Tag Archives: Second Amendment to the United States Constitution

Let’s Talk About Guns

13 Jan

I’m guessing most of you don’t own a gun. The national rate is only 31%.  New York is half that. Many of our most vocal readers are liberals and Democrats, and while I have no data to back my assertion, I still feel relatively confident that the lefty New Yorker gun ownership rate is lower still.

You almost certainly don’t own a real gun. A rusting shotgun from your grandfather, half forgotten and stuffed in a corner in the basement, doesn’t count. A real gun is one cleaned, prepared, ready, with ammunition nearby, ready to kill people. Just in case.

If this sounds scary, offensive, paranoid, dangerous, or irresponsible, this article is for you. This is not an article about the tragedy in Tucson. It is also not an apologetic for any particular past rhetoric or ads from politicians, depicting guns and appealing to the people that treasure them. It is certainly not about Sarah Palin, constant victim and vocabulary enthusiast. This is an article about a cultural clash, a varied view of America and its history and potential future, brought to the surface by the heated political debate following the shooting of Rep Giffords. Consider me your safe bridge – let me translate and explain.

Within minutes of the shooting in Tucson, the right was asked to defend or atone for a political vocabulary that includes references to firearms and cross-hairs, explain carrying guns at political rallies, and renounce the need to ever resort to “Second Amendment remedies.” That last one particularly stung. To a certain segment of the population, that consider themselves not conspiracy theorists but historians, the voiced recognition that Second Amendment remedies exist resonated like a clear bell. The right dug in its heels. This violence was a horrific event, but not a reason to give up a fundamental right. In deed, THE fundamental right. Inadvertently, a sub-culture is now being exposed, and the basest motivations for prizing gun ownership above all else are coming to light.

Do not confuse this sub-culture with the Tea Party. They are not synonymous, though certainly the Second Amendment crowd leans right and sympathizes on some issues and there is overlap. But health care is a sideshow to their main event now requiring defense. They also do not align well with political parties – I would guess more un-affiliated members than Republicans, though few Democrats. Most of all they are not new – a wide-eyed suburban kid from Buffalo, I first encountered such folk in rural Wisconsin and South Dakota 15 years ago, where they made up a majority of my local acquaintances (“Have you bought yourself a good rifle yet, Brian?”). They were hardly new then – modern gun control started after Prohibition. Get out of New York, even rural New York, and spend a little time in Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas, Utah or Florida. You’ll meet plenty of decent individuals, unaffiliated with movement or party, who “cling to their guns,” in the condescending unknowing parlance of President Obama.

But why? Let me start by dispelling two myths. The gun control debate, for those who hold that issue to be their prime, is not about hunting. Hunting is a superficial nod by politicians seeking votes (see: Kerry, John). Killing ducks and geese hardly requires Bill of Rights treatment. This is also not about crime, or preventing crime by having more armed citizens. Though much public conversation about guns centers on crime (or even confusingly equates the two issues), such debates are defense actions by Second Amendment types against Liberal gun-controllers.  

No, this is about one issue, not oft stated: that it is the fundamental right (indeed, the most fundamental of rights) of all free persons to violently overthrow their government if required. Guns are the only way to ensure that right. Therefore, the gun is both the symbol and key requirement of lasting and true freedom.

Though rarely spoken, this is not a fringe idea in theory, and an undercurrent of much of American history and culture. It is an inconvenient truth for American peace lovers that our country’s birth and baptism by war left a mark, not just culturally, but in the Constitution. For supporters of the “right to revolution,” it is notable that the right to bear arms is Number Two in the Bill of Rights, after only speech, and before many other fundamentals, like search and seizure. The gun is as basic as Mom and baseball and apple pie, and present throughout American mythology: the cowboy, the settler, Davy Crockett and the Founding Fathers.

The gun symbolizes freedom, and ensures it literally, but it communicates other American shibboleths as well. It denotes independence and personal responsibility. More than that, the willingness to shoulder the most basic of personal responsibilities: keeping one and one’s family safe and secure, no matter the hazy umbrella of security government may provide. The courts are a delayed redress of grievances, and police cannot stop every crime. The gun provides me the power to defend my family and overthrow my government, should either eventuality comes to pass. Any freedom where I am beholden to the government for defense and safety is no true freedom, as I am dependent on others.   

