Time: Wed Jun 11 21:49:53 1997
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Date: Wed, 11 Jun 1997 21:48:48 -0700
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From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: "A Nation of Cowards" (fwd)

>"A Nation of Cowards" was published in the Fall, '93 issue of The
>Public Interest, a quarterly journal of opinion published by National
>Affairs, Inc.
>Single copies of The Public Interest are available for $6.  Annual
>subscription rate is $21 ($24 US, for Canadian and foreign
>subscriptions).  Single copies of this or other issues, and
>subscriptions, can be obtained from:
>     The Public Interest
>     1112 16th St., NW, Suite 530
>     Washington, DC  20036
>(C) 1993 by _The Public Interest_.
>                        A Nation of Cowards
>                         Jeffrey R. Snyder
>                   OUR SOCIETY has reached a pinnacle of
>self-expression and respect for individuality rare or unmatched in
>history.  Our entire popular culture -- from fashion magazines to the
>cinema -- positively screams the matchless worth of the individual,
>and glories in eccentricity, nonconformity, independent judgment, and
>self-determination.  This enthusiasm is reflected in the prevalent
>notion that helping someone entails increasing that person's
>"self-esteem"; that if a person properly values himself, he will
>naturally be a happy, productive, and, in some inexplicable fashion,
>responsible member of society.
>   And yet, while people are encouraged to revel in their individuality
>and incalculable self-worth, the media and the law enforcement
>establishment continually advise us that, when confronted with the
>threat of lethal violence, we should not resist, but simply give the
>attacker what he wants.  If the crime under consideration is rape,
>there is some notable waffling on this point, and the discussion
>quickly moves to how the woman can change her behavior to minimize the
>risk of rape, and the various ridiculous, non-lethal weapons she may
>acceptably carry, such as whistles, keys, mace or, that weapon which
>really sends shivers down a rapist's spine, the portable cellular
>   Now how can this be?  How can a person who values himself so highly
>calmly accept the indignity of a criminal assault?  How can one who
>believes that the essence of his dignity lies in his self-determination
>passively accept the forcible deprivation of that self-determination?
>How can he, quietly, with great dignity and poise, simply hand over the
>   The assumption, of course, is that there is no inconsistency.  The
>advice not to resist a criminal assault and simply hand over the goods
>is founded on the notion that one's life is of incalculable value, and
>that no amount of property is worth it.  Put aside, for a moment, the
>outrageousness of the suggestion that a criminal who proffers lethal
>violence should be treated as if he has instituted a new social
>contract: "I will not hurt or kill you if you give me what I want."
>For years, feminists have labored to educate people that rape is not
>about sex, but about domination, degradation, and control.  Evidently,
>someone needs to inform the law enforcement establishment and the media
>that kidnapping, robbery, carjacking, and assault are not about
>   Crime is not only a complete disavowal of the social contract, but
>also a commandeering of the victim's person and liberty.  If the
>individual's dignity lies in the fact that he is a moral agent engaging
>in actions of his own will, in free exchange with others, then crime
>always violates the victim's dignity.  It is, in fact, an act of
>enslavement.  Your wallet, your purse, or your car may not be worth
>your life, but your dignity is; and if it is not worth fighting for, it
>can hardly be said to exist.
>                         The gift of life
>   Although difficult for modern man to fathom, it was once widely
>believed that life was a gift from God, that to not defend that life
>when offered violence was to hold God's gift in contempt, to be a
>coward and to breach one's duty to one's community.  A sermon given in
>Philadelphia in 1747 unequivocally equated the failure to defend
>oneself with suicide:
>   He that suffers his life to be taken from him by one that hath no
>   authority for that purpose, when he might preserve it by defense,
>   incurs the Guilt of self murder since God hath enjoined him to seek
>   the continuance of his life, and Nature itself teaches every creature
>   to defend itself.
>   "Cowardice" and "self-respect" have largely disappeared from public
>discourse.  In their place we are offered "self-esteem" as the
>bellwether of success and a proxy for dignity.  "Self-respect" implies
>that one recognizes standards, and judges oneself worthy by the degree
>to which one lives up to them.  "Self-esteem" simply means that one
>feels good about oneself.  "Dignity" used to refer to the self-mastery
>and fortitude with which a person conducted himself in the face of
>life's vicissitudes and the boorish behavior of others.  Now, judging
>by campus speech codes, dignity requires that we never encounter a
>discouraging word and that others be coerced into acting respectfully,
>evidently on the assumption that we are powerless to prevent our
>degradation if exposed to the demeaning behavior of others.  These are
>signposts proclaiming the insubstantiality of our character, the
>hollowness of our souls.
