Why We Lost Gun Rights and Liberty Today and We Will Lose More Tomorrow
The Bill of Rights exists to protect United States citizens from their government. These first ten amendments to the Constitution, originally introduced by James Madison, were ratified by three-fourths of the states and became law on December 15, 1791. In the minds of many, they did not go far enough. “Half a loaf is better than no bread. If we cannot secure all our rights, let us secure what we can,” wrote Thomas Jefferson.
Hardly finding perfection, in 1776 white men with property could vote, but not Catholics, Jews, or Quakers. All women were excluded from voting. Womens' suffrage didn't happen in this country until 1920. In the U.S., it followed Australia, Russia, Denmark, Canada, and Finland. Women could vote in New Zealand starting in 1893. My grandmothers were born into a United States that had no representative government for them. Note that it wasn't until 1962 that the 15th Amendment was ratified by California, 1973 by Maryland, 1976 by Kentucky and 1997 by Tennessee.
Poll taxes were not outlawed until 1964 with the passage of the 24th Amendment. Were you alive in 1964? How about your parents?
Although old men continue to make elective war in the name of “Liberty and Freedom,” it is the youth of the United States that is doomed to die in them. We give up rights every day, all to easily, all too gladly. When we do so, the damnable thing is that we give up not only our rights, but the rights of our children and the as-yet unborn citizens of the United States that have no voice.
What of the voices of all the dead Americans that died for the cause of Liberty? Who speaks for the now-silent cries of those that already did give their lives for the cause of Liberty and Freedom? We fought a war for independence, the War of 1812 against Great Britain, a horrible civil war, a war against Mexico, a war against Spain and two World Wars, plus Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf Wars and innumerable smaller wars.
The United States Federal government has proven itself to be unworthy of blind trust and continues to be today. Is there something unpatriotic about not wanting brave young Americans to die on foreign soil for poor reasons, secret reasons, or bad reasons?
There are good reasons, we just don't always have them. Or warriors are brave beyond words, they suffer beyond description and they think the American way of life is worth fighting for and dying for. Show me an American mother or father that is willing to donate their sons or daughters lives to Uncle Sam for optional, elective wars. All too often, again and again, our government has proved itself to be unworthy of the men and women that die for it.
We are all born, we live, we die. We can live with the hope and promise of leaving things a better place for future generations. We can live not with fear, not with guarantees, not with a simple-minded hope of a socialist government that controls us. We can aspire to a far higher goal: the simple premise as memorialized in the introduction, or preamble, of our Constitution: “ . . . in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity . . .”
It revolves around the 1st and 2nd Amendments, fundamental rights of citizens so personal, fundamental and important that they can be applied against the states. Depriving an American citizen of Liberty is a serious, heinous, damnable act. It is so serious and so heinous, our system of justice says it is far better for ten, twenty, or thirty guilty people to go free than to wrongfully deprive one American Citizen of their Liberty. That is how precious Liberty is supposed to be. Liberty is fundamental to the American way of life.
It is so fundamental and so precious that Americans die for it every day. Freedom is not free. It comes in small increments, in fits and stammers, and must be guarded every day. Countless Americans have not just thought it worth bleeding for, for they have bled and died for the promise and hope of Liberty.
Free speech has come at incalculable cost, as has freedom of religion, the right of self-determination and the right to keep and bear arms, the basic God-given right of being able to protect yourself and those you love from harm. Slaves cannot own guns, slaves must rely on their masters for protection they receive at their master's whim. Slaves cannot speak freely, slaves cannot assemble, slaves cannot travel freely, slaves have no right to life or liberty. Remove Liberty, we all become slaves.
The 2nd Amendment is the law of the land and a personal right, yet there are now books available that are “guides to self-defense laws in all fifty states.” That such books need to be published should greatly disturb American Citizens. Should we also have a “guide to freedom of religion” and a "guide to freedom of speech” for all fifty states? Rights are simple things. You have a right to control your own body. You have a right to use your fist. Your right to use your fist ends where someone else's nose begins.
