More on the Mike Vanderboegh letter
Gunnuts:TNG last night was on the Mike Vanderboegh letter, and “extreme activism” and included a call in from Mike. I think that it was good to have the discussion, and a number of interesting point were raised.
I have been thinking about it a lot more, and I think that my main problem was not so much the idea of people shooting it out with the government once some line is crossed, or even using that as an argument, but that the letter was a poor answer to the original point, and was easy to be misinterpreted, and makes gun owners, and gun rights activists come across as unreasonable. While we need to be unreasonable sometimes, that is usually best reserved for when the other side refuses to be reasonable. Mike Vanderboegh’s letter was written basically as a threat. Some people have argued that he was warning the original writer of an outcome, and that warning is valid, but the way it was phrased came across as much more of a threat. The letter also strays away from registration into “any further infringement,” which is a: likely hyperbole, there are a lot of nickel and dime infringements that are not likely to set off the 3%, and b: a stance that, taken at face value, most people would take as unreasonable. A renewal of the AWB, for instance, would be wrong, unreasonable, and worthy of action, but I doubt it “crosses the line” for most people, even among the 3%. Also, calling the original author a coward and referring to “risking his sorry hide” is not likely to be seen a reasonable. To clarify, “reasonable” has some bad connotations in our movement, i.e. “reasonable restrictions” that are anything but, and some do not see the need to be reasonable, but most people are not even open to dialogue with someone they feel is unreasonable. And once we open dialogue, we are often able to make some great strides winning people to our way of thinking.
The other problem I have with the letter is that the original issue, gun registration, is open to so many other arguments that the risk of shootouts is a rather minor one (although the consequences would not be minor.) There is the fact that the criminals are not going to register their guns. There is the undue burden placed on gun owners. There is the “With this piece of paper, stop me from shooting someone” demonstration. Drifting into the government shootout area, there is the fact that gun registration, and subsequent confiscations, are among the first actions of tyrants, and knowing this, the founding fathers built in a way for the American people to protect themselves, and we shouldn’t give that away. I even think you could reasonably bring up the fact that it might not be peaceful, but that should be preceded by at least some explanation of why registration is such a problem.
Another observation: The two sides of the debate, or whatever you want to call it, have been labeled things like the absolutists and the moderates or pragmatists. That really oversimplifies things. I don’t think you could classify my view on the ownership of arms as moderate. I think the laws should be pretty much reduced to there are some places you can’t shoot your gun (except in self defense) and there are some places you can’t drive your tank. I am a little torn on felon in possession laws, as well as those restricting ownership for the mentally handicapped. As to felons, part of me says that there are some people that shouldn’t be allowed easy access to guns, the other side of me says that those are the people that shouldn’t have easy access to life outside of a prison. As to possession, if we trust our allies with it, we should be able to trust our citizens, although export restrictions would be appropriate on this type of equipment. It isn’t like our “allies” never turned out to be bad, and turned the weapons we gave them on us. And yes, that includes tanks, fighter jets (although again, some restrictions on use would be appropriate,) and pretty much anything up to nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. As to secret weapons, again, if we sell them to allies, open to citizens. I also think there is a line that a government (ours or anyone else’s) can cross, after which armed resistance is not only appropriate, but borders on duty. However, I don’t think threatening civil war in response to a letter to the editor is appropriate, and have no problem calling it out. I think that armed resistance/revolution/civil war/whatever you want to call it is the last resort, and threatening it is a close to last resort. I also support taking a little, instead of standing our ground for everything, and getting nothing. So, am I an absolutist or a moderate? Or maybe something else?
If this post, and my arguments generally, seem to be pandering too much to public opinion, remember that if the numbers were reversed, and 75% or so felt that there was no individual right to arms, the Second Amendment could be amended out of the Constitution. While I still believe that arms and self defense are an even more basic right than that, it is hard to stand on an individual right recognized by the Constitution when it no longer is.
On the whole, this whole thing as been good for us. It made a lot of us take a step back and clarify, at least to ourselves, what we believe, and how we should move forward. These are some core issues, and it is important to thresh them out.
Vanderboegh seems to be saying “Enough if Enough.” Perhaps you would be interested in this article: http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2007/0319governance_wittes.aspx which is entitled “Ditch the Second Amendment” in which he states “The Founders had a lot of experience with oppressive rulers and little idea whether the constitutional order they were setting up would remain free; maybe they would need to overthrow it sometime. After more than two centuries of constitutional government, however, it’s safe to assume that neither an armed citizenry nor a well-regulated militia really is “necessary to the security of a free State.” The opposite seems closer to the truth; just ask the Bosnians or the Iraqis. And elections, it turns out, do the job pretty well. To put the matter simply, the Founders were wrong about the importance of guns to a free society.”
Some gun control nuts would even support unannounced, house to house searches to find and confiscate guns, since there is no alternative way to try and get them all.
Well, here are the facts. During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, guns were confiscated from their lawful owners while armed mobs roamed the streets. Registration lists have been used both in New York and California to confiscate guns from lawful owners; at least lawful until the laws were changed. So, if you believe that gun registration isn’t a prelude to gun confiscation, then you are ignoring the facts; it has already happened.
Citizens of Germany thought it was a good idea to pass gun control laws to keep guns out of the hands of the Nazis. And they lived in a democratic government, too.
The other point is that the right to bear arms, the right to self defense is not granted by the constitution. It is a right given by the Almighty to all people, even though the UN says there is no such right. The constitution states that right shall not be infringed, yet there are some 20,000 laws on the books directly infringing upon those rights today. And with all those laws, and all the enforcement to date, criminals still possess guns, crime happens, and the most crime is in those cities that have the strictest gun laws.
So, stop trying to legislate what kind of a weapon I need to keep myself and my family safe. My rights are not to shifting public opinion polls, nor to the doctrine of the UN. And if you believe that gun control advocates are willing to reach a point of accommodation where they say, we have enough regulation; we don’t need more, then ask them why they don’t favor similar reasonable regulations on something like Pro-Choice.
Joe, I agree with what you are saying. The main problem I had with the original letter is that it was a response to a citizen’s letter that was crafted much more in the form of a threat than anything. As your well thought out and written comment shows, there are significantly more effective ways to answer a call for gun registration that is likely based on lack of knowledge rather than malice. A person who is unfamiliar with the issue might think that it is a good idea to register guns, as we register cars, etc. without thinking through the long term, and historically confirmed ramifications. Where I such a person, the historical examples you cite would be much more effective in changing my mind than “if you do that, we’ll shoot.”
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