>   It is impossible to address the problem of rampant crime without
>talking about the moral responsibility of the intended victim.  Crime
>is rampant because the law-abiding, each of us, condone it, excuse it,
>permit it, submit to it.  We permit and encourage it because we do not
>fight back, immediately, then and there, where it happens.  Crime is
>not rampant because we do not have enough prisons, because judges and
>prosecutors are too soft, because the police are hamstrung with absurd
>technicalities.  The defect is there, in our character.  We are a
>nation of cowards and shirkers.
>                        Do you feel lucky?
>   In 1991, when then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh released the
>FBI's annual crime statistics, he noted that it is now more likely that
>a person will be the victim of a violent crime than that he will be in
>an auto accident.  Despite this, most people readily believe that the
>existence of the police relieves them of the responsibility to take
>full measures to protect themselves.  The police, however, are not
>personal bodyguards.  Rather, they act as a general deterrent to crime,
>both by their presence and by apprehending criminals after the fact.
>As numerous courts have held, they have no legal obligation to protect
>anyone in particular.  You cannot sue them for failing to prevent you
>from being the victim of a crime.
>   Insofar as the police deter by their presence, they are very, very
>good.  Criminals take great pains not to commit a crime in front of
>them.  Unfortunately, the corollary is that you can pretty much bet
>your life (and you are) that they won't be there at the moment you
>actually need them.
>   Should you ever be the victim of an assault, a robbery, or a rape,
>you will find it very difficult to call the police while the act is in
>progress, even if you are carrying a portable cellular phone.
>Nevertheless, you might be interested to know how long it takes them to
>show up.  Department of Justice statistics for 1991 show that, for all
>crimes of violence, only 28 percent of calls are responded to within
>five minutes.  The idea that protection is a service people can call to
>have delivered and expect to receive in a timely fashion is often
>mocked by gun owners, who love to recite the challenge, "Call for a
>cop, call for an ambulance, and call for a pizza.  See who shows up
>   Many people deal with the problem of crime by convincing themselves
>that they live, work, and travel only in special "crime-free" zones.
>Invariably, they react with shock and hurt surprise when they discover
>that criminals do not play by the rules and do not respect these
>imaginary boundaries.  If, however, you understand that crime can occur
>anywhere at anytime, and if you understand that you can be maimed or
>mortally wounded in mere seconds, you may wish to consider whether you
>are willing to place the responsibility for safeguarding your life in
>the hands of others.
>                     Power and responsibility
>   Is your life worth protecting?  If so, whose responsibility is it to
>protect it?  If you believe that it is the police's, not only are you
>wrong -- since the courts universally rule that they have no legal
>obligation to do so -- but you face some difficult moral quandaries.
>How can you rightfully ask another human being to risk his life to
>protect yours, when you will assume no responsibility yourself?
>Because that is his job and we pay him to do it?  Because your life is
>of incalculable value, but his is only worth the $30,000 salary we pay
>him?  If you believe it reprehensible to possess the means and will to
>use lethal force to repel a criminal assault, how can you call upon
>another to do so for you?
>   Do you believe that you are forbidden to protect yourself because
>the police are better qualified to protect you, because they know what
>they are doing but you're a rank amateur?  Put aside that this is
>equivalent to believing that only concert pianists may play the piano
>and only professional athletes may play sports.  What exactly are these
>special qualities possessed only by the police and beyond the rest of
>us mere mortals?
>   One who values his life and takes seriously his responsibilities to
>his family and community will possess and cultivate the means of
>fighting back, and will retaliate when threatened with death or
>grievous injury to himself or a loved one.  He will never be content to
>rely solely on others for his safety, or to think he has done all that
>is possible by being aware of his surroundings and taking measures of
>avoidance.  Let's not mince words: He will be armed, will be trained in
>the use of his weapon, and will defend himself when faced with lethal
>   Fortunately, there is a weapon for preserving life and liberty that
>can be wielded effectively by almost anyone -- the handgun.  Small and
>light enough to be carried habitually, lethal, but unlike the knife or
>sword, not demanding great skill or strength, it truly is the "great
>equalizer."  Requiring only hand-eye coordination and a modicum of
>ability to remain cool under pressure, it can be used effectively by
>the old and the weak against the young and the strong, by the one
>against the many.
