Jews for Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) have launched a massive effort nationwide to organize and publicize opposition to the huge wave of gun bans proposed from the Capitol Dome and White House down to local town halls. This includes major rallies in cities like Denver.
I have great respect for the Jews for Preservation of Firearms Ownership (JPFO) and its director, Charles Heller. However he is doing several things which I believe are detrimental to the preservation of our G-d-given rights, especially that of firearms ownership (keeping and bearing).
The first is the regrettable necessity to treat the Second Amendment as a “right” somehow granted by government, and the subsequent fawning and petitioning and protesting and testimony in an attempt to “keep” that right. The Second Amendment grants NO rights; rather, it RECOGNIZES a preexisting right, given by G-d, and RESTRAINS the government from interfering with that right.
JPFO and Charles are not alone in this, of course, and I blame the media for making the language so pervasive that we take it for granted that the “Second Amendment gives us the right to…” (ditto for the First, etc.) Government gives us nothing: it takes things away, and by recognizing and accepting the government’s claim to authority over us and our rights, we are no longer free.
The second is his frequent statements about the “reasons to have any limitations placed” on our G-d-given right to defend ourselves as necessary and using the tools of our choice. In one recent article, he identified three: “prior criminal gun use,” “mental incompetence, as declared by a court,” and “being under age 18.” He does want to repeal ALL other gun laws. While I understand the politics of negotiation and public opinion and all the rest, and while his proposal is a good start (and highly unlikely to make it through ANY legislative body), the fundamental stance is wrong. Indeed, it is evil and its consequences are dangerous. This position is directly related to the first: that firearms ownership is a “right” (read: privilege) granted by government to its subjects (or bluntly, slaves) and can be modified, restricted – or even eliminated – by governmental action. As a result, effort is wasted on foolish and unnecessary things like trying to keep Congress and the states from repealing the Second Amendment based on the false understanding that doing so would extinguish the right to keep and bear arms. And even MORE wasted effort arguing over WHAT arms are (or are not) “included” in the Second Amendment.
Charles’ position makes it easier for idiots like Jesse Jackson to babble nonsense about “no right to unrestricted exercise of rights” and other idiots like Uncle Joe to foolishly proclaim “it is clear” that government gets to decide what weapons people may have. If rights can be restricted for ANY reason other than “malum in se” (“evil in itself,” because exercising the right would result in physical harm to others), they are not really rights – just privileges. (Of course, merely keeping and bearing arms does not – and cannot – cause harm to others: it is the use of arms, and in particular the aggressive use of arms to threaten, wound, or kill another, that causes harm.)
Let’s look at each of these limitations that Charles lists, in reverse order. Let us compare them to OTHER rights identified specifically and protected specifically by the Bill of Rights.
Do we have limitations or restrictions on freedom of speech and the press based on age? Should 17-year-olds be denied their right to express themselves by voice or in writing? Are 10-year-olds subject to cruel and unusual punishment, or denied the right to face their accusers? Are 6-year-olds denied the right to habeus corpus (“show us the body”?) Although we all know of cases where this HAS happened, or venues which prohibit such, most people understand that such age-based denial of G-d-given rights is wrong.
So BY WHAT AUTHORITY does ANY government deny certain parts of gun rights to those under age 18 – or even to those under age 21 as is done for certain types of weapons? There may be many excuses to do so – but Sam Adams answered those centuries ago: trading liberty for security is very bad business.
Next we have “mental incompetence, as declared by a court.” Once more, we must ask ourselves if there is any real logic to this: the definition of “mental incompetence” varies from place to place, and herein lies a major rub. Again, what OTHER rights do we restrict because someone may be mentally sick or unstable or taking drugs that effect their mind. Why not “physical incompetence” also? (“That gal can’t hit the side of a barn.” The Barney Fife concern.) And why a court? Why should a judge – paid for by the state – be the one to decide? Why not by a jury of their peers, if it really is necessary? I realize that there can be a more direct correlation between unlawful violence and harm using a gun than using free speech or religious belief and behavior, but ALL rights can be abused/misused by those who are not “competent.” But you may not be competent to manage your financial affairs because of memory failure or other problems, and still be competent to do other things, like drive or defend yourself with a gun.
And we come to “prior criminal gun use.” This indeed opens the door to statist tyranny, because who defines “prior criminal gun use?” And why does prior criminal use justify taking away a basic human right? If we applied that standard to our right to free speech, then the vast majority of politicians would have lost their right to speak or write because of their criminal record of lies and perjury and falsehoods. If we applied that standard to “innocence until proven guilty,” then someone who had just one time argued their innocence and failed to convince the jury or judge, would no longer enjoy that “right.” Admittedly, JPFO’s proposal to limit it to “gun use” would end a LOT of government abuse, but it is still not enough. Even providing a method of letting a felon (or person guilty of a misdemeanor (like a third-grader convicted of “brandishing a gun” because he had a squirt gun in a class room or bus)) would be better than what we have, but it still isn’t liberty.
Please do not think I do not respect what Charles and JPFO is doing, or that I do not understand the political realities. But it is very important to remember that since 1934, our G-d-given rights have been more and more stolen away: it is no longer enough to slow that process down: it must be reversed and ultimately, completely wiped out. While I don’t think that these protests and petitions and rallies and such are worth the time and effort they cost – and won’t change a thing in DC or the states, I feel that they have a right to put them on, but only if they don’t harm the rest of us by triggering reprisals or resulting in compromise that damages and damns us.