In this documentary, we explore the history and origination of the American 2nd amendment, which guarantees the right of all American citizens to keep and bear arms. We also discuss many of the common arguments for and against the 2nd amendment, and how after the civil war some tyrannical state governments tried to prevent freed slaves from being armed.
We discuss the American gun culture. Daniel Boone the American Pioneer, Americans defending themselves against hostile Indians and wild animals. How the gangsters and mob violence of the 1920’s during prohibition led to the passage of the first gun laws. The string of high profile politicians and civil rights activists being assassinated during the 1960’s, which led to more gun laws and the NRA becoming more focused on protecting the gun rights of US Citizens. How the assignation attempt on President Ronald Reagan led to background checks to purchase firearms, and prohibited criminals and mentally ill people from purchasing guns. The purpose of the 2nd amendment as a check on a government that had become tyrannical and the tyranny of the majority against the minority. The true nature and purpose of the Militia referenced in the 2nd Amendment being composed of all people capable of bearing arms. History of Nazi Germany, USSR, China and Venezuela using gun laws to disarm their people, rendering them completely defenseless against government tyranny and criminals. Examples of corrupt local authorities being opposed by armed US citizens to prevent tyranny.
The black panthers, Ruby Ridge, Korea Town and Waco Texas, and some instances where private citizens crossed the line between self defense into open rebellion, as well as government mistakes that got innocent citizens killed while trying to enforce questionable gun laws. The reality that criminal gangs, cartels and terrorists are working 24/7 to infiltrate the United States to sow chaos, death and destruction. The truth about machine guns, semi-automatic guns and who can and can’t own them. The AR-15 and attempts to ban them and the reality that more people are killed annually with knives, and hands and feet than rifles of all types combined. Why gun laws are mostly ineffective at preventing gun crime and mass shootings. Red flag laws and the debate around them. How Switzerland has the third highest rate of firearm ownership, but the lowest rate of gun crime and mass shootings.
With the increasing politicization of mass shootings, there are growing calls to restrict or eliminate the constitutional right of American citizens to bear arms.
Although some 36% of American households own a gun, a majority of the population favors more gun control.
The debate divides the nation like no other, pitting rural against urban interests and the common people against the cultural elite.
In Corey Wayne’s book, “Mastering Yourself,” he explores how the right to bear arms helps guarantee life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and was seen as foundational to the rights of a free people at the nation’s beginning.
“The possession of arms is the distinction of a free man from a slave.” ~ Andrew Fletcher, 1698
By the time of America’s founding, the right to bear arms for self defense was fundamental for all Englishmen.
In 1689, it was formally recognized when Parliament passed an English Bill of Rights to allow Protestants to defend themselves, after the deposed Catholic King James II had disarmed them during the English civil war.
“Both oligarch and tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of arms.” ~ Aristotle
In America, the right to bear arms was enshrined in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution in 1791, providing that, ”A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Since then, the debate has centered on whether the Second Amendment is limited to the peoples’ right to bear arms as members of an organized state militia — or includes an individual right to bear arms for personal defense too.
The founders understood the right to bear arms was a basic human right that didn’t come from government. It came from a person’s essential right to self defense under “Natural Law,” a body of unchanging moral principles originating in Greek, Roman and biblical philosophy “and used to deduce binding rules of moral behavior from nature’s or God’s creation of reality and mankind.”
MANUEL GOMEZ, Owner of Palm Beach Tactical, Class III NFA Dealer: “It is our birthright since the dawn of man to have the ability to protect ourselves, those that we love, that which is ours as human beings. I’m not going to let anybody hurt me. You’re not going to let anyone hurt you or your family.”
“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Constitution, Draft 1, 1776
“The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” ~ Samuel Adams, Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, 1788
“The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation… (where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” ~ James Madison, The Federalist Papers Number 46, January 29, 1788
The founders likely saw the right to armed self defense as so fundamental, obvious and normal to everyday life that it need not be spelled out in the Constitution.
Nevertheless, the states of Virginia, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island all demanded the right be enshrined in the Constitution as the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights.
Virginia and North Carolina’s insistence was partially to preserve their state militias for slave control.
But, the right to self defense was also seen as foundational to all the other rights and liberties of a free people — including freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of conscience, and the right to pursue happiness and practice your religion.
“This may be considered as the true palladium of liberty… the right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments, it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.” ~ St. George Tucker, American Revolutionary and Legal Scholar, 1803
“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.” ~ Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 1833
MANUEL GOMEZ: “Our country was founded on basically the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, to be able to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government. To be able to protect ourselves from those trying to hurt us. And it is our right to keep and bear those arms.”
In America’s early years, it was widely accepted that the federal government couldn’t infringe on gun ownership. The individual right to own a gun for self defense was unquestioned.
