A Speech Given at the “Constitution Day” Forum, Sul Ross State University, September 19, 2007
Dr. Jimmy T. (Gunny) LaBaume
If ever there was a divinely inspired document, the Constitution of these united States is it.
Unfortunately, there is not much left of it. Our noble experiment with constitutionally limited government has been a catastrophic failure. Some will try to tell you that it is a “living document.” I am here today to tell you, that is a lie. The reality is precisely the opposite. It is a dead document.
For a detailed description of exactly how the constitution has been totally usurped, I highly recommend The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution by Kevin Gutzman. The book is a comprehensive history of “constitutional law” which, as the reader finds out, has almost nothing to do with the Constitution.
For now, suffice it to say that the demise began almost immediately with the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, and Marbury v. Madison. Marshall’s precedent opened the door for others to follow. And they have, enthusiastically.
It was history’s most heinous serial killer (aka “Honest” Abe Lincoln) that blatantly and openly sounded the document’s death knell. He did so by the use of military force to “prove” that the Federal Government is to be the sole judge of the limits to its own power. Since then, it has (naturally) judged that there are no limits to that power.
Then, Franklin Deleno Roosevelt dug it up and shot it again to make sure it was dead. Since then, no president (or congress or Supreme Court) has had to worry much about any limits it might impose.
But, when you examine it with care and logic, it is not hard to see that the Constitution, as written, had very little chance of surviving very long in the first place. As Murray Rothbard (1) has pointed out, it supposedly imposes limits on government. But it must be interpreted by men and these men (the Supreme Court) are the government’s own. The much touted “checks and balances” and “separation of powers” are, in reality, very flimsy. The reason is simple. They are all divisions of the same government and are controlled by the same rulers.
That is not really anything new. John C. Calhoun warned of the inherent tendency of a State to exceed any limits of a written constitution. Assuming that any constitutional provision aimed at limiting power will be sufficient to prevent the dominant party from abusing its power is a large mistake. The minor party (the party that would be in favor of the restrictions) would simply be overpowered.
The Philosophy Underlying the Right to Self-Defense
The “natural law” philosophy of John Lock strongly influenced the founders and is particularly reflected in the words of the Declaration of Independence but also the Constitution as well.
First is the idea of self-ownership. We each own ourselves. There are only two alternatives. Either someone else owns us (we call that slavery) or we each own a pro-rata share of the other (we call that communism). The right to life, liberty and property flows directly from this fundamental axiom.
Next is the non-aggression axiom. No man has a right to initiate violence against the person or property of another. However, “initiate” is the operative word there.
If the individual owns his person and property, it logically follows that he has the right to use violence to defend himself against violence.
Be all that as it may, since my “assignment” today is to speak on the 2nd Amendment, I suppose we should get on with it.
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Second Amendment to the Constitution of these united States.
The mass media have been telling you for years that you do not have the right to own firearms and the 2nd Amendment applies only to the National Guard. That is a lie that even high school teachers and college professors are perpetuating. You are being lied to by people who have no regard for the truth–as long as their agenda is served. They will try to tell you that our founding fathers did not mean for us to have private arms or militias.
Generally speaking, on issues of personal freedom, liberals favor freedom and conservatives favor the rigorous enforcement of the law. But, for some mysterious reason, the positions are reversed when it comes to gun laws.
Here are a few facts and the logic behind them:
1. If the individual owns his person and property, it logically follows that he has the right to use violence to defend his life and property against violence.
2. No physical object is, in itself, aggressive. Any object can be used aggressively. Guns do not commit crimes. People do. Guns have exactly the same relationship to crime as spoons have to Rosie O’Donald’s fat ass.
3. If guns are outlawed there is no logical reason to expect that criminals are going to pay attention to the law.
4. Of the over fifty million handgun owners in America, polls show that over 80% would refuse to comply with a handgun ban. The inevitable result would be harsh penalties and highly selective enforcement against people the authorities didn’t like.
5. Empirically, self-defense with guns has social value. Call for a cop, call for an ambulance and call for a pizza and see which one arrives first. Multiple court cases have established that the police are not legally obligated to protect you, the individual. The defense of your life and property is your responsibility. And the fact that “civilians” justifiably kill more violent criminals every year than do police indicates that many ordinary folks understand that.
6. It is true that victims who resist are more likely to be injured. But, that may not be too important to the laborer being robbed of the support for his family for a month. Many leading subgroups (blacks, low income and senior citizens) own a gun only for self-defense. These are the potential victims that the gun grabbers propose to disarm and/or send to jail.
7. The evidence is that handgun bans have not lowered the level of violence in society. Numerous studies have shown that gun control laws have no effect in reducing violent crime and that there is no correlation whatever between rates of handgun ownership and rates of homicide.
