedom is a necessary prerequisite for peace. We should not be surprised trespassing on the rights of others often results in violence. The fact firearms are used to effectuate violence is not evidence firearms are bad. Firearms are neutral. Firearms are mere tools.
Likewise, the 2nd Amendment is neutral. It is also a mere tool. Those words can be used by freedom inclined people to protect liberties. They can also be used by people who seek to restrict liberty, forcefully impose their views on others and cause conflict. Although I cherish freedom, and all the concepts which are necessary to a free and peaceful society, I do not cherish the 2nd Amendment or any other collection of mere words.
September 12, 2011
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