>   The handgun is the only weapon that would give a lone female jogger
>a chance of prevailing against a gang of thugs intent on rape, a
>teacher a chance of protecting children at recess from a madman intent
>on massacring them, a family of tourists waiting at a mid-town subway
>station the means to protect themselves from a gang of teens armed with
>razors and knives.
>   But since we live in a society that by and large outlaws the
>carrying of arms, we are brought into the fray of the Great American
>Gun War.  Gun control is one of the most prominent battlegrounds in our
>current culture wars.  Yet it is unique in the half-heartedness with
>which our conservative leaders and pundits -- our "conservative elite"
>-- do battle, and have conceded the moral high ground to liberal gun
>control proponents.  It is not a topic often written about, or written
>about with any great fervor, by William F. Buckley or Patrick
>Buchanan.  As drug czar, William Bennett advised President Bush to ban
>"assault weapons."  George Will is on record as recommending the repeal
>of the Second Amendment, and Jack Kemp is on record as favoring a ban
>on the possession of semiautomatic "assault weapons."  The battle for
>gun rights is one fought predominantly by the common man.  The beliefs
>of both our liberal and conservative elites are in fact abetting the
>criminal rampage through our society.
>                     Selling crime prevention
>   By any rational measure, nearly all gun control proposals are
>hokum.  The Brady Bill, for example, would not have prevented John
>Hinckley from obtaining a gun to shoot President Reagan; Hinckley
>purchased his weapon five months before the attack, and his medical
>records could not have served as a basis to deny his purchase of a gun,
>since medical records are not public documents filed with the police.
>Similarly, California's waiting period and background check did not
>stop Patrick Purdy from purchasing the "assault rifle" and handguns he
>used to massacre children during recess in a Stockton schoolyard; the
>felony conviction that would have provided the basis for stopping the
>sales did not exist, because Mr. Purdy's previous weapons violations
>were plea-bargained down from felonies to misdemeanors.
>   In the mid-sixties there was a public service advertising campaign
>targeted at car owners about the prevention of car theft.  The purpose
>of the ad was to urge car owners not to leave their keys in their
>cars.  The message was, "Don't help a good boy go bad."  The implication
>was that, by leaving his keys in his car, the normal, law-abiding car
>owner was contributing to the delinquency of minors who, if they just
>weren't tempted beyond their limits, would be "good."  Now, in those
>days people still had a fair sense of just who was responsible for
>whose behavior.  The ad succeeded in enraging a goodly portion of the
>populace, and was soon dropped.
>   Nearly all of the gun control measures offered by Handgun Control,
>Inc. (HCI) and its ilk embody the same philosophy.  They are founded
>on the belief that America's law-abiding gun owners are the source of
>the problem.  With their unholy desire for firearms, they are creating
>a society awash in a sea of guns, thereby helping good boys go bad, and
>helping bad boys be badder.  This laying of moral blame for violent
>crime at the feet of the law-abiding, and the implicit absolution of
>violent criminals for their misdeeds, naturally infuriates honest gun
>   The files of HCI and other gun control organizations are filled with
>proposals to limit the availability of semiautomatic and other firearms
>to law-abiding citizens, and barren of proposals for apprehending and
>punishing violent criminals.  It is ludicrous to expect that the
>proposals of HCI, or any gun control laws, will significantly curb
>crime.  According to Department of Justice and Bureau of Alcohol,
>Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) statistics, fully 90 percent of violent
>crimes are committed without a handgun, and 93 percent of the guns
>obtained by violent criminals are not obtained through the lawful
>purchase and sale transactions that are the object of most gun control
>legislation.  Furthermore, the number of violent criminals is minute in
>comparison to the number of firearms in America -- estimated by the ATF
>at about 200 million, approximately one-third of which are handguns.
>With so abundant a supply, there will always be enough guns available
>for those who wish to use them for nefarious ends, no matter how
>complete the legal prohibitions against them, or how draconian the
>punishment for their acquisition or use.  No, the gun control proposals
>of HCI and other organizations are not seriously intended as crime
>control.  Something else is at work here.
>                     The tyranny of the elite
>   Gun control is a moral crusade against a benighted, barbaric
>citizenry.  This is demonstrated not only by the ineffectualness of gun
>control in preventing crime, and by the fact that it focuses on
>restricting the behavior of the law-abiding rather than apprehending
>and punishing the guilty, but also by the execration that gun control
>proponents heap on gun owners and their evil instrumentality, the NRA.
