Las Vegas Sun

June 29, 2015

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Letter to the editor:

Gun rights meant to fight oppression

Another view?

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In response to Steve Orton’s letter, “Amendment isn’t about individuals,” I feel he missed the mark on what the Founding Fathers meant. We should be careful presupposing their intentions, as they left plenty of writings to deduce their intent.

Just state the facts. We were in a struggle for our independence against what we felt was a tyrannical empire trying to impose its will over us, and we wanted out of its sphere of influence.

We took up arms against it to prove the point.

In drafting our Bill of Rights, they made the Second Amendment the right to keep and bear arms second only to the right to free speech for a reason: They knew it was important to keep our new government from becoming the thing we were fighting against, and if our new nation turned on the people, the people could take up arms again.

This wasn’t about hunting for food and protecting ourselves against animals. This was and is to protect against oppression.

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  1. Sons of Freedom armed themselves and revolted against the tyranny of the King of England and his mercenaries. If they didn't, and instead rolled over and made peace, we'd still be a English colony.


  2. It is more accurate to say that the Second Amendment was the mechanism to prevent the federal government from disarming state militias. An Act of Congress in May 1792 and signed into law by George Washington states:

    "That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act. And it shall at all time hereafter be the duty of every such Captain or Commanding Officer of a company, to enroll every such citizen as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of 18 years, or being at the age of 18 years, and under the age of 45 years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrollment, by the proper non-commissioned Officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack."

    BTW, notice the mandate on individuals to purchase the required equipment.

  3. "BTW, notice the mandate on individuals to purchase the required equipment." @ Jim Weber

    In the military, they still have a term for this, at least they did when I was in many years ago: TOE. And it was subject to inspections on announced and unannouced bases. ah, the good old days. Now we use drones.


  4. Another author ignoring the words a "well regulated militia" meaning the Founders did have an opinion of what weapons civilians owned.

    "Scalia, a strict interpreter of the Constitution, said there's an "important limitation" on the right to bear arms."

    "We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of 'dangerous and unusual weapons'," Scalia wrote, in an opinion first cited by UPI over the weekend."

    "Scalia reiterated that sentiment in July of this year when he told Fox News Sunday that the Second Amendment leaves room for federal gun control legislation."

  5. So conservatives want the strongest military in the world and think they can own weapons that would hold that same military at bay. Well alrighty then.

  6. Another great essay on the importance of preserving gun rights:

  7. The US Constitution is one of the great documents of history but it is history. The constant attempt to interpret the meaning of what men dead for over two hundred years really intended is futile. That was then and this is now. We the people get to decide what the country needs now and going forward. The Constitution is an interesting and valuable tool but times change and so must we. Adapt or perish is what it is all about.

  8. "We should be careful presupposing their [the Founders'] intentions, as they left plenty of writings to deduce their intent."

    Bassett -- good point from a good letter.

    "We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of 'dangerous and unusual weapons..."

    VernosB -- Scalia said that in Heller' section III. He was writing for the entire court. For context there's the previous paragraph --

    "Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose...nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

    Keep in mind Heller was a case strictly about the Second Amendment in federal jurisdiction. McDonald applied the 14th Amendment to a city primarily under state jurisdiction.

    "The constant attempt to interpret the meaning of what men dead for over two hundred years really intended is futile."

    rcrpower -- you're wrong. As both the Heller and McDonald cases show, the Bill of Rights is just as applicable to us today as it was to them then.

    "...the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table." District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. (slip opinion at 64) (2008)

  9. "Another great essay on the importance of preserving gun rights..."

    emthree -- good link to a balanced account from someone who was actually in a situation where total anarchy fast became the reality. It's also a sobering lesson to all about the fragility of this civilized veneer we all have.

    "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." -- George Orwell's "Animal Farm" (1945)

  10. For those of you concerned that the federal government is going to take your guns away. There are about 120,000 federal law enforcement officers and something in the neighborhood of 300 million guns. We currently have roughly the same number of law enforcement officers employed by the federal government as we did when Harry Truman was in office, and the population was half what it is today. If these guys dropped everything that they were doing and did nothing but write search warrants for the purpose of confiscating guns it would probably take 100 years just to write the paperwork if the court would even be willing to facilitate such nonsense. It used to take me the better part of a 10 hour shift to write a proper search warrant, put it together with the affidavit and find a judge that would sign it.

    The city of Santa Monica passed a strict assault rifle ban many years ago. The state sent us a list of all of the registered assault rifles in the city. I believe there were 247. Two were turned in when the law was passed. That was it. Did we have the resources to go after the rest? No. Confiscating the rest never even came up for discussion.
    The people that live in Santa Monica paid us to keep the city safe and reduce violent crime. Not to break people's doors down and confiscate weapons that were legally purchased.

  11. Vast numbers of people in this country consume and sell illegal drugs. Both ethical pharmaceuticals that are acquired legally and illegally and illicit drugs. We go after the worst criminal offenders and people that get caught driving under the influence as well as using drugs in public. We don't go out and try to arrest 30% to 40% of the entire country.

    Vast numbers of guns get destroyed every year when they are taken away from criminals. If you reduce the sale of new guns the number of guns in circulation will drop off dramatically over time. Gun buybacks also result in tens of thousands of guns being taken out of circulation.

    I believe there were 24 million guns in circulation in the 1950s. The numbers today are ridiculous. Any 10-year-old can get a hold of a gun just by going into his parents or his neighbors parents bed stand.

  12. How the second amendment interferes with the first amendment:

  13. The argument that an armed society is a polite society is just plain nonsense. Some of the most robust frontier towns banned firearms within city limits because they realized that guns, booze and whores don't mix.

    I would argue the same is true in Nevada today. Look at the gun violence statistics in this state.

