WWJD: What Would Jefferson Do?
As stories of the Parkland murders continue to dominate the news cycle, public sentiment is being manipulated in a new and most disturbing way. In the media, both social and mainstream, responsibility for the tragedy is being shifted from the mentally-unbalanced premeditating murderer of seventeen innocents to the National Rifle Association, an organization whose primary purpose is to preserve and protect our individual freedoms. And while reactionaries cry for more feel-good legislation, over two centuries ago a litany of revered statesmen spoke thoughtfully of the very circumstance we face today. Viewed through the long lens of history, wisdom and perspective may be gleaned by those willing to learn.
“The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” – Samuel Adams
The promise of the 2nd Amendment was neither a blank check nor demand loan. There are conditions to the right to keep and bear arms and Adams’ “peaceable citizens of the United States” definition applies still today. Peaceable citizens do not get in fights, abuse animals, make threats, and they certainly do not murder their teachers and classmates. It is hard to argue the mind of a perpetrator of mass murder is not defective. And though there were ample warning signs and opportunities to either stop or mitigate the Parkland atrocity, numerous systems failed and seventeen people died. Clearly, changes need to be made to avert future tragedies, but inalienable means inalienable. 2nd Amendment rights are non-negotiable for a reason.
“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” – Thomas Jefferson
“To disarm the people…[i]s the most effectual way to enslave them.” – George Mason
Jefferson knew “debarring” citizens of firearms was the critical first step towards the loss of individual liberties. Mason took the thought it to its’ natural conclusion. He knew shackles and chains are not the only way to enslave a society. Our 1st Amendment provides, among others, the inalienable right to speak, assemble, and worship as we see fit. These are foundational freedoms, the loss of which would effectively enslave us to the will of tyrannical rulers. It is no coincidence the Founders placed equal importance on the individual freedom to defend one’s rights, one’s self from physical harm, and importantly, from those powers who might seek to take away those rights. Ben Franklin expounded on this theme very clearly:
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin
Ironically, one of the leaders on the other side of the American Revolution had similar thoughts on individual freedoms.
“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.” – William Pitt (the Younger)
An American statesman and British Prime Minister on opposite sides of a seismic conflict both recognized the same fundamental truth. In the wake of Parkland virtually everyone agrees “something” should be done, but what and at what cost? It is never necessary to give up freedoms for the sake of a little temporary safety. And would surrendering some of our 2nd Amendment rights yield society even temporary safety? History’s conclusion is a clear no.
“The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes…. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” – Thomas Jefferson
What was true in the 18th Century rings true today. When citizens are denied their God-given right to proportional self-defense, the odds in the struggle between good and evil move decidedly in the favor of evil. Citizens rendered defenseless by well-intentioned but short-sighted legislation banning firearms are significantly more likely to become victims of crime than constituents of jurisdictions that do not infringe 2nd Amendment freedoms. It is no coincidence U.S. cities such as Chicago and Washington D.C., cities with the most stringent restrictions on firearms, consistently report the highest incidence of gun violence.
And yet America’s problem remains, as our lack of empathy prevents engagement in any meaningful dialogue.
Tragedies like Parkland are a call to arms for both pro and anti-gunners to take extreme positions. We demonize the opposition with no attempt to understand each other’s perspective and motivation. Is it any wonder we are no closer to figuring out a solution?
The majority of people on the anti-gun side are not unreasonable. They do not want to take our guns for fun or spite. They are good people who only want the violence to stop. To their way of thinking, removing guns from society is the simplest way to achieve that end. But neither the problems we face nor their solutions are simple. Today’s public debate barely mentions the causation for a generation of mass murderers. In addition to a mental health screening system that is clearly failing, discipline, family values, and personal responsibility are lacking in many households today. The desensitization to human suffering and death promulgated by Hollywood and the video game industry are also issues we must address as a society in order to slow and eventually put an end to this epidemic of violence. But that discussion is not likely to happen. Not when liberal leaders pushing for more governmental control know it is much more effective to juxtapose dead children with an AR 15 and spent cases.
This is why so many of us stand with the NRA and fight like hell to protect the 2nd Amendment. I do not know the final answer to solving Americas gun violence problem but I do banning the modern sporting rifle is not. History has proven the most important step in subjugating a nation is to take away its citizens ability to fight tyranny which is often done under the guise of protecting children.
“The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.” ― Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf
Can we all agree on at least this one thing? #neveragain