I am in receipt of your May 17 letter to Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, in response to my column about the National Rifle Association and its collusion with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. (See "With Friends Like The NRA ..." http://www.jpfo.org/smith/smith-friends-like-nra.htm ). I thank you for taking the time and going to the effort of expressing your concerns, but I'm afraid you have some misconceptions about the nature of individual rights in general and the individual right to own and carry weapons in particular.
You begin by complaining that the article in question is "too radical even for me". "Radical" comes from the Greek, from their word for "root" ("radish" is a related word). In English, it means getting to the root of whatever you're talking about, to the fundamentals, the basics, which is, indeed, what I try to do with all my writing.
I'm sure you meant that what I said is too extreme, a word that depends on context: extreme compared to what? In this case it seems that it's extreme compared, not to what the Second Amendment actually provides, but what you'd rather believe it does. A firm believer in the strict interpretation of the Second Amendment would not go on to say the other things you do about the rights it was written to preserve. But perhaps I can help.
"I don't feel the need," you inform us, "for law-abiding and honest citizens to own and carry fully automatic weapons, especially those capable of concealment, along with sawed-off shotguns." Pardon me if I point out that it couldn't possibly be less important what you do or don't "feel the need" for. I don't care what you "feel", nor would James Madison who wrote the Bill of Rights, nor would Thomas Jefferson whom it was written to satisfy.
Clearly, you fail to understand why the Second Amendment was written. While it's become popular to say it has nothing to do with duck hunting -- and that's true as far as it goes -- very few people understand that it has nothing to do with defending yourself from muggers, burglars, or rapists, either, although that's a surely welcome side-benefit.
The Second Amendment was written specifically to ensure that the people would always possess the physical means to intimidate the government, to keep it in line, or, failing that, to overthrow it at need and, as Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, "provide new guards for their future security".
In its time, the Pennsylvania (or Kentucky) rifle represented the leading edge of technology, and those who possessed it could shoot three times as far, with much greater accuracy, than those stuck with, say, the British Army's "Brown Bess" smoothbore musket. Jefferson, an inventor and a technophile himself, would recognize the need today for the average citizen to be equipped with weapons that are the equal of, or superior to, whatever the government supplies its troops with.
Now if that doesn't include "automatic weapons, especially those capable of concealment, along with sawed-off shotguns," I don't know what it does include. You can't make the government behave itself with bolt action rifles, pump shotguns, and revolvers. You also say, "We don't need to have explosives and other weapons of war readily available to anyone that wants them or the U.S. would be like the countries in the middle east we are attempting to defend."
Yet "weapons of war" (a term often used as propaganda by the likes of Sarah Brady and Dianne Feinstein) are precisely why the Second Amendment was written, and, once again, what you feel "we" do or don't need is completely unimportant. You have no legitimate say in the matter. The police are the standing army that the Founding Fathers worried about, and, as such, they're the very people the Second Amendment was ratified to protect us from.
If 200 years of American history have anything to teach us, it's that so-called "public servants" are neither. Their loyalty is not to the public, but to the politically powerful. All too soon they come to see themselves as the public's masters, not servants. Maybe that's part of their strange transformation over the years from keepers of the peace into "law enforcement officers". We've gotten to a point where they'll enforce any damn law -- no matter how evil or idiotic it is -- without regard to whether it serves the public and the peace or damages them.
To quote you further, "I guess what I am trying to say is the United States is a country of laws to safeguard the population from the criminal element of our society." Wrong again: how can this be a country of laws if the Bill of Rights -- especially the Second Amendment -- can be ignored or reinterpreted into meaninglessness by the government?
That's how the Canadian "Charter of Rights and Freedoms" works. Nothing in it is absolute, it fails to protect the right to property in any way, and it can be suspended whenever the government feels like it.
Are we Canadians?
The "criminal element of our society" we should worry about are elected and appointed officials who've decided that either the Founding Fathers didn't really mean what they said, that it somehow doesn't apply today (interestingly, even the Left hasn't made that claim much over the past seven years of the Bush Administration), or that we're all too stupid to read some kind of secret code they wrote into the law, empowering tyrants to take our rights away whenever they "feel the need".
"I can only imagine if all the current gun laws were abolished how the crime rate would [soar]." Given the incontrovertible fact that the better armed people are, the less crime there is, a soaring crime rate would indeed be totally imaginary. Liberals whimper about just such an imaginary soaring crime rate whenever it gets easier for individuals to own and carry weapons. I suggest that you read More Guns, Less Crime by Professor John Lott if you have any doubts on the subject.
I have to add that your phrase "legally purchased firearm" is offensive to anyone who believes that begging the government for permission to own a gun, or informing it that you have one, defeats the purpose of the Second Amendment. Any individual should be free to walk into any store, gun show, or yard sale and buy a gun for cash, without signing a paper or even giving anyone their name. That's what the Founders intended; that's how it was most places until 1968; that's what we must strive for. To paraphrase the great Alphonso Bedoya, in Treasure of the Sierra Madre, "We don' need no stinkin' legalized!"
Not too much later on, you assert that, " ... if you get rid of the [BATFE] their duties and personnel would be absorbed by other Federal agencies. Getting rid of a name does not help anyone. Federal law enforcement agencies have their place ... "
On the contrary, we seek not only to abolish the BATFE, but all of its functions, as well, since not one is legal under the Constitution. Alcohol and tobacco (however much some people may disapprove of their use) are subject to religiously-based punitive "sin taxes" that are completely out of place in a nation with a First Amendment in its Constitution. They violate the letter and spirit of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well, since it guarantees equal protection under the law -- protection that smokers, drinkers, and gun people never actually receive.
