In the Parkland, Florida, school shooting aftermath, new anti-gun voices are heard. Among them is that of retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.
His New York Times op-ed suggests activists demand the Second Amendment be repealed as “a relic of the 18th century.” Stevens contends when first ratified in 1791, it was not intended to protect individual gun ownership but contribute to arming a “well-regulated militia.” Militias lacked adequate funding to buy guns, so citizen members owning guns were required to bring their own. Since individual gun ownership was commonplace, citizens bearing their own arms was critical to preserving liberty.
Anti-gun activists undoubtedly see merit in Justice Stevens’ argument. However, two incidents during his lifetime lend support to a contrary intent by our Founding Fathers who had the foresight to envision such incidents occurring centuries later.
The two incidents involve men in power, undertaking coups. While the first involved only a perception, never evolving further, the second was an actual failed coup attempt.
The first occurred in 1974. Watergate pressures were mounting, taking their toll on President Richard Nixon to resign. His enemies list was growing, and he appeared to be losing his grip on reality. Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger feared what Nixon might do to retain his power.
A Washington bureaucrat, Joseph Laitin, harbored similar concerns about the president’s state of mind. He reportedly called Schlesinger, speculating Nixon might go so far as to launch nuclear weapons or mobilize the Marines to save his presidency. Laitin told Schlesinger, “If I were in your job, I would want to know the location of the combat troops nearest to downtown Washington and the chain of command.” Not wishing to convey his own concerns, Schlesinger responded, “Nice talking to you,” and quickly hung up.
Schlesinger knew Nixon had subverted the chain of command fighting the Vietnam War, centralizing power within the White House. Thus, in the summer of 1974, he planted the seed of his concerns with the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. George Brown. Brown knew what he was being asked to do – not to obey a Nixon order lacking Schlesinger’s signature on it. Brown effectively was being told to commit treason – albeit as a patriotic act preventing an unhinged president from acting militarily to subvert the Constitution he swore to “preserve, protect and defend.”
While difficult to fathom now, the abuse of power during Watergate could well have led to a coup – one in which an armed citizenry might well have found itself having to fight to preserve liberty. Only a handful of people in authority at the time sensed how real the threat was.
The second incident during Stevens’ lifetime involves an actual attempted coup, evidence of which we see unfolding today. It is clear, 19 months after the 2016 presidential election, that high-level U.S. government players worked to manipulate events to secure the election of Hillary Clinton and, failing to do so, manipulate the ouster of President Donald Trump. The dust has yet to settle from all the activity involved, but when it does the American public will be shocked to learn how a coup attempt may well have been imposed upon it by the Deep State. Had it succeeded, it may have been an armed citizenry left to restore liberty.
The bottom line on these two incidents, both occurring at a time we would have believed coups were only a thing of the past, is that “power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The last defense against the tyranny’s imposition by coup is an armed citizenry – just like the last defense for students against a would-be killer is armed teachers or school guards.
An additional weakness in Stevens’ Second Amendment “relic” argument ignores Samuel Adams’ words at the 1788 Massachusetts Ratifying Convention. Adams stated, “The Constitution shall never be construed … to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
Yet another anti-gun activist argument heard is that bearing arms is racist — a right only given whites to keep blacks enslaved. But, this too lacks merit. Some states, like Vermont, upon joining the Union clearly recognized all men were born free and equal, including blacks, and, as such, were also entitled to bear arms.
While both the NRA and Second Amendment are targeted by anti-gun activists, Dr. William J. Walsh of the Walsh Research Institute, suggests responsibility for school shootings may lie elsewhere. Having been involved in over 10,000 behavior disorder cases, Walsh blames psychiatrists prescribing medication for depression that, in some young people, triggers violence. He believes blood tests need be performed to determine which students are at risk.
The extreme to which anti-gun activists may eventually take their argument is recently reflected by an anti-gun judge in the U.K. He now seeks to ban kitchen knives with sharp points to decrease knife violence. This is outrageous as, theoretically, any object capable of penetrating human flesh by applying force can be used as a weapon. We can only imagine what items could be added in the future to such a list. Adding enough items, judges could effectively regress civilization back to the days of the caveman by ensuring all potentially dangerous items are removed from society’s reach. Perhaps only at that point will it be obvious even the caveman used whatever was available, be it a stone or a club, as a weapon.
As Parkland students announce they will participate in a national effort to stand up to the gun lobby and the targeting of NRA and the Second Amendment continues, such efforts have the same utility of the medical practice of bloodletting – doing nothing to cure a disease.
It is absurd to think banning a list of items, whether guns, sharp knives, etc., will prevent one committed to doing violence from so doing. When the caveman sought to do violence, he simply reached for the closest thing within reach. So too will the caveman’s 21st century descendants.
Forrest Gump could not state it clearer: “It’s not the gun, Stupid!”