Tragic shootings bring up the questions of gun control and the right to keep and bear arms. We pay a high price for the right to keep and bear arms. Periodic senseless shootings by insane people are part of the steep cost. On a historical basis, keeping arms out of the hands of crazy people is very difficult to do. Within the Second Amendment, Congress and the States may regulate the people who exercise their right to keep and bear arms. This regulation is no impingement on the Second Amendment, but an integral part written into the very words of the Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Many in America have a tendency to take our freedom for granted. With the assumption of freedom, guns can more easily be characterized as luxury items for hunting and target shooting. The harsh reality is that firearms within the meaning of the Second Amendment have always been intended as weapons to use against other humans if necessary
. Many gun control advocates interpret the word “Militia”
to mean the National Guard or a similar government-sponsored military force. In 1792, Congress defined it as “each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years…”. Thus, with exceptions and changes, including Emancipation of African Americans, the U.S. militia has always included the entire male citizen population best able to fight for their country. Those with military experience remain members of the militia until age 64.
When we take our freedom for granted, we forget that tyrannies invariably restrict weapon possession to those favored by the tyrant. When the Romans were conquered by Goths, the barbarians prohibited Romans from possessing anything larger than a kitchen knife. A famous 1940 newsreel shows a German soldier pasting a public notice requiring all French citizens to turn in their firearms. The escape plans of slave laborers under Nazi rule included obtaining one or more guns. When Gorbachev attempted to exert control over Lithuania, he ordered the Lithuanians to turn in all of their hunting weapons. Without exception, free people must be prepared to fight for their freedom with weapons, and this includes enemies both foreign and domestic. The police who arrested the Aurora, Colorado shooter were prepared.
Firearm ownership is demonstrably linked to the level of freedom possessed by domestic minorities. Some gun control advocates point to European democracies such as Britain for evidence that gun ownership can be prohibited without jeopardizing freedom. But Britain’s 1689 Bill of Rights
stated the right in connection with discrimination against Catholics and with a class bias: “That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.” As stated above, the U.S. initially limited arms to whites. Both countries eventually emancipated their domestic minorities, and the link between arms and freedom is unmistakable.
What we need is a better way to discriminate against crazy people possessing firearms. Maybe dangerous insane people should be registered, monitored better or tattooed. More research would undoubtedly help. But before we focus exclusively on the mentally ill population and its possession of weapons, we should remember the crazy people who obtained absolute power over entire nations, armies and navies: Caligula, Ivan the Terrible, Stalin, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, etc. Those are some tyrants with demonstrable mental illness; the list of all bad dictators is far greater. Whatever we decide to do in the wake of senseless shootings, let’s keep the big picture in mind.