Guns, crime and freedom
- Wayne R. LaPierre ; foreword by Tom Clancy.
- Washington, D.C. : Regnery, c1994.
Where to find it
A definitive manual for taking part in the political debate, and preserving your right to keep and bear arms. --Tom Clancy A New York Times Best Seller.
Chapter One "THAT'S NOT WHAT THEY MEANT" "[The NRA] should either put up or admit there is no Second. Amendment guarantee . . . We are confident in our challenge because there is no confusion in the law on this issue." R. William Ide III, President American Bar Association April 15,1994 "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." Second Amendment U.S. Constitution A common claim of the anti-gun lobby is that the Founding Fathers never meant that individuals should be armed; they only intended for the Second Amendment to apply to a militia, such as the National Guard. These self-proclaimed interpreters of the Constitution also ignore the Second Amendment's specific reference to "the right of the people." The fact that the "rights of the people" appears in the Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments as well--and that the courts have ruled repeatedly that these rights belong to individuals--matters little to them. Theyretreat to their standard charge that the Founding Fathers never intended for the people to have the right to keep and bear arms. Even a casual reading of our Founding Father's works would prove these foes of the Second Amendment wrong. Volumes upon volumes of articles, pamphlets, speeches, and documents that laid the foundation for the Bill of Rights clearly define the founders' purpose, including what they intended with the Second Amendment. In prerevolution America, the threats posed by a standing British army loomed large in the minds of the colonists. Resistance was widespread. In response to the dissent, the British increased their military presence. Two years later, in 1770, unarmed citizens were gunned down in the streets of Boston, in what became known as the Boston Massacre. The Boston Massacre was the fuse that lit the powder keg of debate over the right of the people to be armed. Ironically enough, the colonists did in fact have the right to be armed under English common law. John Adams, then serving as a defense counsel for one of the British soldiers who participated in the shooting, acknowledged this in his opening argument: Here, every private person is authorized to arm himself, and on the strength of this authority, I do not deny the inhabitants had a right to arm themselves at that time, for their defense, not for offense . . . .(1) With the courts of the time affirming the colonists' right to keep and bear arms, the British oppressors were placed between the proverbial "rock and a hard place." From that point on, quelling dissent would involve the denial of a basic right afforded all British citizens.(2) Nonetheless, the British proceeded down a path that could only lead to revolution. Not only did the British strengthen their military chokehold on Boston, they instituted a program of arms confiscation. Citizens could leave the city only upon "depositing their arms with their own magistrates."(3) British confiscation of arms focused the attention of our Founding Fathers on the threats posed by a standing army quartered among the people, and the necessity of having an armed citizenry to prevent the tyranny of such an occupying force. No doubt inspired by the Boston arms confiscations, George Mason, the subsequent co-author of the Second Amendment, wrote in his Fairfax County Militia Plan: . . . A well-regulated Militia, composed of the Gentlemen, Freeholders, and other Freemen was necessary to protect our ancient laws and liberty from the standing army . . . And we do each of us, for ourselves respectively, promise and engage to keep a good Fire-lock in proper Order & to furnish Ourselves as soon as possible with, & always keep by us, one Pound of Gunpowder, four Pounds of Lead, one Dozen Gun Flints, and a pair of Bullet Moulds, with a Cartouch Box, or powder horn, and Bag for Balls.(4) The anti-gun lobby devotes considerable intellectual energy to the definition of "militia" as it appears in Mason's writings. Mason, however, made a very clear distinction between a "standing army," such as a guard unit, and a "militia," composed of private citizens. The anti-gunners nevertheless claim that the militia refers to a national guard, not to the citizenry at large. To eliminate any doubt, however, Mason made his point clear in other writings as, for example, when he said, "To disarm the people [is] the best and most effectual way to enslave them."(5) Mason's sentiments were echoed by Samuel Adams who admonished the uneasy colonists that: . . . It is always dangerous to the liberties of the people to have an army stationed among them, over which they have no control . . . The Militia is composed of free Citizens. There is therefore no Danger of their making use of their power to the destruction of their own Rights, or suffering others to invade them.(6) In this passage, Samuel Adams further clarified Mason's thinking on the power of government in respect to the armed citizen: rights are sacred when the beneficiaries of those rights are entrusted with their safekeeping, and have the means to do so. Our Founding Fathers clearly understood that, once armed, Americans would defend their freedoms to the last breath. Nowhere was this notion more evident than in Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty, or give me death" speech. The context of that oration--the importance of an armed population--has unfortunately been lost in today's "politically correct" anti-gun climate. Yet, Henry's words are there to defend the embattled Second Amendment. When speaking of revolution, Henry proclaimed: They tell us . . . that we are weak-unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? . . . Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house? . . . Three million people, armed in the holy cause of liberty . . . are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against US.(7) Patrick Henry not only issued this warning, he acted upon it. Following the British attempt to seize arms and ammunition in Boston, and the subsequent historic skirmish at Lexington, the British seized gunpowder at Williamsburg,Virginia. The Hanover Independent Militia, led by Patrick Henry, was unable to retake the powder, but they forced the British to pay restitution. At this point, the British denial of the colonists' right to keep and bear arms became the driving force behind the armed resistance.