It was only after the Civil war that the individual right took center stage when Southern States tried to prevent freed slaves from owning guns. With Union victory over the Confederacy, black soldiers in the Union army — many of whom were escaped slaves — were allowed to keep their guns when the army disbanded.
As they returned home free men, Southern states — fearful of retribution — imposed laws to prohibit black gun ownership and give free rein to KKK intimidation.
In 1868, Republicans in Congress stepped in, pushing passage of the 14th amendment to the Constitution to bar Southern states from infringing on the constitutional right of freed blacks to own guns for their own self defense.
The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t weigh in on the individual right until the 2008 case of DC vs. Heller, a challenge to a DC law requiring handguns to be kept unloaded and disassembled — or with a trigger lock — effectively rendering them useless in time of need. In striking down the law, the Court confirmed that Americans do have an individual right to possess firearms, irrespective of membership in a militia, “for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”
Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion, explicitly recognizing that states could impose reasonable regulations on gun ownership for the sake of public health and safety.
The DC law had gone too far, but the question remained — what level of regulation was reasonable?
Defenders of the Second Amendment believe the right to bear arms is so fundamental that regulations should be kept to a bare minimum. They believe guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens enable the most vulnerable in society to protect themselves from stronger assailants and serve as a check on tyrannical government.
“The gun has been called the great equalizer, meaning that a small person with a gun is equal to a large person, but it is a great equalizer in another way, too. It insures that the people are the equal of their government whenever that government forgets that it is the servant and not the master of the governed.” ~ President Ronald Reagan
Gun control advocates argue the 2nd Amendment is outdated, and the government’s duty to provide for public safety and welfare should trump any individual right to bear arms.
Some politicians believe the solution to society’s problems is to legislate and control every aspect of peoples’ lives. This thinking was on display when Jesse Dominguez, a city councilman in Santa Barbara, California justified a ban on plastic straws by stating, “Unfortunately, common sense is just not common. We have to regulate every aspect of people’s lives.” This mindset is part of what drives the gun control movement.
“When we got organized as a country, [and] wrote a fairly radical Constitution, with a radical Bill of Rights, giving radical amounts of freedom to Americans, it was assumed that Americans who had that freedom would use it responsibly… When personal freedom is being abused, you have to move to limit it.” ~ President Bill Clinton
“I don’t believe people should to be able to own guns.” ~ Barack Obama
Gun control advocates believe passing laws that make it harder to own guns will result in less gun violence. However, statistics on guns tell a different story.
Since 1994, FBI records indicate national gun homicides decreased substantially even as gun purchases reached all time highs with some 420 million firearms in circulation in America. That’s approximately 100 times more guns than the US military has and 400 times more than US law enforcement.
It is estimated guns are used 80 times more often in self defense than to take a life — and that women use guns to defend against sexual abuse as often as 200,000 times per year.
“A woman cannot always rely on getting help by just calling for it.” ~ Annie Oakley
Numerous studies suggest gun confiscation doesn’t work.
In 2006, the British Journal of Criminology reported that a ten year Australian study concluded Australia’s 1996 firearm confiscation law had no effect on firearm homicide in Australia.
A study in the University of Miami Law School’s National Security and Armed Conflict law review found the homicide rate in England and Wales averaged 52% higher after the passage of a 1968 gun control law, and 15% higher after the passage of a 1997 handgun ban.
And, in a 2007 article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, titled “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?” the authors concluded “there is no consistent significant positive association between gun ownership levels and violence rates.”
While there are passionate arguments on both sides of the gun debate, a deciding factor for many is the example of a young, single mother being preyed on by a deranged stalker.
Second Amendment supporters believe she should be able to buy a gun without a waiting period to protect herself from possible rape or murder. They stress the problem with gun restrictions is they don’t actually keep guns out of the hands of criminals. What they do is make it harder for law abiding citizens to defend themselves and their families from those who might harm them.
As much as we might wish the police could always be there to protect us, they usually won’t be in times of greatest danger. The reality is, if someone kicks in your door, the police are on average 15-20 minutes away. Until they get there, you’re on your own. So, what do you do to protect yourself and your family for those 15-20 minutes?
COREY WAYNE: “What’s your opinion on the fact that the police are ten or fifteen minutes away when you call them, and what are you and your family supposed to do when your door has been kicked in by criminals, and you’re waiting on the police to arrive?”
MANUEL GOMEZ: “We have to defend ourselves. I will to protect my family until police arrive. We have to do something. We cannot just let somebody hurt us and those that we love.”
COREY WAYNE: “I think it’s a powerful question though for the average person that probably doesn’t really think about that. If you know on average, on a good day, that the police are ten or fifteen minutes away, and you’re dealing with intruders, what do you do until the police arrive if you’ve decided that only the police should have guns, and therefore you’re not going to participate in it? Are you going to use harsh language? Spitballs? Try to reason with them?”
