I was born in California fifty-five years ago and, aside from time spent in the Air Force, I have lived here my entire life. I grew up around guns and from a very early age I was taught how to use, and respect them. Guns were as much a part of my life as eating, sleeping, and going to school. I wasn’t alone either, I can remember driving through town and seeing pickup trucks driving down the roads with rifle racks in their rear windows, filled with a wide variety of shotguns and hunting rifles, and the funny thing was people thought nothing of it. How times have changed.
Fast forward half a century and we see a California where guns are feared and the State Government is waging an all out assault upon our right to keep and bear them. Currently there are no less than 40 bills making their way through the halls of power in Sacramento that will, in some fashion, effect gun owners in California.
Already California is ranked among the toughest in the nation regarding gun laws, yet we still see ourselves suffering from tragic losses of life due to gun violence. A thinking person might come to the conclusion that passing restrictive gun laws don’t work. But then it appears that most people in this state, including those in Sacramento who pass these laws, aren’t thinking, because what are they doing? They are trying to pass EVEN MORE laws which will restrict, limit…INFRINGE upon our Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. The question which then arises is, when are they going to be satisfied, when is enough going to be enough?
I have found that a vast number of people don’t understand the nature of our rights, with the right to keep and bear arms being one of the least understood amongst our unalienable rights. Whether this is due to a deficiency in our educational system, or a systematic brainwashing by popular media and culture, the fact remains people think our right to keep and bear arms pertains to our ability to ‘hunt deer.’
Unfortunately that is not the primary purpose for which our Founding Fathers wanted to safeguard our right to keep and bear arms. It was so that we, as a people, could resist tyranny and raise a well armed militia in defense of it. Yet across the nation, from the federal government all the way to the local communities in America, we see the strong arm of government attempting to diminish that right. Whether they do so in fear us rising up against them, or if they truly are doing it to protect us from senseless killings, the fact remains that they are infringing upon an inherent and unalienable right, and I for one am sick and tired of it.
In 1943 the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. Writing for the majority, Justice Robert Jackson said, “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.”
Our Founders were not perfect men, they all had their faults. But they were wise men who had studied philosophy, history, and politics and understood the nature of our rights. One of them, Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Cartwright wrote, “Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.” They may not have been able to foresee all the technological advancements we would make as a species, but I’m sure they all realized that we would make them. With that being said, when they wrote that the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, I’m sure they did not mean that our right would be limited to the weapons of the time, muskets and flintlocks. I’m sure that to for us to raise a well equipped militia to fight tyranny, we would be required to own the same type weapons that our enemy did. That means that any limit upon ‘assault’ weapons is a limitation upon our ability to fight tyranny, as the government has at its disposal armories full of fully automatic rifles, in every size and caliber imaginable.
Richard Henry Lee, Founding Father, and cousin to Harry Lee, father of Robert E. Lee who would lead the Confederate Army, once said, “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”
Part of the problem in today’s society is that our children are inundated with violence in the games they play, to the television and movies they watch, but they AREN’T taught the proper and safe handling of firearms. That is a dangerous combination. Add to the already dangerous mix is the fact that many kids are taking mood altering psychotropic drugs for problems such as ADD and ADHD which have known side effects to include; aggression, thoughts of suicide, and homicidal ideation, [vague ideas of revenge to detailed and fully formulated plans without the act itself]. For our kids to grow up not having been trained the safe handling of firearms is like giving them a license and putting them into a car without them ever having received any training whatsoever. Then add to the fact that many of them are under the influence of mood altering drugs and we have a recipe for the exact type disasters we have been witnessing.
But instead of providing the training so that all Americans are taught the safe handling of firearms, our legislators enact laws which restrict the rights of citizens to fully exercise the right to keep and bear arms. It honestly seems that they don’t want a well armed populace. So they incrementally enact laws which whittle away at that right.
In 1976, Nelson T. Shields III in an interview for the New Yorker magazine, gave away their game plan, “We’re going to have to take this one step at a time, and the first step is necessarily – given the political realities – going to be very modest. Right now, though, we’d be satisfied not with half a loaf but with a slice. Our ultimate goal – total control of all guns – is going to take time…The final problem is to make the possession of all handguns and all handgun ammunition – except for the military, policemen, licensed security guards, licensed sporting clubs and licensed gun collectors – totally illegal.”
Our esteemed U.S. Senator, Dianne Feinstein, once said, “Banning guns addresses a fundamental right of Americans to feel safe.” I don’t know about her, but I feel much safer WITH my guns than I would were I deprived of them. The fact remains that whatever laws California passes are an infringement upon a Constitutionally protected right.
Various other states have tried similar measures, and they have been struck down by the courts. In 1846 the state of Georgia passed a law banning handguns, it was struck down in the case of Nunn v. State, where the Court said, ” The right of the whole people, old and young, men, women and boys, and not militia only, to keep and bear arms of every description, and not such as are used by the militia, shall not be infringed…Our opinion is, that any law, State or Federal, is repugnant to the Constitution, and void, which contravenes this right…”
In 1859 the Courts again addressed the question, this time in Texas, as to whether laws passed by the state violate the Second Amendment right of individuals who are not affiliated with any state-regulated militia, but who wish to keep handguns and other firearms for private use in their homes. The Court ruled, “The right of a citizen to bear arms, in lawful defense of himself or the State, is absolute. He does not derive it from the State government. It is one of the “high powers” delegated directly to the citizen, and `is excepted out of the general powers of government.’ A law cannot be passed to infringe upon or impair it, because it is above the law, and independent of the lawmaking power.”
The Second Amendment was written to protect the right of ALL Americans to keep and bear arms. Sacramento has chosen to wage war upon that right. The question, as already asked, when will enough be enough? Will they be satisfied with this current round of laws, or will their appetite remain unquenched until our rights have been completely stripped away by their lawmaking?
And, will the law abiding gun owners of this state be forced to make the decision to become criminals by ignoring, and violating laws they know in their hearts eats away at their most precious right to defend themselves and their liberty?
These are questions that only time can answer, but I know which side of the law I will stand upon should it come to that.