>Gun owners are routinely portrayed as uneducated, paranoid rednecks
>fascinated by and prone to violence, i.e., exactly the type of person
>who opposes the liberal agenda and whose moral and social
>"re-education" is the object of liberal social policies.  Typical of
>such bigotry is New York Gov. Mario Cuomo's famous characterization of
>gun-owners as "hunters who drink beer, don't vote, and lie to their
>wives about where they were all weekend."  Similar vituperation is
>rained upon the NRA, characterized by Sen. Edward Kennedy as the
>"pusher's best friend," lampooned in political cartoons as standing for
>the right of children to carry firearms to school and, in general,
>portrayed as standing for an individual's God-given right to blow
>people away at will.
>   The stereotype is, of course, false.  As criminologist and
>constitutional lawyer Don B. Kates, Jr. and former HCI contributor
>Dr. Patricia Harris have pointed out, "[s]tudies consistently show
>that, on the average, gun owners are better educated and have more
>prestigious jobs than non-owners....  Later studies show that gun
>owners are less likely than non-owners to approve of police brutality,
>violence against dissenters, etc."
>   Conservatives must understand that the antipathy many liberals have
>for gun owners arises in good measure from their statist utopianism.
>This habit of mind has nowhere been better explored than in The
>Republic.  There, Plato argues that the perfectly just society is one
>in which an unarmed people exhibit virtue by minding their own business
>in the performance of their assigned functions, while the government of
>philosopher-kings, above the law and protected by armed guardians
>unquestioning in their loyalty to the state, engineers, implements, and
>fine-tunes the creation of that society, aided and abetted by myths
>that both hide and justify their totalitarian manipulation.
>                         The unarmed life
>   When columnist Carl Rowan preaches gun control and uses a gun to
>defend his home, when Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer seeks
>legislation year after year to ban semiautomatic "assault weapons"
>whose only purpose, we are told, is to kill people, while he is at the
>same time escorted by state police armed with large-capacity 9mm
>semiautomatic pistols, it is not simple hypocrisy.  It is the workings
>of that habit of mind possessed by all superior beings who have taken
>upon themselves the terrible burden of civilizing the masses and who
>understand, like our Congress, that laws are for other people.
>   The liberal elite know that they are philosopher-kings.  They know
>that the people simply cannot be trusted; that they are incapable of
>just and fair self-government; that left to their own devices, their
>society will be racist, sexist, homophobic, and inequitable -- and the
>liberal elite know how to fix things.  They are going to help us live
>the good and just life, even if they have to lie to us and force us to
>do it.  And they detest those who stand in their way.
>   The private ownership of firearms is a rebuke to this utopian zeal.
>To own firearms is to affirm that freedom and liberty are not gifts
>from the state.  It is to reserve final judgment about whether the
>state is encroaching on freedom and liberty, to stand ready to defend
>that freedom with more than mere words, and to stand outside the
>state's totalitarian reach.
>                      The Florida experience
>   The elitist distrust of the people underlying the gun control
>movement is illustrated beautifully in HCI's campaign against a new
>concealed-carry law in Florida.  Prior to 1987, the Florida law
>permitting the issuance of concealed-carry permits was administered at
>the county level.  The law was vague, and, as a result, was subject to
>conflicting interpretation and political manipulation.  Permits were
>issued principally to security personnel and the privileged few with
>political connections.  Permits were valid only within the county of
>   In 1987, however, Florida enacted a uniform concealed-carry law
>which mandates that county authorities issue a permit to anyone who
>satisfies certain objective criteria.  The law requires that a permit
>be issued to any applicant who is a resident, at least twenty-one years
>of age, has no criminal record, no record of alcohol or drug abuse, no
>history of mental illness, and provides evidence of having
>satisfactorily completed a firearms safety course offered by the NRA or
>other competent instructor.  The applicant must provide a set of
>fingerprints, after which the authorities make a background check.  The
>permit must be issued or denied within ninety days, is valid throughout
>the state, and must be renewed every three years, which provides
>authorities a regular means of reevaluating whether the permit holder
>still qualifies.