MANUEL GOMEZ: “It’s a bad day for that person.”
JON DUFRESNE, former U.S. Army Ranger & Owner of Kinetic Consulting, a firearms training and consulting firm: “I was talking to Fort Lauderdale PD. They only have 550 officers for a couple of million people. They can’t help you bro. They’re not going to get there in time.”
COREY WAYNE: “Fifteen minutes away.”
JON DUFRESNE: “They’ll clean it up, right. They’ll let your family know what happened. But they’re not going to be able to help you. They just won’t… And who hasn’t noticed how easy interior doors are to kick in? So it’s not like you can lock yourself in your bedroom.”
COREY WAYNE: “Yeah, as a builder, as a guy who knows how to build houses, it’s a nice little swift kick, and you can pretty much kick in any door and deadbolt… What do you think about the argument that some people say that only the police should have guns?”
JON DUFRESNE: “Oh, you haven’t seen police shoot. That’s, not all, but I will say the majority of them I wouldn’t want shooting near me or around me in any way. Because it’s, like I said, treated as a tool. It’s not treated as a responsibility or a priority in any way.”
“If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” ~ The Dalai Lama
According to a 1997 Justice Department study, three out of four protection orders issued every year will be violated by a jealous lover, angry ex-husband or obsessed admirer.
Most of the time, the Police will be unable to make arrests because of lack of physical evidence.
This underscores why 2nd Amendment supporters feel so strongly about the right of the weak and vulnerable to own guns.
“Gun control? It’s the best thing you can do for crooks and gangsters. I want you to have nothing. I’m a bad guy; I’m always gonna have a gun.” ~ Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, Former Underboss, Gambino Crime family
The reality is that guns and the right to bear them were baked into American culture from the beginning. Early America was a difficult place to survive without a strong mind, a rugged spirit and the ability to be self-reliant. Guns were required to defend against outlaws and warlike natives. They were also vital tools for fending off wild animals and putting food on the table.
In 1775, Daniel Boone crossed the Cumberland Gap and blazed a trail into the Kentucky wilderness, founding the village of Boonesborough — the first colonial settlement west of the Appalachian mountains.
This new frontier attracted armed adventurers and was inhabited by hostile Native-American tribes and wild animals. A pro-gun ethos was stamped on the American psyche — that only with a good gun should you venture into the wilderness.
“To disarm the people, that is the most effective way to enslave them.” ~ George Mason, Father of the Bill of Rights, 1788
British attempts to confiscate colonial arms were one cause of the American Revolution. In Lexington and Concord, armed colonists fought to stop British troops from seizing their cannon — and in Williamsburg, Patrick Henry and a handful of armed Virginians resisted a British attempt to seize a store of gunpowder.
With a native proficiency in guns, American Minutemen were the finest marksmen in the world and played a key role in victory over the British army.
“A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined…” ~ President George Washington, First Annual Address, to both Houses of Congress, January 8, 1790
In the 1840s, Samuel Colt invented the first revolver that could fire six bullets without reloading. Known as “the peacemaker,” the Colt revolver changed American manufacturing by combining precision machining with interchangeable parts and an assembly line — sparking a second Industrial Revolution.
“God created men, Sam Colt made them equal.” – Unknown
Yankee ingenuity soon led to more innovations. The Spencer Repeating Rifle was introduced in 1863, giving the Union army a brief advantage in the Civil war, while the invention of the Gatling gun the year before ushered in the age of rapid fire.
“It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine – a gun – which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease [would] be greatly diminished.” ~ Richard J. Gatling
After the Civil war ended, Americans headed west to chart out new territory, and the myth-making of the Wild West picked up steam.
In Springfield, Missouri in 1865, a former Union spy named Bill Hickok challenged a Confederate veteran who had won his gold watch in a card game the night before. In the first quick-draw duel, Wild Bill Hickok shot him dead and became the nation’s first celebrity gunslinger.
Buffalo Bill Cody followed in his footsteps. A former Pony Express rider who claimed to have won a rifle duel with a Cheyenne warrior, he earned his name hunting buffalo to feed workers on the Kansas Pacific railroad. He became a showman for America’s gun culture with his “wild west show,” a traveling vaudeville attraction that reenacted Wild West history and captured the imagination of Americans hungry for new forms of entertainment.
“The West of the old times, with its strong characters, its stern battles and its tremendous stretches of loneliness can never be blotted from my mind.” ~ Buffalo Bill Cody
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show featured female trick shot, Annie Oakley, who became a national celebrity and helped normalize gun use by women.
