Last week we celebrated Independence Day, but I wonder, how many realize that there is more to the Declaration of Independence besides the Colonies telling King George III that they were severing the ties that had bound them to British rule for over a century and a half? Yes, the Declaration of Independence is a formal statement of the 13 British Colonies that they would no longer be bound to British rule, as well as a list of the grievances which led them to make that decision, but it is also something far greater.
The first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence acts as somewhat of a preamble to what follows. However, the second paragraph provides the justification behind their decision to sever the ties that had bound them to Great Britain for so long, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Whether the year was 1776 or 1860, when a people make the decision that they will no longer be governed by an entity they consider tyrannical or oppressive, that entity considers their decision to be an act of treason, and acts accordingly by seeking to use force to compel their obedience to its authority.
This brings a twofold question to mind: How does the government enforce its authority upon the governed, and what means do the governed have of opposing, or severing the ties which had bound them to its authority? If you really think about it, behind every act taken by government there is the constant threat of violence against those who resist the authority of their government.
In both 1776 and in 1860 that threat of violence took the shape of an army the government brought to bear against those who resisted its authority; which is one of the primary reasons our Founders, aside from a few like Alexander Hamilton, opposed the idea of a standing army; especially in times of peace.
Nowadays we not only have a standing army, but we also have militarized agencies of the government, ready and willing to enforce whatever laws our government enacts, we also have a police force that utilizes, with increasing frequency, military tactics and weaponry to enforce the law upon the people. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics there are roughly 700,000 sworn law enforcement officers in the United States, or roughly 217 for every 100,000 people.
Now I’m gonna let that fact stand for a few minutes while I address the second part of that two-part question: What means do the governed have of resisting the authority or severing the ties which bind them to their government; especially considering that government is not likely to just surrender its authority over them.
Sure, a few people here and there might manage to go off the grid and be truly free of governmental authority, but if a large number of people decide to do it then the government can, and usually does, bring violence upon them to compel their obedience to its authority. So when that happens, what means are at the disposal of the people to oppose that violence brought upon them if not the ability to be equally armed as those who would oppress and subjugate them?
That right there is the reason we have the 2nd Amendment; not so we can hunt, defend our homes, or target shoot; rather so we can defend ourselves against those who would tyrannize and oppress us. Yet the 2nd Amendment does not grant or protect that right, it merely declares that the right exists, and that government has no authority to limit or restrict, (infringe upon), it.
If you don’t believe my position on that, then without the 2nd Amendment what gave the Colonists the right to own, and bring to bear against the agents of their government, (the Redcoats) their own private weapons? Firearms, or weapons of any kind, are only tools; and tools can be used for good or bad. If they are used to rob, kill, or oppress or subjugate people, then they are being used by bad people. However, if they are being used to defend the rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, then they are part of the natural right of self-defense, which Samuel Adams explains as follows, “Among the Natural Rights of the Colonists are these First. a Right to Life; Secondly to Liberty; thirdly to Property; together with the Right to support and defend them in the best manner they can–Those are evident Branches of, rather than deductions from the Duty of Self Preservation, commonly called the first Law of Nature.” (My emphasis)
I know I’m getting somewhat ahead of myself here, but in opposition to the proposed Constitution Patrick Henry made the following statement, “The Honorable Gentleman who presides, told us, that to prevent abuses in our Government, we will assemble in Convention, recall our delegated powers, and punish our servants for abusing the trust reposed in them. Oh, Sir, we should have fine times indeed, if to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people. Your arms wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical; no longer democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all?” (My emphasis)
Now I need to take a moment or two to address what is meant by the word infringed. The Constitution supposedly delegated certain powers to the government it was establishing, but there were fears among its opponents that it did not sufficiently restrict the ability of that government from violating certain rights. So a Bill of Rights was written, amending the Constitution by prohibiting governments ability to take any action that might limit or restrict any of the rights listed within it.
However, the Bill of Rights is just a piece of paper; it draws its life from the willingness of the people to resist any encroachments upon the rights listed within it. If the people allow their government to enact laws, or create organizations that infringe upon those rights, then what good is a Bill of Rights?
Now some might say our right to keep and bear arms has not been infringed, that we still can own guns. That only shows me that the person saying that does not understand the meaning of infringed. If I say you have the right to breathe air, but then tell you that you can only take one breathe every 5 minutes, I have infringed upon your right to breathe by dictating how often you can do it. Any time government enacts a law that describes what type of arms we might keep and bear, imposes restrictions upon when and where we might keep and bear them, imposes conditions upon when we might use them for self defense, imposes fees or requires a permit to exercise the right to keep and bear, that right HAS BEEN INFRINGED!!!
Infringed, simply stated, means to limit or restrict in any way, shape or fashion; so laws prohibiting certain categories of arms are an infringement, as is the recent ban on bump stocks. Now I want you to read a couple quotes by former Supreme Court Justices. The first comes from the dissenting opinion of Justice William O. Douglas in the case of Poulos v. New Hampshire, (1953), “When a legislature undertakes to proscribe the exercise of a citizen’s constitutional rights it acts lawlessly and the citizen can take matters into his own hands and proceed on the basis that such a law is no law at all.”
