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IN FOCUS – Gun Control

Right to bear arms

In the 1992 movie Red Dawn, America is invaded by Communist troops.  The movie focuses on the effect of the invasionby one detachment of Latin American soldiers in one small town.  One of the first actions taken by the commander on the ground is to issue these instructions:

Go to the sporting goods store.  From the files, obtain form 4473.  These will contain descriptions of weapons and lists of private ownership.

In cities, audiences that had no affinity for guns had no idea about the significance of that one scene.  But gun-owning audiences in rural American movie theaters shouted and clapped.  Gun owners knew that the ATF Form 4473 is the federal “Firearms Transaction Record” which must be completed for all commercial sales.  Gun owners have long understood the risk they suffer when governments have a record of which Americans own what guns.  Here, truth was being exposed on the Big Screen.  Both history and common sense tell us that when invasion from abroad or tyranny from within comes to America, the people owning guns will be targeted first.  Here was Hollywood teaching Americans a lesson about the dangers of gun control.  Amazing!

The American Revolution

It is often said that America is plagued by what the Leftists describe as its “gun culture.”  In truth, America is blessed by its affinity to guns.  The Framers of the Second Amendment believed that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” was not just important, but “necessary to the security of a free State.”  This truth, embodied in the Constitution, was learned the hard way by the Founding Generation.

On April 19, 1775, British troops marched from Boston, Massachusetts “into Lexington and Concord intending to suppress the possibility of rebellion by seizing weapons from the colonists.”  Back in Boston, the British were working to disarm Patriots there.  “[T]he inhabitants had been ordered to bring in their arms … and that those in possession of any after the expiration of a notice given them, were to take the consequences.”

On the Lexington green, British Major John Pitcairn shouted, “throw down your arms, ye villains, ye rebels! Damn you, disperse!”  Instead, the “shot heard round the world” was fired.  Before the day was over, the Americans had driven the British back into Boston and had saved their weapons from confiscation by the British king.

As the war raged, in 1777, when the British believed they would win, “William Knox, Under Secretary of State in the British Colonial Office, circulated a proposal entitled ‘What is it to be Done with America?’”  The crux of his proposal?  Complete disarmament. 

The Militia Laws should be repealed and none suffered to be re-enacted, & the Arms of all the People should be taken away, & every piece of Ordnance removed into the King’s Stores, nor should any foundry or manufactory of Arms, Gunpowder, or Warlike Stores, be ever suffered in America.

There were many forces which convinced Colonists that separation from the British was essential to their well-being, many of which were set out in the Declaration of Independence.  However, the spark which ignited the American Revolution was the British effort to disarm Americans.  We owe such freedom as we now enjoy to those Colonists who resisted the British gun control, refused to turn in their guns, and instead used them to offer armed resistance to the British troops.

Biblical Times

Across the world and throughout history, tyrants have utilized disarmament to conquer and enslave their subjects.  The Bible records that Israelites were disarmed by the banning of blacksmiths who made their weapons:

[T]here was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears….  But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock….  So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan.  [I Samuel 13:19-22.]

Examples Across the World

The bloody Armenian genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks was preceded by mass disarmament of the Armenian minority.  “The Ottomans … decreed that any firearms the Armenians possessed were to be surrendered to the government.  Failing to do so, the decree said, ‘will be very severely punished when the arms are discovered.’”  Turkish authorities “swept down on Armenian towns to search for guns.  Villagers were tortured to induce confessions about hidden arms.”  Genocide swiftly followed. 

Throughout summer and autumn of 1915, Armenian civilians were removed from their homes and marched … toward desert concentration camps.  The deportation … was accompanied by a systematic campaign of mass murder….

Survivors who reached the deserts of Syria languished in concentration camps, many starved to death, and massacres continued into 1916.  Conservative estimates have calculated that some 600,000 to more than 1,000,000 Armenians were slaughtered or died on the marches.

In the 1930s, the Weimar government of Germany imposed harsh gun control measures as unrest broke out between Nazi and Communist sympathizers.  The government imposed firearm registration at the end of 1931.  In 1933, Hitler took over, and used the Weimar government’s registration records to impose a gun confiscation mandate.  History records the bloodshed of millions of lives as a result.

Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge terror regime in Cambodia “ended private gun ownership….  [A]ll private firearms were moved from private ownership into the stockpiles of the regime.”  Half a million deaths in the “Killing Fields” were the result.

Idi Amin and successor tyrants in Uganda have used disarmament to subdue minority people groups and commit genocide.

In 1984, after Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered a military assault on a Sikh temple killing thousands, Ghandi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards.  Indian officials confiscated firearms from the Sikh people, promising the government would protect them.  Then, the bloodshed began, and nearly 3,000 Sikhs were murdered — for a time at the rate of one per minute.  Law enforcement and government officials participated in the massacre.

The American Experience

One group of Americans who should be most committed to maintaining gun rights are Blacks.  In his infamous Dred Scott decision, Chief Justice Roger Taney declared the “necessity” of disarming black Americans.  As Justice Clarence Thomas explained, “If blacks were citizens, Taney fretted, they would be entitled to the privileges and immunities of citizens, including the right ‘to keep and carry arms wherever they went.’”  N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen, 597 U.S. 1, 60 (2022).

After the Civil War, “‘[S]ystematic efforts’ in the ‘old Confederacy’ to disarm the more than 180,000 freedmen who had served in the Union Army, as well as other free blacks” were used.  “[T]hroughout the South, armed parties, often consisting of ex-Confederate soldiers serving in the state militias, forcibly took firearms from newly freed slaves.”  McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 U.S. 742, 847 (Thomas, J., concurring).  Once disarmed, the freedmen were easy prey.  “The use of firearms for self-defense was often the only way black citizens could protect themselves from mob violence.”  Id. at 857.

[Sometimes] the use of firearms allowed targets of mob violence to survive.  One man recalled the night during his childhood when his father stood armed at a jail until morning to ward off lynchers….  The experience left him with a sense, “not ‘of powerlessness, but of the “possibilities of salvation”’” that came from standing up to intimidation.  [Id. at 858.]

Throughout history, disarmament is often the prelude to genocide and oppression of racial, ethnic, religious, and political minorities.  Yet Black Congressmen such as Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) demands gun control:  “We will not rest until we’ve taken weapons of war out of circulation in our communities.”

For whatever reason, many Americans simply hate the Second Amendment.  Walter Shapiro writing in the New Republicthat “the core problem is the Second Amendment itself….  [I]t is time to dream about truly disarming America.”  Gerald Ford was President for less than two and one-half years, but he gave us former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevenswho has urged “demonstrators [to] demand a repeal of the Second Amendment.”  Phoebe Bovy, writing in the New Republic, ranted:  “Ban guns.  All guns.  Get rid of guns in homes, and on the streets….  Ban guns!  Not just gun violence.  Not just certain guns….  All of them.

These politicians and pundits reject the wisdom of Justice Joseph Story who wrote in his Commentaries on the Constitution: 

The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.

As the Framers of the Second Amendment understood and as history repeatedly has demonstrated, “the right to keep and bear arms” truly is “necessary” for the preservation and “security of a free State.”

Editor’s Note: To read the articles in this series, please click here.

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