Dr. John Rheney

Dr. John Rheney

I was watching a news show the other night. The anchor was interviewing a California radio host who basically blamed the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise on the Second Amendment to the Constitution and the conservative interpretation thereof.

I don’t pretend to know the answer for people going crazy these days. It’s clear something needs to be done about nuts getting semiautomatic weapons.

BUT what if each of the congressmen or the pedestrians in Europe all had concealed weapons?

Better yet, what if ordinary citizens, who would have to wait for maybe an hour for help if attacked in their homes or while traveling, all had a pistol?

Many anti-gun politicians, like President Bill Clinton did, interpret the Second Amendment as referring to the rights of colonials to have hunting weapons and transfer that use of the Constitution to today’s sporting community. There is no mention of hunting or sporting uses in the letters of our nation’s fathers.

The Second Amendment: "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."

What is so complicated about this sentence?

Prior to the Supreme Court's 2008 decision in District of Columbia vs. Heller, the courts had yet to definitively state what right the Second Amendment protected. The opposing theories, perhaps oversimplified, were (1) an "individual rights" approach, whereby the amendment protected individuals' rights to firearm ownership, possession and transportation; and (2) a "states' rights" approach under which the amendment only protected the right to keep and bear arms in connection with organized state militia units.

Moreover, it was generally believed that the amendment was only a bar to federal action, not to state or municipal restraints. However, the Supreme Court has now definitively held that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that weapon for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. This right applies not just to the federal government but to states and municipalities as well.

The argument against lawful ownership of firearms is that the Second Amendment is now not necessary and is antiquated. If so, does that mean the First Amendment is also? How about the Fourth Amendment? Judging by what is going on in the media and on college campuses, one could make that assumption.

As I mentioned, many argue that the framers of the Constitution didn’t mean that individuals have the right to bear arms. They hold that this privilege was for militias (ex: National Guard) only. These folks are quite wrong. Here are a couple of quotes from the author of the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson:

Protection from our government: "What country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance. Let them take arms." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Madison, December 20, 1787

Or this from Jefferson on the individual ownership of guns: "The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. ... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."

Or this on concealed and personal carry: "A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks." -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 19, 1785.

There are hundreds of examples from Jefferson, Washington and Franklin that make it quite obvious what their thoughts were on the Second Amendment; but like all other laws, the words can be twisted and distorted or simply altogether ignored by adversaries to the Constitution.

"The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms." -- Samuel Adams, Massachusetts Ratifying Convention, 1788

We’ve seen that sick people from all over the world have been quite ingenious in their use of trucks, suicide vest, knives and poisons in order to inflict terror and death on their fellow man. So what is the best defense against someone chasing you in a truck? A cell phone?

What is the best defense when cornered by a maniac with a knife? I’m not going to choose a chair or a whiskey bottle like the brave bartender in London did. Give me a gun.

Some people like the governor of Virginia and MSNBC commentators rushed to condemn the Second Amendment and others gleefully proclaimed that they wished Congressman Scalise had died as he is a defender of the Second Amendment. One commentator claimed that she was amused that some of the congressmen teared up while describing the horror of the moment.

Actually, I saw them tear up when expressing their heartfelt thanks to the two police officers who defended them with their pistols.

In this age of political correctness, it is never anyone’s fault for doing evil. It is someone else’s fault: Billy didn’t get a pony when he was 12. Kids at school picked on him. He only had one parent. His girlfriend left him.The Internet made him do it. The GUN made him kill everyone in the theater.

Maybe Billy is just a snowflake who left his safe space to find someone to blame for being unhappy. Maybe, if someone stands for something he disagrees with, he’ll just ransack a building or burn a few cars, or run over somebody with his van.

When he does, we’ll look for someone or something else to blame. After all, if someone does something bad, it’s not his or her fault. We are sure it must be someone else’s.

Of one thing I am certain: If Billy has a truck, knife, baseball bat, a broken bottle or any other weapon when I meet him, I want a gun. I’ll try and straighten it out with the authorities when they get there, if they get there.

Dr. John Rheney has been writing his outdoors column for The Times and Democrat since 1984.

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