“I have had an ideal for my sex, I have wanted them to be able to protect their homes.” ~ Annie Oakley
The Gatling gun was the first well known rapid fire gun, but its mount on a cannon carriage made it unwieldy. That changed in 1884 when American inventor, Hiram Maxim designed the first portable fully automatic machine gun. The Maxim gun changed the face of battle and contributed to the carnage of World War I.
American inventors soon made machine guns that could be wielded by one man. John Browning created the Browning Automatic Rifle in 1917 for U.S. forces in WW1, while John Thompson invented the Thompson submachine gun in 1918. The “Tommy gun” became the weapon of choice for gangsters during alcohol prohibition and prompted our first federal gun law.
America’s best known WWI hero, Sergeant Alvin York was a farm boy from Tennessee who grew up hunting and applied his skill at shooting turkeys to killing Germans.
During WWII, America became the “great arsenal of democracy” retooling its factories to make weapons and supplies for the Allied armies. Gun designer John Garand invented the M1 infantry rifle, allowing soldiers to fire 3 times faster than bolt action rifles.
“In my opinion, the M1 rifle is the greatest battle implement ever devised.” – General George S. Patton
With a tradition dating back to Colonial sharpshooters picking off British officers, the sniper took a place in the American imagination. During WWII, American sharpshooters used their proficiency from hunting to pick off Nazi soldiers.
The US Marine Corps opened the first sniper schools in the 1940s, forging a level of marksmanship evident 60 years later in the Legend of U.S. Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle, as memorialized in Clint Eastwood’s blockbuster film, American Sniper.
With roots in Buffalo Bill’s wild west show and pulp fiction, guns have always featured prominently in our popular entertainment. From Westerns and crime sagas, to war movies and video games, gun-wielding heroes and villains fight a running battle between good and evil, reflecting the real life and death struggles in the world around us.
The truth is, guns are woven into the fabric of American history and pop culture. As recently as 2008, a Gallup poll found some 73% of Americans believed we have the right to bear arms.
Beginning with the 14th Amendment, attempts to pass new federal gun laws have been reactions to things happening in the broader culture.
During Prohibition in the 1920s and 30s, turf wars between rival criminal gangs led to shoot-outs on city streets, putting civilians in danger.
After Al Capone’s Italian mafia executed 7 members of Bugs Moran’s Irish mob in Chicago’s infamous St. Valentine’s Day massacre, the federal government took action. The National Firearms act was passed in 1934 to restrict weapons favored by mobsters, such as Tommy guns and sawed off shotguns.
“After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.” ~ William S. Burroughs, American Writer and Visual Artist
In the 1960s, there was a string of assassinations of prominent figures including President John F. Kennedy, his brother Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
As riots and looting engulfed inner cities, locals sniped at National Guardsmen attempting to restore order. A study placed partial blame on the wide availability of guns in inner cities and the ease of purchasing guns across state lines. Both JFK’s and MLK’s assassins had purchased their rifles by mail order.
All of this helped spur the passage of The Gun Control Act of 1968, a federal law to restrict gun sales across state lines and attempt to set up a gun registry.
Before the 1968 law, the National Rifle Association, or NRA, had primarily been a club for hunters. Now, it switched its mission to Second Amendment advocacy, helping to pass the Firearm Owners Protection Act in 1986 to roll back some of the 1968 regulations and ban the sale of new automatic weapons.
In 1981, a mentally deranged man obsessed with teen actress Jodie Foster in the movie Taxi Driver, tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan with a handgun. Reagan survived, but his Press Secretary James Brady suffered a severe head injury.
Brady and his wife became gun control advocates, campaigning tirelessly for the Handgun Violence Prevention Act that was signed into law in 1993. The new law prohibited some people from owning firearms, such as convicted criminals, the mentally ill, drug addicts, illegal immigrants and people subject to restraining orders for stalking or harassing intimate partners. It also required firearms dealers to be licensed and conduct criminal background checks on gun purchasers.
“To have people with – with psychological problems have a background check before they can buy a weapon? I don’t think the NRA would pull me off that one. If they do, then I need to be pulled off it because… you can’t give a weapon to someone who has mental issues, right.” ~ Marcus Luttrell, former U.S. Navy SEAL and author of “Lone Survivor” portrayed by Mark Wahlberg in the movie, “Lone Survivor”
One of the more compelling arguments for the right to bear arms is that free people need guns as a check on government tyranny. While gun control advocates dismiss the concern as outdated, the idea was central to the founders’ thinking and enjoys support across a broad spectrum of American society.
“It’s legal in the United States, because that’s the last form of defense against tyranny. Not to hunt. It’s to protect yourself from the police.” ~ Ice-T, American Hip-Hop Artist and Actor
This issue loomed large during the Civil Rights era when the “Deacons for Defense and Justice,” a group of African American World War II and Korean War veterans took up arms to defend civil rights workers in the deep South.
