Chris Voccio: Right to bear arms helps limit government
GateHouse News Service“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.” — Thomas Jefferson.
One of the problems in discussing gun control is that many people, including many gun-rights advocates, have lost sight of why we have a Second Amendment.
The Founding Fathers didn’t give it to us to protect our right to hunt, target shoot or collect guns.
We have the right to keep and bear arms because the Founding Fathers were frightened of centralized government. They spent a hot summer in Philadelphia creating a central government that wouldn’t become too powerful, fearful that someone, perhaps with the best of intentions, would propose the federal government engage in things it wasn’t expressly authorized to do. (That could never happen here, could it?)
A very weak federal structure was established, leaving most of the power to states. Even without a Second Amendment, we’d still retain the right to “keep and bear arms.”
Still, the federalists pushing this new government met resistance. To allay citizens’ fears, they gave us the Bill of Rights.
Alexander Hamilton actually argued against the Bill of Rights on the grounds that it may plant a seed in someone’s mind that if a topic were even mentioned in The Constitution, then it must be something the federal government could meddle with.
Federalist Paper No. 84: “Why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? … it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power.”
(Hamilton was right. Ever hear a gun-control advocate argue about the meaning of “well-regulated militia”?)
What happened in Colorado is obviously despicable. Arguing about gun control so shortly after that terrible act is perhaps more so.
The reason the two sides can’t come together is because there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the others’ position.
Gun-rights advocates are fearful that things that happened in Germany, China or Cuba could happen here.
Gun-control advocates don’t seem to really mind, so long as “free” health care is provided in exchange for our guns.
That’s why it’s so difficult to come together on this issue.
Chris Voccio is publisher of The Bulletin in Norwich, Conn.