Forever Armed, Forever Free

 

 

Eric Gschwandtner

 

Forever Armed, Forever Free

            From its creation, America has been the poster child of new and ambitious freedoms that the rest of the world never considered possible.  To the immigrant, we are the land of opportunity; to the spiritual, we are a safe haven; and to the determined, we are the chance at something greater.  We were forged from revolution and have carried the “rebellious cowboy” persona from the moment ink touched paper and read “We the People”.  Although we are able to enjoy these freedoms for a number of reasons, it is our ability to defend it as citizens that defines us as truly free.  The 2nd Amendment of the Constitution of the Unites States has provided us with the liberty to take up arms as we see fit to defend our lives and livelihood, and ensure that just as we have kept our rights the last two and a half centuries, we may keep them again today.  This right to keep and bear arms has, as of lately, come under fire from certain parties within our nation, however, and our right to own firearms is under threat of being taken away.  From gun free zones, to magazine capacity limits, to assault rifle bans, to outlawing gun ownership altogether, the 2nd Amendment is at risk of being destroyed.  The 2nd Amendment is not only an essential tool of the American people, but a right of all free men and women that must not, and cannot be taken away.

            

Public outcry for the abolishment of the 2nd Amendment has only recently come to rise in our nation.  Although it has been used across the world throughout history, the argument has never come to full fruition in the Unites States until the last twenty years.  As technology advances, so has the modern firearm.  In the interest of “holding the bigger gun”, militaries around the world have always worked diligently to create a more effective weapon.  With this advancement, the firearms industry has exploded with sales in the civilian market as well.  Although each state has their own policies and laws regarding certain firearms and accessories, the general consensus is that if a person completes a Form 4473 (form completed before a Federal Firearms License holder, or more commonly known simply as a gun store), passes a background check, is of the legal age, and pays for it, they may walk out of the store as a certified gun owner.  The process is a fairly simple one, but thorough nonetheless.

            The method of purchasing a firearm, and the 2nd Amendment as a whole, has in recent years come under tremendous fire from political parties and activist groups alike.  Last year, on the show “Late Night with Seth Meyers”, Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton made a statement about the legitimacy of gun control.  In her interview, she stated, “Most people in America…support these common sense measures.  Universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole, closing the online and Charleston loopholes, and doing whatever we can to repeal the immunity from all liability that gun makers and sellers have” (Clinton).  The stand for more gun control, however, has stretched beyond politics and has also reached the doorstep of everyday citizens.  In 2013, a group known as “Moms Against Guns” protested outside the offices of two South Carolina Senators due to a vote against further gun control measures.  In one interview, protester Jan Hubble stated, “well I don’t think anybody in the general public needs an automatic weapon, an Uzi (type of firearm), or any kind of machine gun” (Hubble).  Many of the members of these groups and supporters of gun bans often have a direct connection to incidents involving guns.  Because of the pain and sadness that follows such tragic events, they are compelled to take a stand against something that, in their eyes, would prevent such crimes from happening again.

It is easy for the gun debate to be fought strictly off of emotion.  The impulse after a vicious crime has been committed, is to blame whatever is available and abandon reason for a more suitable knee-jerk reaction.  Although passion can be inspiring, it can also be misleading.  To keep from fighting this fight simply out of fervor and sentiment, the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) posted an article back in 2013 that took a statistical approach to the debate to prove whether historically, gun bans have put a stop to homicides or allowed the murder rate to thrive.  The CPRC is a highly reputable research and education organization that provides accurate information to the public regarding gun laws, crime rates, and public safety.  In his article “Murder and Homicide Rates Before and After Gun Bans”, author Dr. John Lott, a political commentator and esteemed gun rights advocate, writes “For an example of homicide rates before and after a ban, take the case of the handgun ban in England and Wales in January 1997…  The immediate effect was about a 50 percent increase in homicide rates.  [The] firearm homicide rate had almost doubled between 1996 and 2002.   The homicide and firearm homicide rates only began falling when there was a large increase in the number of police officers during 2003 and 2004.   Despite the huge increase in the number of police, the murder rate still remained slightly higher than the immediate pre-ban rate” (par. 2).  He goes on to provide graphical charts showing the rise of crime in every instance of a gun ban.  Ireland and Jamaica’s crime rates instantly rose to an alarming level in the 1970’s when laws were put into places prohibiting firearms.  Even here in the US, places like Chicago and Washington DC showed staggering waves of crime overtaking the city after gun bans were implemented.  The simple fact is that by making it law that no guns are allowed does not deter criminals from continuing to break the law and carry guns in the streets.  By definition, criminals commit crime, and the notion that by adding additional laws to keep them from purchasing guns or having them within city limits is completely asinine.  The only people that such gun laws end up effecting are the law-abiding citizens who would use their right to bear arms as a means to defend their homes and families.