The second comes from Justice Robert H. Jackson, delivered in the case of West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette, (1943), “”The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”
The final quote comes from Justice Potter Stewart in the 1967 case of Walker v. Birmingham, “The right to defy an unconstitutional statute is basic in our scheme. Even when an ordinance requires a permit to make a speech, to deliver a sermon, to picket, to parade, or to assemble, it need not be honored when it’s invalid on its face.”
I have been involved in numerous debates over the subject of Concealed Carry Permit laws, even as recently as last week. I believe that the 2nd Amendment is my weapons carry permit, concealed or not…END OF STORY!!! I don’t believe I need to obtain a permit from local law enforcement to exercise that right, nor do I believe I need a background check from the Dept of Justice before I can purchase a firearm. I find both of those requirements to be an infringement upon my unalienable right to keep and bear arms.
Did the Colonists have to pass a background check before they could own guns? Do you think they had their CCW’s in their trouser pockets when they faced off against the Redcoats at Lexington and Concord? Did they just bow down to authority and just let the British confiscate their arms simply because they were acting under order of the King, (or as we would say today, just enforcing the law)?
No they didn’t. They knew what their rights were without a constitutional amendment telling them, and they exercised those rights for the very purpose they exist; to oppose tyranny and any effort to limit or restrict, (infringe upon), that right.
How many gun control laws have we allowed our lawmakers to enact simply because we believe it will make our streets safer? How many gun control laws have we tolerated because we have been conditioned to believe that only law enforcement and the military should be allowed to carry ‘those’ kind of weapons? How many of us, (especially those who claim to love and defend liberty) meekly submit to the requirement that we obtain a permit to exercise an unalienable right? Finally, how many people who claim to support the 2nd Amendment support the very entity that has enacted all these laws and imposed all these restrictions upon our right to exercise what the 2nd Amendment says shall not be infringed?
When I was growing up I recall my father signing up to be a lifetime member of the NRA. At the time I thought it was cool that he was a part of an organization that was fighting to defend our right to keep and bear arms; now I’ve changed my position on that. Why should we pay some organization like the NRA to hire lobbyists to coerce and persuade lawmakers to uphold their oath to support and defend the Constitution? Why can’t we just flood them with letters and phone calls, vote them out of office if they don’t listen, and if needs be, string them up by their necks if they ignore our demands? They do work for us; right; and if they can punish or kill us if we disobey the laws they enact, why can’t we do the same to them? That is why Patrick Henry’s quote is so relevant to this discussion; because we have surrendered our power to them; that’s assuming the Constitution even gave us any power to punish those who violate it; which it didn’t.
But who is it that enforces these laws that violate our rights? Do those lawmakers take to the streets and ensure that we obey the laws they pass, or do they have a standing army of government agents and local law enforcement do it for them?
The 16th American Jurisprudence, Second Edition, Section 177 states, “Since an unconstitutional law is void, the general principles follow that it imposes no duties, confers no rights, creates no office, bestows no power or authority on anyone, affords no protection and justifies no acts performed under it. No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it.” That is the primary basis upon which the organization known as the Oathkeepers rests; that no one who has taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution will enforce any law that limits or restricts our right to keep and bear arms.
Let me tell you something, I don’t see a whole lot of oathkeeping going on; all I see is a bunch of obeying orders, enforcing the law regardless of whether or not the law violates our rights. I honestly don’t know who is worse, those who write and pass the laws that violate our rights, or those who enforce those laws upon us. But in his 1849 book Civil Disobedience, Henry David Thoreau writes, “Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient. The objections which have been brought against a standing army, and they are many and weighty, and deserve to prevail, may also at last be brought against a standing government. The standing army is only an arm of the standing government.”
Listen, I have nothing against law enforcement, IF THEY RESTRICT THEMSELVES TO THE PROTECTING OF OUR LIVES, OUR PROPERTY AND OUR RIGHTS. However, the moment they cross the line and enforce laws that deprive the people of any of the abovementioned things, they become nothing better than jack booted thugs; just like the goons who enforce Nazi or Communist rule upon the subjects of their respective countries.
The Redcoats were enforcing the law too, and we view those who resisted their authority as heroes and patriots; what has changed in this country where we now view those who resist and oppose tyranny as dangers to society or radical nutcases? Has the love of liberty dwindled to the point where those who still have it are pariahs…outcasts?
Liberty is an individual blessing, something our Creator has bestowed upon each and every one of us. It is therefore up to us, as individuals, to decide whether or not we are going to defend it against any and all who would take it from us. If you want to obey the law, to get your CCW permit, turn in your guns if the ban them, go right ahead. But I’m guessing that Patrick Henry did not care whether he was joined by thousands of others, or alone in his sentiments when he said, “Give me liberty or give me death.”
Or, as Samuel L. Clemens, aka Mark Twain once said, “In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.”
If you’ll recall, in the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson wrote, “…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
I just wonder whether the people of this country will ever reach that stage, or if the will get to the point that Patrick Henry feared, “Your arms wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone; and you have no longer an aristocratical; no longer democratical spirit. Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all?”
I suppose what I’m really asking is, is your loyalty to the government, or is it to liberty? I guess time will tell, for our liberty has all but been taken from us by the entity that was supposed to secure it for us, as well as the means of defending it.