Upon the Ballot Box hangs our future well being and prosperity.
I write this in the aftermath of the recent brave action by the Sergeant of Arms of the Canadian Parliament, whom having heard the sound of gunfire, charged valiantly into battle – and prevailed; and here in the United States, following yet another tragic school shooting. I fear either or both of these actions will renew the cry for more restrictive firearms laws. Now is a time of elections in the United States and once again the Ballot Box affords a peaceful way to change our representatives – and with them, their philosophy of government. This is an opportunity and high obligation too many casually disregard. I fear the times of peaceful change may become fleeting in the future. But today, today we still have the opportunity for peaceful change.
Friends, the world has always been a dangerous place. I am reminded of a carving over the portcullis of a MacDonald castle in Scotland. “Be Ye Vigilant,” it proclaimed to all leaving the safety of strong walls. Words to live by. Governments today have more capabilities for the repression of their citizens than at any other time in history. In the last century we have seen too many horrible examples of repressive government. Thanks to our so-called Patriot Act, a Patriot may now be held incommunicado with redress via Habeas Corpus in suspense. The times in which we are living are perilous both to the individual and to our Republic. “These,” are once again are “the days that try men’s souls,” days of uncertainty, days unseen since the times of our Revolution and Civil War.
All governments, no matter how well intentioned tend to accumulate power. Because of the insight and sacrifice of our forefathers, we are blessed with a largely benign Representative form of government that by purposeful design is intended to serve the governed. This was a radical form of government that appeared on the world’s stage, this government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The Framers were wise men and provisioned the new government with both the means of change through amendment and the means for its annihilation. Because this is a government “of the people,” ultimate power was gathered literally in the arms of the governed, which power was then further elucidated by the Second Amendment.
Tyranny, not war was the biggest killer of the 20th century. Yes, government is more dangerous to your health than war. Chairman’s Mao’s great leap forward, Stalin’s purges, and the likes of mad man Pol Pot killing everyone who wore glasses because by so doing, they must be intellectual, these and other bad governments murdered and murdered and murdered. War managed to kill it’s 36 million dead, dead, dead, but Tyranny alone trumped war by killing an estimated 119 million (Lethal Politics, New Brunswick Transaction, Pub 1990).
Tyranny is the casus belli for revolution. Tyranny is to be feared more than war between nations because tyranny results in armed government making war on its own citizenry. History tells us tyranny must be stopped early, regardless of price. Tyranny must be stopped cold because it will continue to exact higher and higher prices. Worse, tyrannical governments quickly take steps to make resistance much more difficult if not impossible [by the confiscation of firearms].
Tyranny owes its existence to people who can not or will not muster, both the will and the sacrifice necessary to cast off bad government. In previous posts, I have used the example of the twin cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, two cities separated by a river but occupying largely identical geography with same natural endowment. One city bustles with commerce engendered by good government operating under rule of law. Violence is a way of life in the other city, violence engendered by drug cartels, la mordita, and the legacy of Code Napoleon. People flee from one city to the other and our generous people have largely opened their arms in welcome. But what kind of citizen are we receiving from Mexico? One that refuses to learn English, one that refuses to throw off tyranny? A democrat in the making of course, with hand outstretched, many all too willing to live off of the largess and sacrifice of others.
Government officials with their armies and navies are always numerically inferior to the governed population. As a result, tyrannical rule can only exist by consent of the governed. Post WWII Jews recognized this and more than several lamented, ‘only if we had met the Nazi with clubs and staves.’ Better yet I say, better yet if the Nazi was met from a distance by the combined fire of a thousand rifles. Of course the governed are usually quickly stripped of any armed means to resist. Specifically, private ownership of firearms is eliminated, perhaps not all at once, but insidiously usually beginning with a scheme to register. Once registered, then it is an easy matter to confiscate. Ever wonder about Boxer and Berdan primers? The latter are used throughout Europe and the Orient, whereas the Boxer primer is used in cartridges intended for the United States. Boxer primed cartridges are easily reloaded; Berdan primed cartridges can be reloaded but it is difficult. This is nothing less than one more government scheme to control access to ammunition.
Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi famously issued the following edict: “The people of the various provinces are strictly forbidden to have in their possession any swords, short swords, bows, spears, firearms, or other types of arms.” Because he went on to explain, “The possession of unnecessary implements makes difficult the collection of taxes and tends to foment rebellion.” Pacifist Ghandi wrote, “Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, the blackest.” George Orwell, a prescient who saw far in the future, once wrote: “The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot give the factory worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. That rifle hanging on the wall of the working class flat or laborer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.” No less a patriot than George Washington who certainly understood tyranny, remarked, “Firearms stand next to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence. The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that is good.”
Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership report that a victim people are always first disarmed. Disarmament happened in Turkey, the Soviet Union, in the Weimar Republic, in Communist China, Uganda, and in Cambodia. Genocide so often followed disarmament in the 20th century that one can make the generalization that confiscation of firearms is itself a prelude to genocide. Interestingly enough, the Afghan Penal Code of 1976 had only one provision against ownership of firearms, and that was by criminals. Other than this one law, ownership of firearms was unrestricted. An indomitable will to resist tyranny coupled with the ownership of firearms permitted this people to withstand all of the armed forces of the Soviet Bear.