In 2006, Professor Gary Mauser and retired American lawyer Don Kates wrote a scholarly article titled “Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide?” for Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The article was meant to address two matters and misconceptions.  In their article, they explain “there is a compound assertion that (a) guns are uniquely available in the United States compared with other modern developed nations, which is why (b) the United States has by far the highest murder rate.  Though these assertions have been endlessly repeated, statement (b) is, in fact, false and statement (a) is substantially so” (par. 1).  By following this guideline to uncover whether these assumptions are true, Mauser and Kates argue that gun ownership is not the reason for high murder rates within a country, but the culture of violence and social factors are what feed these crime waves.  “One reason the extent of gun ownership in a society does not spur the murder rate,” they contend, “is that murderers are not spread evenly throughout the population. Analysis of perpetrator studies shows that violent criminals—especially murderers—‘almost uniformly have a long history of involvement in criminal behavior.’ So it would not appreciably raise violence if all law-abiding, responsible people had firearms because they are not the ones who rape, rob, or murder. By the same token, violent crime would not fall if guns were totally banned to civilians” (p. 660-661).  The assertion that the United States is the only country that allows its citizens to own firearms is false, and the assumption that our murder rate is so high because of those guns is utterly untrue and unfounded.  But if guns aren’t the problem and banning them wouldn’t work, then what is being done to deter murder and mass shootings?

Schools have historically become the target of gun violence in America.  The fact that it is a heavily populated and gun-free area with minimal resistance from the young victims, makes these locations perfect spots for someone who is wanting to induce murder and panic.  In 2012, Newtown, Connecticut made headline news when a crazed shooter entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and opened fire on the teachers and children.  The shooting took a devastating toll on the small town, and the tragedy opened our eyes once again to the vulnerability to attack our schools still had.  President Obama himself took the opportunity to blame guns and made it his mission to eradicate them from the homes of American citizens.  But not everyone was looking to throw fuel on the fire.  Instead, some state lawmakers have focused their efforts on how to make schools safer by utilizing guns.  Reporter Nirvi Shah of Education Week discussed some of the proposals that have arisen in her 2013 article, “Shootings Revive Debate on Security: Proposals Include Officers in Every School, Armed Educators, and Gun Bans”.  Some of the proposals being introduced include radical and controversial ideas such as arming the teachers and faculty of schools, and armed security officers patrolling the school while in session.  Far from the normal emotional outcries to simply get rid of guns, these ideas actually promote firearms in the hands of the people.  Some schools, like one in the Harrold district of northern Texas, have already adopted such policies to much success.  In her interview with Harrold Superintendent David Thweatt, he was quoted as saying, “No armed school employee in Harrold carries a weapon against his or her will, and the district treats the identity of armed employees as a personnel matter, so such information is kept from the public” (par. 16).  She added afterwards, “There was no opposition in the community when the district adopted the policy, and after the Newtown shootings the response from parents in his district essentially was: ‘Thank you for having the foresight to do something.’” (par. 17).  It is the goal of every community to have a “safe” environment for their children to learn, but another word that isn’t considered so much when discussing school grounds is “prepared”.  Violence does not go away when the guns stop being welcome.  In fact, it leaves those who would abide by the law open for attack.  By arming teachers and faculty who are willing, we are encouraging not only a safe place to learn and grow, but a prepared place.  Our schools are perfect examples of how gun free zones have not, and will not, defend us against those who wish to do us harm.  It is by having an armed and prepared community that we may fend off the wolves that come for our flock.

Although our nation is fiercely divided on the subject today, our Founding Fathers were actually unanimous in their support for the right of the people to have firearms.  It was designed for the natural right of self-defense.  But this idea of self-defense meant something much deeper to them than we view it now.  The American Revolution, the war that made us independent from Great Britain, began, in part, due to the British government looking to disarm the Colonies and make them less than subjects.  When we won our independence, the 2nd Amendment was purposefully given to the citizens of the United States to keep the new government in check and see to it that we never again suffered under tyrannical rule as we once did under the crown.  Firearms Instructor Reid Henrichs explains the thought process of the Founding Father perfectly in his YouTube video “The Founders’ Intent of the 2nd Amendment”.  Henrichs is an accomplished firearms specialist who began his journey as an assault section leader in the US Marine Corps. and later as a Designated Marksman Instructor during his four-year enlistment.  After leaving the Corps., he then received extensive experience in the law enforcement field, and later as a high school history teacher and an adjunct professor at Nashville State Community College.  In 2015, Henrichs founded Valor Ridge, a firearms training facility for the public to attend and learn valuable life-saving skills and experience.  He references a multitude of founding documents and brilliant minds to include St. George Tucker, one of the most prominent legal scholars at the time, Federalist John Adams, Anti-Federalist Patrick Henry, and James Madison, the father of the Constitution.  An interesting point that Henrichs mentions is that both sides of the political divide strongly supported the 2nd Amendment.  He goes on to quote political figures of more modern times such as Hubert Humphrey, Vice President under Lyndon Johnson and one of the most ardent Democrats in American history.  Even he supported and defended the 2nd Amendment finding it to be an invaluable asset to deter tyranny. 

