By David Codrea
“Which is better—to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away or by three thousand tyrants one mile away?”—Mather Byles
That quote, from a Boston clergyman on the wrong side of the Revolution was popularized by Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot while he was still struggling with his doubts about taking up arms. It raised a point valid then and now, when we can see those fears were actually understated, considering all the federal, state and local functionaries and enforcers with the power to ruin our lives if we cross one of their arbitrary lines.
King George III with his “swarms of officers sent hither” was a greenhorn by comparison.
A protection supposedly offered by the Supremacy Clause mandates: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
More protections were again supposedly guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, but that was not “settled” for the right to keep and bear arms until recently. It took the 2010 decision in McDonald v. Chicago for a slim Supreme Court majority to affirm Second Amendment protections are “incorporated” to the states. That’s despite an earlier ruling from another case.
“It would give to persons of the Negro race … the right to enter every other State whenever they pleased … and to keep and carry arms wherever they went,” Chief Justice Roger Taney admitted in the notorious 1857 Dred Scott decision as a reason to disavow citizenship for descendants of African slaves.
“No clause in the Constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give the Congress a power to disarm the people,” William Rawle had written decades earlier in his 1829 “View of the Constitution,” a standard text at leading universities including Harvard and Dartmouth. “Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under a general pretence by a state legislature. But if in any pursuit of an inordinate power either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both.”
Gun-grabbers don’t tell you about that when they complain that an individual rights interpretation is a recent invention of the “gun lobby,” do they? But then, they’re also the ones who accuse gun rights advocates of ignoring the “well regulated militia” clause of the Second Amendment, and then try to ban the very arms to which “We the People” are entitled (see “Weapons of War” in the April 2018 “Rights Watch.”)
Thwarted at the federal level from banning such firearms, at least for the time being thanks to a Republican-controlled House, Senate and Presidency, the citizen disarmament elites have turned their attention to the states, where “progressive” politicians secure in their seats feel free to offer their own nudges down Nancy Pelosi’s “slippery slope.” Thus we have bans on semi-automatic firearms and standard capacity magazines, bans on concealed and open carry, bans on private sales, ammunition controls, and a never-ending succession of whatever idiot idea some opportunistic political grandstander thinks can get media praise for “doing something about gun violence.”
“Advocates of stricter restrictions on gun ownership believe they can notch new wins in state legislatures across the country this year, after Republicans in some states signaled they would be willing to break with the National Rifle Association (NRA) to support some new rules,” The Hill reported in January. “Advocates pointed to Massachusetts and New Jersey, the first two states to ban so-called bump stocks … both bills were passed by Democratic legislatures and signed by Republican governors.”
Noting we’re talking Massachusetts and New Jersey, you can almost hear Bill Clinton insisting, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘Republican’ is.” Charlie Baker is a pure East Coast establishment insider who “supports tougher gun laws.” And Chris Christie has since been replaced by Democrat Phil Murphy, who campaigned on a claim that “the gun violence epidemic is nothing short of a public health crisis.”
It’s heartbreaking to see states that held such important roles in securing independence embrace disarmament, especially considering the Battle of Trenton, and even more so, the earlier Battles of Lexington and Concord. Compare Major John Pitcairn’s demand to “Throw down your arms, ye villains, ye Rebels, Disperse!” with a letter sent out dictating terms of surrender on the “bump stock” ban:
“Effective 90 days from the enactment of the bill—February 1, 2018—the new law will also prohibit possession of bump stocks or trigger cranks, including possession in a private home. There are no exceptions to this prohibition … Retention of such a prohibited item beyond the 90 day grace period will expose the owner to criminal prosecution.”
“States are really taking the lead on banning these weapons in the face of congressional inaction,” Robin Lloyd, director of government affairs at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence crowed. And the states don’t stop there.
“Legislators in several states have also advanced measures that would prohibit those who pose a risk to themselves or others from possessing a firearm,” The Hill report continues. Under the scary term “extreme risk protection orders,” citizens are having fundamental rights denied, with “due process” often requiring nothing more than the ruling of an anti-gun judge, or input from an anti-gun panel of political appointees.
In addition to “family members,” California, Washington and Oregon allow “law enforcement” to petition for prohibitions. And not satisfied with that (they never are), Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown is now pushing for something they call the “boyfriend loophole,” where presumably someone who let the wrong “date” cross his threshold could find himself facing allegations from a jilted “ex.”
Hell hath no fury, and this time, the woman scorned could have uniformed backup. Good luck clearing your name, assuming you have the wherewithal to endure an expensive ordeal that could take years.
And it’s not just the states. Cities have their own demands. Those bound by “preemption” chafe at being unable to legally pass restrictions of their own, sometimes doing so anyway until a court reluctantly says “No.” Such “patchwork quilts” can make it impossible for gun owners to navigate between jurisdictions, and that’s the intent: to dissuade citizens from exercising their right.
“I know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne,” Barack Obama postured back in 2008 when attempting to appear “reasonable” about citizen disarmament. What works in Chicago was left unsaid, but he was making the fraudulent case that states and local jurisdictions have the power to negate unalienable rights based on the tyranny of a regional Democrat majority. It’s the old “home rule” argument that only seems to work one way.
Around 30 years ago I recall reading estimates that nationwide, factoring for federal, state and local edicts and overlaps, there were “20,000 gun laws on the books.” How accurate that was, and how much it’s grown in the intervening decades is unclear. But there’s one supreme Law that’s perfectly clear, and thus disparaged and ignored by thousands of tyrants near and far:
“…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”