Few things in this life are more politically divisive than guns. Generally speaking, liberals hate them and conservatives love them. Yet both history and experience teach us that few things are as integral to freedom as guns. Therefore, when liberal politicians push for more gun control, freedom-loving Americans panic because they know that an assault on guns is an assault on freedom.
Our Founding Fathers were confident of the connection between guns and freedom, and they were convinced that the American people were freer than others because of the right to keep and bear arms. Said James Madison: “[The Constitution preserves] the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation … (where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”
At our nation’s birth, the Founding Fathers tried to institute a political framework that would neither tend toward mob rule (democracy) nor an overbearing central government (tyranny). They knew freedom resided somewhere between the two extremes. To prevent democracy they designated our nation a republic via a written Constitution that established indirect elections for the presidency and gave the citizens no role in electing senators, so as to preserve the rule of law instead of the rule of the majority. (Today’s direct election of senators was established by the 17th Amendment in 1913, under President Woodrow Wilson.) To prevent tyranny, the Founders established checks and balances between the various branches of government and recognized the people’s inalienable right to be armed. Alexander Hamilton surveyed the newly born nation and said: “The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.”
The great orator Patrick Henry, who demanded to be given “liberty or … death,” concurred: “The great principle is that every man be armed.”
As long as the government is not tyrannical, the government need not fear the people’s arms. Thus Madison’s observation that the federal government at our nation’s founding was not “afraid to trust the people with arms.” But if the government were to ignore its constitutional limitations and run roughshod over the people’s liberty, our Founders expected the people to rise up and preserve freedom. Said Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots.”
Did you catch that? No less a man than Thomas Jefferson described as “patriots” armed citizens who refuse to let go of their liberty, even at the cost of their lives.
During the 1990s, when the Clinton administration pushed for expanded gun control laws, various people warned: “Fear the government that fears your gun.” Law-abiding citizens understood that our Founders’ worldview had been completely flipped on its head, not by ubiquitous gun ownership but by a government that feared the idea of an armed citizenry.
With the election of Barack Obama, citizens are again confronted by an administration opposed to an armed citizenry, the tenets of our Founding Fathers, and thus to freedom itself. Although Obama has only been in office for three months, various gun registry schemes have already been promoted. And during an April 7 appearance on Good Morning America, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put in plainly: “We want [guns] registered.” Of course she assured those watching Good Morning America that Democrats “don’t want to take … guns away.”
We could ask ourselves, “What’s wrong with using registration to create a list of guns and gun owners to which our president has access?” But to ask that question is to answer it. Plus, here’s a better question: “Why weren’t our Founders intent on registering firearms and their owners?” The answer to this question is as profound as it is simple. They wanted “every man” to be armed, not just certain men.
In describing the dangers of gun registration, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said: “Ultimately registration will let the government know who owns guns and what guns they own. History [then] provides the outcome: confiscation. And a people disarmed is a people in danger.”
After Hitler and the Nazis registered all the guns in Germany, millions of Jews, Christians, and handicapped persons knew firsthand the “danger” of which LaPierre speaks. They were rounded up and starved to death, or used in inhumane medical experiments, or killed outright in the death camps.
But what could those Jews, Christians, and handicapped persons do? They couldn’t fight back, for they were without guns and thus without a means to ensure their own survival, much less their freedom.