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66


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 66, February 29, 2000
He's Back!

Revisiting The 'Militia Argument' -- One More Time
[Part Two]

by Vin Suprynowicz
vin@lvrj.com

Special to TLE

           Yes, "T.P." is back, writing me on Jan. 12:

Vin: It was not my intent to get into a debate concerning the right or wrong of what happened at Waco with the Branch Davidians. My intent was to show that if an armed entity chooses an armed conflict with the government of the Unites States, they need to be armed with equal weapons and enjoy public sympathy and support. The Branch Davidians enjoyed neither of these three, yet, chose armed conflict instead of resolving the issue in the courts. As to their needing public support, the local sheriff you mentioned as having declared their weapons to be legal, not even he came to their support.

You parallel the like of public support afforded the Branch Davidians with the jews of Poland in the 1943. Let's regress with this parallel 10 more years. Had the jews of Germany been fortunate enough to enjoy the public's sympathy and support, the jews in the Warsaw ghetto, most likely, would not now be a gruesome footnote in world history today. It was then that "an armed citizenry," calling themselves the Brown Shirts, began a violent campaign against the Jews of Germany. The Brown Shirts later became known as the Nazis.

Vin, you've given FDR extremely much more credit than he deserves. It was the people of the United States that repelled Prohibition and legalized alcohol. It took a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states. This would seem to make my point that issues can be resolved, with enough support from the public, at the ballot box instead of armed conflict.

Now, back to the Second Amendment. I assume you agree with my assessment about the Branch Davidians not being on an equal level with the government when it came weapons. The scenario of the 14-year-old girl being able to purchase a "shoulder launched heat-seeking missile over the counter at Home Depot, for cash, without showing any government-issued ID," would seem to support that assumption.

Such a scenario is scary. It allows any individual, citizen or non-citizen, to purchase any weapon that is equal to those in the military arsenal, over the counter. How do you purpose our government protect us from a foreign entity, if that entity is able to purchase its weapon of war inside our borders?

Your claim that "an armed citizenry" is a synonym of "a well regulated militia" still rings hollow. You use an example of "gentleman farmer George Washington and his friend George Mason" and their founding of the Fairfax County Militia. I'm certain that the purpose of that militia was to stand ready to protect the United States of America, since there was not a standing Army at the time. Also, it would have been regulated by the government of Fairfax County. I believe history will show, the militia was adsorbed into the Virginia National Guard.

You accuse me of not understanding the true meaning of the Second Amendment. I find such an accusation to be, at best, abstract. I'm the one that has no fear of quoting the Second Amendment as it was written by James Madison. Only those that fear it, as it is written, find it necessary to paraphrase, thus, you are the ones that "twist its real and obvious meaning." I do not find it necessary to paraphrase any aspect of the amendment.

I have no desire to disarm you or any law abiding citizen. Laws, however, are designed to protect the populace. If the populace decides that background checks and limited access to certain weapons are needed in order to afford that protection, that should be the law. For those who believe this is in violation of the Second Amendment, the courts are there to resolve the dispute.

We've touched little on national security. National security, a concept absent in 1791 when the Bill of Rights was ratified, has to be a consideration when discussing the Second Amendment today. If any weapon in the military arsenal, as stated earlier, is available over the counter, then the passing of nuclear secrets to the Chinese is a mute subject.

I considered you a equal, someone that merely had a different opinion, when I sent my first e-mail. Apparently you do not share that sentiment since you have regulated me the status of a coward. While this may fall on deaf ears, I still need to say it: I am willing to take up arms, a soap-box or pen in order to protect you right to own and bear legal arms. I will do the same in order to protect you Fourth Amendment right against search and seizure.

I do, however, contend the manner in which you defend the Second Amendment encourages those that have no respect for the rights of anyone.

           OK, one more time: let's take this stuff in order. T.P. writes:

           It was not my intent to get into a debate concerning the right or wrong of what happened at Waco with the Branch Davidians. My intent was to show that if an armed entity chooses an armed conflict with the government of the Unites States, they need to be armed with equal weapons and enjoy public sympathy and support. The Branch Davidians enjoyed neither of these three, yet, chose armed conflict instead of resolving the issue in the courts.

           V.S.: Nearly 100 government agents in black suits, bulletproof vests, and firing German MP-5 submachine guns (they killed the dog and her puppies in the pen outside, in the opening seconds) stormed the church at Waco (as armed government helicopters fired in with fully-automatic weapons from the rear), killing David Koresh's father-in-law behind him as Koresh opened the front door, held out an empty hand, and said, "Stop, there are women and children in here."
           The church members were then walled up inside their church -- government snipers including Lon Horiuchi assassinated anyone trying to slip in or out -- until the government finally knocked down the staircases with armored personnel carriers two months later, sprayed in deadly levels of CS gas in a flammable propellant medium, fired in multiple incendiary grenades and "flash-bang" devices, and then held the fire engines more than two miles away while they allowed the place to burn to the ground.
           Yet you contend the Branch Davidians "chose armed conflict instead of resolving the issue in the courts"? When were they summoned to court? What summons, subpoena, or peacefully-served warrant did they ignore? Do you also believe rape victims "choose to get into physical conflicts with their assailants instead of opting for relationship counseling"?

