Reason And The Second Amendment

Readers will, I’m sure,  recognize the name Mark O’Mara. O’Mara and Donald West were the attorneys that secured a not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case. Both upheld the highest standards of the legal profession—and the Constitution—in their defense, and I had considerable praise for them during and after the Zimmerman trial.

George Zimmerman (left)  and Mark O’Mara (right)

Unfortunately, going to great lengths to uphold part of the Constitution does not always translate to upholding all of the Constitution. This is hardly unusual. Members of Congress take a solemn oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, yet commonly do their best to violate any portion they find too constraining or inconvenient. President Obama has set entirely new standards for ignoring, even actively destroying, the Constitution. After all, he has a pen and a phone. What’s the Constitution—fading ink on yellowing paper—compared with that?

One of the benefits of O’Mara’s celebrity earned in the Zimmerman case are his regular columns and commentary for CNN. One such is titled I’m a gun owner and I want gun control.”

So how does a 17-year-old get ahold of numerous guns? According to news reports, John David LaDue allegedly possessed one, along with several other firearms. Police say they were part of the arsenal (which included illegal homemade bombs) that he allegedly planned to use to slaughter as many students as he could at his high school in rural Minnesota.

Thanks to a civilian tip and good police work, we narrowly escaped another mass shootings.

A friend of mine predicted that the United States would suffer probably 10 such shootings in 2014. I didn’t want to believe him, but I knew it would be true.

It turns out we will suffer far more than 10. We’ve seen a shooting where an assailant targets multiple people somewhere in this country every week this year, according to the website Shootingtracker.com. Only a small number — such as the recent FedEx shooting in Georgia, or those at Fort Hood, Texas, or Jewish facilities in Kansas — will gain national attention.

We have a problem with gun violence in this country. I think this much is not in dispute. The real debate is this: What do we do about it? Unfortunately, most answers to this question involve greater governmental regulation and intrusion into our lives.”

O’Mara, a clever lawyer, makes several arguments that initially appear reasonable. The title of his piece suggests that no gun owner could possibly want gun control—whatever that might be; the devil is always in the details—but since he is a gun owner and an attorney of note, obviously his views have great weight, therefore we should do as he suggests. After all, he’s a lawyer. No lawyer would want to infringe on the Constitution, right?

“Gun violence,” is a misnomer. There is no such thing, no more than there is “fist violence” or “foot violence,” or “motor vehicle violence,” all means of causing injury or doing violence that are far more prevalent than “gun violence.” In fact, despite far more firearms in the hands of Americans than at any time in history, serious criminal violence of all kinds has been significantly declining for decades. Could the fact that more law-abiding Americans are armed have some bearing on that indisputable fact?

Notice too how O’Mara sets up the reader to accept the unfortunate inevitability and necessity of “…greater governmental regulation and intrusion into our lives.”

O’Mara spends several paragraphs demonstrating that there is no such thing as an unrestricted right. He cites commonly accepted and understood exceptions to the First Amendment “(shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater)”, and the Fourth Amendment.

“The Constitution is not written in stone. It evolves as our society evolves. The Second Amendment is more complicated, however, because it deals with issues larger than freedom and oppression; it deals with life and death.”

Suggesting the Constitution is not set in stone is very much a slippery slope. The Constitution may be amended, but because the Founders were determined that it not be amended for “light and transient” reasons, they made the amendment process difficult, requiring substantial time and persuasion. Mr. O’Mara is right in saying the Second Amendment deals with life and death, but he’s not suggesting that the unalienable right to self-defense is therefore worth preserving at all costs. In fact, it’s “buried,” in the Amendment, a rather unfortunate image as many would like to bury the Second Amendment once and for all.

“Buried in the Second Amendment is the right to self-defense, the very mechanism that allowed our Founding Fathers to win freedom from tyranny. Some argue it is the right that guarantees all other rights. Our forefathers wanted us to be able to protect ourselves against outside threats, and even from internal tyranny. They may have even intended us to be able to protect ourselves from each other.

It is a stretch to argue they intended guns to be so available, in such strength, that children,high-school populations and co-workers and law enforcement could be so easily slaughtered.

A gun in the hands of a law-abiding citizen is the perfect, unassailable instrument for self-defense and for the protection of one’s family. To tell someone who is acting reasonably and rationally that they have to give up that right is unfathomable to the responsible gun owner. That’s why gun rights advocates have such a negative response to any perceived restrictions on gun ownership: They know, without question, that they will only use their weapon properly.”

Well of course the Second Amendment was written to make tyranny difficult, and of course the right to self-defense includes the right to “protect ourselves from each other.” What else could it mean? The right to protect one from oneself like Cleavon Little pointing his own gun at himself in Blazing Saddles?

I am indeed one of the “some” that understand the Second Amendment is the right the guarantees all other rights. Without it, we must trust the Federal Government to honorably and diligently uphold our individual rights. Barack Obama has disabused, for all time, any sentient being of the notion that government is willing to do, or capable of doing, that.

