Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Don't Fall for the Liberals' Second Amendment "Definition Trap" - A Respectful Open Letter to National Review's Rich Lowry

By Ned Barnett (c) 2008


This column generally focuses on candidates' strategies as determined by their public statements - and in this case, the column does look at statements by both Senators Obama and Clinton - and assessed the strategies behind their Pennsylvania gun-ownership statements, issued in the wake of Senator Obama's "unfortunate" statement to a closed-door fund-raiser in San Francisco a week ago. But this column takes a different format than most, as it not only identifies (and critiques) the candidates' strategies, but also addresses a significant oversight made by the National Review's Rich Lowry (a common oversight among Conservative commentators) in addressing the candidates' strategies.

Today (Tuesday, April 15th) I read a Townhall column by the National Review's Rich Lowry about Senator Obama's latest dust-up with voters in Pennsylvania – and while Mr. Lowry was generally on-target in his overall analysis, he fell into a long-standing and diabolically-clever Liberal Democrat-sponsored Second Amendment “definition trap" - one that far too many conservatives fall prey to. Mr. Lowry allowed Senators Obama and Clinton - and, more generally, the anti-gun Democrats and Liberals to define the rules of the debate on the Second Amendment. This trap is simple: equate gun ownership to the "right" to hunt or participate in shooting sports (as in Senator Clinton bragging about going duck hunting as a child… a convenient story about as likely to be true as her Bosnian Sniper fairy tale). The gun-banning Liberals never talk about the real reasons that the Founding Fathers used in their insistence that the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution contain the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment exists to affirm the inalienable right of all free men (and women) to self-protection from the tyranny of government, as well as self-defense from criminals.

So, when we let Liberals and Democrats get away with characterizing the Second Amendment as a right for hunters and sportsmen, we’re all falling into their trap. As Mr. Lowry did. This is the Liberals' cagy strategem: Americans are far more likely to fight for the right to self-defense than the right to hunt; conversely, they are far more likely to sit idly by while their right to keep and bear arms is redefined - then eroded. These Liberals and Democrats know that many Americans who carry guns for personal protection don't hunt - and many Americans who hunt don't carry guns for personal protection. Classic divide and conquer - and in any debate, that begins by getting the opposition to agree to YOUR definition - as Mr. Lowry agreed with his anti-gun opponent's "take" on the real meaning of the Second Amendment.

Which is why I wrote the following respectful open letter to Rich Lowry - and by extension, to all Conservatives who value their inalienable Second Amendment right to self defense - as enshrined in the "right to keep and bear arms."


A Respectful Open Letter To Rich Lowry of the National Review


I read your latest Townhall column (Tuesday, April 15) about Senator Obama’s elitism – and from a strategic perspective, I think it’s dead-on.

However, in reading your column, I’m afraid that you’re falling into the trap that Liberals love to set for those of us who value the Second Amendment – the “hunting trap.” Liberals and Democrats love to characterize gun owners as “hunters” and “sportsmen” … instead of as people who have taken on the solemn responsibility to own (and in many cases, to carry) legal firearms in order to protect and defend themselves and others from criminal intrusions in their lives. This consistent Democrat-and-Liberal "hunting" characterization is a trap because – ultimately – nobody in America today depends on hunting for survival (suggesting that the Second Amendment is somehow outmoded), and nobody today is so dependent on access to shooting “sports” that their rights to those sports couldn’t be abridged for a “higher purpose” ... a purpose such as disarming law-abiding Americans.

What I’m about to say doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know, but the Second Amendment was not instituted as a means of guaranteeing Americans’ right to hunt (on the American Frontier in the 1780s, the right to feed one's family was a “given”) – instead, the Second Amendment was designed to give private citizens the right to carry arms - muskets and pistols and rifles essentially indistinguishable from military firearms then in use, in order to defend themselves against the depredations of tyrannical government. The memory of Lexington and King George was fresh in the minds of the framers of our constitution. A secondary – but not insignificant – Second Amendment consideration was and is personal defense against crime (as exemplified in the 1780s by Indian marauders on the frontier, as well as by more conventional breaking-and-entering type criminals who existed in unwelcome numbers in America's early metropolises).

This right to keep and bear arms is one that Americans take seriously – but it is one that Liberals and Democrats would just as soon we forget about. That is why these Liberals and Democrats always equate gun ownership with hunting, instead of self-defense.

Even if Conservatives don't understand the Liberals' strategy, the Democrats understand the uphill battle they fight. As of February of this year, 48 states had some kind of concealed carry permit laws, and tens of millions of law-abiding Americans have exercised that right to obain CCW permits and to legally carry concealed firearms for legitimate self-defense. There's an old saying that applies to self defense and the Second Amendment today as well as it did 150 years ago: "God made man. Sam Colt made man equal." When confronted with criminal violence, many Americans know they have two choices - they can be victims, or they can defend themselves. That is at the heart of the Second Amendment, and that is at the heart of the grass-roots movement to extend "shall issue" CCW laws to all Americans.

And - because they want Americans dependent, rather than independent - that is why Liberals and Democrats want to redefine the Second Amendment's right to gun ownership as something having to do with "hunting" or "sport."

Some states, of course, are more permissive than others (in my opinion, however, only 39 states have real “shall issue” on demand CCW permit laws, while nine states have less permissive “may issue” laws in which the citizen must first demonstrate a “need” to carry before being issued a license - that "need" often being tied to political contributions to the local Sheriff). However, in virtually all "shall issue" cases, these laws were driven by the grass roots. At the local level, state legislators - even doctrinaire Liberal Democrat legislators - recognize that their constituents care enough about this Constitutionally-sanctioned and inalienable right to take actions in their own self-defense. In fact, only two states – Senator Obama’s Illinois and neighboring Wisconsin (and, of course, the District of Columbia), have no CCW laws. Since these laws were first enacted - some 20 years ago, some as recently as 2007 - millions of Americans have gone through the permit process. Florida, for instance, has issued more than 1.2 million CCW permits since passing the law 20 years ago, and more than 400,000 Floridians currently have valid CCW permits.

This right to keep and bear arms in your own self defense is a right that Liberals and Democrats want to take away – which is why these same Liberals and Democrats want to link that right to gun ownership with hunting. Senator Hillary Clinton, for instance, has recently followed Senator Kerry’s bumbled lead - claiming, as he did in 2004, to be a duck hunter - in order to affirm her support for the Second Amendment. She's an attorney who studied Constitutional Law (her husband briefly taught the subject before entering politics) - she knows full well that the Second Amendment says nothing about hunting - but it says everything about an armed citizen’s role in maintaining the security of a free state, and by extension, personal security and civil peace.

So please, Rich, when you're talking about the Second Amendment, don’t fall into the Liberals' and Democrats' trap of equating hunting and "sport shooting" with our inalienable right of self-protection that is at the heart of America's gun owners' right to “keep and bear arms.”

Ned Barnett