by Martin Harris
Like lots of things which were born (or re-born at larger scale) in the not-quite-Soaring-Sixties, the recent phenomenon of young male shooters killing near-kin, then doing the same to as many strangers as possible, before suicide-by-cop or -self, the modern trend traces back to one Charles Whitman who was the clock-tower sniper at the University of Texas in 1966. Each time since, the predictable Progressive/Liberal/Leftist/Democrat response has been demands for less gun ownership by all citizens, by means of laws which the statistically-few Whitmans of the country have always casually ignored. The National Rifle Association’s bumper-sticker phrase: “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”, has proven true. Whitman used a bolt-action Remington 700 with scope, even though the military M1 Garand, a semi-automatic rifle, had been available to civilians since its introduction in 1936. Thus, the PLLD outcry against “assault rifles” started with later Whitman-imitators who used (typically in so-called “gun-free zones”) a variety of semi-automatic pistols and rifles, particularly models of the AR-15 (originally the military M16) introduced in 1963, which they have deemed to “look dangerous”. Since then, gun-control demanders have rhetorically sidestepped disputes with hunters by arguing that “you don’t need a semi-automatic to kill Bambi.” Latest political voice to invoke the image of the ineffably tragic Disney-cartoon semi-orphan fawn is blue-State Vermont Guv Peter Shumlin, who was quoted thus in the 29 Dec 12 Vermont press: “People don’t need machines of war to shoot white-tail deer.” True enough.
But, as any highly-skilled, long-experienced, well-read politician (like the VT Guv) learned early in his/her chosen career and therefore now well knows, the original reason for the presence of the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights was not based on the conversion of odocoileus virgianus into tasty, high-protein nutrition for humans. It’s there for those same humans to be equipped, if needed, to resist (again, perhaps) governmental tyranny. As phrased by Jefferson, Madison, and other Founding Fathers in 1791, it was an “individual right” (recently SCOTUS-confirmed) to own and, should the necessity for a Second American Revolution arise from any repeat of the then-recent mis-governance, to use state-of-the-art weaponry to “…maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.” The words are those of Prez 1, George Washington. Prez 3, Thomas Jefferson, phrased it thus: “What country can reserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of independence? Let them take arms…”
What the Guv and his PLLD colleagues well know, but have chosen to ignore,s is more than the original intent of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights Second Amendment; it’s also a pretty neat way to semi-disarm the populace, by allowing them (us) only bolt-action single-shot guns while only they can use full-automatics, thereby insuring what is today called “asymmetrical warfare”, in which the less-up-to-date side (us), technology-wise, is supposedly doomed to failure. But Prez 4, James Madison, wrote: only in “other nations [are] the governments afraid to trust the people with arms,” and nowhere in his comments, or in the Second Amendment itself, is a requirement that the citizen “right to bear arms” be limited to weaker arms than are borne by government.
The Bambi gambit is part of the rhetoric; another part is the “we can’t let you have howitzers, drones, or A-bombs” gambit, and, indeed, private machine-gun ownership was outlawed during the Great Depression, without effective objection from Second Amendment advocates. Given Vermont’s new PLLD electoral 69-to-31% super-majority, the Guv is, as he well knows, on super-safe political ground with his proposed limitations on non-governmental gun ownership. It remains to be seen whether a now-non-voting “silent minority” would arise to dispute his Bambi-view of the Second Amendment at the ballot box. A newer bumper sticker reads “The Second Amendment: It’s Not About Duck-Hunting”.
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Assuming you accept (the Guv chooses not to) the Founding Fathers’ intent re the Second Amendment, then you need two more assumptions to determine whether the “assault-rifle” argument is merely a verbal exercise or potentially something more. In terms of present trends in Prez 44 governance, the first assumption is a. that such patterns as debt-enlargement-by-policy, currency debasement-by-policy, taxation-vs-savings-by policy, and open-borders-by-policy are sufficiently dangerous to the traditional Republic as to require relatively prompt correction; and b. that the next election can’t or won’t correct them. The second assumption is a. that those who object to the governance pattern will mount a secession or, (Humble Scribe preference) an Articles of Confederation governmental re-structuring with enhanced States’ Rights; and b. that the non-secession States will, as once before, mount a military invasion to preserve the Union.
Both of these assumptions, each with its pair of sub-assumptions, would have to prove out, meaning that traditional Constitutional safeguards would have proven incapable of correcting the severe damage now being done. Not likely. But only if all four criteria materialize does the assault-rifle argument become truly relevant, for a situation in which seceders would employ the various advantages of asymmetrical warfare (think Rogers’ Rangers before the Revolution, Marion’s Swamp Fox Brigade during the Revolution, Quantrill’s Raiders and the Partisan Brigades during the Civil War (not a true “civil war”, but a right-to-secede dispute) and the recent near-failures of supposedly superior conventional arms in Vietnam and Afghanistan) to convince the Union-enforcers to withdraw. Yes, seceders would need the equivalent of AR-15’s to demonstrate, effectively, the continued high price of formal military occupation, (as before, undertaken primarily to enforce continued tax collection) but no, they wouldn’t need such things as howitzers, drones, or aircraft to exact as much of that price as needed for liberty.
It’s historically unlikely (HS opinion, again) that all four criteria would materialize. Even so, voter resistance to an assault-weapons ban, intended (Shumlin Bambi-references notwithstanding) to dilute, pre-emptively, any possible armed-citizen response to governmental abuse, seems essential as Jeffersonian insurance against just such abuse.