Opinion

Nicholas Wapshott

Since when have personal guns been used to defend political liberty?

By Nicholas Wapshott
January 9, 2013

Piers Morgan is the most unlikely campaigning journalist. The smooth-faced Morgan, who arrived from Britain to replace Larry King as CNN’s chief celebrity interviewer, can, if pushed, engage with serious guests on serious topics. But, as someone who cut his teeth writing showbiz tittle-tattle for Rupert Murdoch, he seemed more at ease pitching softball questions to boldfaced names plugging their latest products.

What a difference a massacre of children makes. After a frivolous November guest list that, despite the presidential election, included Mike Tyson, Kitty Kelley, Oliver Stone and Tyler Perry, among other gossip column fodder, he turned to a subject that celebrity interviewers keep well away from because, even in the wake of another mass killing, it is so painfully pointless to raise: gun control. And in doing so, Morgan found his voice. Americans have become so weary at the grip the NRA and other gun industry lobbyists have on the gun debate that the simple horror and amazement Morgan expressed on hearing of the Sandy Hook bloodbath came as a refreshing surprise. What sort of country, he asked, cannot defend its schoolchildren from mad people with automatic weapons? What has to be done to bring the repeated slaughter of innocents to an end?

For his pains, Morgan attracted a full magazine of gun nuts, including one Alexander Emerick “Alex” Jones, a self-described libertarian, “paleoconservative” and “aggressive constitutionalist” who once ran as a Republican in Texas House District 48 (facing certain defeat, he withdrew before Election Day). He believes George W. Bush was behind the September 11 attacks and Bill Clinton plotted the Oklahoma City bombings. He was so incensed that Morgan dare use his First Amendment rights to ask an awkward question about guns that he is demanding the president deport the chat show host for sedition. To find a more invidious example of muddle-headed, brazen hypocrisy, you have to go back to 2009, when anti-government Tea Party activists held up placards screaming “Government Keep Your Hands Off My Medicare.” Being a good Fleet Street tabloid editor, Morgan promptly invited Jones to make his case on Piers Morgan Tonight.

The result was a priceless boost to the gun control lobby. Jones, who caused an altercation on his flight to New York by insisting he keep his shoes on going through security, arrived in a belligerent mood. A broadcaster in the hate-radio tradition of Father Charles Coughlin and Rush Limbaugh, Jones spouted a well-rehearsed recitation of petty grievances, conspiracy theories and wild claims. At one stage he even challenged Morgan to a fistfight. Morgan, being a true Brit, kept a stiff upper lip throughout. You don’t have to be a trained psychoanalyst to recognize that Jones is suffering from deep-seated paranoia and anger management issues. When rational people demand that gun purchasers be screened for mental illness, it is scary, aggressive oddballs like Jones they have in mind.

In the midst of his rant, Jones said, “The Second Amendment isn’t there for duck hunting. It’s there to protect us from tyrannical government and street thugs.” This is a recurring theme among those who believe the Founding Fathers intended to protect the owners of machine guns that would be more at home in Helmland  than in Hartland, Connecticut. Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, who believes the remedy for massacres such as Sandy Hook is an armed guard on every school gate, holds a similarly paranoid view of the government’s malign intentions. In 1995, on Meet the Press, shortly after anti-government militiamen bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168, including 19 children, LaPierre described FBI agents as “wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms” who wanted to “attack law-abiding citizens.” That candid outburst caused George H.W. Bush to renounce his NRA membership, and LaPierre has since been careful not to let slip his private feelings about the threat government poses to individual liberties.

Jones and LaPierre are representative of a wider group of Second Amendment defenders who believe that government of any sort threatens their absolute freedom to act absolutely as they wish. Fear that federal agents would come calling inspired the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, and his co-conspirators. He, in turn, admired the anti-government stance of the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas, in 1993, who armed themselves to the teeth to avoid being charged with sexually abusing children and other serious crimes. After fighting off federal agents for 50 days, 76 sect members and their children died in a fire rather than turn themselves in.

Jones’s point – echoed by endless similar extremists who earn their living by stoking the fears of the impressionable – is belied by history. In the 250 years of the American republic, the government has sometimes overstepped the line between liberty and authoritarianism. And such despotism has come from the most unlikely sources. Woodrow Wilson’s clampdown on those who opposed America’s intervention in World War One was a shameful display of big government overreach. So, too, was Franklin Roosevelt’s rounding up and imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Many who are anxious about the diminution of civil liberties find the Patriot Act, hastily passed after the September 11 attacks, too oppressive. But in each case relief from tyranny has not come from those with arsenals in their homes against the day the black helicopters arrive but by the patient, laborious, often tedious acts of patriots working through the democratic system.

Some advocates of small government would be horrified at the suggestion that they are on the same continuum as the killers who declare their hatred of government the reason they go on a killing spree. Others, proponents of libertarian chic who express anti-government views to shock and scandalize their moderate neighbors, may be aware that they are playing with fire. It adds a dangerous edge to their humdrum personas. The American way is to choose not to be administered too closely by the state and to leave as many aspects of life as possible to private enterprise rather than big government. But a line has to be drawn and defended when the routine denigration of government begins to threaten lives.

We may have reached that Rubicon at Sandy Hook. The impetus in the wake of the Newtown massacre to reform our gun laws to continue to protect hunters, sportsmen and those who would protect their households from intruders while keeping rapid-fire weapons away from the delusional and the deranged is now a live issue. Pressure on the president and Vice President Joe Biden, who has been tasked to come up with a way forward, can be exerted by those, like Morgan, who find themselves at the eye of the storm. He may not welcome the notion, but Jones, in his strange way, is keeping the subject alive.

