Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch once joined in a debate on the death penalty. He’s in favor of it. One of his opponents asked that lame old question, “Do you really think the death penalty is a deterrent?”
Koch replied, “I don’t know and I don’t care. Some crimes are so horrible that they should be punished by death regardless.” The questioner would have done better to ask, “couldn’t the murder have been prevented if the victim could have defended himself?” But both questioner and mayor were New Yorkers, where owning a gun is a rare privilege reserved for law enforcement officers, a few store owners and felons.
Bill Buckley once described his personal vision of hell: “Eternity locked in a room with nothing to read but the collected works of Beatrice and Sidney Webb.” To which I would add, “and the collected opinions of the Supreme Court of the United States.” We await the Court’s ruling on the gun ban law of Washington, D.C., arguably the most restrictive in the nation. The focus of the case is on whether the Second Amendment preserves an individual right or a right reserved to the state.
The Amendment says, “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.” Anyone even mildly concerned with the issue of gun control versus the right to gun ownership is somewhat familiar with the basic arguments that go on forever regarding the construction of that sentence, so I’m not going to repeat them.
When was the last time that we needed a “well regulated Militia?” As Mayor Koch observed, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” David Crockett’s only military service was with a militia until his rather unsuccessful stint as a volunteer at the Alamo. Abe Lincoln was a militiaman, albeit briefly. The committees of vigilance which — of necessity — maintained order before legitimate governmental authority caught up with westward expansion and settlement were generally “well regulated.” Presidents Andrew Jackson and Theodore Roosevelt approved of them.
But now we’ve got massive armed forces including active and reserve components, federal law enforcement agencies, sheriffs’ and police departments, etc. So, who needs a militia, well regulated or otherwise? None of us will ever be called upon to grab a musket from over the fireplace to go fight redcoats or marauding Indians: radical Islamists, maybe, but not Indians.
“[T]he right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” because that right is a bulwark against terror, murderous thugs, common criminals, sociopaths, and things that go bump in the night while you’re waiting for the 911 dispatcher to wake up. In the final analysis it may some day be all you’ve got to protect yourself and maintain order in the event of a complete breakdown of civil authority. Watch a few episodes of “Jericho” and you’ll see what I mean. In my beloved Tennessee in order to purchase any sort of legal firearm to keep in your home all you need to do is pass the federally required InstaCheck, although when I recently bought a small, lever-action, .22 caliber rifle the procedure took over an hour and the assistant manager of the store had to carry it to my car for me.
Tennessee also has a sensible carry permit law. If you’re not a nut, a drunk, a felon, etc., you can apply for a permit. You must bring a pistol of your choice to and pass an eight- hour course in firearms safety and marksmanship. The law has been in effect for about eight years and I’ve yet to hear of anyone legally carrying a concealed weapon who has been charged with a crime involving the weapon. Once you’ve got your permit you can carry any legal weapon on your person. In places like New York City you’ve got to get a separate permit for every weapon you merely want to keep in your home, and they’re tough to get; try to get a permit to carry one on your person. Fugeddaboutit.
A woman in our area who had been repeatedly terrorized and assaulted by a former lover finally heeded some good advice, bought a pistol, and learned how to use it. The next time he broke into her home she greeted him with five shots from a Ladysmith .38 and hit her mark every time. The miscreant lived; 911 was apparently faster in responding to his predicament than it had ever been to hers. He was prosecuted, not her.
In poorer neighborhoods where drug-crazed burglars prey on old people living alone we occasionally read about a potential victim blowing the villain into Abraham’s bosom. There is never a prosecution. Someone who breaks into your home is assumed to be there with the intent to kill you or do you serious bodily harm, and you are legally permitted to use deadly force.
Those are the reasons our right to keep and bear arms should not be infringed. Repeal the Second Amendment say the liberals. I agree in part. The first clause should be repealed. We need weapons to protect ourselves. It’s as simple as that. The police can’t be with you 24/7 and 911 is just a number for who knows how long after you dial it.
So I await the Court’s decision not anxiously, but with a yawn. If the DC law is struck down it will be one small step in the direction of sanity. If it is upheld it will be just another day at the office — another day that leaves law-abiding citizens defenseless while any thug who wants to do you in can get a Tech-9.
In closing, let me leave you with the sage observation of Archie Bunker. In an argument with his liberal daughter, Gloria, she yelled, “Daddy, did you know that last year alone in this country over 5,000 people were killed by handguns?!”
To which Archie calmly replied, “Would youse be happier little goil if dey’d all been t’rown outta winders?”
Next time I’ll elaborate on Archie’s solution to airline hijackings: “Arm all the passengers.”