At the time, some Southern police officers were in the Ku Klux Klan. After Klansmen murdered civil rights workers, the Deacons showed up with guns to protect them, exercising their right to bear arms in a pure expression of the founders’ intent.
“We all have the right to bear arms. I have that. I have that same right as you do. Just because I’m black doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a gun… I legally own guns.” ~ Tupac Shakur, American Hip-Hop Artist and Actor
The founding fathers were clear that the right to bear arms wasn’t just for hunting or self defense, but was a last defense against a government that had become tyrannical, including the tyranny of the majority against the minority and the individual.
“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” ~ John Adams, Founding Father and Second President of the United States, 1814
“It is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers; but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part.” ~ James Madison, Father of the Constitution, Federalist No. 51, 1788
The founders knew from history that governments always end up becoming tyrannical. They included the Second Amendment as a safeguard to make sure the new American Republic could avoid a similar fate by maintaining armed militias that included all of the people.
“A militia when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves… and include all men capable of bearing arms” ~ Richard Henry Lee, Signer of the Declaration of Independence and Virginia statesman who made the motion for independence, 1788
“Little more can be reasonably aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped.” ~ Alexander Hamilton, American Statesman and Founding Father, Federalist No. 29, 1788
“The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.” ~ Patrick Henry, American Revolutionary
“I ask who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers.” ~ George Mason, American Statesman and Father of the Bill of Rights, Address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country…” ~ James Madison, Founding Father and Fourth President of the United States, 1789
“For a people who are free, and who mean to remain so, a well organized and armed militia is their best security.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father and Third President of the United States, 1808
“The conception of the militia at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification was the body of all citizens capable of military service, who would bring the sorts of lawful weapons that they possessed at home to militia duty.” ~ Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
The founders clearly believed that an unarmed people would be vulnerable to tyranny and that an armed people would be the best defense.
One doesn’t need to look far to find countries where the people were disarmed and oppression and mass murder followed. Nazi Germany inherited strict gun control laws from the Weimar Republic — but when Hitler came to power, he tweaked the laws to allow members of the Nazi party to own guns and to prohibit Jews and other “unreliables” from owning guns.
Hitler imposed a gun registry to identify gun owners, then later used the information for confiscation and applied the law to all the occupied territories conquered by the Nazis.
“The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to permit the conquered Eastern peoples to have arms. History teaches that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so.” ~ Adolph Hitler
In the Soviet Union, members of the Communist party could own guns, but people were otherwise limited to owning nothing more than a smooth bore hunting rifle.
Communist China also imposed strict gun control laws, with ownership tightly regulated by the Communist party. Once their people were disarmed, both governments enacted policies that led to the imprisonment or death of millions.
“Our principle is that the party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the party.” ~ Mao Zedong
A recent example of gun control used as an instrument of tyranny is Socialist Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez outlawed private gun ownership in 2012. Since then, violent crime has spiked with the country’s crime rate now the highest in the world.
While the general population was disarmed, government thugs were armed and given free license to murder political opponents and protestors in the street. With only the government and criminals owning guns, the rest of the Venezuelan people are completely defenseless.
“Guns would have served as a vital pillar to remaining a free people, or at least able to put up a fight.” Javier Vanegas, Venezuelan teacher in exile, Fox News Interview, December 12, 2018
Despite the evidence that liberal gun rights help deter government tyranny, many Americans believe it couldn’t happen here. But in some ways, it already has.
In 1946, in the small town of Athens, Tennessee, a corrupt local government engaged in predatory policing and voter intimidation to try to fix a local election. A group of returning World War II vets took up arms against the local police and stopped a stolen election.
And when the Deacons for Defense and Justice took up arms to protect Civil Rights workers in the South, they were also opposing local government tyranny.
“The rifle hanging on the wall of the working class flat or laborer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.” ~ George Orwell
With every mass shooting prompting emotional calls for stronger regulation, some politicians have made it clear that disarming American citizens is a priority. They believe eliminating private gun ownership is the only way to end gun violence and is a prerequisite to creating a more peaceful and harmonious society.
“We’re going to hammer guns on the anvil of relentless legislative strategy! We’re going to beat guns into submission!” ~ Senator Charles Schumer
Some supporters of the Second Amendment have gone too far.
In the 1960s, the Black Panther party was formed in Oakland, California to oppose police abuse in black neighborhoods.
“One of the democratic rights of the United States, the Second Amendment to the Constitution, gives the people the right to bear arms. However, there is a greater right; the right of human dignity that gives all men the right to defend themselves.” ~ Huey Newton, Co-founder, Black Panther party
Exercising their second amendment right, the Black Panthers began openly carrying firearms as they patrolled the streets of their communities. But some Black Panthers ignored Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for non-violence and crossed the line into armed rebellion, engaging the police in shootouts and prompting a nationwide crackdown.