O’Mara uses one of the arguments all tyrants use: the Founders, if they’d only known X, Y, or Z, would never have written the Constitution as they did, so it’s up to the evolved elite to fix their unfortunate oversights. In fact, the Founders were some of the most brilliant and foresighted men of any age, comfortable with the average man possessing the most powerful and advanced military arms of their day, and in any numbers. The principle is not invalidated by the number of possessions, their availability, or by changing weapon technology. And in any case, few American gun owners seriously argue that everyone needs to have the ability to possess plenty of hand grenades, intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons (OK, so Iran having as many as they want is an exception).

Notice too that O’Mara makes a nod to the reasonable expectations of the law-abiding gun owner—right before he cuts off their constitutional head.

“But all too often guns are used improperly, without justification, with tragic results. While we have laws preventing convicted felons from legally owning guns, we live in a reality where even properly maintained guns wind up in the wrong hands, where the overly free commerce of firearms virtually assures that some of them will be used by people with criminal intentions.”

So Mr. O’Mara’s objection is to “overly free commerce of firearms,” because even though it’s illegal from convicted felons to possess firearms, they’ll get them anyway and use them, like, well, criminals. As is common with such arguments, the acts of few criminals must restrain the liberty of the law-abiding. What does he suggest?

“Gun rights advocates often see a comment like that as an argument for further restriction on their use of weapons, but that’s not the way I intend it.”

Ah! He doesn’t intend it that way. Don’t tell me….he’s only for “reasonable restrictions.” After all, who could possibly oppose anything reasonable particularly if it might keep guns out of the hands of criminals?

“I myself am a responsible gun owner. I believe in the right to justified self-defense. I also believe that reasonable restrictions to assure that only law-abiding citizens can purchase firearms better prevents over-restriction of our Second Amendment.

Our Constitution is a resilient force, and our Bill of Rights has survived countless modifications and restrictions without the erosion of fundamental freedoms. Our Second Amendment right is no different: It can survive modification and restriction without the fear that it will vanish altogether.”

Really? There has been no erosion of fundamental freedoms? I wonder what the thousands of victims of EPA regulations and BLM land grabs would have to say about that? I wonder what the thousands of victims of the IRS and Department of Justice might opine?  I wonder whether the law-abiding gun owners—or those that might want to become law-abiding gun owners in places like California, Colorado, Connecticut, Chicago, and Washington D.C., among other places, would agree with O’Mara? Of course, Mexican drug cartels, armed by our government, are delighted to enjoy the right to keep and bear arms.

Note the appeal to moral authority that ends O’Mara’s article:

“Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently pledged $50 million to address gun issues. In the face of such a concerted effort, the failure of gun rights advocates to allow any reasonable flexibility to our right to bear arms could mean that it will eventually buckle under the weight of thoughtful opposition propelled to action by the next series of tragic and, unfortunately, inevitable mass shootings.”

There have always been would-be tyrants willing to spend huge amounts of money to revise the Constitution to better suit their desires. Merely mentioning the loathsome, petty despot Bloomberg in the context of the Second Amendment suggests that owing firearms inspires in Mr. O’Mara far less understanding of liberty-loving gun owners than he believes, and certainly does not encourage them to accept his argument for “reasonable restrictions,” for everything Bloomberg desires relating to the Second Amendment is inherently anti-constitutional and would do nothing to so much as inconvenience criminals.

Mr. O’Mara is apparently coming to this argument late. For decades anti-freedom activists have asserted that the criminal outrage du jour is absolutely compelling moral authority for whatever restrictions on liberty they consider “reasonable” at the moment. The greater the number of criminal outrages and the more bloody, the more obvious the need—to their way of thinking—to take firearms away, in the name of reason and safety, from those that will never harm anyone.  Actually disarming criminals has proved to be more than usually difficult, they being criminals and all and not obeying laws.

Fortunately, there has also been a long-running nation-wide experiment on Mr. O’Mara’s thesis. Its results are conclusive. When there were far fewer firearms in far fewer hands, the rate of violent crime was far higher. Since the opposite has been true, since the law abiding are far better armed and there are far more of them than at any time in history, and since far more of them are actually carrying concealed weapons, criminal violence has declined to historically low levels and continues to decline. This despite the fact that prosecutions of criminal violations of federal firearm laws have sharply declined under the Holder Department of Justice.

Reason would seem to suggest that restrictions on the law-abiding gun owner would not obtain the utopia Mr. O’Mara apparently seeks. What further restriction on the right of the law-abiding to keep and bear arms is “reasonable?” In any such “compromise,” what will the law-abiding give, and what will those promising an end to criminal violence give? With what do they bargain? Empty promises of safety and civility? A fundamentally transformed America?

Perhaps Mr. O’Mara would be best served by reviewing the writings of the Founders, such as Benjamin Franklin, who said:

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

That seems reasonable to me.

Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.