    More military personnel are shooting themselves that are being shot by the enemy and gun accidents are very high because people have no proficiency with the guns they possess.

    People should have to pass a background check as well as a proficiency test before they are allowed to own a gun. In addition they need to show that they can keep the gun safe and out of the hands of miscreants. A fairly difficult proficiency test alone will keep guns out of the hands of the vast majority of people.

  14. Much of the problem of guns falling into the hands of unauthorized people could be addressed by having plentiful public service announcements promoting responsible gun ownership, including publicizing penalties (where they exist) for allowing such to happen.

    It would appear that several of us who post here were raised around guns at a time when gun safety was a part of our "education" so to speak. We have a healthy respect for them as tools with a specific job and recognize the potential dangers associated with not taking proper care of them. This type of education needs to be in place once again.

    The user "zippert1" touched on this with calling for a proficiency test. I can agree with that in principle. More important is having a potential gun owner know the laws governing gun ownership, especially those related to liability for actions performed by a weapon even if NOT by the owner.

    I think more gun owners would take steps to prevent accidents and theft if they knew they would be held accountable for what happens.

  15. I have to disagree, zippert1 (gerry hageman). I'd argue it's actually true that "an armed society is a polite society. " BUT. . . "polite" is defined by the person with the touchiest hair trigger on his temper and his weaponry - and the physical ability and willingness to combine the two. Those bans existed, true. They were usually imposed by a vote of the city fathers but were actually enforced by the constabulary who were willing and able to enforce the official definition of "polite."

    We end with problems when your definition of "polite" differs from mine - and we both set out to shoot down the opposition.

  16. renorobert,

    Your wrote this:
    "BUT. . . "polite" is defined by the person with the touchiest hair trigger on his temper and his weaponry - and the physical ability and willingness to combine the two"

    Are you in favor of this? Isn't this an invitation to casual violence?

    "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"

    Where does it say Tyrannical Government, or Race, or shooting kids, or men and women?

    (1)What it says, plainly..."A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state,"

    (2)What it says plainly..."the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

    Number (1), "A well regulated militia", the key words are "well regulated". This mean trained, disciplined and responsible individuals under the direction and supervision within an accepted organization approved by the majority. This also is contingent upon... rights within the Bill of Rights not being violated by those who are exercising the Second Amendment. This means being responsible, lawful and reasonable.

    Number (2), "the right of the people....shall not be infringed", the keys words "right and infringed". Both saying you can keep and use a weapon, an arm, a firearm to protect, for the security of the State.

    Bottom line, being a legal owner of a weapon requires being responsible, being trained, being discipline, and being lawful. Therefore, anyone having a firearm should be documented. How would one call the militia in time of need, if one does not know the members of the militia.

    We need background checks and documentation on all firearm sales, with a felony charge and huge fine on transactions outside the law!

  18. Longtimevegan,

    In your point number 1, you dismissed entirely the phrase "security of a free state" in your analysis. That phrase is also crucial.

    It can be taken to mean the security of a government entity, but can also be taken to mean "a state of freedom" as well.

    In either case, coupled with what you left out of your point two, there can be made a case for NO limitation on what kind of arms the people may bear. I don't think that is the conclusion you want drawn.

  19. Mschaffer (Mark Schaffer): Reference your 4:16 p.m. yesterday response to my comment.

    My point is that the pro-gun argument "an armed society is a polite society" is actually, literally, true - but it is also an open invitation to widespread violence as various quick-tempered, heavily armed, psychotic individuals fight it out to see who gets to define "polite" and violent widespread oppression by the one who ultimately prevails. All this in the name of "politeness."

    Not really an ideal situation for a people trying to maintain a republican form of government, but not at all uncommon in the Roman dictatorships which began with Julius Caesar. The NRA would do well to study life in that era.

  20. Sometimes the oppressed become the oppressors!

    I guess we take up arms again and again to knock out each successive government that thinks it is more righteous than the last, but which finds it necessary to oppress and suppress the people in order to remain in control through the exercise of power.

    When and where does the insanity stop? Annihilation?

  21. Carmine,

    At this point, being an English colony today is looking pretty good to me! ;-)

  22. Thanks boftx,

    Your input is always appreciated.

    My first point was showing the need for responsible people with weapons, gun owners and militia had to be trained to use the weapons, in to have have a "well regulated militia."

    The second point, showing one cannot be extreme in exercising the Second Amendment, or directly or indirectly using the Second Amendment to infringe on the other articles in the Bill of Rights.

    Bottom line, gun owner must responsible and know how to use any weapon that a person decides to purchase to have in the home.

    Many people who buy guns do not know how to use a gun. Responsibility, accountability is required of gun owners. Gun Safety. Gun Locks. knowing how to shoot and hit a target. Knowing how to store a weapon safely. One has to ask the questions, why am I buying a gun? Gun owners must be responsible, accountable. We cannot control the illegal gun sales, we can control what we have in our homes.

  23. Illegals (all non-citizens?) are not supposed to possess a gun in Nevada. How's that working? Not very well. Violent crime with guns by illegals preclude enjoying our quality of life.

  24. Longtimevegan,

    I agree with what you say is the bottom line about gun ownership and responsibility. I have said basically the exact same thing.

    You bring up gun locks/storage. My criteria is a gun owner should share liability for whatever is done with a weapon he owns. A responsible owner will always take steps to see that any unsupervised weapons are secured in such a fashion to minimize the chance of it coming into inappropriate hands. I choose my wording carefully here because, as KillerB has mentioned several times now, requiring a weapon to be locked at all times is not Constitutional.

    I would like to see standard, reasonable liability laws in place, if they are not already. But to make them effective there should be on-going public education of them by means of PSAs. Responsible people want to do that which is reasonable, especially if they know what is required.