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If armed, the good guys can win

July 23, 2010|By JAMES WARNER

I am writing to respond to the column by Dan K. Thomasson in The (July 20) Herald Mail.

Thomasson is unhappy with the Supreme Court because of Justice Alito's opinion in the recent McDonald case, in which the court ruled that the Chicago law forbidding handguns in the home was unconstitutional.

Thomasson claims that the National Rifle Association "disdains to bring sanity into the gun debate." Really? I retired from the legal office of the NRA and do not recall ever being instructed to omit sanity from a legal argument. By "sanity," one must assume, Thomasson means that state in which one's perceptions conform to objective reality.

In this case, Thomasson claims that the Supreme Court, while deliberating this decision, ignored the fact that "258 school children were injured by guns in Chicago, 32 of them fatally, in a short period." Injecting sanity into the gun debate, the correct way to say this would be "258 children were wounded by evil people who used guns illegally." Further, these shootings occurred before the court had ruled that the gun laws were unconstitutional. How, then, if guns were illegal, did these children come to be wounded by people with guns? Necessarily, people so evil as to be indifferent to injuries, including fatal injuries, to children, would also be indifferent to laws forbidding guns. What value, then, are such laws?

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It seems, then, that before the decision, the bad guys in Chicago were armed. The issue, in the McDonald case, was whether good guys could be armed to defend themselves against the bad guys whom we know, from the casualty statistics cited by Thomasson, to be already armed. As there are more good people than bad, if we were also armed, who would win? This question was posed long ago by the late Col. Jeff Cooper, the "gunner's guru." Since the answer is obvious, however, it is timeless in application.

Thomasson implies that the Second Amendment is out of date, having been written in the 18th century for a frontier society. However, the right to keep and bear arms did not originate with the Second Amendment, nor in a frontier society, nor in the 18th century. In 1689, in heavily populated England, in the first Parliament of William and Mary, following the expulsion of the last Stuart King, James II, the Bill of Rights was passed to restore those natural rights which had been usurped by the Stuart dynasty. Until the advent of the Stuarts, English subjects had, since time immemorial (i.e., at least since 1185 A.D.) enjoyed the right to arms for self defense. The Second Amendment merely served to protect that right.

My family has just returned from our annual sojourn in Northern Vermont. Vermont is the last place in the English speaking world in which the right to keep and bear arms, as restored by Parliament in 1689, remains untouched. In Vermont one may carry arms, whether concealed or openly, without a permit from the government. Since I sometimes fish in lonely places and at odd hours, I frequently carry a concealed pistol. Curiously, I can recall no period, short or long, during which 258 school children were shot by criminals with guns in Vermont. Why is Vermont different from Chicago?

Let me suggest that the difference is cultural. Our hearts are influenced by our surroundings. If we are in a milieu which condones evil, we are tempted to be evil ourselves. Thus, if one person is willing to unlawfully use a gun to injure the innocent, others may be tempted to follow his example. Laws cannot change that, but culture can. As a Christian, I am bound to believe that even the most malignant heart may yet respond to a moral appeal. Out of love for my fellow man, which God commands, I am bound, therefore, to present the case for a moral regard for the natural rights of others.

I recognize the objective reality that there are some hearts which will not respond to a moral appeal. Therefore, that same love, in accordance with that same command, requires me to be prepared to step between the evil and the innocent. Unless I am armed, like the bad guys, such intervention is unlikely to be fruitful, however. That is why I will continue to support the NRA until every jurisdiction in America has the same gun laws as Vermont.

James Warner of Rohrersville is a retired attorney.

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