(8) This fundamental right--the importance of an American's ability to defend his liberties--became the principal argument of our Founding Fathers for independence. Following the "shot heard round the world" at Lexington, Thomas Jefferson penned these words in the Virginia Constitution of 1776: ". . . No free man shall be debarred the use of arms within his own land."(9) Nowhere are Jefferson's thoughts about the rights, and powers of the citizenry more explicit than in the Declaration of Independence, which he had such a hand in writing: "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 abolish it." Certainly Jefferson, and his co-authors of the Declaration, preferred peaceful changes in government. But those four words--"the Right of the People"--state in plain language that the people have the right, must have the right, to take whatever measures necessary, including force, to abolish oppressive government. Jefferson was not alone in sounding the call to arms. Henry, Adams, Washington all called upon the colonists to arm themselves. And the call was issued to all Americans, not only landowners and freemen. Thomas Paine, renowned for his treatise, Common Sense, urged religious pacifists to take up arms in his pamphlet Thoughts on Defensive War: . . . The balance of power is the scale of peace. The same balance would be preserved were all the world not destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside . . . Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them . . . the weak will become a prey to the strong.(10) In the case of the American Revolution, however, it was the strong that became the prey of the weak. Indeed, seasoned British troops were beleaguered by the armed and resolute citizens of the colonies. Our Founding Fathers wasted no time in attributing this victory to the right of the people to keep and bear arms. James Madison, the father of the Second Amendment, congratulated his countrymen: Americans [have] the right and advantage of being armed--unlike citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.(11) Indeed, it was President George Washington who urged the first Congress to pass an act enrolling the entire adult male citizenry in a general militia. The father of our country further urged that "A free people ought not only to be armed. but disciplined."(12) Washington's sentiments about the militia, and who should be included in the militia in the infant United States, were echoed by George Mason in the debate on the ratification of the Constitution before the Virginia Assembly: "I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials."(13) "Except for a few public officials." With these six words, George Mason made explicit his deep-set belief that the individual armed citizen was the key to protection against government excesses and in defense of freedom. James Madison expanded on this point in The Federalist Papers, number 46, where he downplayed the threat of seizure of authority by a federal army, because such a move would be opposed by "a militia amounting to half a million men." In 1790, since the population of the United States was about 800,000, Madison wasn't referring to state reserves. By militia, Madison obviously meant every able-bodied man capable of bearing arms. This, undoubedly, was also the meaning of "militia" when the Second Amendment was written. Across the nation, Federalists echoed our Founding Fathers' insistence that the right to keep and bear arms become part of the Constitution. In a pamphlet advocating Pennsylvania's ratification of the Constitution, patriot and statesman Noah Webster declared: Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.(14) Not only did our Founding Fathers focus their debate on the right of the people to keep and bear arms, they devoted considerable energy to issuing a warning to future generations that the battle to defend these freedoms will take precedence over all other work. It was Patrick Henry at the Virginia convention on the ratification of the Constitution who articulated the necessity of guarding the rights of an armed citizenry. Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined.(15) And James Madison, in the National Gazette, January 19, 1792: Liberty and order will never be perfectly safe until a trespass on the Constitutional provisions for either, shall be felt with the same keenness that resents an invasion of the dearest rights. Unfortunately, the invasion of our dearest rights is taking place today. As this book goes to press, there are sixteen gunban bills before the United States Congress, and hundreds more before the state legislatures and city councils. The politicians, in the name of fighting crime, are attacking the sacred constitutional rights of law-abiding American citizens. Today, it is politically correct to ignore the Founding Fathers and their clear intent. For the sake of political expediency, the anti-gun lobby, the anti-gun media, and the anti-gun politicians, including the president, have twisted, tangled, and reinterpreted their words. The anti-gunners would do well to pay heed to the words of Benjamin Franklin: They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty not safety.(16) Unfortunately, a large part of this tragedy--the wanton disregard of our essential liberties--can be laid at the feet of Americans who have not taken action to protect their freedoms. To quote C.S. Lewis: "We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst."(17) Every American must leap to the defense of his or her liberties. We must answer, word for word, the vicious attacks that pour out from the TV screen and newspaper pages around the country. We must attend town meetings in protest and we must hold our elected officials accountable. We must not allow them to misinterpret our Founding Fathers' directives. Then, and only then, will freedom be safe for future generations. In the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed--else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die."(18) Copyright (c) 1994 Wayne R. LaPierre. All rights reserved.
This item is about
- Washington, D.C. : Regnery, c1994.
- Includes bibliographical references (p. 237-253) and index.
- xvi, 263 p. ; 24 cm.
- OCLC Number
- Other Identifiers
- LCCN: 94019160 //r952