In the early 1990s, two tragic events fueled the rise of citizen militias that fear gun confiscation by the federal government.
At Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992, ATF agents were staking out the remote compound of Randy Weaver, a former Green Beret survivalist with apocalyptic religious beliefs who had failed to appear in court on firearms charges. An accidental encounter led to a shootout that killed one federal Marshall as well as Weaver’s wife and teenage son.
In Waco, Texas in 1993, the FBI and ATF surrounded the compound of the Branch Davidians, an apocalyptic religious cult that was stockpiling weapons. After Branch Davidians shot and killed 4 federal agents, the FBI and ATF assaulted the compound leading to a fire that burned it down and killed 76 cult members, including 20 children.
In both cases, Federal agents were enforcing firearms laws on private property and ended up killing innocents. At Ruby Ridge, a court found government agents acted improperly by failing to announce their presence and call for Weaver’s surrender.
However, in Waco, the government did call for surrender and the Branch Davidians opened fire first — crossing the line into actual rebellion as the Black Panthers had a generation before.
“Congress shall never disarm any citizen unless such as are or have been in actual rebellion.” ~ James Madison
Ruby Ridge and Waco became rallying cries for a fringe of anti-government conspiracy nuts that gun control advocates use to smear ordinary gun-owning Americans. But with some politicians openly pushing for gun confiscation, fear of the government taking away guns is not just paranoia.
“Banning guns addresses a fundamental right of all Americans to feel safe.” ~ Senator Dianne Feinstein
“If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them . . . ‘Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ’em all in,’ I would have done it.” ~ Senator Dianne Feinstein
Another compelling argument for the right to bear arms comes when law and order breaks down and people need to defend themselves from random violence. This played out dramatically in Koreatown during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
When the Los Angeles police drew a line of defense at Wilshire Boulevard, Korean business owners on the other side took up arms to defend themselves against looters and ended up saving their livelihoods.
This same threat of chaos looms large from the danger of cyber attacks on the electrical grid. With a prolonged power loss, civil society would break down and personal survival might hinge on whether you’re armed and know how to use a gun to defend yourself.
“Arms like laws discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property… Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them, for while avarice and ambition have a place in the heart of man, the weak will become a prey to the strong. The history of every age and nation establishes these truths, and facts need but little arguments when they prove themselves” ~ Thomas Paine, American Revolutionary and Political Theorist, 1775
While invasion by a foreign army may seem unlikely today, it was a real threat as recently as World War II.
Admiral Yamamoto is reputed to have later wrote to a colleague about his real feelings over the danger of invading the American homeland, cautioning — that “to invade the United States would prove most difficult because behind every blade of grass is an American with a rifle.” Today, a smaller scale threat comes from international criminal gangs and terrorists.
JON DUFRESNE: “There’s been a lot of countries on our soil, in different forms and manners, and now we have definitely a radical side of the world that hates us. And if you think the worst is going to stay at one end, you’re sadly mistaken. It’s going to constantly come further and further our way, like we were talking about with Mexico. They are right there, and there’s a bunch of people there that want their way or the highway kind of stuff.”
As the politicization and frequency of mass shootings enflames the debate, the question remains how much the government can reasonably regulate guns in the interest of public health and safety.
A Fox News poll of registered voters in August 2019 found 90% favored universal background checks, 81% supported taking guns from at-risk individuals, and 67% favored banning assault weapons such as AR-15s.
“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15.” ~ Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke
But demonizing the AR-15 and “assault rifles” in general is misplaced. Most people erroneously equate AR-15s and assault rifles with machine guns.
MANUEL GOMEZ: “A machine gun is any type of weapon with high rate of fire. What happens is, you press the trigger one time, and while you’re pressing the trigger, the weapon keeps firing. That makes it fully automatic, unlike semi-automatic, which requires an individual trigger press every time you want to fire that weapon.
Civilians are allowed to own machine guns if they are transferable. This means they were manufactured and registered pre-1986. In order to get one, you have to take your fingerprints, your photographs, fill out a questionnaire and submit it to the ATF for approval. It isn’t instantaneous. Usually, the approvals can take up to a year, sometimes even more. And there is a tax stamp associated with that. Think of the tax stamp as a licensing fee per item.”
COREY WAYNE: “So I can’t just walk into the store and say I want a brand new PWS fully automatic?”
MANUEL GOMEZ: “It’s not going to happen, no.”
COREY WAYNE: “Who can legally buy those? Just people in law enforcement and government agencies? Because you’re a Class III manufacturer. What does that mean, a Class III manufacturer?”