And there is a part to be played by those who control the media that gun owners watch. To quote LaPierre out of context, “Too many in the national media, their corporate owners and their stockholders act as silent enablers, if not complicit co-conspirators.” After Sandy Hook, Murdoch declared that something must be done, and fast, to avoid a repetition. He ordered the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, stout proponents of small government, to make gun control a top issue. If he genuinely wants to ensure that this time there will be sensible reforms, he will direct his employees at Fox News to lead the campaign to change attitudes toward a more responsible approach to gun purchase and ownership. So far, that leadership has not been evident.

Corporations, advertisers, retailers and investment managers also have an important role. Money talks more eloquently than a thousand chat show hosts. The decision by Cerberus, spurred by revulsion and sympathy, to sell the company that made the assault rifle that killed the Sandy Hook children offered a novel way forward. Similar acts of ingenuity are needed to ensure that the slaughter of the 20 children and six adults who died in Newtown just before Christmas amounts to more than just a passing phase in the news cycle.

Nicholas Wapshott’s Keynes Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economics is published by W.W. Norton. Read extracts here.

PHOTO: A row of shotguns are seen during the East Coast Fine Arms Show in Stamford, Connecticut, January 5, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Comments
112 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Why not just require everyone to obtain a gun licence to purchase a gun or bullets or bullet making products.
A licence that requires a one day course that teaches you gun safety and a application so that the goverment can do a one time background check, you are then issued a licence that enables you to purchase what you want with no waiting period

Posted by aqua12 | Report as abusive
 

The state of Vermont has the lowest incidence of gun violence in the country and NO licensing requirement for purchase, possession, or carry, including concealed. This would indicate that the laxity or “toughness” of gun laws are not the determining factors in gun violence. I’d also point out that the Newtown parents have called for the same measure proposed by Bill Clinton post-Columbine and by the much maligned Wayne LaPierre post-Newtown, i.e., armed police in schools. Finally, the one thing all of the mass shootings in the past twenty years have in common is that they occurred in designated gun-free zones.

Posted by astra400 | Report as abusive
 

@ConstFundie, First I’d like to thank you for contributing to a reasonable, adult discussion. These things so often resort to adolescent name calling matches that they are rarely worth participating in. To address your questions. You asked: “Yes, the Constitution gives the Power of the President and Congress (by declaring war) to call up the Militias of the States. And to provide for their training and supplying in these instances, including insurrection. I do not understand why this is proof against the true intent of 2nd Amendment to you.” The items you mentioned are not proof against your interpretation of the true intent of the 2nd amendment. I tend to try limit my interpretation of the Constitution to the actual text of the document wherever possible. The 2nd Amendment states that “A well regulated militia [is] necessary to the security of a free State” Why? The Constitution states three specific reasons “for calling forth the Militia”: “to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.” They do not mention the overthrowing of tyrannical governments anywhere in the document. I do not mean to imply that the three stated purposes for the Militia are the only three allowed, but do you not think it the least bit odd that they would mention three and leave out the one that you claim to be the “true intent” of the 2nd amendment? Does it really seem reasonable to you that they just happened to mention the 2nd, 3rd and 4th most important purposes of the Militia and left out the most important? Not only this, but one of the mentioned purposes, to “suppress insurrections”, is quite clearly the essential opposite of overthrowing a tyrannical government. Let’s face it, there are many Americans today who feel that the current government is tyrannical (I’d hasten to add that not one of them has likely ever experienced an actual tyrannical government), if these people were to decide to take up arms against the government would that qualify as overthrowing a tyrannical government or an insurrection? Certainly the latter, I’d say.

Your statement that “The understanding that the 2nd is a list of rights including the Right of personal ownership of weapons is not mine. It is, even today, termed the “standard model”. Read the wiki: Second Amendment.” is simply a rather extreme misunderstanding of the standard model and actually contradicts your own source. The “standard model” addresses (as per your own reference, Wikipedia) the “debate over whether the Second Amendment protected an individual right or a collective right.” and has nothing whatsoever to do with interpreting the amendment as “a list of rights” an assertion directly contradicted by your own source with the statement “By this time, the proposed right to keep and bear arms was in a separate amendment, instead of being in a single amendment together with other proposed rights such as the due process right. As a Representative explained, this change allowed each amendment to “be passed upon distinctly by the States.”" And while the individual rights interpretation of the standard model was upheld most recently in District of Columbia v. Heller it is only fair to note that the interpretation was strongly countered by the four dissenting judges and the issue is far from settled. The main point is though, that regardless of whether the 2nd amendment was meant to protect an individual right or a collective one The Court has been very clear in accepting limitations to the right to keep and bear arms, in the words of Justice Scalia “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” and from the syllabus for DC v. Heller “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues.”

I believe you unintentionally hit on the crux of the issue in your third paragraph. You said “Just as the First Amendment does not grant the Right to threaten, bribe, or libel someone” which could quite easily be completed by adding that the 2nd Amendment does not guarantee unrestricted access to all arms by all people. The 2nd Amendment simply does not need to be modified in any way in order to enact legislation that would make it significantly more difficult for dangerous people to acquire dangerous weapons and would not infringe upon the rights of law abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.

I do agree with your assessment that the Aurora theater shooter was certainly insane. The act itself was a textbook case of sociopathic behavior. As you stated, being able to plan and organize, nor even the ability to judge right from wrong are proof of sanity. The inability to judge right from wrong is simply a legal requirement to be determined unfit to stand trial and has nothing to do with the psychological definition of insanity. Two different things.