>   Passage of this legislation was vehemently opposed by HCI and the
>media.  The law, they said, would lead to citizens shooting each other
>over everyday disputes involving fender benders, impolite behavior, and
>other slights to their dignity.  Terms like "Florida, the Gunshine
>State" and "Dodge City East" were coined to suggest that the state, and
>those seeking passage of the law, were encouraging individuals to act
>as judge, jury, and executioner in a "Death Wish" society.
>   No HCI campaign more clearly demonstrates the elitist beliefs
>underlying the campaign to eradicate gun ownership.  Given the
>qualifications required of permit holders, HCI and the media can only
>believe that common, law-abiding citizens are seething cauldrons of
>homicidal rage, ready to kill to avenge any slight to their dignity,
>eager to seek out and summarily execute the lawless.  Only lack of
>immediate access to a gun restrains them and prevents the blood from
>flowing in the streets.  They are so mentally and morally deficient
>that they would mistake a permit to carry a weapon in self-defense as a
>state-sanctioned license to kill at will.
>   Did the dire predictions come true?  Despite the fact that Miami and
>Dade County have severe problems with the drug trade, the homicide rate
>fell in Florida following enactment of this law, as it did in Oregon
>following enactment of similar legislation there.  There are, in
>addition, several documented cases of new permit holders successfully
>using their weapons to defend themselves.  Information from the Florida
>Department of State shows that, from the beginning of the program in
>1987 through June 1993, 160,823 permits have been issued, and only 530,
>or about 0.33 percent of the applicants, have been denied a permit for
>failure to satisfy the criteria, indicating that the law is benefitting
>those whom it was intended to benefit -- the law-abiding.  Only 16
>permits, less than 1/100th of 1 percent, have been revoked due to the
>post-issuance commission of a crime involving a firearm.
>   The Florida legislation has been used as a model for legislation
>adopted by Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and Mississippi.  There are, in
>addition, seven other states (Maine, North and South Dakota, Utah,
>Washington, West Virginia, and, with the exception of cities with a
>population in excess of 1 million, Pennsylvania) which provide that
>concealed-carry permits must be issued to law-abiding citizens who
>satisfy various objective criteria.  Finally, no permit is required at
>all in Vermont.  Altogether, then, there are thirteen states in which
>law-abiding citizens who wish to carry arms to defend themselves may do
>so.  While no one appears to have compiled the statistics from all of
>these jurisdictions, there is certainly an ample data base for those
>seeking the truth about the trustworthiness of law-abiding citizens who
>carry firearms.
>   Other evidence also suggests that armed citizens are very
>responsible in using guns to defend themselves.  Florida State
>University criminologist Gary Kleck, using surveys and other data, has
>determined that armed citizens defend their lives or property with
>firearms against criminals approximately 1 million times a year.  In 98
>percent of these instances, the citizen merely brandishes the weapon or
>fires a warning shot.  Only in 2 percent of the cases do citizens
>actually shoot their assailants.  In defending themselves with their
>firearms, armed citizens kill 2,000 to 3,000 criminals each year, three
>times the number killed by the police.  A nationwide study by Kates,
>the constitutional lawyer and criminologist, found that only 2 percent
>of civilian shootings involved an innocent person mistakenly identified
>as a criminal.  The "error rate" for the police, however, was 11
>percent, over five times as high.
>   It is simply not possible to square the numbers above and the
>experience of Florida with the notions that honest, law-abiding gun
>owners are borderline psychopaths itching for an excuse to shoot
>someone, vigilantes eager to seek out and summarily execute the
>lawless, or incompetent fools incapable of determining when it is
>proper to use lethal force in defense of their lives.  Nor upon
>reflection should these results seem surprising.  Rape, robbery, and
>attempted murder are not typically actions rife with ambiguity or
>subtlety, requiring special powers of observation and great
>book-learning to discern.  When a man pulls a knife on a woman and
>says, "You're coming with me," her judgment that a crime is being
>committed is not likely to be in error.  There is little chance that
>she is going to shoot the wrong person.  It is the police, because they
>are rarely at the scene of the crime when it occurs, who are more
>likely to find themselves in circumstances where guilt and innocence
>are not so clear-cut, and in which the probability for mistakes is
>                         Arms and liberty
>   Classical republican philosophy has long recognized the critical
>relationship between personal liberty and the possession of arms by a
>people ready and willing to use them.  Political theorists as
>dissimilar as Niccolo Machiavelli, Sir Thomas More, James Harrington,
>Algernon Sidney, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau all shared the
>view that the possession of arms is vital for resisting tyranny, and
>that to be disarmed by one's government is tantamount to being enslaved
>by it.  The possession of arms by the people is the ultimate warrant
>that government governs only with the consent of the governed.  As
>Kates has shown, the Second Amendment is as much a product of this
>political philosophy as it is of the American experience in the
>Revolutionary War.  Yet our conservative elite has abandoned this
>aspect of republican theory.  Although our conservative pundits
>recognize and embrace gun owners as allies in other arenas, their
>battle for gun rights is desultory.  The problem here is not a statist
>utopianism, although goodness knows that liberals are not alone in the
>confidence they have in the state's ability to solve society's
>problems.  Rather, the problem seems to lie in certain cultural traits
>shared by our conservative and liberal elites.