Various states are now imposing their own random versions of slavery on their citizens. The State of California apparently has no problem infringing on the rights of its citizens. Nor does the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, or my home state of Illinois, where the “Rights of the People” are under the umbrella not of a representative government, but subject to the “Police Power.” That only works if you worship a police state; it has nothing to do with Liberty.
What do gun owners look like, anyway? What do people that practice a religion or practice freedom of speech look like? They look like you. They look like your parents. They like your grandparents and great-grandparents. They look like your children. They look like me. They look like your neighbors. They look like your friends. They are all of the above.
Liberty to travel was not limited with the invention of the automobile, nor was freedom of speech arbitrarily limited with the invention of the personal computer or the proliferation of the internet. Freedom of assembly and freedom of worship was not limited due to the availability of electricity or air conditioning. Nor can freedom of self-defense, defense against tyranny or freedom from an invasive government be rationally limited due to a new model of firearm. The Mauser C-96, or “Mauser Broomhandle” pistol from 1896-1937 accepted twenty and forty round detachable magazines. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 came nearly seventy years later.
Yes, we lose constitutional rights every day. We lose them not only for ourselves, but for our children. We squander these rights, won at great cost, forfeiting them for future generations. If you don't belong to the NRA, what is your excuse? If you don't belong to the Second Amendment Foundation, what is your excuse? Join me and many others at the Gun Rights Policy Conference September 23, 24, 25 in Chicago. See http://www.saf.org. How much? Books, monographs and other materials—enough to start a Second Amendment library—are free, as are Saturday luncheon, Friday and Saturday evening receptions and morning and afternoon beverage breaks as published on the SAF website, linked above.
Join the NRA at http://membership.nrahq.org. Join the Illinois State Rifle Association at http://www.isra.org/join. We all have the opportunity to get involved and to make a difference. If we do not, who can we blame? The notion that we can one day try to explain to our grandkids what the idea of Liberty was really supposed to be is not the living nightmare anyone I know would welcome.
It wasn't all that long ago that Country Joe and the Fish recorded the I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag, also known as the “Fish Cheer.” It was written the same year as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. "Country Joe" was a moniker for Joseph Stalin, while “the Fish” was a reference to Mao Zedong. Some might rightly wonder what exactly has changed since then? I know I do. More importantly, some things haven't changed.
Roughly eight thousand American Revolutionaries died in battle in the Revolutionary War. In the Civil War, 140,414 killed in action (North) with 72,524 KIA (South). Combined losses including disease meant the deaths of 620,000 soldiers. Life is life, make it 10,000,000 dead in WWI for all sides, 60,000,000 dead in WWII. The total death count in Vietnam is estimated to be from two to four million, including over 58,000 dead Americans.
The ghosts of the roughly 2.75 million American warriors that have been killed in action throughout out young history surround us. They did not die for their government. They died for their country, an entirely different matter. They died to protect Liberty. They did not die to imprison or occupy other countries. They did not die to destroy other cultures, countries, or religions. They died for a far higher, more noble calling. To protect the American way of life, to protect the precious notion of Liberty and Freedom, to secure and ensure the dream of Liberty and Freedom, to protect the flame of Liberty for the benefit of man.
The calling to do so never came from a government. It sprang from the inalienable rights from a far higher level, the fundamental rights of self-determination we are endowed with from our Creator.
Our warriors lived, loved, cried, and died. They did so all too briefly. What every American Citizen must do is protect the blessings of freedom with which American blood has gifted us. For many, the notion of life without freedom was not a life worth living. If we have any conscience, we cannot allow our government to steal the dream of liberty away from us, our children and our grandchildren.
Mediocrity is nothing to aspire to. We must be involved, we must vote, we must think, we must act, we must be heard. Our legacy deserves nothing less. The sacrifices of our warriors throughout history compels much more. Eventually, all of us will take a final breath and our mortal eyes will see no more. Let it be with the comfort that we did our best and that we made a difference. Individuals always have.
Copyright 2011 by Randy Wakeman. All rights reserved.