And as an aside, you might be interested to know (but probably not) that the philosophical definition of a zombie (as opposed to the pop culture definition) describes a being that is indistinguishable from a normal human being with the single exception of not possessing consciousness. Just another of many absurdly silly things philosophers discuss when nobody’s listening (which is usually). And I’ve taken to making zombie like noises before I stand up these days, in anticipation of the pain, I think it helps.

Posted by jtfane | Report as abusive
 

@ConstFundie again- You lump all kinds of past and present government models and call them “police states”. I do read history as an amateur and know enough of some of the Emnglish writers like Burke and Carlisle. and the French like Voltair, Rousseau and DeTocqueville to know they would never have agreed with your assertion that “monarchy” is a police state or tyrannical form of government by definition.

And the maintenance of private arsenals of significant scale is the hallmark of feudalism.

BTW – In Syria, weapons of significant military scale are being imported from neighboring states to aid insurrection. It seems to me, any government is obligated to fight that importation and widespread use. It would be naive to suggest otherwise. After all, the insurgencies can only claim they are interested in the welfare of the people and the “people” really only have the insurgents or rebels word for that. They are not necessaraly forces that will honor that word.

And In Iraq and Afghanistan – the weapons that were most damaging to the invading forces and still cause a problem to the new governments are IEDs and suicide bombers. Relatively crude devices and more or less standard lethal weapons (including power drills) were causing a lot of civilian injuries and deaths.

@jtfane – how does one make “zombie like noises”? Otherwise I think your rebuttal is the best ever. But you sound like you actually read the SC decisions re: the 2nd Amendment.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive
 

“The inability to judge right from wrong is simply a legal requirement to be determined unfit to stand trial and has nothing to do with the psychological definition of insanity. Two different things.”

If that is so, than how do you decide whether or not actions or behavior’s are sane or insane? Personal taste? Don’t read too much history, especially concerning cultural practices, or you may never, ever, come up with a workable definition of sanity for any aspect of life. You seem a tad provincial there, actually. Governments don’t agree on what is considered sane actually. Obviously – countries that have banned private weapons may very well consider this country “insane” for not doing so.

“Sanity” per se, may actually be little more than commonly accepted social practices and there never was or is anything particularly sane about the self styled “sane”. Ever see the movie “one Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest”. That’s an easy example.

Unless you are talking about some truly difficult mental conditions that one would call “clinical” and that are based on actual brain malfunction or brain damage and can make any attempts to live a “normal” life nearly impossible, a lot of what people commonly call insane, may not be insane. Those people may only be living in the wrong “neighborhood” or culture.

Becoming “insane” by being unsatisfactorily understood and or accepted by one’s peers or oneself is the sort of situation that used to put people into “Bedlams” in the past. Stress can erode one’s sense of composure or balance too. Sanity can be fragile, actually, and isn’t something one can ever truly claim one has locked up for all time. And the constitution, or any kind of government that manages to survive for a time without self immolating or eating it own citizens alive, is an attempt at forging a working definition of “sanity”. But, I guess that’s what your saying?

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive
 

@paintcan, I hesitate to stray even further off topic by responding to your questions but I’ll go ahead anyway this time. The zombie comments were merely an attempt (albeit, a rather lame one) at a little levity to lighten up such a serious conversation. Thank you for your compliment. And, yes I actually do read the decisions of the SC for cases that interest me, but I must also admit that the quotes I presented are rather commonly available and, in this case were from the Wikipedia source cited by @ConstFundie.

My comments regarding sanity were primarily in response to @COindependent’s remark that “the Aurora theater shooter was completely sane.” and in support of @ConstFundie and @JL4′s rebuttals to that comment. I believe that you and I are in agreement on this issue and that your comments have further exemplified my point that there is no one definition of sanity. My main point was that the legal definition of insanity for the purpose of determining if someone is fit to stand trial is a minor subset of the clinical definition of insanity. Being deemed sane for the purpose of standing trial does not necessarily mean that one would meet all the requirements to be clinically sane. James Holmes is a classic example. He may well understand the difference between right and wrong, the primary requirement for being deemed fit to stand trial, but dressing up like a comic book character and murdering a dozen people is quite obviously extreme sociopathic behavior. To call someone who exhibits this type of behavior “completely sane” is simply incorrect.

I obviously did not intend to appear “provincial” but rather to limit the discussion, and definition, to the topic at hand which would be a definition of sanity based on modern, western culture. Using an ancient Mayan “definition” of sanity would be more than a bit absurd in this case, no? While I’m so far off topic already I’ll note that I’m currently reading Barbara Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror”, a history of 14th century Europe, and it does indeed offer a very clear picture of the changing norms of society through different times and cultures, however, it is completely irrelevant to this discussion.

Posted by jtfane | Report as abusive
 

And now back on topic to try and tie all this up.

The Constitution quite clearly grants final judicial power to the Supreme Court, not to the People (read Article III) and states that “The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States.” While the Constitution also grants the People the individual right to vocally disagree with the decisions of the SC (through the 1st amendment) it does not grant these disagreements any official legal status. The Supreme Court interprets the Constitution, period, any other assertion is simply unconstitutional. The SC has made it eminently clear that, in it’s own words “the Second Amendment right is not unlimited” and in the words of Justice Scalia regarding the decision for DC v. Heller “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” People like James Holmes, Jared Loughner and Seung-Hui Cho are (or were) obviously mentally ill. All of these people exhibited behavior, prior to their crimes, that could easily, Constitutionally, have been used as evidence to deny them the right to legally purchase guns if proper laws had been in effect and were being fully enforced. Laws do not, cannot and are not intended to eliminate 100% of crimes. All rational people understand that laws are intended as deterrents of crime and not absolute preventives of crime. There are numerous laws against murder and yet murder still occurs but no rational person would suggest this as a reason to eliminate laws against murder. Why then would anyone oppose laws that would make it far more difficult for dangerously mentally ill people or convicted violent felons to obtain guns?

