Arms and the citizen 21

We are strongly in favor of second-amendment rights. We believe that a citizenry is safer for being armed.

Tom Hinkson, a member of the National Rifle Association, has this to say about the anti-gun reaction of left-wing pundits to the shooting yesterday of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, by a psychopath named Jared Lee Loughner.

Within hours of the horrific attack in Tuscan, Arizona yesterday, liberal pundits are attacking our civil liberties. As has been the norm for the last 30 years, the leftists are blaming the violence on rhetoric, guns, and of course, racism. It seems that they will take every opportunity to attack our first and second Amendment rights in the name of “stopping the violence”.

No doubt, by the time this article reaches your eyes, there will be several more examples of what I am talking about, but they all follow the same formula. Here are some examples from this most recent tragedy.

The most egregious so far is this statement by the Pima County Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik: “When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government -. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” What a way to take advantage of a situation! There was no racial component whatsoever to this shooting. Dupnik further states that “free speech… is not without consequences”, as if we should re-think our First Amendment protections or take the chance of getting shot and killed in a random act of violence.

Further attacks on our Constitutional rights stemming from this incident come from people like Gary Hart and Josh Sugarmann, who both wrote articles published by the Huffington Post.

Hart states that, “So long as we all tolerate this kind of irresponsible and dangerous rhetoric or, in the case of some commentators, treat it with delight, reward it, and consider it cute, so long will we place all those in public life, whom the provocateurs dislike, in the crosshairs of danger.” So, because some commentator didn’t like a political position, this shooting was destined to happen?

Sugarmann, a gun-control activist, writes that, “Congress should act immediately to reinstate an effective ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines and move quickly to pass an effective assault weapons ban.” Ah, the “guns create violence” argument never gets old does it? But Sugarmann also goes one step further by taking a quote from the NRA’s Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre out of context. LaPierre stated, years ago that, “The guys with the guns make the rules… if the only guys with guns are the bad guys, we’re screwed!”. Sugarmann threw the “guys with the guns make the rules” part back at LaPierre without context, by stating that “one more guy with a gun made the rules”. Sugarmann’s solution of course is to take away everyone’s guns.

The shooting at the Safeway in Tuscan, AZ was a horrific act, perpetrated by a mentally deranged lone gunman. In the aftermath of this tragedy, as with any other, the enemies of liberty and freedom claim that we must make a choice between our rights and freedoms and our safety. This is no choice because if we give up our freedoms, we will be at the mercy of people in power, whether they be politicians, terrorists, the lone gunman, the thief in the dark alley, or foreign governments. Benjamin Franklin wisely stated, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

I am on the side of Benjamin Franklin. I believe that tragedies like this most recent one in Tuscan illustrate the need for more people to exercise their freedoms as Americans. The claim that one political pundit or another is somehow responsible for this shooting is false and irresponsible. We should put the blame squarely where it belongs: on the head of the perpetrator of the violence. To the gun-banners, I say that there are no gun-free zones, only good-guy-gun-free zones – as in Tucson, where apparently only the bad guy had a gun. If someone has malicious intent, a simple law adding one more crime to murder, armed robbery, or any other violent act is not going to be a deterrent. I say criminalize the acts of violence, not the preparation for self-defense or the defense of others.

So far, 6 people have died, and 13 people are reported injured from this shooting in Arizona. The gunman was subdued as he was reloading his only gun, by two people who tackled him. Ask yourself how different this could have been had there been legally armed citizens in attendance. I do not claim that there would have been no death or violence, but I firmly believe that fewer innocent people would have been killed or injured. I commend the two heroes who subdued the assailant, but had they been armed, wouldn’t this situation have been ended more quickly and much more safely?

Aside from the appalling cost of life on 1/8/11, the cost to the taxpayers for the legal process that is going to begin will be enormous. Incarceration costs alone, which vary from prison to prison, average about $50,000 per year. Justice would have been served much more quickly and a whole lot more cheaply if an armed citizen had simply shot back. Do not be fooled into giving up your freedoms. Instead, exercise your freedoms, and if the opportunity presents itself, make a positive difference.

We invite more readers to let us know their opinions on this subject.

To restore a secular America 17

We  believe that the Framers of the United States Constitution intended to found a secular nation, not “a Christian nation” as so many conservative pundits assert. We have looked for informed opinion about it, and found this one, given to us by Tom Hinkson, who is “a  life-long atheist”. He was, he says, “not brought up with any religion”, though both his parents “believe in a Christian deity”. He served his country in the Navy as a Nuclear Reactor Operator for seven years. In the last election cycle he joined the campaign for Marco Rubio. He is a  life member of both the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Here is his opinion. It is his and not ours, but the information he provides confirms our own.

2011 is supposed to be the year of the Constitutional Conservative, but is it really? The Tea Party has helped  the Republican Party gain a majority in the House of Representatives, and near parity in the Senate, so things in the US have to get better – right? Not so fast! It seems that we as a nation have traded one evil for a possibly lesser evil, but another evil nonetheless. Have you noticed who is at the helm of the Tea Party? Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich … the list goes on. You might ask, “Well aren’t they better than Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Joe Biden?” The answer is yes, of course they are. But too many of the Tea Party figureheads represent that “silent majority” of biblical literalist Christians who, instead of wanting to turn the United States into a socialist utopia as Obama and the Democrats do, want to turn it into a kind of theocracy.

Since the rise of the Tea Party, there has been a movement to re-learn our American history, mainly fueled by Glenn Beck. This would be a very good thing, if he told the whole story. History is usually told with huge gaps to reinforce the tellers’ point of view. The so-called Christian conservatives bend history one way, and the Progressives would rather ignore history altogether.