Speaking on our Constitutional right to bear arms, Henrichs states, “It’s clear-cut; it’s an individual right, and those arms are designed not only for self-defense, not only for hunting, not only for sporting purposes, but they are designed to keep the power in the hands of the people, not the government” (Henrichs).  The Founding Fathers knew the dangers of a government with too much power and sought to keep that power with the people so that no man would ever bend the knee to another king again.  The 2nd Amendment is our lifeline to defend ourselves not just against a home invader, but against an absolute power that would have us as subjects and not equals.  There is nothing outdated about that need, and though tyranny may seem like a distant threat, it is always a danger that we, as an armed nation, have to defend against.

            A vast array of justification has been used over the years in an attempt to hamstring the right to bear arms, but much of the arguments made are founded on false statements and misinformation.  As stated earlier, in the aftermath of a tragic event such as a shooting, emotions often take precedence over reasoning, and hard facts can go right out the window.  The news media and politicians alike pounce on these opportunities for more viewers and followers, and eventually the truth fades from the argument until all that is left are misconceptions and inaccurate assumptions.  The statement Hillary Clinton made about universal background checks is a silly argument to make, mainly because that system is already in place.  These “gun show loopholes” and “online loopholes” she speaks of do not even exist.  No one can walk into a gun show or go online and buy a firearm under any circumstance without going through an FBI background check and purchasing the weapon through the proper channels.  And holding gun makers liable for their products being used in a crime?  Unless we also intend on holding spoons liable for the child obesity problem here in America, why don’t you sit down Mrs. Clinton.  The remarks of Jan Hubble during the “Moms Against Guns” protest in South Carolina were no better.  If you’re going to stand outside a Senator’s office because you think automatic weapons and machine guns should be illegal, maybe check your state laws first because both are already highly illegal for any civilian in any state to own.

            If outlawing guns is not the answer, and all the arguments made in support of such a notion are based in fiction, then what should we do?  If there is something from the opposing side that I can agree with, it’s that something does need to be done.  We cannot sit idly and hope the problem fixes itself.  Any FBI crime statistic will show that firearm-related crime in America is actually on the decline.  The problem is that as society progresses, most people no longer understand how guns work because when everything in this day and age is handed over freely, why would someone need to know how to defend themselves?  Most people don’t realize their own vulnerability and how prone they are to becoming a victim in an instant.  When a person doesn’t fully understand a subject like firearms, and someone comes on the TV screen and tells them that firearms are awful and are destroying our nation, it’s no wonder they believe them.  I believe, as do most avid gun enthusiasts, that education is the answer here.  No one ever picked up a gun for the first time and knew precisely how to disassemble it, reassemble it, load it, aim it, and drive bullet after bullet through the same hole in the target.  We all had to start somewhere.  To understand the function of a firearm, one must also learn the responsibility that comes with it.  Safety comes first.  No firearms instructor or gun range will ever allow someone to take part in their training without learning how to safely handle and use a firearm.  By teaching people about guns and helping them understand how it works, a great deal of the fear and anxiety that has been built up from action movies and news reports suddenly vanishes, because the gun no longer has authority; the wielder does.  There are hundreds of millions of guns in America.  If they were the problem, we would know.  The real issue is the culture of violence and irresponsibility that is growing here in our country.  By encouraging knowledge, safety, education, and an enjoyable learning experience, I truly believe we can turn the tide in the gun debate.

            As a gun-owning citizen, I know that I have the opportunity to commit great evil, but I also have the opportunity to do great good, and those opportunities were mine long before I ever bought my first firearm.  That is the argument that trumps any notion to blame guns: A gun is nothing without the hand that wields it.  We cannot blame the tool for what the craftsman does.  Do we blame the vehicle when someone drinks and drives?  Evil finds a way.  We as a society, have come to a point where we are so arrogant and spoiled that if we commit a crime or do something wrong we have the audacity to blame the tool that was used because it couldn’t possibly be the fault of the person committing the act.  Our nation is not a playground where if one removes the sandbox, children won’t throw sand.  Take a lesson from the Paris attacks last year, where the terrorist organization ISIS brought the city to its knees killing over 130 innocent people with assault rifles and hand grenades, neither of which are legal in France.  Evil finds a way.  It is only through superior force that good may prevail.  It is childish and foolhardy to believe that by taking away the ability to own firearms we are inherently safe.

The truth that many people are not yet ready to face, is that we need our firearms, and we most certainly need our 2nd Amendment.  It is the American citizen who is prepared to do violent things to those who threaten our freedoms that ensures a better tomorrow.  Of course violence is not always the answer, but Theodore Roosevelt had it right when he said, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  Because we are a nation of armed citizens does not make us violent.  We don’t have to go looking for trouble, but when the wolfs comes knocking at the door and words are not enough, the big stick shall find its place.

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  • commented 2017-01-07 14:45:24 -0500
    Thank you for sharing Eric

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