Posted by jtfane | Report as abusive
 

@jtfane, thank you for your good and fair discussion and points. I intend to address all issues related granting time, and this article’s area. Have you linked over to to DC v. Heller from the Second Amendment wiki page? I believe that some of the issues you bring up concerning the known intentions for the inclusion of the 2nd Right, are historically and textually addressed by the SCOTUS, under judgement sections, esp, (b), (c), (d), and (f).

The standard model interpretation in the wiki is described as the model recognizing the “personal right of individuals to keep and bear arms”, and that “The opening phrase was meant as a non-exclusive example — one of many reasons for the amendment.” I concede that the wiki does not textually state that the standard model declares both a collective AND individual right. However, if the collective forming of a militia is THE specified and legitimate example of a reason for the Individual Right, and a militia is declared within necessary to the security of a free state, and the states are so reserved the power to maintain their own militias (Article 1, Section 8), then is the collective right not also being, at least, reaffirmed?

I think an “animated corpse resurrected by mystical means” and without consciousness would be obviously distinguishable from human, despite lack of oozing rot and missing limbs. Granted, i mystically animated hyperbole into toothless zombanalogy.

I see a new post! And i have not caught up. If you believe that the SCOTUS has final say in the interpretation of the Constitution then you have countered most all of your own arguments, again read DC v Heller, esp, (b), (c), (d), and (f). I grant the exception, my contention, that all personal weapons of war are Constitutionally protected.

Posted by ConstFundie | Report as abusive
 

@pavoter1946 “I wonder if any of those who feel they need guns to protect themselves against a despotic government can point to ANY government that has been overthrown by its own citizens through the use of guns? The American Revolution? That was throwing off the British government.” That precisely the point: the colonists were British citizens throwing off their own government!

Posted by johnnyjr | Report as abusive
 

I won’t be wordy about this as either jtfane or ConstFundie. Even the Constitution has to defend it’s sanity creds from time to time. It once thought slavery was legal and people could be factored as fractions of people or not be considered franchised at all. It has attitudes about the value of women or minorities that some would consider outrageous in not outright insane today. It had a “bipolar” moment during prohibition and changed it’s mind when it entered WWII.

The Constitution is a working document and not a sacred text. Parts can be added or subtracted and have been. The SC has been used as a way of making changes without having to rewrite the document from scratch, but who knows, someday, there may be a popular call to craft a modern 21st century constitution and, indeed, start from scratch with every intention of preserving what is most valuable it and perhaps even up-dating the language. Think what the future SC would have with live Video recordings and charts and graphic aids (if that would really be much of a help) and in contemporary language?

BTW – I suppose many of us now think the 2nd Amendment (and after all it is only an amendment itself) is obsolete or beside the point. I think it is about as irrelevant as prohibition. I’m not really buying the common argument that it’s supporters are throwing around. Since I’m not a gun owner or hunter and don’t ever use one, I could care less for the so called right to bare arms except to get a tan. Professional citizens are given that duty and job in this society and that seems fine and even the proper way to organize and protect a modern society. It is obvious that the limitless marketing of lethal weapons to a less than perfectly controlled market place isn’t exactly a shining beacon of sanity either.

MY God – I’ve questioned the core tenets of the religion of my youth, Roman Catholicism. A little thing like a Constitution is a simple matter actually and not quite so simple, actually.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive
 

Political liberty? Let’s see – the battle for independence that brought us the United States comes to mind.

Posted by AZreb | Report as abusive
 

So the Constitution is obsolete? What do we replace it with? If there is no such thing as “Natural Rights” then there are no rights. The basic social contract that has worked pretty well for 200 years in this country isn’t valid either? I’s say most Americans believe the government exists to serve the People and governs with the “consent of the people”. I don’t know… the Nanny State mentality seems to be growing. I guess we don’t need a First Amendment any longer either since MSNBC and Current TV will always ferret out any facts we need to be made aware of. Leave it to the professionals! The common man doesn’t need that right! If you want to be a journalist you can apply for a license and take a one day course and if the state deigns to give you the right (at a price you can afford) then you can discuss politics and how good a job the current administration is doing or ask about the Contras or Bengazi. If the rights listed in the BILL OF RIGHTS are not “Natural Right” then each and every one could be constrained in any way. At that point I think it comes down to “Might makes Right” doesn’t it?

Posted by pawn2nd | Report as abusive
 

In Tennessee in 1946 the political apparatus took possession of the ballot boxes so they could stay in power by their counting of ballots. The people armed their selves went to the jail house where the ballots boxes were taken. they used dynamite to blow the door open and took those inside aside while they secured the ballot boxes for a true count.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive
 

Dear Mr. Wapshott, The title of your article is “Since When Have Personal Guns Been Used To Defend Political Liberty” As a British Journalist writing for a British News Outlet, I,m taken aback that you don,t know you,re own history. June 1940, seaside town on the French coast called Dunkirk. The remnants of the British and Allied Armies are rescued from the German Juggernaut that swept through France, by a flotilla from Britain comprised of anything that could float. To facilitate this amazing rescue the soldiers had to abandon most of their equipment including Small Arms. Meanwhile back home the British Home Guard, because of restrictive Gun Controls in Britain at the time had very little in the way of defensive weaponry. An urgent appeal was issued by the American Committee for Defense of British Homes. The appeal even showed up in The American Rifleman, the magazine of the now Dreaded NRA. Thousands of American Sportsmen and Private Gun Owners responded by sending their personal Firearms to your country, so your people had a chance to defend themselves. Thousands of M1 Garands and Thomson machine guns were sent under Lend Lease later on. But it,s the privately owned firearms that got there first. And after the war very few private firearms were returned, most of them were destroyed. And if you would like to see one of these firearms,(that your fellow Britons were glad to get at that time in your Nations history) you will find it at The National Firearms Museum. It,s a 30-06 Model 1903 Target Rifle that belonged to Major John W. Hession, a Pre Emminent High Power Rifle, target shooter of his day.