If you have watched Glenn Beck for any appreciable length of time, you have seen him bring several people on to argue that we are a Christian nation, that nearly everything in the Constitution has a biblical foundation, and the proof for these claims lies in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence. He and they make a compelling argument – at least to those who don’t know history.

It is true that the preamble of the Declaration of Independence refers to a divine power:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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.

The  Constitution, however, created a very explicitly secular government, and those that would argue otherwise try to re-write history to hide the transition from a government that derives its power from a higher power to one that derives its power from the consent of the governed.

Glenn Beck and the “Christian Conservatives” would have everyone believe that the Declaration of Independence founded our nation, and that the Constitution was written with the Declaration as sort of a foundation. The question is, are they right? Let’s look at some history that they won’t tell us.

The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, formally declaring the independence of the 13 colonies from Great Britain, but did it create the United States of America? The answer is no, the United States of America was created by the Articles of Confederation, which created a binding agreement of government between the 13 original colonies. The Articles of Confederation were not ratified until March, 1781. Until the Articles of Confederation were ratified, the United States of America was just an idea. But wait a minute, why doesn’t anyone mention the Articles of Confederation? Probably because the Articles of Confederation created a government that failed in short order. The Constitution that we have today was originally ratified on September 17th, 1787, creating our current form of government.

The “Christian Conservatives” would have everyone believe that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written virtually side-by-side; in fact they are frequently published this way. The question is why would they want to ignore the 11-year gap? The answer is that the Constitution is a secular document. But, if we can be convinced that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written side-by-side, then an argument can be made to declare the United States of America a “Christian nation”, which opens the door for a biblical lens to view the Constitution through; even though the separation of church and state is an undeniable concept that is spelled out in the Constitution, and further explained by Thomas Jefferson in his letters to two separate Baptist organizations (see here and here).

Christians will argue that the intent of the founders was to create a Christian nation because Christianity was (and still is) the major religion present in the United States. But, if that was their intent, why not spell it out? Why would the founders specifically state that there will be “no religious test for office” (Article 6, paragraph 3 of the Constitution), or that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” (1st Amendment)? The answer is obvious: the founders wanted to create a secular government. Not only did they not state that there was a federal religion, they specifically banned it! In fact they went even further than that, and banned congress from making any law that RESPECTED the establishment of a religion, meaning that not only would the government not create a religion, or declare a national religion, but that the government would not even formally recognize religions.

Of course, the secular argument has a few problems: for instance, it is traditional for congress to open with a prayer, which would seem to contradict the Constitution itself, and honestly, it does. So, how can this be explained? Hypocrisy, plain and simple. If there is one constant in the history of this nation, then hypocrisy is it. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both outspoken critics of slavery, yet both owned dozens of slaves. No one today will argue in favor of slavery, even though several of the founders owned them. Yet, there are many who would argue for legislation based upon the bible or other religious texts rather than the Constitution simply because most of our founders identified themselves as Christians.

In the Declaration of Independence, there are three mentions of a higher power, they are: “Nature’s God”, “Creator”, and “Divine Providence”. None of these three terms are innately Christian, and the use of the terms is as an authority to separate from Great Britain. The United States of America is mentioned at the end of the document, but as I stated earlier, this was an idea; the United States of America was not formally established until the Articles of Confederation were ratified. Independence from Great Britain, and thus international recognition as a nation was not achieved until the end of the Revolutionary War by the signing of the Treaty of Paris on September 3rd, 1783.

In the Articles of Confederation, there are three references to a deity. Two of those references are “in the Year of Our Lord”, which was the common language for stating a date, not a reference to any divine inspiration for the government being created. The third reference is found in Article 13, the first sentence of the second paragraph states: “And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union.” “Great Governor of the World” is an obvious allusion to a higher power, but not specifically to a Christian deity.

Nonetheless, the “Great Governor of the World” is the authority that is used to create the government under the Articles of Confederation. So if  the United States of America were still governed by the Articles of Confederation, the Christians would have some proof that we were founded as a “Christian Nation”. But as The Articles of Confederation created a very weak and very flawed government which soon failed, it can be stated that the government formed as a direct result of the Declaration of Independence was a failure. The founders of our current government knew that several changes needed to be made.

Within the Constitution, there is only one reference to any higher power, and that reference is in the date, which as stated above, was the common way of declaring a date “in the Year of Our Lord”. That reference is at the end of the Constitution, just before the signatures. There are several very important differences between the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Articles of Confederation.

The first, and largest difference, is that the Constitution does not claim any authority from a higher power, whereas both the Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation did. Instead, the Constitution boldly proclaims “We the People” as the authority to create the government and all that comes with it. This runs in direct contradiction to the “Christian Conservative” claim that our rights are not given to us by the government, but by the Christian God (which was not specifically mentioned in any founding document). This puts a large hole in the “Christian Conservative” argument, but the Constitution does not stop there.

Within the Constitution, there are three specific bans on the co-mingling of religion and government. These bans are found in Article 6, paragraph 3, and in the 1st Amendment. The Constitution clearly states that there shall be “no religious test for office”, at either the federal or state levels, and that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This suggests very strongly that one of the many lessons that the founders learned from the Articles of Confederation was that the mixing of religion and government does not work.

So while in principle I agree with “restoring America” as the Tea Partiers and Glenn Beck advocate, I say let’s restore it to a government run by the laws set forth by the Constitution. While we’re at it, let’s restore the Pledge of Allegiance to how it was before 1954, when the words “under God” were added. We can also take the words “In God We Trust” off of our currency. Those words were added first to coinage in 1864, on the two-cent coin, long after the founders died. Paper money wasn’t tainted with those words until 1957. Our national motto “In God We Trust” wasn’t adopted until 1956. All of the laws ordering these changes are unconstitutional because they all respect the establishment of religion. Let us abide by the Constitution, and restore the secular nation that the Founders intended.