Such ideas are harmless until violently acted upon, individually or as a group. The DHS warning of a rise in militia activity has parallels to the 1990’s incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas. The potential increase in such activity (and to re-emphasize, there is no evidence of Loughner’s link to this philosophy) have left the Second Amendment true believers in a quandary. The idea that the People should be able to rise up in revolution is more attractive in theory than reality. Who decides when government has grown oppressive enough to warrant an overthrow? America will not overnight be transformed into the world of “V for Vendetta,” requiring obvious uprising. Signs are regularly sought – a health care mandate here, Nanny State regulations there. I don’t think long TSA lines and warrantless wiretaps are enough to justify revolution. Others disagree. The independent gun-clingers wait and watch, consciously considering as potentially possible what most Americans dismiss as ancient history. “If something happens to this country,” they say, “what are all these people going to do?”

Jacob Weisberg, in Slate, accurately sums up the current situation, where vote seeking politicians have adopted the idealistic Second Amendment true believer message to attract votes:

It was in criticizing writers on his own side for their naivete about communism that George Orwell wrote, “So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.” Today it is the right that amuses itself with violent chat and proclaims an injured innocence when its flammable words blow up.

Politicians of a previous generation more quietly indicated they were of like mind with Second Amendment supporters, without the cross-hair graphics and open displays of weaponry. That we might return there.

It’s So Important

12 May

The state is in a huge fiscal crisis, a $9 billion-plus budget deficit, a budget that’s 40+ days late, state workers being furloughed with a 20% pay reduction literally overnight – and Tea Party gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino is concerned about gun rights in a press release a middle-schooler could have proofread.

And more ominously, there’s a provision that Paladino thinks it’s very important to repeal whereby handguns sold in New York have their ballistics fingerprint recorded so that if the firearm is used in a crime it can more easily be tracked.

Priorities. Broken. New WNYMedia contributor Tom Dolina has it exactly right. Within the context of conservative non-issue issues, Paladino hasn’t gone nearly far enough.

Here’s the press release, complete with punctuation and definition/spelling fail:

Gun rights advocate Tom King to lead “Gun Owners for Carl”

(BUFFALO, NY) – The campaign of Carl Paladino, candidate for Governor of New York State, today announced the formation of “Gun Owners for Carl,” a coalition focused on informing voters of Paladino’s position on the right to keep and bear arms.

The campaign also announced Tom King, a leading 2nd Amendment advocate in the Empire State, as coalition chairman. King is a NRA Benefactor member and a Golden Eagle. He works daily with the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) as the President and Political Liaison of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association.

“New York’s is the only state constitution without an amendment to ensure our freedoms are a “right”[sic] not just a “statue”[sic] subject to change at the legislature’s whim. This is one important reason why I am running for Governor,” Paladino said. “Under Tom’s leadership, this coalition will unite New Yorkers committed to the right to keep and bear arms as defined in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

“Carl Paladino is the only candidate running for Governor who is truly pro-gun and pro-second amendment. He is as committed as I am to see there is no compromise on the right to keep and bear arms in New York State,” said Chairman King. “I have spent most of my career working on gun issues and organizing grassroots systems to call tens of thousands of shooters to action. I will do the same to motivate voters to support Carl in his run for Governor.”

“As Governor, I would work for repeal of the so-called Assault Weapons Ban, to eliminate the Combined Ballistic Identification System (CoBIS) and to seek passage of legislation to make it possible for to teach gun avoidance techniques to our youngest schoolchildren with the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program,” Paladino said.

“I also strongly believe law enforcement officers must be allowed to exercise their rights to be trained and to carry their firearms under federal legislation. Our first responders must not be handcuffed by restrictive edicts that deny them of this valuable public safety enhancement,” Paladino said.

“Laws like the assault weapons ban have not helped decrease crime and have harmed New York State companies like Ilion’s Remington Arms, which must send production out-of-state,” Paladino said. “As a Conservative Republican, I would work to repeal laws that are flawed, are inaccurate and have failed completely.”