Posted by beenbetter | Report as abusive
 

This isn’t the wild west. The second amendment doesn’t guarantee a free for all with no limits. If it did, you could walk around with a bomb in your pocket. A civilized country needs some limits, as well as severe penalties for criminals.

Posted by cetj98168 | Report as abusive
 

All of this discussion is moot. The Constitution says what it does. The second amendment does not require explanation or justification. Its written and passed.

Posted by Globalman | Report as abusive
 

@Globalamn- “Moot” does not mean a subject is closed to discussion but the opposite: that a subject or question is open to discussion. It is a popular error in word usage. Democracies don’t allow much of anything to become closed to discussion. But they will put limits on irreversible actions that make discussion impossible.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive
 

Well, I guess we can all go bacl to the old standby ……… “A gun in the hand is better than a cop on the phone.”

Posted by Willie12345 | Report as abusive
 

sylvan:
If you are going to use quotation marks around a supposed quote from the Constitution, please ensure that you are quoting it correctly. The need for a militia was given as the raison d’etre for the Second Amendment not a sine qua non.

Posted by Shamizar | Report as abusive
 

Do you folks that question the need for private citizens to own firearms, see the destructive power lingering around the field in Georgia this past week? Have you not seen or heard of the loss of some of your past rights and liberties recently?

Know how many departments were involved? Why would you guess that there were so many “good guys” milling around for this one guy? Practice, for sure, but it doesn’t bother you that this happens at any event, anywhere in the US?

I’m just asking.

Posted by skeeteril | Report as abusive
 

Nicholas Wapshott, former bureau chief for a British newspaper, titled this article as a question – “Since when have personal guns been used to defend political liberty?”

For starters, there’s the Revolutionary War. Then there’s the War of 1812. In both cases, our adversary was Britain. Perhaps Wapshott overlooked those historical footnotes because it was his country that forced us to defend our political liberty. Oh, well.

Having the 2nd Amendment around is like having a fire department around. You never know when you’re going to need a fire department. But, it’s nice to have one around in case you do. And no one I know of would use the excuse, “Well, we haven’t had any fires for a while,” to shut down their fire department.

Here’s another comparison to consider. Salmonella poisoning can kill. Let’s say a bunch of people started dying due to salmonella poisoning. And let’s say the health department discovered the source – vegetables from the XYZ Farm in your neighborhood. Would the health department ban farming altogether or would it just ban vegetable sales from the XYZ Farm?

Now – take a look at all the massacre-style gun incidents in our recent past. You’ll notice that the overwhelming number of shooters in these incidents are mentally impaired people. So, should we ban guns altogether or just the possession of guns by mentally impaired people?

Posted by Chronicle236 | Report as abusive
 

Since when have personal guns been used to defend political liberty?

1776 maybe? But that’s close enough for my taste.

We wouldn’t have this ‘personal liberty’ if not for people owning guns. And if they get taken – we’ll wind up REALLY needing them again.

When government fears the people – that’s called liberty. When people fear the government – that’s called tyranny.

Posted by Overcast451 | Report as abusive
 

@Chronicle236:

**Now – take a look at all the massacre-style gun incidents in our recent past. You’ll notice that the overwhelming number of shooters in these incidents are mentally impaired people. So, should we ban guns altogether or just the possession of guns by mentally impaired people?**

And if I may add… Also there is something else ‘common’ in these shootings: They are almost ALWAYS in ‘gun free’ zones – Churches, Schools, Businesses.

How often are there shootings like this at Police Stations, Gun Shows, Target Ranges and such?

Isn’t that… kind of a clue?

Posted by Overcast451 | Report as abusive
 

How often are there shootings at police stations, gun shows ,target ranges and such. Somebody haven’t read the news for a couple of weeks have they. Just days ago there was shootings at gun shows , target ranges and a court house . JUst today they had the burial of the one that was murdered at atarget range__start reading the news and see what is goingon with so many guns.

Posted by PPhermit | Report as abusive
 

What are we talking about when we talk about freedom? There is no way to define something so personal and evanescent. What freedoms are available in the U.S.?

Freedom from slavery? Check, we have that (now).
Freedom of speech? Absolutely. Rant and rave about anything.
Freedom to work or loaf? Check, but there are consequences.
Freedom to own a car and move around the country at will? Check.
Freedom to harm others and commit crimes? No. And why not? Just because.

Posted by Ralphooo | Report as abusive
 

perhaps the author should ask, “what gun control laws have actually stopped a gun crime being committed”? As a licensed gun owner I hope I never have to even take the gun out, But if I am ever faced with a large criminal who intends to hurt me I hope I have my gun with me.

Posted by zotdoc | Report as abusive
 

Americans have become so weary at the grip the NRA and other gun industry lobbyists have on the gun debate
————————————
Well… Nooo. But your whiny little voices are well into the zone so find another approach, or let us be.

Posted by joelwisch2 | Report as abusive
 

The grip of the NRA? Outside of being elected, politicians only have one worry – being re-elected. And to be elected and re-elected, politicians tend to follow the lead of the squeakiest wheels among their constituency. Why? Because for every squeaky wheel, they know there are other wheels that feel the same way but just don’t squeak (or squeak as loudly). But squeaky or not, they vote.

