Many readers may be aware of Guns&Ammo columnist, Dick Metcalf’s latest piece regarding ‘reasonable restrictions’. This editorial from Paul Markel addresses many of the points in Dick’s column.
Biloxi, Mississippi (Ammoland.com)Yet again I find myself in that precarious position of confronting a fellow parishioner, someone ostensibly of the same faith. Yesterday evening I was made aware of an op/ed column written by Mr. Dick Metcalf, longtime writer for Guns and Ammo magazine. It would seem that in his “Backstop” column in the Dec. 2013 G&A Dick decided to address the topic of reasonable restrictions and limits on “rights”. After reading a digital copy of the column my first instinct was to comment via social media. I opted instead to hold back and sleep on it. Well, it’s 7 a.m. and my reaction has been fomenting long enough.
Rather than brush off the column as Zumbo Part 2 or another columnist too fond of the Wild Turkey, I have decided to examine the editorial closely and hit on the various points one at a time. Mr. Metcalf’s line of thinking is not radical, quite the opposite,it can be encountered in various forms throughout the “shooting sports” community. It is because of the prevalence of this thought pattern that I am at my lap top so early on a cool Sunday morning in autumn and not still snuggled in my warm bed.
Of all the afflictions and ailments threatening the health of modern man, it is the “reasonableness disease” that imperils the spirit of freedom and individual liberty. While they eschew the term “political correctness” in public discourse, far too many members of the “shooting sports” choir in fact embrace that very thing when they seek to be “reasonable”. In the interest of being reasonable, willing to compromise and get along with political and moral opponents, far too many members of the “gun-owner” team will simply acquiesce and accept greater restrictions on their life and liberty. All this in the hope of being viewed as reasonable.
Let’s face it, most humans seek the approval and acceptance of the masses. One of the surest paths toward mass acceptance is to be reasonable. Modern man has been conditioned to fear the labels of “extreme” and “radical”. Those who will not cave immediately to the will of the crowd are called “obstructionist” and “partisan”. If we are being honest, the “reasonable” path is the safe choice. After all, who can argue with you with you are only trying to be reasonable.
Quotes to Support the Point
Metcalf opens his column by quoting the 2nd Amendment to the Bill of Rights. Dick grabs a hold of the use of the term “regulated” and builds his argument toward reasonable restrictions and limitations upon that word. We have always thought that the term “well regulated” in the 2nd Amendment referred to a well disciplined and efficient Militia as opposed to Dick’s meaning of “restricted”.
I’d like to add another quote; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. For those of you who attended public school in the last twenty years, that quote comes from the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.
If you recognize and comprehend the spirit of the Declaration of Independence and the assertion of “unalienable Rights”, you can see how the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution came to be called the “Bill of Rights”. As understood by our founding fathers, a genuine Right (the founders capitalized the word deliberately) was granted to man (mankind) by our Creator (again, capitalized). Friends, “unalienable” is no small or casual word, it means something that not only cannot be taken away, but cannot be separated from or given away. Think on that for a moment.
A Right or a right?
Moving on to support his argument, Mr. Metcalf states that “all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be.” To further support his point the author falls back on the age old argument that the 1st Amendment’s protection of freedom of speech does not allow you to yell “Fire!” in a crowded movie-theater and that freedom of religion does not allow you to engage in human sacrifice (unless of course your chosen religion is Liberalism and the human you desire to sacrifice is growing in the womb). To add to Dick’s train of thought, the Right to Keep and Bear Arms does not protect a person who is robbing you while holding a gun.
Addressing Dick’s arguments, the regulation of the rights he enumerated was taken care of thousands of years ago by what some now view as an antiquated document used only to curb the desires of the flesh. You see, the founding fathers were intimately familiar with the Ten Commandments. Yelling “Fire!” when there is none is to bear false witness, human sacrifice is murder, and armed robbery is stealing with threat of murder. All of these issues were previously addressed and without the need for congressional oversight or modern regulations.
The primary conundrum we must deal with today is the rampant over use and misuse of the word “right”. In our modern era everything has become a right. We now have the concepts of Animal rights, Smoker’s rights, Worker’s rights, Reproductive rights, Healthcare rights, Minority rights, Civil rights, Gay rights, Women’s rights, Men’s rights, Immigration rights, ad nauseam.
And therein lies the problem, when everything is a right, nothing is a right.
Engage your analytical mind for one second, if we water down the genuine term Right as an unalienable gift from the Creator what we are left with is a vast amount of special interest concepts. Whether Animal rights, Gay rights, Women’s rights, etc. what you have is a certain group demanding special privilege, protection, exemption, or compensation. And just who is it that is set up as the arbiter of fairness and the administrator of rights? Man, in the form of a centralized government. If man can grant “rights” then man can certainly take them away. By engaging in the “anything I desire is my right” exercise, we remove the “unalienable Rights” from the individual citizen and substitute them with the privileges granted by the state. If the government has the freedom to regulate and restrict a “right” they have the some authority to rescind it.
