Skip to comments.The Conservative Mainstream: The Right of the People to Bear Arms (Frank S. Meyer Flashback)
Posted on 10/30/2002 3:48:51 PM PST by Pyro7480
The Right of the People to Bear Arms
(National Review, July 2, 1968)
(Words in italics are the authors original empathesis, boldface and underlining my empathesis.)
Since Adam ate the apple, the per capita quantum of violence and potential violence in human society has remained, century in and century out, reasonably constant. Indeed, the third person in the world killed the fourth - or, if you prefer the more secular images, primitively there was always present "continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."
What has made the difference between the quantum of potential violence and actual violence has been the power of the moral authority of civilizations to inspire the members of society, and the firmness with which force has been exerted in defense of civilizations against external and internal barbarians. Against external barbarians, sometimes the moral authority of a great civilization has played a part, but primarily it has been force which has held the lines. Against internal barbarians, the problem has been more mixed, since a civilization with sufficient moral authority tends to civilize its internal barbarians.
The abysmal ignorance of history, as of the elements of political philosophy, that characterizes so much of the political and intellectual leadership of the United States today is all that can explain, although it does not excuse, the torrent of nonsense about "violence" with which we have been assailed these past days and weeks and months. The simple knee-jerk reactions that pass for high political wisdom might be understandable in a local official of the League of Woman Voters; they are proclamations of bankruptcy when they come from men of supposed political or intellectual sophistication.
Violence is bad? Of course: then let us do away with it. Problem; solution: instant Utopia. Guns kill people? Put government control on guns: domestic peace in our time.
Despite its appealing simplicity, this enthymeme conceals a double fallacy. In the first place, violence is not always evil per se. In the public sphere it is equally legitimate when employed against criminal incursion upon life or property. For the latter purpose it may fall into desuetude in times when, unlike our own, the constituted authorities are able to keep crime and riot under control. But it is always a residual right, and in times like ours it becomes the citizen's duty to use violence when necessary in his own defense and the defense of his family.
The second fallacty is that weapons or the accessibility of weapons creates violence. Violence, for good or ill, arises from the souls of men. Gun control would have no more effect ultimately upon the quantum of domestic violence than disarmament agreements have had upon the prevalence of war. Indeed, in one case as in the other, the logical effect is only to strengthen the bad guys and weaken the good guys. It was Nazi Germany that was armed, it was Britain and the United States that were disarmed, in 1939. If gun-control legislation at any level were to be enacted in this country, it would be the criminals, the rioters, the insurrectionists, who would find illegal means of procuring weapons; it would be the solid citizens who would be disarmed.
These are the considerations, derived from a philosophical understanding of the nature of man and from practical experience, that make nonsense of the hysterical clamor for gun control now emanating from the serried megaphones of the Establishment. It is a clamor that might be ignored if the basic law of the land were still respected by the judiciary, if the Constitution had not become a paper document to be manipulated into its opposite by the Warren Court. The Founding Fathers whose wisdom was based upon theory and experience, tried almost 200 years ago to defend the United States against such mischievous incitations to tyranny and crime as are invited by a disarmed citizenry. Bold and unequivocally, the First Congress and the states, in the Second Amemdment to the Constitution (Article II of the Bill of Rights), proclaimed that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
The constitutional principle is strong and sweeping, so strong and sweeping that even the present Supreme Court, one hopes, will not be able to work its sinuous way around it - should Congress prove to be so subject to utopian pressure as to pass legislation defying it. The key word is "infringe," and there can be no doubt in common sense or in law that any proposals for registration are direct infringements of the free citizen's right to keep and bear arms. If I may paraphrase an old maxim: the power to regulate is the power to destroy. The patently unconstitutional Sullivan Act in New York State has shown, in its administration over the years, that registration of firearms (in this case of concealable weapons) has made it next to impossible for anyone legally to possess such arms. Criminals and insurrectionists, of course, get hold of them easily. Even the prohibition of sales by mail, while it is less integrally objectionable than registration, seems to be of doubtful constitutionally.
An unarmed citizenry is potentially the victim, first of anarchy, then of tyranny and totalitarianism. The present campaign to infringe the right to keep and bear arms is a[n] utopian assault upon the freedom of American citizens - an assault scornful of the testimony of history, the counsels of morality, and the express mandate of the Constitution.
The other Meyer articles I have posted so far:
Libertarianism or Libertinism? (Frank S. Meyer Flashback)
The Conservative Mainstream: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense (Frank S. Meyer Flashback)
Much as we are witnessing in merry old England. The Brits are in the middle stages of this trilogy and it only took the last three of four years to go from relative freedom and safety to near full-blown anarchy. Not so long ago, gun crime really was rare in Britain; the cop on the beat did not normally even carry a gun.
Now, after the passage of some very bad, Draconian Victim Disarmament laws, cops are armed to the teeth but completely unable to stem the tide of rising violence or even to remove firearms from increasing black market sales.
One or two years down the road, and the transformation of England to a full police state will be complete. The remarkable thing is just how fast this can happen. Australia is also on that same "path" as Mr. Howard put it, only a little behind.
Of course, in the the US there is still time to see the truth; the only question is whether the politicians and the jerks who put the wrong ones in office are willing to see it or will instead opt to put us on the same road.