Consider this variation of the chicken/egg question. Which came first, the gun owner or the NRA? We know the answer to that question – the gun owner. Now, there are a LOT of NRA members. But they do not constitute the bulk of gun owners. NRA members tend to be the squeaky wheels. And for each member, politicians know there are other gun owners who choose not to squeak so loudly – but feel largely the same way NRA members feel about gun rights issues. But squeaky or not, they vote.

Though they may not admit it, I think anti-gun activists underestimate the grassroots support for gun rights. And this is wide support – Republicans, Democrats, and independent voters. And politicians who run counter to their wishes are one ballot-box away from being (ahem) enlightened.

P.S. I’m 62 and, during all my adult years, have never owned a firearm of any kind. And yet, I’ve always believed that any law-abiding citizen should have the right to own a firearm equal in force to what might be used by a potential criminal adversary (ie., an assault weapon or pistol with a magazine holding multiple rounds). This year, after Obama’s first “lecture” about gun control, I decided to become squeaky myself. I joined the NRA for the first time in my life. And in about 8 or 9 days, I’ll travel to a nearby gun store to buy a Ruger 9mm handgun with a 15-round clip. I’ll also be taking training through the store to make sure I can use and maintain the weapon safely and responsibly. Afterward, I’ll get a concealed-carry permit.

Posted by Chronicle236 | Report as abusive
 

Why does everyone go back to the 1770s? Just look at LA in 1993.

A riot breaks out. The mayor and the police chief are having a spat, so the police are removed from a critical point during the beginning of the riot. The riot gets out of control.

Stores are being burned down. The store owners (whose life savings or their family’s life savings are in the store) can’t get any police. The rioters continued looting and burning until the store owners got on the roofs with semi automatic rifles – the rioters moved down to the next stores.

In court, the police departments basically stated that they cannot prevent all crimes, they cannot be held responsible.

So the question is – who is responsible for my safety? If the police are responsible, then they should have stated it in court. If they are not responsible, then let me have a fair chance against
rioters, or drug dealers, or others that would do me harm.

As one person has said, ‘When seconds count, the police are only minutes away’.

In court, attornies for the police departments tell the judges that they are not responsible for ever

Posted by AppletreeD | Report as abusive
 

Guns are rarely used to thwart government overreach and defend political liberty, to directly answer the question.

But that does not change the basic equation.

The fact remains that our government routinely overreaches, and then it challenges the public to “do something about it”, all in the full knowledge that the politicians in power will not hesitate to stomp on (or at least ignore) anyone challenging their authority.

A case in point is the recent “deeming” by Obama of Congress to be “in recess” so that he could sneak in recess appointments of political appointees to positions of power where he wanted them. This happened when Congress was in fact still in session and Mr. Obama has been challenged and defeated in the courts, yet Obama’s appointees are still in their jobs making rules that affect all of us, and Obama simply thumbs his nose at all concerned and defies anyone to prove him wrong.

The U.S. political system has devolved into cronyism of the worst kind, with the person in the White House violating the rules then telling all others that they must still abide by the system. The U.S. is a “has been” nation because the people have been bought off with their own tax dollars and are now too comfortable in their bribery to actually seek freedom.

Posted by ACRScout | Report as abusive
 

In 1776 personal guns defended liberty. This clause was put in the Constitution to defend us from government. Common knowledge at the time. Only attorneys mush the words to make things seem otherwise. Only attorneys and judges are responsible for the current state of our nation.
Any eight grade English teacher is capable of making a sentence diagram to reveal what the sentence says. It is the perception problem of attorneys and judges and liars that have a difficulty understanding our language.
The Constitution is a CONTRACT between the citizens of the United States of America and government. This Contract has been broken by the government and is now void. It is time to exercise the right to keep and bear arms. Citizens! Whassup? Is it time for THEM to pay the piper? No attorneys need respond.

Posted by OdinsAcolyte | Report as abusive
 

Why does the 2nd Amendment contain the words “A well regulated Militia…?” Who “regulates” a “Militia”? Or, put differently, what would limit a Militia’s behavior should it consider infringing on our rights?

Before the U.S. Constitution was written, no person would have considered it as abridging their standard practice of bearing arms at the time. The “New World” was won with the rifle, pistol, and other forms of weaponry. To think that the framers would have ever considered that our politicians would try to abridge our right to what was originally an unthinkable concept is laughable.

Those who loath guns need to realize that the number of crimes that don’t get committed because criminals fear armed encounters never see the front page of any liberal outlet…er, newspaper. Thankfully, these events are not newsworthy as they were non-events. Had these well meaning folks lived in areas where guns are illegal, like Mexico for example, it would quickly see their value in maintaining a free society. Thus, by employing any sense of logic, a corrected perception from their naive view of self-protection would occur, and they, too, might join us who see gun ownership as a necessary way of life.

Posted by Atty4U | Report as abusive
 

Guns have never defended political liberty, the lack of gun laws has defended liberty.

As Senator Cruz so aptly pointed out to Sen. Feinstein, if we are going to ban certain types of guns, when do we start restricting specified books, or targeting certain speech? and where does it stop?

Many on the left have asked “why does anyone need a military rifle or bazooka?” But I ask, what is the harm in someone owning one? If I have an M1 Tank parked on my front lawn, who have I harmed? Owning an inanimate object is harmless. I am living evidence of this, I have owned a military rifle for over 20 years and killed NO ONE. The rifle is not the problem, its abuse is the problem. It appears that to the liberal mind preemptive enforcement should be the rule of law, so we’ll lock you up tomorrow because you might commit a crime.

