Why is a federal agency (ATF) spending nearly one billion dollars each year trying to eliminate the Second Amendment? Our right to life becomes meaningless if we are powerless to defend that life. It is crucial for us to understand why it was included in the Bill of Rights in the first place.
Among the many famous quotes attributed to Thomas Jefferson, my favorite is his less-than-subtle reminder that “The tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Americans frequently quote Mr. Jefferson, but I seriously doubt they consider how the aforementioned blood would be obtained.
I will lead you gradually to the inevitable conclusion to avoid shocking your sensibilities any more than necessary. I will start with the irrefutable fact that there are evil and dangerous people in the world. Most people try not to think of such things, because it requires you to speculate about a possible confrontation with such a person. Fortunately, Mother Nature has hard-wired us with an irresistible instinct for self-preservation. Faced with premature extinction, I’m sure even Mother Teresa would have used force to resist someone who was choking her.
Unfortunately, our biological programming has been sabotaged with conflicting mandates, much like the ill-fated HAL 9000 computer in the Space Odyssey movies. On one hand, society conditions us to respect authority to such a degree, that the use of lethal force against positions of authority is an unspeakable taboo. Murdering a civilian might be punished with as little as ten or fifteen years in prison, when given time off for good behavior. Murdering an on-duty police officer will probably earn you the death penalty. Simply asking politicians “pointed questions” will get you tasered these days.
Like HAL, we experience a mental meltdown when we try to follow imperative directives that contradict each other. What is the proper response when our life is threatened by the police? Should we submit to a “higher authority” as we’ve been trained to do? Or should we respond with violent force as our biological reflexes insist that we do? It’s possible your anxiety level surges just pondering the question.
Before I reveal my solution to the dilemma, let’s think back to a time before the Second Amendment. In 1775, British “police” arrived at Lexington and Concord just after dawn for the purpose of arresting two “terrorists”, and to confiscate guns and ammunition from the local citizens. They were trying to prevent a probable armed conflict in the future. At the end of the day, half of the King’s “policemen” were killed during their bloody retreat to Boston.
George Washington defined government, not as eloquence, but as force. Patrick Henry warns us that “[N]othing will preserve [Liberty] but downright force.” Our personal experience indicates that as the government continues to grow, so does their willingness to use force against the very civilians they have sworn to protect and defend. In 1970, the Ohio National Guard fired at students during a war protest on campus, killing four and wounding nine. In 1992, FBI agents killed Randy Weaver’s wife and son during a siege that resulted because Randy refused to work as an undercover informant for them. In 1993, the ATF decided to videotape the arrest of David Koresh in order to enhance public opinion of the agency, and ensure continued funding. After a 51-day siege, the result was 79 civilians dead, including 21 children. More recently, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, National Guard troops were deployed in house-to-house searches, confiscating weapons from civilians who were trying to defend themselves against violent marauders.
The correct but disturbing answer to our philosophical dilemma is to recognize that police officers and military personnel have no legitimate authority to harm you. If they try, pulling the trigger is morally justified.
John Wayne’s last movie dramatizes this moral dilemma. In The Shootist he counsels young Gillom Rogers, “It isn’t always being fast, or even accurate that counts. It’s being willing. I found out early that most men, regardless of cause or need, aren’t willing. They blink an eye, or draw a breath, before they pull the trigger. I won’t.”
Neither will I.