"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Up In Arms

"The redcoats are coming!"

In the aftermath of the shooting spree in Aurora, Colorado, families and victims must somehow come to grips with the horror and senselessness of this tragedy. The process of healing will be long and difficult. Even as the motives and background of the killer are revealed, each bit of new information will not bring us closer to any answers. Evil is irrational. Nevertheless, liberal commentators in the media could hardly wait until the tear gas had cleared before pointing the blame squarely at the "gun lobby" and conservatives more generally.

Politicians and pundits on the left have had no shame in capitalizing on the massacre to press for stricter gun control laws and otherwise limiting freedom in the name of somehow preventing a similar crime in the future. The favorite liberal prescription is to renew the assault weapon ban that was in force from 1994-2004 even though that same ban did not prevent the two worst acts of terrorism in American history which claimed a combined 3,144 innocent lives. Indeed, neither atrocity involved any firearms at all.

Furthermore, the term "assault weapon" is not rigorously defined and often misused. Under the law in force from 1994-2004, the sale of various semi-automatic firearms was prohibited, but far more destructive fully-automatic firearms were still legal in many cases. At the same time, any law restricting gun ownership—even an outright repeal of the 2nd Amendment—would not stop the use of knives, blunt objects, strangulation, and poisons to commit murders just as gruesome as the terrible slaughter in Aurora, if not more so.

It makes no difference what type of weapon is used to commit murder. Regardless of the laws concerning gun ownership, murder itself remains as illegal as ever. Conversely, criminals are unlikely to care whether or not the weapon they use to commit a crime is illegal. Laws do not prevent crime. By definition, criminals do not abide by the law. Psychopaths will always apply the full energies of their depraved and diabolical minds to devise new and shocking ways to kill and destroy.

Rather, our system of laws is founded on the principle that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty. Even in such a heinous crime with hundreds of eyewitnesses, the government must introduce evidence to prove the guilt of the perpetrator. Once guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, no punishment can be too harsh or too severe for the one who committed this crime, but to ban ownership of firearms is to presume that simply possessing a weapon is enough to imply guilt. This stands our system of laws on its head.

As for the supposed influence of the "gun lobby," it is worth pointing out that the National Rifle Association currently has a mere 4.3 million members. There are millions upon millions more law-abiding Americans who own firearms and do not consider the 2nd Amendment as a political issue at all, but rather as an expression of the innate right to defend oneself, one’s family, one’s home, and one’s country. The drafters of the 2nd Amendment did not create this right, but merely recognized a right that had already existed from ancient times.

The Supreme Court affirmed this in the Heller case. The founders’ intent for the 2nd Amendment was to maintain a "well-regulated" (i.e., well-armed and well-trained) citizens’ militia for common defense. As Americans, we are blessed with the most professional, best-trained, and most technologically advanced military in the world. However, the right of every citizen to bear arms remains the last line of defense should the unthinkable happen, and as long as the liberal advocates of curtailing our freedoms do not have their way, America will always be a country worth defending.