Perhaps we should take a similar tact toward other things. Money has historically been used to finance crime, so maybe we need to outlaw money, people have been murdered over possession of property so perhaps we need to make ownership of property illegal, and everything will belong to everyone. I’ll be over to take and use your car to run around town, tomorrow.

Posted by ACRScout | Report as abusive
 

What a biased piece of trash article.

“Machine gun”? Really?

You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

Posted by MarvLS | Report as abusive
 

If you can stand by your comment that, “personal guns do not defend political liberties,” then logically you are obligated to agree that government owned guns have never suppressed political liberties. A statement easily usurped by the history of U.S. military involvement in the founding of America itself by displacing hundreds of thousands of Native and Mexicans Americans, as well as countries like Haiti, Vietnam, N. & S. Korea, The Philippines, Eritrea, Somalia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Venezuela, Chile, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and on and on. An armed citizenry balances the threat of power between individual rights and federal totalitarianism. After the individual freedoms of speech and religion (thought and belief), the necessary right to “bear arms” guards against oppression by preserving autonomy. It ensures the capacity of any and every individual to choose between a totalitarian conformity in spite of moral agreement, and the right to individually defend the humanity of “I.”
So forfeit your individual autonomy, your humanity, if you like, but as for me, “beyond a certain point of development, on this same basis, it is more important for a people to have guns in hand than to eat more than the year before.” (Adolfo Gilly, 1965)

Posted by geraldh78 | Report as abusive
 

The Japanese did’t invade the west coast right after the Pearl Harbor attack for fear they would not be able too conquer it, too many privately owned guns.

Posted by Jim66 | Report as abusive
 

Wow, just…wow. To even ask the question “Since when have personal guns been used to defend political liberty?” is ludicrous. The United States exists precisely because private individuals took up their personal firearms against their political overlords. The USA is now THE superpower of the world (for how much longer is anyone’s guess). Need we say more?

Posted by kp3ft | Report as abusive
 

The ignorance of the citizens and the media about the Militia is mind boggling. Most of the male commentators here do not know that they have been, now are, or will become members of their state and Federal Militias! The Organized Militia is the National Guard. The Unorganized Militia are most of the rest of us, with some exceptions, in Alaska ages 17-45. It also includes state defense forces (they are not National Guard). In Alaska, as in many states, women are in the Militia. Unless the state provides weapons, members are responsible for acquiring, at their own expense, keeping and bearing, suitable weapons. Most should have infantry weapons, preferably the same, or similar, using the same caliber cartridges, as the active military. As applied to the Militia, the pending proposals to ban assault weapons is unconstitutional. So is a ban on high capacity magazines.

I suggest state laws should specify these rights and duties. I also suggest that former members of the Militia, the active military and the National Guard be authorized to keep and bear infantry and similar weapons. The background check system should be beefed up and states be required or encouraged to improve the mental health system and facilities, and report the dangerous patients to the check system. Also beef up the reporting system of felons, violent misdemeaners, and domestic violence perpetrators. Many, many who should be on the list are not. The gun show loophole is a minor problem, since criminals will not buy weapons at gun shows, and buy only in private sales or gain by stealing.

Also, the “Project Exile” program, putting criminals who use firearms away for an additional 5 years because of the federal crime, should be a nationwide joint federal-sate program. It is demonstrably effective, as in Richmond.If more safety is needed for cosmetics, provide for training, as is common for those applying for concealed carry licenses, as a condition for purchasing infantry weapons, rifles, automatic pistols (such as Colt .45′s) and revolvers.
For many years, even in New York, many high schools had rifle teams, and students carried rifles openly on subways.

Posted by BarryWJackson | Report as abusive
 

I am rather taken aback about President George H. W. Bush denouncing his membership in the NRA. I can not ignor that the NRA types spend so much time attacking the elected black President of The United States of America. After all it was President reagan that fostered the Brady Gun Bill. An attack on the second admendment. And it was President G. W. Bush that arthored the Patriot Act. An attack on the privacy of all American citizens. I have thouroughly enjoyed reading all the educated comments here. I am one that also dont hunt nor store massive ammounts of military assault weapons. An honorable veteral of 3 wars and comfortably retired. A lifetime democrat. My comment is the NRA is sick in its demand that loosenuts should be able to purchase guns at gun shows with no background checks. I have no idea what country they came from, but the NRA needs to be also exposed and remedy for them should be forthcomming. Not one American votes for NRA. Its a special interest group. Ans a lobbiest in my government. I dare say they should not be afforded 1 more minute than I am afforded in the offices of my government.

Posted by usa1electrician | Report as abusive
 

Piers Morgan is right; the gun nuts and the vile NRA are wrong.

Posted by Mike113 | Report as abusive
 

Guns help to insure liberty by there existence. If you don’t thing the Government is afraid of an armed populace you are wrong. If you don’t understand that a government that is afraid of it’s people is the kindest and least abusive government than please study history.

Posted by stephenhurty | Report as abusive
 

The fact that you’re crapping your pants is WHY the 2nd exists.To keep bolshi fellators like you,in check.Got it?

Posted by Htos1 | Report as abusive
 

More guns=more gun related deaths and injuries. It ain’t rocket science .

Posted by Cycledoc2 | Report as abusive
 

I guess position determines perspective on this issue. I personally have no desire to own or play with an assault rife. Non whatsoever. To me they are not even fun. they are loud, obtrusive and more than a little unnerving to hear going off. But i also don’t worry about myself being off the wall crazy and doing something reactionary and destructive to good people. Sure, I have my self protection hand gun. Sure I purchased it legally and went through the training to handle it. Sure i also applied for a license to carry/conceal and went through that background check too. I certainly don’t feel infringed upon at all. Thank you for checking me out and trusting my ability to handly myself and my personal protection piece.
To any of you freaks and nut cases out there hell bent on fighting stronger background checks and cross system flaggings for mental cases, shame on you. Why would you ever want there to be an easy way to get a gun into the wrong person’s hands? Why would you not want everyone who purchases a gun from a retail sale site to have that simple check done on them?