MANUEL GOMEZ: “We are allowed legally by the type of license that we hold to manufacture, in our case convert, factory weapons into fully automatic weapons. And we are able to proactively market and sell them to law enforcement departments or agencies.”
COREY WAYNE: “So it’s basically just different government agencies you manufacture for.”
MANUEL GOMEZ: “Right. We could not sell to an individual. There is no way. It’s just not possible.”
COREY WAYNE: “So in other words, for all the people that are saying it’s easy to get a machine gun…”
MANUEL GOMEZ: “It is not. It is absolutely false. It is not easy to get a machine gun.”
JON DUFRESNE: “And they’re tens of thousands of dollars.”
MANUEL GOMEZ: “Oh yeah, let’s talk about that too.”
COREY WAYNE: What’s a pre-1986 machine gun going to cost?
MANUEL GOMEZ: “Because there’s only a finite number of these machine guns in the registry — when I say the registry, I’m talking about the NFA Registry, the National Firearms Act Registry — prices have skyrocketed… At a gun show in 1985, you could have bought a brand new Colt machine gun, an M16, for around $900. Today, $27,000, $28,000, $29,000. A new one unfired could be in the $40,000s. HK MP5s are in the high $30,000s. I mean, machine guns are very, very expensive, so not only is it cost prohibitive, but there is the paperwork and then the waiting period. It is not easy to purchase one.”
There are some 17 million AR-15s in the hands of American gun owners — but between 2007-2017, only 1/10th of 1% of all homicides were committed in mass shootings with AR-15s.
Moreover, according to the FBI, only 297 people were killed by all types of rifles in 2018, including “assault rifles” — while five times more, or 1,515 people, were killed with knives, clubs and other cutting instruments.
This highlights that blaming guns rather than the people who commit the crime misses the mark completely.
“Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic – purely symbolic – move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation.” ~ Charles Krauthammer
JON DUFRESNE: “A weapon is a weapon. But anything can be a weapon, right? So, bottle, [pretends to hit Manuel with bottle], I assaulted him. [Holds up bottle] Assault weapon.”
The problem remains that no matter what gun regulations are passed, they are unlikely to stop mass shootings simply because criminals don’t obey the law. What gun regulations will do is interfere with the ability of law abiding citizens to buy a gun to defend themselves and their families in times of personal danger.
JON DUFRESNE: “We still use the same firearms to protect ourselves from evil humans. There’s always going to be evil. There’s always going to be bad people. Most may not want to think that way or to believe that way, but there’s evil. And one of the things I think people misinterpret is the use of the firearm. It’s not that the firearm is what gives you the self defense ability. It’s you that gives you the self defense ability — your mind, your way that you deal with things. It’s just a tool. It’s an added value to that situation.”
“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” ~ Thomas Jefferson, (quoting 18th century criminologist Cesare Beccaria)
The fact is most mass shootings are committed by mentally unstable people who shouldn’t have had weapons to begin with. In the school shootings at Sandy Hook and Stoneman Douglas, the shooters made their intent known in advance and law enforcement failed to act on red flags that could have prevented the killings.
It’s also worth noting that several FBI reports on active shooter events from 2000-2017, collectively found that when an armed citizen was present, that armed citizen was successful at stopping the active shooter 75% of the time and reducing the loss of life 18% of the time.
History shows that new gun laws are typically emotional reactions to crime trends happening in the broader culture. They are largely symbolic and rarely achieve their desired effect.
JON DUFRESNE: “The only people that are going to follow laws are law abiding citizens, and law abiding citizens are usually not criminals, because those are kind of the opposite. So, being that most law abiding citizens follow the laws, the laws work. When people that are not law abiding citizens, or criminals, they don’t care. So really, laws are just there for the people that follow them.
It’s like a lock. A lock on your door is easily defeated. Anybody can get in your house. All they need is a couple of tools or a really good kick most of the time. And the only thing that lock does is keep honest people out. It doesn’t keep dishonest people out. So it’s the same concept. Whatever laws go into place, they have to be followed to actually work. If they’re not followed by the people that don’t follow laws, that they were made for, what’s the point?”
“I don’t think it’s about more gun control. I grew up in the south with guns and we never shot anyone. This is about people who aren’t taught the value of life.” ~ Samuel L. Jackson
Chicago is a good example. Always in the news for its latest shootings, the city has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Yet, gang warfare racks up a steady body count every weekend as innocents are caught in the crossfire.
With Chicago’s murder and shooting rates higher than New York and LA combined and low rates of private gun ownership, only the criminals and police tend to have guns, and it hasn’t made the City safer.
“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” ~ Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father, 1755
People who dream of a gun-free society should realize the right to bear arms is so imprinted on American culture and history, that many gun owners won’t permit their guns to be taken. As a result, any attempts at forced confiscation could spiral out of control, leading to violence as some gun owners stand on principle and resist.