8. A handgun ban is just one more diversion of police resources from real crime to victimless crime.
9. Furthermore, a society of peaceful citizens that are armed is more likely to nurture Good Samaritans who will voluntarily go to the aid of the victims of crime. They are currently afraid to do that for fear of being sued or jailed.
But what is the Real Intent of the 2nd Amendment?
Be all of the above as it may, the following quotations leave no doubt about our founding fathers real intent. It will help you respond to the press or your “indoctrinators” (teachers) when you have to debate them on the issue of gun control.
Some of the men quoted signed the Constitution, some signed the Declaration of Independence, and some even fought in the Revolution. All were Statesmen with a single view that to be free you had to have the right to be armed. Also, the newspapers of the day reflected the same view. Here is what our founding fathers had to say about the 2nd Amendment:
“A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.–George Washington.
“The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that…it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.”–Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright (1824).
“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 birthright 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”–The Pennsylvania Gazette (February 20, 1788)
“The Constitution shall never be construed…to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” Samuel Adams, Debates & Proceedings in the Convention of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 86-87.
“As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power are confirmed by the article in their right to keep and bear their private arms.” Tench Coxe in “Remarks on the First of the Amendments to the Federal Constitution.” Under the pseudonym “A Pennsylvanian” in the Philadelphia Federal Gazette, June 18, 1789 at 2 col. 1.
“What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty.” Rep. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, I Annuals of Congress at 750 (August 17, 1789).
“The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed.” Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers, p 184-8.
“The great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.” Patrick Henry, 3 Elliot, Debates at 386.
“…the people have a right to keep and bear arms.” Patrick Henry and George Mason, Elliot, Debates at 185.
“To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…” Richard Henry Lee writing in letters, from The Federal Farmer to the Republic 1787-1788.
“A Militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves…& include all men capable of bearing arms.” Richard Henry Lee, Additional Letters from the Federal Farmer.
“The right of the people to keep and bear…arms shall not be infringed. A well regulated militia, composed of the people, trained to arms, is the best and most natural defense of a free country…” James Madison, I Annals of Congress 434 (June 8, 1789).
“I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.” George Mason, 3 Elliott, Debates at 425-426.
“No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” Thomas Jefferson, Proposal Virginia Constitution, 1 T. Jefferson papers, 334.
“Americans have the right and advantage of being armed—unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” James Madison, The Federalist Papers #46 at 243-244.
“To disarm the people (is) the best and most effectual way to enslave them…” George Mason, 3 Elliot 4, Debates at 380.
“A free people ought…to be armed…” George Washington, speech, 1/7/1790 , Boston Independent Chronicle of 1/14/90.
“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe . The supreme power in America cannot enforce just laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular troops…” Noah Webster, “An Examination into the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution” (1787) in Pamphlets on the Constitution of the United States.
“And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress…to prevent the people of the United States , who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms…” Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer , August 20, 1789.
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms has been recognized by the General Government; but the best security of that right after all is, the military spirit, that taste for martial exercises which has always distinguished the free citizens of these States…Such men form the best barrier to the liberties of America.” Gazette of the United States, October 14, 1789
And they not only clearly explained their intent for the 2nd Amendment; they explained how the constitution should be interpreted, period:
“On every question of construction (of the Constitution) let us carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Johnson, June 12, 1823, The Complete Jefferson , p 322.
“The whole of the Bill (of rights) is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals…It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable & which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of.” Albert Gallatin of the New York Historical Society, October 7, 1789.
And they even spoke of self-defense and other benefits of firearms ownership:
“The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world, as well as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside. Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them.” Thomas Paine, I Writings of Thomas Paine at 56.
“Arm in the hands of citizens (may) be used at individual discretion…in private self defense…” John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of the Government of the USA 1788.
“A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.” Thomas Jefferson, Encyclopedia of T. Jefferson.
And so what is the only logical and honest conclusion? Although the founders recognized the benefits of individual self-defense, their real intent for the 2nd Amendment was to enable us to protect ourselves from tyrannical government.
In plain words, we should all be able to own any weapon that any government can own. Each and every man, woman and responsible child should be able to walk into Wall Mart, plop down the price, and walk out with any weapon he or she chooses—rifle, pistol, shotgun, M60 machine gun, M-2 HB 50 cal machinegun, hand grenades, AT4 Anti-tank weapon, Stinger Missile, etc, etc, etc. And yes, Mr. Jackson (2), that includes the dreaded “assault rifle (sic)” and high capacity magazines.
Anything short of that is an “infringement” and therefore, unconstitutional. Thus it logically follows that advocating anything less is treason.
(1) Murray N. Rothbard. For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto Chapter 3: The State as Aggressor
(2) Joaquin Jackson is a retired Texas Ranger, member of the board of directors of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and currently resides in Alpine, TX. Shortly before this speech was written, he declared publicly (Texas Monthly Magazine, Aug 9, 2007) that only the military and police should be allowed to posses “assault weapons” (sic) and magazine capacity should be limited to five rounds.