Posted by QuidProQuo | Report as abusive
 

“Automatic Weapons”?

The ignorance of journalists when it comes to firearms never ceases to amaze.

Along with the numerous factual errors in the article, the personal attacks on various pro-Constitution personalities was unnecessary, but what’s a good hit piece without taking some cheap shots at those that disagree with your brand of advocacy “journalism” without them?

Along with using the term “gun-nuts”

Obviously, the author knows little to nothing about firearms. Trying to use reason, logic or facts with these types is useless.

I hope you never find yourself in a position where you need to defend yourself and your loved one’s against a home-invasion robbery or similar – because if you do, you will be wishing for the lightest, most accurate firearm possible with as many bullets as needed to put an end to any bad intentions.

Every self-defense situation is different. There is no “one size fits all” gun or magazine capacity for every scenario, but it’s better to have more bullets than less bullets, and to have the best firearm that you can budget, including practicing with on a regular basis and that is lightweight and modular.

The gun-grabbers are basically saying “We don’t want to take your guns” but they just want to dictate what type of guns and their bullet capacity.

It’s like saying that you’re not for Prohibition of alcohol, but people should only be allowed to drink Beer, and no more than six of them on any given 24-hour period.

This incremental banning of guns and the subsequent violation of our civil rights has gone too far – you gun grabbers are not going to take any more of our rights and any politician that attempts to do so will be mercilessly booted out of office.

Got it?

But keep wasting time with your biased, advocacy journalism in an attempt to turn public opinion. Keep dancing in the blood and on the graves of crime victims.
It only shows your true, despicable colors.

Posted by Observent1 | Report as abusive
 

The Battel of Athens, GA, where armed WWII veterans and citizens ousted a corrupt sheriff who seized ballot boxes on the nigth of an election, is one example:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_A thens_(1946)

Mr. Wapshott went far out of his way to smear and demonize those who oppose gun control in the article as crazed, paranoid lunatics so I think I can guess where his loyalities lie.

Posted by Ezkaton | Report as abusive
 

I wonder which part of “well regulated” in the Second Amendment the crazies don’t understand.

BTW: When Barack Hussein comes for their stockpiled gold, bottled water and canned food, it won’t be with “horses and bayonets” but drones and tanks, against which their guns are ineffective.

Posted by Jozi | Report as abusive
 

Instead of casting a broad net over all law abiding citizens, why not ascertain what it was that makes these young shooters get into a rage, go berserk and start killing people?

A damn good start would be for Connecticut to release the toxicology results of Adam Lanza to determine if he was on those mind altering drugs like “Abilify” etc that have a long list of deadly side effects.

It is an outrage that they are making new laws that affect citizens and are not telling us the whole story.

http://www.pdrhealth.com/drugs/abilify

Posted by theagitator | Report as abusive
 

How many armed guards per day does Mr. Morgan have keeping the unwashed American masses away from his office and apartment? I suggest he very publicly remove them. Hypocrite.

Posted by u238e | Report as abusive
 

CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT: Several of the framers of Constitution and supporters of what became the 2nd Amendment — Jefferson, Adams, Webster, Mason, and others made it clear that they were talking about an armed citizenry when they talked of militias. Mason said it was the “whole people”. Adams said “those who trade liberty for security have neither.” Jefferson said that those who destroy their guns will become slaves of those who do not. Another founding father, Washington said “Firearms stand next to the Constitution itself” and that they were the “teeth” in guaranteeing Americans’ liberty and independence. Madison warned that Americans being armed “forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition” — both criminals and invaders. The 2nd Amendment was part of the Bill of Rights that were the first 10 Amendments enacted as a group “that would spell out the immunities of INDIVIDUAL citizens.”
SOCIETAL ISSUES: In our spread-out society, Women and the elderly can safely live alone and walk down the street because the mugger/burglar/rapist can never be sure they own a handgun — even when they don’t. Hand guns are frequently used for self defense — usually just showing the gun deters the crime. A Justice Dept. study (“Guns in America”) found that Americans use firearms in self defense an average 1.5 million times a year.
Violent crime has dropped 25% since gun ownership was made legal in Washington DC — similar to the experiences of most states that have passed “right to carry” laws. Australia has suffered a 51% increase in robberies and significant increases in other violent crimes, including an 16% rise in manslaughters and 24% rise in assaults since it passed its gun ban. Handgun crime INCREASED 40% in the first two years after England established its gun ban in 1997. The bad guys will always have firearms (even if made in back–yard machine shops) — the rest that follow the law become sitting ducks.
There will be the outrage from time to time when a crackpot gets a gun. Take their guns away, and they will just use automobiles, fertilizer bombs, pipe bombs, fire bombs, a can of gasoline, poison gas, and even kill multiple victims with just a knife — as they already have.
However, the majority of gun deaths each year are from suicide — and those people would simply use another method. Automobiles kill far more people each year. Meanwhile dictatorships in the modern era have been far worse mass murderers — Nazi Germany, the pogroms and gulags of Soviet Russia, Baath Socialist Iraq under Saddam Hussein, the Killing Fields of Communist Cambodia, the Cultural Revolution in Communist China, and the list goes on. In many instances, one of the first steps of the dictatorships was to seize all firearms from the citizens. It can’t happen here? It can if they disarm the citizens.

Posted by quixter | Report as abusive
 

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