Jon Dougherty's The Commoner

Daily rants on the illogic of the political Left.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

It's the guns, stupid

© 2004 By Jon E. Dougherty
December 23, 2004

Earlier this week became just about the only news agency to reveal that the Bush administration's Justice Department, way back in August, reaffirmed the fact that the Second Amendment conveys an individual right to own and carry firearms.

My always courageous employer,, syndicated the story on our Web site, which added to its exposure. When you add in all of the sites that linked to the story, all of the readers who e-mailed the link around, and all of the discussion boards and blogs that picked up and ran with the story, 24 hours later millions of Americans knew of the government's report.

Ah, you're thinking – that's what that collective "Duh!" was that you heard. Still, when you consider the restrictions successive left-wing courts, state and federal governments have placed on firearms ownership over the past several decades, it was never a sure bet Uncle Sam would "conclude" the obvious.

In a "Memorandum Opinion for the Attorney General" titled, "Whether the Second Amendment Secures an Individual Right," the report's authors wrote that the provision " secures a personal right of individuals, not a collective right that may only be invoked by a State or a quasi-collective right restricted to those persons who serve in organized militia units."

The authors of the 103-page report, with 437 footnotes, went on to note they reached their conclusion based "on the Amendment's text, as commonly understood at the time of its adoption and interpreted in light of other provisions of the Constitution and the Amendment's historical antecedents."

Left-wingers, most recently those in the Clinton administration, had attempted to argue that the plain language of the Second Amendment did not apply to you and I, but only to states.

By "plain language," I mean simply this: the entire Second Amendment reads, "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."

Our founders followed the "K-I-S-S" formula when writing our first laws: "Keep It Simple, Stupid."

But wait, say the left-wing anti-gunners… What's that? Did I see the term "militia!" Ah-ha!

Yes, you did. But let's do something liberal activist judges rarely do when it comes to constitutional questions. Let's look at the Second Amendment in its proper context.

You have to consider that in 1791, when the Second Amendment was written and adopted, the United States had no regular armed forces—no standing professional army and a very small navy. So in order to be able to defend itself, the government had to be able to call up men from the citizenry. And they had to be armed, since the government had little in the way of arsenals to provide arms for men in inducted into military service.

It was the ultimate in bad manners. To have a government ask you to fight on its behalf and bring your own weapons while you're at it must sound positively Stone Age to the liberal anti-gunner elite basking in the freedom provided them by other armed American fighting men and women.

But there was also another reason why the amendment was written. If you're a liberal, this one will scare the bejesus out of you.

It was because our founders distrusted a powerful central government – Go figure! – so they sought to prevent future dictatorships and monarchies by allowing everyone to own weapons. Did you commie-loving left-wingers know that one of the first acts of Adolph Hitler to consolidate his grip on power was to ban the personal ownership of firearms? Oh, yes. Same for communist Russia; ditto for communist China.

In fact, throughout history, some of our most notorious and murderous dictators were able to brutalize their own people simply because the people had no means of resistance.

Well, you say, no need for that kind of protection nowadays. After all, our government doesn't threaten its citizens like those militant wackos of the past.

You're right, it doesn't.

But now you know why.

The Bush administration may only have reaffirmed the definition and intention of an amendment whose meaning was obvious to most Americans anyway.

But by making this affirmation "official," the administration has put the anti-gunners on notice: Firearms ownership is enshrined in the law of the land, just as is your right to complain about it.

So gripe if you will but since I've given you the history and meaning behind the amendment, try not to, uh, shoot yourself in the foot. It's the guns, stupid. Always has been.

Jon E. Dougherty is author of "Illegals: The Imminent Threat Posed by Our Unsecured U.S.-Mexico Border," and a correspondent for


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