           As to their needing public support, the local sheriff you mentioned as having declared their weapons to be legal, not even he came to their support.

           V.S.: Yes. Tragic, isn't it? The Branch Davidians dialed 9-1-1 and died 10 weeks later, still waiting for the sheriff to come.
           Yet you victim disarmament types still believe that federal authority should take prominence over local authority; and that "The average citizen doesn't need a gun; (s)he can always dial 9-1-1" ... right?

           You parallel the like of public support afforded the Branch Davidians with the jews of Poland in the 1943. Let's regress with this parallel 10 more years. Had the jews of Germany been fortunate enough to enjoy the public's sympathy and support, the jews in the Warsaw ghetto, most likely, would not now be a gruesome footnote in world history today. It was then that "an armed citizenry," calling themselves the Brown Shirts, began a violent campaign against the jews of Germany. The Brown Shirts later became known as the Nazis.

           V.S.: The brownshirts (the Sturm Abteilung) were a unit of the Nazi party from their inception in the early 1920s, under founder Ernst Rohm. They did not "later became known as the Nazis" -- everybody knew who they were from the get-go. Most of their violence was performed without firearms; these thugs didn't NEED firearms to terrorize oppressed German minorities, as they knew their victims would be disarmed, civilian ownership of firearms having been outlawed in Germany by the late 1920s -- the situation which left the Jews (and Gypsies, and Slavs, and trade unionists ...) unable to defend themselves against the Holocaust, and which you would apparently prefer here.
           In fact, as chancellor, Hitler faced the logistical problem in early 1934 that he could secretly arm either Rohm's SA or the Wehrmacht's SS, but not both. He opted for the more professional SS, which is why Rohm and his buddies were purged in June of '34.
           But what is all this "public support" nonsense, anyway? You continue to imply the European Jews somehow deserved what they got from 1941-1944 because they didn't have a good enough Public Relations operation. No minority -- whether it be racial, religious, or political -- can EVER count on consistent "majority public support." That's why we call them "minorities." Duh. And that's why the vital rights in the Bill of Rights are not subject to repeal by any mere "majority vote." But ARMED citizens don't need majority "public support" to guarantee their rights, which is why the founders of this free country guaranteed that all law-abiding citizens may keep their military-style arms. As Patrick Henry said at the Virginia ratifying convention: "The great object is, that every man be armed. ... Everyone who is able may have a gun."

           Issues can be resolved, with enough support from the public, at the ballot box instead of armed conflict.

           V.S.: I'm glad to learn all "issues can be resolved at the ballot box instead of armed conflict," I guess that's why King George pulled all his troops out of this continent as soon as we nicely asked him on July 5, 1776, and why Hitler and Tojo gave up power on Dec. 8, 1941, after the American people expressed their wish that the Nazi Party and the Japanese imperial staff close down all operations and surrender.

           I assume you agree with my assessment about the Branch Davidians not being on an equal level with the government when it came weapons. The scenario of the 14-year-old girl being able to purchase a "shoulder launched heat-seeking missile over the counter at Home Depot, for cash, without showing any government-issued ID," would seem to support that assumption. Such a scenario is scary.

           V.S.: Here we have it, then. If you find freedom "scary," should you have the power to deprive others of their freedoms, to make yourself feel more snug and comfy in your swaddled welfare/police state? In fact, the set of conditions I recommend -- precisely the state of affairs that prevailed in this country from 1607 to 1933 -- is not the slightest bit scary to anyone who understands, believes in, and seeks to protect and defend the Bill of Rights.
           If you concede that the reason the federals were able to get away with murdering the Branch Davidians is that the church members were not adequately armed, why would you continue to refuse to "allow" such citizens to exercise their God-given right to self-defense by purchasing anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles over the counter -- only allowing American peasants to be as well-armed as Afghan peasants? Because you FAVOR the ongoing government immolation of mothers and babies?

           It allows any individual, citizen or non-citizen, to purchase any weapon that is equal to those in the military arsenal, over the counter.

           V.S.: You've finally got it right. This is precisely what the founders guaranteed us, when Madison said in Federalist No. 46 that the proposed new federal government would never dare encroach on the people's rights, since to any regular army "would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million citizens with arms in their hands." To which Madison's friend Tench Coxe added "Who are the militia? are they not ourselves? Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and EVERY OTHER TERRIBLE IMPLEMENT OF THE SOLDIER, are the birth-right of an American. ... The unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people." (Coxe's "Examination of the Constitution," 1788.)
           To this Richard Henry Lee, author of most of the Bill of Rights, added: "A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves, and render regular troops in great measure unnecessary." ("Additional Letters from the Federal Farmer," 1788.)
           Are we to suppose today's armed citizenry "renders regular troops in great measure unnecessary" because we are "allowed" to keep air rifles, black powder museum pieces, pistols of less than 11 rounds capacity, and the occasional slingshot, but no machine weapons? Of course not.
           The promises above are those made to our people by the federalists -- the guarantees against tyranny which they agreed to enact in the form of the Bill of Rights if only we would ratify their proposed new Constitution. This remains the highest law of our land.
           These sacred promises ONLY make sense if the average citizen is allowed to own machine guns, Stingers, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades. That, then, is the meaning of the Second Amendment. Far from being ashamed to quote the "militia phrase," I am proud to declare myself part of this armed militia. Now, when will you and your kind concede I have a right to arm myself properly, with any and all manner of modern military-style weapons, to defend myself against both bandits and would-be tyrants, as the founders intended?

           How do you purpose our government protect us from a foreign entity, if that entity is able to purchase its weapon of war inside our borders?

           V.S.: The system I propose WAS the law in this country for more than 150 years, up until 1934. Machine guns were available for unrestricted civilian sale over the counter, as were mortars and field pieces. Did the Spaniards therefore come to this country to buy their weapons to fight us in 1896? They did not. Did the Germans come to this country to buy their weapons to fight us in 1917? They did not. Your "objection" is absurd. Foreign powers prefer to arm themselves, due to the logistical benefits of having their own spare parts and ammunition supply. There is no sense debating whether foreign powers "should be allowed" to arm -- they will do so whether we like it or not. The point under debate is whether the American civilian populace shall somehow be prevented from exercising its natural and constitutional right to similarly arm.

           Your claim that "an armed citizenry" is a synonym of "a well regulated militia" still rings hollow. You use an example of "gentleman farmer George Washington and his friend George Mason" and their founding of the Fairfax County Militia. I'm certain that the purpose of that militia was to stand ready to protect the United States of America, since there was not a standing Army at the time.

           V.S.: You are incorrect, as usual. The Fairfax County Militia was formed in 1774, before there WAS any "United States of America." (See pg. 60 of Stephen Halbrook's "That Every Man Be Armed," The Independent Institute, 1994.) And there WAS a standing army at the time -- the same British Army which marched on Lexington and Concord the next spring to disarm the Massachusetts militia. This is why the founders specified that the United States should not HAVE any permanent standing army -- a signpost to tyranny. In Noah Webster's words (in "An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution," 1787): "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States."

           Also, it would have been regulated by the government of Fairfax County.

           V.S.: No, it was not. Far from being organized by Lord Fairfax (the crown having had a somewhat different notion of "county government" than you apparently harbor), the Fairfax County Militia was a completely independent company of volunteers who elected their own officers, stood AGAINST the authority of the crown governor of Virginia (the "established government" of the time) and pledged that "we will, each of us, constantly keep by us" a firelock, six pounds of gun powder, and 20 pounds of lead. (See E. Sanchez-Saaveda, "A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations in the American Revolution," 1978) ... which is why the British would have hanged Washington if they'd caught him.
           Admit it: You've done none of the reading, have you? You're just make this stuff up as you go along.

           I believe history will show, the militia was adsorbed into the Virginia National Guard. You accuse me of not understanding the true meaning of the Second Amendment. I find such an accusation to be, at best, abstract. I'm the one that has no fear of quoting the Second Amendment as it was written by James Madison. Only those that fear it, as it is written, find it necessary to paraphrase, thus, you are the ones that "twist its real and obvious meaning." I do not find it necessary to paraphrase any aspect of the amendment. I have no desire to disarm you or any law abiding citizen. Laws, however, are designed to protect the populace. If the populace decides that background checks and limited access to certain weapons are needed in order to afford that protection, that should be the law.

           V.S.: And do you also hold that "If the populace decides that Jews shall be required to wear yellow stars on their sleeves, that they be made to live in certain specified neighborhoods, and that they shall be forbidden from owning businesses or attending universities, in order to protect the populace, then that should be the law"? Once again: A majority cannot overrule the Second Amendment, or any other part of the Bill of Rights. And the stated purpose of our government is to "secure our unalienable rights" ... not to "protect the populace" from every imaginary hobgoblin you cringing bed-wetters can dream up.

           For those who believe this is in violation of the Second Amendment, the courts are there to resolve the dispute.

           V.S.: Although the courts have not heard a Second Amendment case since 1939, the Supreme Court indeed ruled in that year, in the Miller case, that the government may not tax, regulate, or otherwise restrict civilian ownership of any firearm which is "militarily useful." I'm glad you agree with me, and the U.S. Supreme Court, that all such gun control laws are unconstitutional, and thus null and void.
           But if "the courts are there to resolve the dispute," perhaps you'll explain to me why the lower courts refuse to enforce the Miller precedent, and why subsequent Supreme Courts has refused to hear any of the many Second Amendment cases which have been submitted to it in the past 60 years? Your side afraid of what they'd be forced to rule, perhaps?
           I by no means defer to nine (much less five) political appointees to explain to me the plain meaning of rights and sacred guarantees I can read for myself. The high court has been wrong plenty of times. But Justice Thomas has said he would welcome a new Second Amendment case. Perhaps we shall yet see.


Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. His new book, Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement, 1993-1998, is available at $24.95 postpaid from Mountain Media, P.O. Box 271122, Las Vegas, Nev. 89127; by dialing 1-800-244-2224; or via web site http://www.thespiritof76.com/wacokillers.html. Credit cards accepted; volume discounts available.


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