Constitutional Contract Law

Can we learn something from the threat to Fort Dix? The National Rifle Association’s pernicious propaganda combined with popular misunderstandings of American history seem to dominate in the minds of many who address this issue. Today, Americans mistakenly assume rank-and-file citizens took up arms and turned the tide of the Revolutionary War. Carelessly carried into the 21st century, Americans mistakenly believe that their personal possession of firearms safeguards their alleged “right” to bear firearms. Rather, liberal gun laws ensure that guns will find their way into the hands of criminals and the mentally insane. Worse yet, it makes very possible that the next time a group decides it wants to attack an American military base, e.g., Fort Dix, our soldiers, law enforcement officials, or our schools, that it will not be stopped until after the dead litter the field.

Let’s think about the honest basics first: How does gun ownership in a first-world 21st century industrialized country safeguard our rights or the Constitution? Think for a moment … Do we favor the rule of law or vigilantism? Do we want individuals making spontaneous decisions regarding who they think they should shoot? If so, then get a dose of reality and visit a region of the world where this is the case, e.g., the regions between the Black and Caspian Seas or perhaps Darfur. But then why look abroad when good ol’Americans are busy shooting one another to the tune of 30,000 deaths a year. How can it be that American will invade another country for killing 2500 Americans in the World Trade Center – you suppose that if they had a few rifles they might have shot down one of those aircraft before it hit the building? – but when we want to kill one another, well, that’s okay?

As for the argument that guns prevent crime, let me choose another example: Jerusalem. Walking through the streets of Jerusalem or specifically Ben Yahuda you might be astonished at the number of apparent civilians carrying automatic weapons. Despite this, Israelis are confronted with daily acts of terrorism. Why doesn’t this excessive show of force result in less crime? In contrast, let’s look to Berlin. Violent crimes are, in contrast to American cities, rare. We could make a similar observation about London. France, on the other hand, has proven a bit more liberal – hardly by American standards – but the result in 2005 came in the form of extensive riots and the burning of roughly 48,000 vehicles (the issues are more complex than this but I have a specific point). Overall, countries with strict gun laws have vastly fewer violent crimes than the United States. These are not negotiable interpretations but simple facts.

On a more historical note, it is simply astonishing how quickly some people find in 18th century ideas exactly what they want in the 21st century. Beyond the simple discussion about what constitutes a “militia,” let’s think seriously about what’s being advocated and what’s no being advocated in the minds of those framing the Constitution. First, they did not mean that slaves had the right to bear arms. Hmmm, why would they do such a thing? Second, they never indicated that everyone had a right to expect the government to provide them with personal firearms. So, who did they presume had the time to serve in a militia and could afford fire arms? Third, consider how someone like Jefferson might have responded to an AK-47. Given the very lethal character of modern weapons, the very nature of the discussion of the privilege to own fire arms is fundamentally altered and those stuck in 18th century rhetoric should be prepared to limit our access to fire arms to the technology prevalent in the 18th century. Sure, I think we all deserve a musket, three rounds of ammunition, and a beer.

But certainly I must be some liberal nut carving out a lame excuse to collect all the guns in America as no good American would violate this privilege to own a fire arm? Well, I was in LA during the riots. All those formerly law-biding citizens with guns in south-central LA engaged in a great deal of criminal activity. More guns made the environment grossly unsafe for everyone. We were damn lucky it didn’t turn into a mass killing. An exception? No, look back to the riots in the 1960’s or further back to Orson Wells and his radio broadcast announcing the invasion of Earth by strange beings from outer-space? So, how did our gun-toting society respond?

Were our “rights” protected somehow? No. There is no evidence to support this conclusion. Guns threaten our lives and our way of living. America is out of step with the civilized world when it comes to “common sense” and fire arms. It’s a truly bone-headed argument to suggest that guns protect either our Constitution or our “rights.”