Furthermore, there's no Constitutional justification for the existence of any of the agencies you think might pick up BATFE's workload. (See Article 1, Section 8, a short, extremely explicit list of powers permissable to the government -- a list that does not include creating anything even remotely like the EPA, OSHA, FBI, NSA, DHS, or CIA.) If you wish to live in a "country of laws" it must be a country of all the laws, especially highest law of the land, the Bill of Rights.
You begin again, "I believe that all law-abiding citizens should be allowed to carry a firearm and -- "
Please get this through your head once and for all: regarding the individual right to own and carry weapons, there is no "allowed". Government has nothing to say about it. This basic human right predates the Second Amendment (which only offers to protect it). It predates the Constitution. It predates the United States. It predates the British and the Roman empires. It predates civilization itself.
Undaunted by the laws you profess to respect, you trudge onward: "Concealed weapons permits should be good throughout the United States, however, I do believe there should be some type of proficiency qualification requirement ... every 3 to 5 years if not annually." Apparently I missed the part of the Second Amendment that says, "the right of the people who have permits and pass some type of proficiency qualification to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
"I understand JPFO's positions on firearms given the history of the Jewish people and what has happened to them ... This will never happen in this country unless the government is willing to kill those of us that will fight to the death before giving up our guns and for this reason, I do not feel they will try."
Maybe this is a little harsh, but exactly whose fantasy world are you living in? This is the age of Waco, of Ruby Ridge, of the Texas FLDS child kidnappings. It's an age in which a United States Senator, Thomas Dodd, can get the Library of Congress to translate Nazi gun laws -- written to satisfy Hitler the way the Bill of Rights was written to satisfy Jeffersom -- so he could turn them into the Gun Control Act of 1968.
It's the age of secret detention centers -- concentration camps -- the seizure of private weapons as part of "helping" disaster victims, and the imposition of a North American Union that would circumvent and destroy the Bill of Rights, erase the borders between this country and Mexico and Canada, and force Americans to use "Ameros" for money instead of dollars.
The government now snatches people off the street and out of their homes, ships them without due process to Guantanamo Bay and other places for unlimited periods of time, and tortures them. Your bland assurances that "it can't happen here" ring a bit hollow, since it is happening here, right now. Only this time, everybody gets to be a Jew.
See the following:
http://search.freefind.com/ ................ =r&mode=ALL&query=nau&SUBMIT=+Find%21+&t=s
http://search.freefind.com/ .......................... =Search&mode=ALL&search=all
You say: "We must continue the watchdog approach on all new legislation and be very vocal on bills that attempt to further constrict our 'Right to Keep and Bear Arms' along with any legislation that constricts other Constitutional rights," you tell us. "Our best hope is return conservatives to the House, Senate, and Presidency."
You go on at considerable length about "conservative principles" and a need to elect and appoint conservatives anywhere and everywhere. You seem to have missed the fact that it's your precious conservatives and their so-called "principles" that have brought us to the end of the American dream of peace, freedom, prosperity, and progress. It's interesting to me that novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand predicted developments like these over forty years ago.
It's your precious conservatives who wage unconstitutional wars, lock up individuals who are supposed to be presumed innocent until they're proven guilty, deprive them of legal representation, and treat them in ways it's illegal to treat animals.
It's your precious conservatives who rammed the fascistic Patriot Act through Congress, who conduct illegal, warrantless wiretaps, who continue the medieval practice of Eminent Domain, and champion the mass invasion of privacy at airports.
It's your precious conservatives' irrational insistence on gun control -- victim disarmament -- at any cost that prevents passengers from shooting hijackers before they can crash planes into buildings. Your precious conservatives would rather shoot down a hijacked plane loaded with innocent people, than let those people exercise their basic human right to self-defense.
In short, it's your precious conservatives -- right wing socialists who have turned out to be no better than the left wing socialists who call themselves liberals -- who are leading the government's campaign to destroy the Bill of Rights.
When German "law enforcement officers" did this to their own people they protested that they were "only following orders" -- but we hanged them anyway, at Nuremberg. In my experience most cops' highest loyalty is to their pensions, rather than the people they claim to serve, an attitude that makes all kinds of oppression -- including genocide -- possible. See JPFO's gun control/genocide chart at http://www.jpfo.org/filegen-a-m/deathgc.htm#dgc
I urge you to read Melissa Marsh's review of Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher R. Browning, then obtain and read the book itself: . "If the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101 could become killers under such circumstances, what group of men cannot?" says Browning, trying to understand and explain why people can be led to do anything, no matter how depraved. "Human responsibility is ultimately an individual matter."
I am speaking to you, now, of your individual responsibility. I truly wonder what Second Amendment -- and what Constitution -- you believe in. It certainly isn't the one that I know and love, that the colonists and veterans after them fought and bled and died for. It's time to look straight into the ugly face of history and acquaint yourself unflinchingly with the truth.
A cop should not cop out.
L. Neil Smith
Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith
has been writing about guns and gun ownership
for more than 30 years. He is the author of 27
books, the most widely-published and prolific
libertarian novelist in the world, and is considered
an expert on the ethics of self-defense. His writings
may be seen on the following sites: