L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 177, June 10, 2002
Bush's Assault on the Second Amendment
by Doug Newman
Special to TLE
I have just finished reading Vin Suprynowicz's superlative book Send in the Waco Killers, as well as his Memorial Day column. I want to tie together these two works, the above quote from Solzhenitsyn, and the Bush Administration's recent announcement that commercial air pilots not be allowed to have firearms in the cockpit.
In the book, Suprynowicz discusses how the feds egregiously overstepped their bounds in their unprovoked harassment of Randy Weaver, and the murder of his wife and son, at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in the summer of 1992. He then goes into exhaustive detail in assigning guilt to the feds in the incineration of 80-plus innocent people at Waco, Texas, on April 19, 1993.
There are two common schools of thought surrounding these despicable episodes. One says that Randy Weaver was a white supremacist and that the Davidians had weird religious beliefs, so they deserved what they got. This view is commonly held by the same folks who preach diversity and tolerance. Evidently, they will tolerate you as long as you are not too diverse.
The other school of thought says that these were isolated events and not part of a larger pattern of behavior by the federal government. When they came for the white supremacists they did not say anything because they were not white supremacists. When they came for the Davidians, they did not say anything because they were not Davidians.
People of the latter mindset tend to believe that violations of others' rights have no bearing on them. Thus, when they come for the druggies, they do not say anything because they are not druggies. (Indeed, while they may condemn what happened at Waco and Ruby Ridge, they eagerly applaud the work of the DEA.)
In the column, Suprynowicz asks us to remember this Memorial Day the four brave passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93, who, on September 11, thwarted the hijackers' attempt to fly the plane into either the Capitol or the White House and instead caused it to crash near Pittsburgh. He writes, "In that one brief moment, Todd Beamer and Jeremy Glick, Thomas Burnett Jr. and Mark Bingham ceased to be 'civilians.' Surely they've earned their medals and their flags -- and surely those who follow in their footsteps should no longer be disarmed by their own government -- do you think?"
Ever since September 11, I have marveled how those who purport to believe in limited government and individual liberty have eagerly surrendered their freedom in the name of security. Would they relinquish their freedom as willingly in support of the agenda of a President Al Gore?
They reply that the government "had to do something" in the wake of these atrocities. I thought it was only liberals who clamor for their government to do something when disaster strikes. Conservatives say they believe that self-reliance, not government, solves problems.
Rush Limbaugh rejoices in poll results indicating that more and more Americans trust their government to do the right thing now than at any time in over thirty years. Limbaugh, along with the rest of the Republican amen corner in the media, reassure us that Bush's motives are pure and that he "knows what's good for the country." So when GWB supports restrictions on our freedom, he "must know what he is doing", so they put their blessing on it.
For quite some time, these people have told me that, although they favor the Second Amendment, we "have to put some restrictions" on gun ownership. It's, like, we cannot let "just anyone" have a gun. (Isn't it interesting that O.J. Simpson, Andrea Yates, and Tim McVeigh committed their crimes without guns? Do these folks not similarly believe that we cannot let "just anyone" have access to knives, bathtubs, and fertilizer?)
Federally mandated airport security measures have become so much a part of our culture that - like state education and Social Security - we never even question them anymore. We just split hairs as to how much the feds should do to make us "feel secure". It's, like, we cannot let people carry guns on planes, because if we did, like, something bad might happen.
Well, something bad did happen last September 11. And what did the feds do in response? More of what they had been doing before September 11.
For decades, the security system at America's airports has served to deter only law-abiding citizens. It is as if someone insane enough to fly a jumbo jet into a skyscraper would give a rip about such pantywaist measures. Evil abhors a vacuum. When you disarm innocent people, as night follows day, bad things happen. Gun-free schools left the students and faculty of Columbine High School defenseless against Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. Gun-free planes made the passengers of four airplanes easy pickings for the September 11 terrorists. Had America been a free country, had the Second Amendment still sported a few teeth, and had we not required people to surrender their constitutional rights when they walked through the airplane door, these passengers would have been able to retaliate. Indeed, the terrorists probably would have written off hijacking airplanes as futile.
Yet what did the George W. Bush administration do? It clamped down even harder on the rights of innocent people to defend themselves than did the Administration from the Bowels of Hell (i.e. the Clinton administration). And despite the protestations of pilots and Second Amendment advocates across the land, his administration has continued to forbid pilots to arm themselves. But since GWB is not the man about town that his predecessor was, so many people put this totally unfounded childlike trust in him. His policies make them feeeeeeel so much safer. (Doesn't Rush Limbaugh constantly remind us of the importance of thinking over feeling when it comes to liberal policies?)
There is a huge difference between feeling safe and being safe.
When they came for the air travelers, many did not say anything, not because they were not air travelers, but because their boy was coming for them. And because it was GWB who came for them, they felt oh so secure. Bush is not Hitler. (Nor, for that matter, was Clinton.) He is not sending air travelers to death camps, but he is denying them that most fundamental of rights: the right to self-defense. And he is not merely denying the rights of people with weird religious or racial views. He is denying the rights of many millions of mainstream Americans, i.e. anyone who flies on an airplane.
There is only one great debate in politics: shall we have more government or less government? To the extent that we expand government, we deny people their God-given, constitutionally guaranteed rights. No matter who implements a dangerous policy, it remains a dangerous policy.
Big government is bad government, no matter who is in charge. Bad policies deserve condemnation regardless of who is behind them. If we continue to expand government indefinitely, it is only a matter of time before we arrive at a totalitarian state of affairs. And this, brothers and sisters, will not feel very good.
I can see it now. Somewhere in heaven, someone is paraphrasing Solzhenitsyn as he recounts his last moments on September 11.
"The horror was absolutely unimaginable. What would things have been like if the terrorists, when they were plotting these atrocities, had been uncertain whether the passengers aboard those planes would be armed or not armed? Or if, after they had so much as threatened that first stewardess, people had not simply sat there in their seats, paling in terror, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly surrounded the attackers brandishing guns, knives, knitting needles and whatever else was at hand. The terrorists would very quickly have realized that, notwithstanding all of their thirst; their efforts to mess with the American people would be totally futile. 3000 lives would have been spared, and September 11 would have been just another day."
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