>   One such trait is an abounding faith in the power of the word.  The
>failure of our conservative elite to defend the Second Amendment stems
>in great measure from an overestimation of the power of the rights set
>forth in the First Amendment, and a general undervaluation of action.
>Implicit in calls for the repeal of the Second Amendment is the
>assumption that our First Amendment rights are sufficient to preserve
>our liberty.  The belief is that liberty can be preserved as long as
>men freely speak their minds; that there is no tyranny or abuse that
>can survive being exposed in the press; and that the truth need only be
>disclosed for the culprits to be shamed.  The people will act, and the
>truth shall set us, and keep us, free.
>   History is not kind to this belief, tending rather to support the
>view of Hobbes, Machiavelli, and other republican theorists that only
>people willing and able to defend themselves can preserve their
>liberties.  While it may be tempting and comforting to believe that the
>existence of mass electronic communication has forever altered the
>balance of power between the state and its subjects, the belief has
>certainly not been tested by time, and what little history there is in
>the age of mass communication is not especially encouraging.  The
>camera, radio, and press are mere tools and, like guns, can be used for
>good or ill.  Hitler, after all, was a masterful orator, used radio to
>very good effect, and is well known to have pioneered and exploited the
>propaganda opportunities afforded by film.  And then, of course, there
>were the Brownshirts, who knew very well how to quell dissent among
>                          Polite society
>   In addition to being enamored of the power of words, our
>conservative elite shares with liberals the notion that an armed
>society is just not civilized or progressive, that massive gun
>ownership is a blot on our civilization.  This association of personal
>disarmament with civilized behavior is one of the great unexamined
>beliefs of our time.
>   Should you read English literature from the sixteenth through
>nineteenth centuries, you will discover numerous references to the fact
>that a gentleman, especially when out at night or traveling, armed
>himself with a sword or a pistol against the chance of encountering a
>highwayman or other such predator.  This does not appear to have
>shocked the ladies accompanying him.  True, for the most part there
>were no police in those days, but we have already addressed the notion
>that the presence of the police absolves people of the responsibility
>to look after their safety, and in any event the existence of the
>police cannot be said to have reduced crime to negligible levels.
>   It is by no means obvious why it is "civilized" to permit oneself to
>fall easy prey to criminal violence, and to permit criminals to
>continue unobstructed in their evil ways.  While it may be that a
>society in which crime is so rare that no one ever needs to carry a
>weapon is "civilized," a society that stigmatizes the carrying of
>weapons by the law-abiding -- because it distrusts its citizens more
>than it fears rapists, robbers, and murderers -- certainly cannot claim
>this distinction.  Perhaps the notion that defending oneself with
>lethal force is not "civilized" arises from the view that violence is
>always wrong, or the view that each human being is of such intrinsic
>worth that it is wrong to kill anyone under any circumstances.  The
>necessary implication of these propositions, however, is that life is
>not worth defending.  Far from being "civilized," the beliefs that
>counterviolence and killing are always wrong are an invitation to the
>spread of barbarism.  Such beliefs announce loudly and clearly that
>those who do not respect the lives and property of others will rule
>over those who do.
>   In truth, one who believes it wrong to arm himself against criminal
>violence shows contempt of God's gift of life (or, in modern parlance,
>does not properly value himself), does not live up to his
>responsibilities to his family and community, and proclaims himself
>mentally and morally deficient, because he does not trust himself to
>behave responsibly.  In truth, a state that deprives its law-abiding
>citizens of the means to effectively defend themselves is not civilized
>but barbarous, becoming an accomplice of murderers, rapists, and thugs
>and revealing its totalitarian nature by its tacit admission that the
>disorganized, random havoc created by criminals is far less a threat
>than are men and women who believe themselves free and independent, and
>act accordingly.