Some American counties in Colorado and Virginia are already declaring themselves Second Amendment sanctuaries in anticipation of stricter gun laws.
“I thank God for all the freedoms we’ve got in this country. I cherish them. Even the rights to burn the flag, you know. I’m proud of those rights. But I’ll tell you what. We’ve also got a right to bear arms, and if you burn my flag I’ll shoot you.” ~ Johnny Cash
“If you lose the right to bear arms as a citizen, then you know what I’m saying, it’s easy to enslave. It’s easy for the government to enslave people when they don’t have the right to bear arms.” ~ T.I., American Rapper and Actor
Instead of trying to take guns away from law-abiding citizens, we should focus on creating more effective ways to identify and prevent mentally unstable and bad people from owning guns.
Some states are already instituting “red flag” laws to promptly adjudicate whether to disarm and/or take threatening persons off the streets for mental evaluation and detention. However, red flags laws present their own perils.
The challenge will be to preserve as much due process as reasonably possible and to make sure “red flag” laws aren’t abused for political or other improper purposes.
MANUEL GOMEZ: “Yes, they can be misused and abused, and guns could be taken away from the wrong person who was doing everything right and did not have any mental illness or issues.
A lot of these laws that are in place, anyone that has an established history of some type of mental disorder or tendencies like that, well obviously they can’t get guns, but what about for example if I’m on my way home, and I get a phone call that my daughter has been killed in a car accident? I may become temporarily insane. I may not be the person that I was before. It could cause me to do something that I normally wouldn’t do, but ten minutes before that call I was normal.
There also needs to be a quick and fair process for promptly recovering weapons and restoring personal freedoms that have been taken unjustly.
“You won’t get gun control by disarming law abiding citizens. There’s only one way to get real gun control: Disarm the thugs and the criminals, lock them up, and if you don’t actually throw away the key, at least lose it for a long time… It’s a nasty truth, but those who seek to inflict harm are not fazed by gun controllers. I happen to know this from personal experience” ~ President Ronald Reagan
In the meantime, new technologies threaten to overtake the gun debate entirely. Working plastic guns have already been created with 3d printers and could be affixed to drones to launch mass casualty attacks.
It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to envision the school shooter of the future programming a drone swarm with facial recognition software to fly into a school and take out a list of targets without ever stepping foot on the grounds.
Ultimately, if enough people wish to end private gun ownership in America, that is the right of the people. But they must pursue the constitutional process for attempting to repeal the Second Amendment rather than trying to subvert it with regulation. Repealing the Second Amendment will take 2/3rds of both houses of Congress to vote for the repeal and 3/4ths of all state legislatures to ratify it — that’s 75% of the country.
With the bar set so high, a better solution might be if more Americans understand that the Constitution gives us a right and sacred duty to keep and bear arms — to be safe and responsible in their use — and to be skillful and competent if it ever becomes necessary to discharge them.
JON DUFRESNE: “You need to also learn the laws. Learn what you can and what you can’t do, and learn when you are allowed to and understand that, but also protect yourself in that sense legally. You need to understand legally what you’ll have to do after you end up having to use your firearm in self defense or something like that.
If you don’t understand those things, how to use a firearm, when to use a firearm and legally what’s going to happen afterwards, you’re going to end up somewhere getting hung up in some kind of issue.”
“Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny which gave rise to the Second Amendment will ever be a major danger to our nation, the Amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic civilian-military relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of this country. For that reason, I believe the Second Amendment will always be important” ~ President John F. Kennedy
We can look to Switzerland as a successful example of how a healthy gun culture works and potentially follow their model. This European nation of 8.5 million trails only the United States, Yemen and Serbia in the total number of guns per capita — yet violent crime is only 1/10 of the United States.
What makes the difference is a culture of responsibility and safety firmly anchored in society and passed on from generation to generation. Kids as young as 12 belong to gun clubs where they learn how to safely and effectively operate firearms from an early age.
A study by the US Department of Justice on “Urban Delinquency and Substance Abuse” found that “boys who own legal firearms have much lower rates of delinquency and drug use and are even slightly less delinquent than non owners of guns.”
In the final analysis, we want a society where the laws empower the weak and vulnerable and the people have a right to protect themselves from tyranny — whether the threat comes from a would-be rapist… a local gangster… a racist cop… or an out of control government.
When used properly and responsibly, guns restrain bad actors and level the playing field for the weak and vulnerable. And most importantly, they help guarantee the rights of a free people — including the right to pursue happiness and the freedom to reach our full potential.
“Today, we need a nation of Minutemen; citizens who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.” ~ President John F. Kennedy
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