Our Declaration of Independence contains these proud words:
“When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.” Furthermore, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
So we might ask, when is armed insurrection morally justified? Political philosopher John Locke wrote, “ Whenever the legislators endeavor to take away and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any further obedience.” In Federalist #28, Alexander Hamilton wrote, “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no resource left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government.”
The Catholic Church believes armed resistance to oppressive government is moral when the following conditions are met:
1. There is certain, grave, and prolonged violation of fundamental rights.
2. All other means of redress have been exhausted.
3. Such resistance will not provoke worse disorders.
4. There is a well-founded hope of success.
5. It is impossible reasonably to foresee any better solution.
A Just War doctrine emerged during the last century. This doctrine is bifurcated with one part addressing when war is justified and the other with justifiable actions by the revolutionary in the course of open conflict. Under this doctrine, recourse to war is permissible when there is:
1. Just cause
2. Comparative justice
3. Right intention
4. Last resort
5. Probability of success
6. Proportionality, and
7. Competent authority
Conduct of the revolutionary under the Just War doctrine must be both discriminatory and proportional.
The Declaration of Independence set forth the conditions of JUST CAUSE for the Revolutionary War. Based upon the long history of weapon confiscation being followed by repressive and often genocidal governments, JUST CAUSE is satisfied whenever a government attempts to disarm its citizens. Unfortunately there might not be a sharply defining trigger such as outright confiscation. The Weimar Republic gradually stripped the Jewish people of their rights. First there would be a repressive measure, then an easing just enough for the people to conclude things were getting better, followed by increasing repression and then another slacking, ultimately ending up with Concentration Camps and Gas Chambers. The belief that things were getting better while all along they were getting worse, kept many Jews from revolt and/or fleeing Nazi Germany.
One should never forget that firearm confiscation although perhaps initiated by a benign government, does not mean that that government is invariant. Indeed, that benign government may someday morph into the most repressive of governments. Any scheme by any government to register firearms should be viewed as a prelude to confiscation. Registration itself then becomes that line in the sand that separates the free man from the slave. Registration and certainly confiscation amounts to JUST CAUSE!
COMPARATIVE JUSTICE means that the revolting party must be composed of something more than a group of lawless pirates. The revolting party must occupy the moral high ground. Comparative Justice excludes competitive but equally bad political entities foisting their own brand of repression. COMPARATIVE JUSTICE can be meted out only by honorable citizens, of honorable intent, acting upon JUST CAUSE.
RIGHT INTENTION means that honorable citizens inciting rebellion because of JUST CAUSE must be seeking a just peace and not simply revenge or booty. Actions that sow discord among citizens must be avoided and such actions certainly include acts of vengeance. The leaders of a revolution carry a heavy burden to ensure a just victory, one in which the newly established order is better than the one overthrown.
LAST RESORT implies that reasonable and peaceful means to change the repressive government have been exhausted without relief or redress. Once a government initiates war on its citizens, LAST RESORT has been satisfied.
PROBABILITY OF SUCCESS indicates the revolutionary has some hope of prevailing against even a more powerful repressive regime. Speaking as a native Texan, this does not mean I believe Davy Crockett and the other Texicans should have surrendered the Alamo to Santa Ana’s numerically superior force. There will always be a place in war for the valiant stand. Co-commanders Bowie and Travis (may their names always be remembered in honor) had reason to hope for reinforcement and indeed the number of defenders of the Alamo had gradually increased. However hopeful its defenders may have been, the Alamo fell. Mexican troops later encountering Sam Houston’s’ hearty men at the Battle of San Jacinto cried out in fear and hoping for mercy, “Me no Alamo, me no Goliad” (in response to atrocities committed by Santa Ana’s troops during the battles of the Alamo and Goliad). Spartan King Leonidas would certainly testify that a lost cause well fought can sometime gender support for a larger theater of war.
PORPORTIONALITY means that the revolutionary must compare the damage done by his war against oppression with the damage that will result if no war issues. We can look to Lincoln and our own Civil War to understand how troubling this may be. The revolutionary must never loose sight of the suffering that a loss of civil rights and resultant lack of freedom will cause.
COMPETENT AUTHORITY means that the revolution must be declared by a public authority with the legal means to do so. So you might ask, who can call the people to revolt? I respond, from whence came Jefferson Davis, John Brown, and Patrick Henry? Armed resistance to tyranny is justified by understanding that political power originates from the governed, not from the government. Or as Chairman Mao sagaciously quipped, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” [and I add, held by the citizen].
To quote Thomas Jefferson again, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
It is up to us then, to judge when government crosses the line toward repression. It is my belief that this line is crossed by the enactment of any national scheme for registration of firearms. History is long my witness here. Revolution starts when that terrified and harassed individual breaks free of his fear and concludes that there are indeed some things more valuable than life itself. Patrick Henry said it best, “… if our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?” You probably remember another of that Great Man’s pithy sayings, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains of slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”
It is not my purpose in here to foment dissent. It is not my purpose here to speak out against our constituted governments. It is my purpose however, to draw your attention to those conditions that brought this country into existence and to that great gift of representative government that many of us have so freely inherited. We make decisions every day of our lives. I fear the time is coming when each of us may have to draw that line in the sand and decide whether to live as free men or as slaves. Will you be like that Mexican sneaking across the Rio Grande in hope of a hand out from Uncle Sugar, a man unwilling to make the hard decision and throw off an oppressive and corrupt government? Or will you be a man of honor and valor, a modern day Patrick Henry, and by your actions say, “This I shall not permit.”