>   While gun control proponents and other advocates of a kinder,
>gentler society incessantly decry our "armed society," in truth we do
>not live in an armed society.  We live in a society in which violent
>criminals and agents of the state habitually carry weapons, and in
>which many law-abiding citizens own firearms but do not go about
>armed.  Department of Justice statistics indicate that 87 percent of
>all violent crimes occur outside the home.  Essentially, although tens
>of millions own firearms, we are an unarmed society.
>                        Take back the night
>   Clearly the police and the courts are not providing a significant
>brake on criminal activity.  While liberals call for more poverty,
>education, and drug treatment programs, conservatives take a more
>direct tack.  George Will advocates a massive increase in the number of
>police and a shift toward "community-based policing."  Meanwhile, the
>NRA and many conservative leaders call for laws that would require
>violent criminals serve at least 85 percent of their sentences and
>would place repeat offenders permanently behind bars.
>   Our society suffers greatly from the beliefs that only official
>action is legitimate and that the state is the source of our earthly
>salvation.  Both liberal and conservative prescriptions for violent
>crime suffer from the "not in my job description" school of thought
>regarding the responsibilities of the law-abiding citizen, and from an
>overestimation of the ability of the state to provide society's moral
>moorings.  As long as law-abiding citizens assume no personal
>responsibility for combatting crime, liberal and conservative programs
>will fail to contain it.
>   Judging by the numerous articles about concealed-carry in gun
>magazines, the growing number of products advertised for such purpose,
>and the increase in the number of concealed-carry applications in
>states with mandatory-issuance laws, more and more people, including
>growing numbers of women, are carrying firearms for self-defense.
>Since there are still many states in which the issuance of permits is
>discretionary and in which law enforcement officials routinely deny
>applications, many people have been put to the hard choice between
>protecting their lives or respecting the law.  Some of these people
>have learned the hard way, by being the victim of a crime, or by seeing
>a friend or loved one raped, robbed, or murdered, that violent crime
>can happen to anyone, anywhere at anytime, and that crime is not about
>sex or property but life, liberty, and dignity.
>   The laws proscribing concealed-carry of firearms by honest,
>law-abiding citizens breed nothing but disrespect for the law.  As the
>Founding Fathers knew well, a government that does not trust its
>honest, law-abiding, taxpaying citizens with the means of self-defense
>is not itself worthy of trust.  Laws disarming honest citizens proclaim
>that the government is the master, not the servant, of the people.  A
>federal law along the lines of the Florida statute -- overriding all
>contradictory state and local laws and acknowledging that the carrying
>of firearms by law-abiding citizens is a privilege and immunity of
>citizenship -- is needed to correct the outrageous conduct of state and
>local officials operating under discretionary licensing systems.
>   What we certainly do not need is more gun control.  Those who call
>for the repeal of the Second Amendment so that we can really begin
>controlling firearms betray a serious misunderstanding of the Bill of
>Rights.  The Bill of Rights does not grant rights to the people, such
>that its repeal would legitimately confer upon government the powers
>otherwise proscribed.  The Bill of Rights is the list of the
>fundamental, inalienable rights, endowed in man by his Creator, that
>define what it means to be a free and independent people, the rights
>which must exist to ensure that government governs only with the
>consent of the people.
>   At one time this was even understood by the Supreme Court.  In
>United States v. Cruikshank (1876), the first case in which the Court
>had an opportunity to interpret the Second Amendment, it stated that
>the right confirmed by the Second Amendment "is not a right granted by
>the constitution.  Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that
>instrument for its existence."  The repeal of the Second Amendment
>would no more render the outlawing of firearms legitimate than the
>repeal of the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment would authorize
>the government to imprison and kill people at will.  A government that
>abrogates any of the Bill of Rights, with or without majoritarian
>approval, forever acts illegitimately, becomes tyrannical, and loses
>the moral right to govern.
>   This is the uncompromising understanding reflected in the warning
>that America's gun owners will not go gently into that good, utopian
>night: "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands."
>While liberals take this statement as evidence of the retrograde,
>violent nature of gun owners, we gun owners hope that liberals hold
>equally strong sentiments about their printing presses, word
>processors, and television cameras.  The republic depends upon fervent
>devotion to all our fundamental rights.

Paul Andrew Mitchell                 : Counselor at Law, federal witness
B.A., Political Science, UCLA;  M.S., Public Administration, U.C. Irvine

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