Man cannot be trusted to do what is right.
To further support his position that the regulation of a right is both prudent and desired, Metcalf sites unnamed instances of individuals engaging in negligent or irresponsible behavior while using firearms. His argument being that gun owners should indeed be coerced into taking a state approved training course before being granted the privilege of carrying a concealed handgun.
The training argument is again a reasonable one and it has been put forth many times before. It is also difficult to debate, at least prima facie. Metcalf uses the age old driver’s license argument. We make people demonstrate proficiency when they get a license to drive a car, it’s only logical to do the same for firearms. Failure to accept that assertion puts you immediately into the “unreasonable” category, so most folks will simply nod their heads and agree.
We can follow the logic that the requirement of training and licensing will lessen and reduce the instance of negligent or irresponsible behavior by gun carriers, just as driver’s licenses reduce traffic injuries and fatalities, yes? Dear reader, what is the number one cause of accidental death in the United States of America? Bingo, automobile crashes.
The idea that the individual cannot be trusted to do what is right without the guidance and administration of a government body goes far beyond the firearms world. Far too many inhabitants of these United States are sold on the idea that private citizens must be directed, coerced, or commanded by the government to “do what is right and reasonable”. Your neighbor is by their very nature greedy, inept, untrustworthy, racist and negligent. It is only the state that can protect you from your neighbor, therefore you must support the government’s actions without question.
At my very core I reject the notion that man requires the guidance and approval of a state bureaucracy to be safe and proficient with arms. Quite the opposite, the state has proven time and again to be not only inept, but obstructionist and corrupt. Perhaps we could allow the same bureaucrats who designed the Universal Healthcare program to develop a “Universal Firearms Safety” program.
How do we ensure that men and women are proficient with arms and avoid negligent behavior? I would offer proactive encouragement, positive education, and responsibility for their actions. Perhaps we could treat adults like adults, stop worrying about their feelings and self-esteem. No excuses offered nor accepted.
Legal Precedent and History
Finally, Metcalf sites legal precedent and history to support his argument that “all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be.” He points to the fact that while numerous people complained that a CCW permit is asking permission, and the 2nd Amendment does not require such permission, tens of thousands still apply for permits. To that end, I must agree with Dick. Any type of permit system, even “Shall Issue” is seeking permission from the state. Constitutional Carry follows the spirit of the Bill of Rights and should indeed be the goal of all states in the union.
As for legal victories and precedent, I find little to be warm and fuzzy about when considering Dick’s home of Illinois. While on paper they have become the last state in the union to “allow” concealed carry, the utter disdain and contempt that the ruling class in Cook County has for citizen-owned firearms and the existing punitive gun control laws don’t give one a great deal of comfort. From a legal standpoint, the Heller case allowed citizens of D.C. to “own” guns on paper. The reality of the matter is that gun owners in D.C. are treated with constant suspicion and harassment by the District Sturmtruppen and are regulated more vigorously than nuclear power plants.
A Death of One-Thousand Cuts
The reasonableness approach is seductive and genuinely the default of most people. Were we living in a different time I might be willing to acquiesce to Dick’s many reasonable points. However, for at least a century, as far back as the questionable passage of the individual Federal Income Tax, we the people of the United States of America have indeed been reasonable. We have accepted restrictions on our liberty a tiny bit at time. A minuscule amount of arsenic will not kill you, but it builds up over time, slowly.
Decade after decade, we are treated to just a bit more gun control, just a bit more restriction in the name of public safety. To argue against “public safety” makes you unreasonable and modern man fears that label. Individual liberty and freedom will not be killed by a single, decapitating blow, that would be far too obvious. Instead, the body of liberty is being slowly but very deliberately bled to death one tiny cut at time, the cuts being so small as almost not to be noticed.
When it comes to liberty, we, the reasonable people, have given and given and given, but it is never enough. The beast of the authoritarian state will never be satisfied. I, for one, am finished willfully surrendering my liberty. Don’t come to me asking for “reasonableness” I’m all out and if you took a moment to be honest with yourself, I think you would be out as well.
Paul G. Markel 2013
About the Author
Paul Markel has been a firearms industry writer for twenty years and is the author of the new book “Student of the Gun; A beginner once, a student for life.” Paul hosts and produces “Student of the Gun” a show dedicated to education, experience, and enjoyment of firearms. Episodes of SOTG can be viewed by sim
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