Friday, January 25, 2013

The Right to Bear Arms

“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.” Those are the words of the Second Amendment as ratified on Dec. 15, 1791. They are not difficult words, but how they should be interpreted, and how they should be implemented in 2013, is a matter of much heated discussion.

There are some who seem to think that the Constitution’s statement about the right to bear arms means that gun ownership should be virtually unregulated or uncontrolled. For such people, including perhaps a majority of National Rifle Association (NRA) members, almost any type of gun control is seen as the violation of inherent Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens.

Since the tragic shooting of the school children in Connecticut last month, talk about increased gun control, including the proposals the President unveiled last week, has led to a huge surge in gun and ammunition purchases, a substantial swelling in the membership of the NRA, and angry protests in the media.
The NRA directly links its opposition to gun control legislation to the Second Amendment. They exclaim on their website, “What’s happening RIGHT NOW in Washington, D.C. could spell disaster for YOUR guns and YOUR Second Amendment rights!” 

Last Saturday (Jan. 19) was the nation’s first “Gun Appreciation Day.” It was promoted by a dozen organizations, including the Second Amendment Foundation and Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. 

On the same day there were also “Guns Across America” rallies in 49 of the state capitals across the nation. Newspaper headlines proclaimed that those who gathered were “Second Amendment supporters.”

Probably like some of you, I have received pro-Second Amendment, anti-gun control e-mails that included these words attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

But while Jefferson did support the right to bear arms, there is no evidence that he ever penned the words just cited. Yet the rhetoric on the right is relentless, and some who quote the spurious words attributed to Jefferson are shrill in their charge that the current administration in Washington, D.C., is becoming more and more tyrannical.

On Jan. 16 the President announced sweeping proposals for reducing gun violence in the nation. Those proposals include 23 executive actions. Opponents of the President have been outspoken in their criticism of the proposed legislation and especially of the executive actions. 

Later that day, one blogger screamed, “The 23 Scandalous ‘Executive Actions’ Dictator Obama Signed Today to Rob Us Of Our Freedoms!” 

Much more worrisome, though, is the response of key politicians. For example, Senator Grassley (R-IA), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, accused the President of exceeding the limits of his executive authority and charged that he was using executive action “to attempt to poke holes in the Second Amendment.”

And Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is reportedly proposing legislation to nullify President Obama’s executive actions, saying that many of them could be construed as an attempt by the executive to make laws in violation of the Constitution and the Second Amendment.

But one of the “scandalous” executive actions calls for the launching of “a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.” Tell me, does that sound to you like an outrageous proposal for robbing U.S. citizens of their Second Amendment rights?


  1. Thanks for another timely topic. While it is a serious discussion, I enjoyed finding a campaign button last fall which I got for Carolyn. It's a typical photo of a sleeveless Michelle Obama with the caption, "The Right to Bear Arms!"

    1. There is also a funny comedy routine from 2005 by Larry the Cable Guy called "The Right to Bare Arms."

  2. The following in intended to be satirical view of NRA's concern about proposed licensing of guns:

    AAA President says that automobile licensing requirements are creating a slippery slope to complete confiscation of our vehicles by a tyrannical government. LINK

    1. Clif, thanks for providing the link to this piece of good satire. I was not familiar with that website, but I thought their previous satirical article was pretty funny too; it is called "Planned Parenthood to Use Drones to Conduct Abortions."

  3. I received an email with those same word attributed to George Washington. I found a pro-gun website that actually checks such quotes and debunks them. Thanks, Leroy. I'm going to recommend your column to my FB friends.

  4. Dr. Glenn Hinson, my esteemed Thinking Friend in Kentucky, gave me permission to post his comment sent by e-mail:

    "I'm ashamed of Kentucky's two senators. Paul's legislation should not get other support, but McConnell is circulating alarmist comments by telephone throughout the state."

  5. I read the list of the 23 executive orders. I cannot see how any of them really changes any law. Some are meaningless "king like" edicts to use the words of Sen. Paul. Others are simply orders to enforce and execute better the laws we already have. Others are intended to get people together and talk about gun safety, gun control, and gun laws. So it would be hard to say they are scandalous. We might even say they amount to little or nothing. After all talk is cheap. Yes, talk is cheap but it is also plentiful. As one who has spent his life executing a ministry largely centering around words I believe that talk changes things. If people talk and come to some conclusions and agreements from those talks then those talks could, and I suspect will, lead to some new law. That law, as most any law would alter some freedoms. That is the way democracy works. so perhaps the fuss is about "talking" about changing laws. It is about fear of what the conclusions of the talks might be, that indeed they will favor some measure of gun control. As far as the president - I think he made a presidential step - but not an overstep.

    1. Brent, I agree with, and appreciate, your conclusion. But for the life of me, I can't see what edicts seem to be "king like" and why you think they are meaningless.

      I looked over the list of 23 executive orders again, and they seem to me to be the type of thing any CEO has the right to do, and surely it is agreed that the President is the CEO of the USA.

  6. Local Thinking Friend Heather Murphy sent the following comments for posting here:

    "Absolutely it is time for some safe and responsible gun laws, but isn't that what the NRA already claims it has? We have become a nation of arms-bearers, by our history and our nation's obsession with entitlement: Shoot first and ask questions later.

    "This morning I heard our Vice President say we need to put some limits on magazines, citing the recent Newtown shooting. If the shooter had not had an uninterrupted supply of ammunition, some of the fatalities may have been avoided. I have to agree - when did assault rifles, massive amounts of bullets in a magazine, and accessibility to guns become an acceptable way to defend ourselves, in the eyes of our country at large?

    How on earth do we progress as nation if the only defense is self-defense, and there is no compromising? People worry our rights will be reduced by the sensible limits our government is faced to consider, yet the alternative seems to be to crouch in a corner and wait for the next ambush (which would seriously limit MY freedom!).

    "I hope our President and Vice President will inspire a new generation of peacemakers who will continue making strides toward a less combative future. I know the world is changing, I just didn't know it meant children would be so threatened and exposed to weapons because of our evolution."

  7. I have just learned that there is a difference between an "executive order" and an "executive action," a difference that even some Congresspersons did not seem to know.

    The President did not make give any executive orders on Jan. 16 but mentioned 23 executive actions.

    I corrected my misuse of "executive order" in the blog posting itself, but have not done that for the posted comments.

  8. Thinking Friend Virginia sent the following comments by e-mail:

    "Indeed, it does not! On the contrary, it sounds as if the executive order is meant to take positive steps for all our safety and increased peace of mind as especially the small children of our descendants go off to school.

    "If our legislators were to enact all the points recommended by the committee chaired by the vice president, we could all go shopping or to the movies or to see a legislator in a 'meet and greet' or to walk on a college campus with less fear of encountering a killer crazed by hate or mental instability."

  9. Can I have your permission to use the picture above on a Facebook page I have created?