By Alice Dubenetsky
“The greatest danger to American freedom is a government that ignores the Constitution.” Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States
Recently gun sales have exploded across the United States – and in Vermont – driven by fear that the Federal Government will move on gun control legislation that could restrict access to many types of firearms.
On December 14, the world was stunned and saddened by the tragic, vicious and senseless murder of 20 children and 6 adults at the hands of a mentally deranged young man at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother before arriving at the school and storming classrooms with multiple weapons, most notably a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle that he used to deadly effect before killing himself with a handgun.
Lanza’s shooting spree and the subsequent grief felt by the entire nation has ignited a firestorm of cries for gun control, gun bans, and in some cases outright confiscation of weapons that are owned legally by American citizens and protected by the U.S. Constitution. President Barack Obama seized the moment by calling for “common sense” gun control measures.
Standing between the hysteria and the average law-abiding American is one sentence written with deliberation into the Bill of Rights in U.S. Constitution, that vexing Second Amendment, which reads, in total, “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.” The drafters of the Constitution sanctioned the peoples right to bear arms because they understood that a populace that is unarmed and unable to defend itself from threats, and from the government itself, could not preserve it’s freedom for long.
Advocates of gun control will often misconstrue the second amendment as a reference to hunting, which is clearly untrue. It is evident to anyone who reads a bit further into the founders intentions that they believed that a society had much to fear from an overbearing government, and that a well armed populace leveled the playing field in that respect.
It has been argued that the Founders did not foresee the development of semi-automatic weapons, but neither did they foretell the current societal breakdown, the lack of moral compass, empathy and any sense of belonging to a community at large that some members of society suffer. These issues and more have left many of our youth rudderless, and in many cases, virtually or literally parentless in an increasingly challenging and dangerous world. Americans need to finally face up to our societal failings. Hopefully recent tragedies will spur a national conversation on mental health, family values and morality, no matter how uncomfortable the introspection might be. It is certainly easier to blame an inanimate object than it is to blame ourselves, but a gun is a tool, and like all tools, if the hand that wields it is evil, then the tool can become a deadly weapon.
It is a fact that nearly all of the millions of gun owners in the U.S. are responsible, law-abiding citizens who possess weapons for sport or self-defense, and that is especially true in Vermont, with our culture of hunting. Regardless of the absurd notions recently purported by pandering politicians, blowing a whistle or seeking a “safety zone”, are not always effective in stopping a threat, especially for women, who are generally at a physical disadvantage when facing a would-be attacker. Shotgun Joe Biden’s advice to his wife was probably the silliest bit of nonsense to hit the airwaves recently. Biden said he advised his wife to point her shotgun over the balcony and fire two shots if she felt threatened. If she doesn’t manage to kill the neighbors, then she certainly has effectively disarmed herself and advertised the fact to the intruder. At least he provided a bit of humor to the debate.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence gave Vermont a score of 6 out of a possible 100 on it’s 2011 “scorecard”. The scorecard assigns points for a number of categories that they feel are important to eliminate gun violence, such as background checks, requiring permits to purchase guns, bans on assault weapons, and concealed carry permitting. In almost every category, Vermont scored a zero, which by the Brady standard should mean that Vermont is at least as dangerous as the Wild West in the bad old days. Further, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence sternly reports on it’s website that “when it comes gun laws Vermont gets an F”. Should we all be sporting bullet proof vests? Well no. The U.K. Guardian recently published an extensive study about gun crime statistics, which found that the District of Columbia, which is strangely un-ranked by the Brady Campaign, has a firearms murder rate of 12.46 per 100,000 compared to Vermont’s .075.
“I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effective way to enslave them.” George Mason, Author of the Second Amendment.
To combat this small amount of gun violence in Vermont, Vermont State Senator Philip Baruth recently introduced a bill that would have banned “assault-style” weapons and capped the number of rounds in a magazine to five. The measure was met with such stringent opposition that he quickly withdrew S32, saying in a public statement; “It is painfully clear to me now that little support exists in the Vermont Statehouse for this sort of bill.” To placate the angry 2nd Amendment supporters, he went on to say; “To the many responsible gun-owners with whom I’ve communicated over the last several weeks: I’ve heard you. Please hear me when I say that government is not your enemy…”
A government that would infringe on the people’s Constitutional rights could certainly be construed as an enemy of those rights and by extension, the people. Many, many Americans see any infringement on their rights as the first step down a slippery slope that ends in registration and finally disarmament.