Gun Reform in a “State of Warre”

By Stephen P. Fish, author of A Call To Reform

Hundreds of years ago, two British philosophers wrote about why people need a responsive government to protect them from descending into a “State of Warre.”  In time they would influence the political thinking of our Founding Fathers.

The first philosopher was Thomas Hobbes. He believed it is hard for people to govern themselves because they have difficulty working together…does that sound familiar? In a natural state there is only continual fear, and danger of violent death because strong men, bullies, would often take their neighbor’s property, their loved one’s virtue, and even at times, their lives. In short, when this happens a “State of Warre” exists in society. No one is safe anywhere from these kinds of people. A civilized society can only exist if a government has a strong autocratic ruler (a king) who has absolute power to rule and protect people from evil. Also, the king, ordained by God (Theory of Divine Right), and the people must enter into a social contract in an effort to protect themselves and their property. Once this happens, it is dangerous to question the actions of their king because it could lead to chaos and, a return to a “State of Warre.”

John Locke, the other British philosopher disagreed with Hobbes. His ideas tended to favor a Parliamentary (democratic) form of government. He believed there is an equality of men in the state of nature and given the chance, they could in fact govern themselves. In addition, he believed people possess by nature certain human rights which do not belong to any government. He called these inalienable rights, and they included the right to life, liberty, and property. Furthermore, Locke believed if a government fails to protect people’s inalienable rights, citizens have the right to dissolve the social contract between them and the ruler/government. That is exactly what our Founding Fathers believed and in fact, did when they issued the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Our Founding Fathers then took Locke’s concepts and proceeded to produce a unique form of government, a federal democracy with a Bill of Rights dedicated to protecting Life, Liberty, and as Jefferson wrote, “the Pursuit of Happiness. By 1791, the date the U.S. Constitution was fully ratified, it was a given that Congress and states would protect people’s property.

Fast forward to today and sad to say, Founding Fathers would be disappointed in the inability of American state and federal governments to protect citizens from gun violence. America has descended into a partial “State of Warre.”  How can people enjoy life or have the freedom to pursue happiness if they are not safe to shop at a Walmart, attend a church or synagogue, or go to the movies or a concert? Not even our elementary-age school children are safe from this partial “State of Warre.” 

Who do you ask is to blame for this? The answer, all of us are responsible but more so those Americans who believe political parties are more important than protecting people, especially our children. What are more important guns or protecting our children?

Unfortunately, there are voters in America who vote for the same legislators repeatedly, term after term, after term simply because they favor one party over another. And those Americans who do not vote…they too play a role in this problem.

In 1791, there were political factions (the Federalists vs. the Anti-Federalists) but no political parties. Our Founding Fathers, especially George Washington warned of the dangers of partisan divide. Yet despite his warnings, political parties developed and in time became powerful agents of resistance to change. This is not what Founding Fathers intended. They gave us a constitution that allows each generation to make necessary changes to protect and preserve our inalienable rights.

Take, for example, the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights. “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.”  A closer look at this reveals that during the Revolutionary War militias like the “Minutemen” were instrumental in helping to break away from England. In fact, when hostilities began, there was no Continental Army, only militias. The Continental Congress authorized George Washington to develop an army capable of confronting the British Army which at the time was the most powerful army in the world. Eventually, the newly created Continental Army fought side by side with militias to win our freedom. So, it was critical for militiamen to keep and bear arms. After the American Revolution, the new federal government envisioned militias playing a future role in defending the nation in the event of another war. Thus, the Second Amendment.

In addition, arms in 1791 meant rifles like the Pennsylvania single shot long rifle and single-shot pistols. The British of course had other military weapons, like mortars and rockets. But it is interesting to note that the author of the Second Amendment did not say the right to keep and bear military weapons. He wrote, the right to keep and bear arms.

Over the years pistols developed into six-shooters and long rifles developed into rifles that could shoot more than one bullet in a matter of a minute. Today, there are weapons like the AR 15 (Armalite Rifle 15). Most mass shootings that have occurred in America over the past twenty years involved an AR15. One has to ask why shooters chose this weapon? The answer is simple. An AR15 is a military assault weapon designed to kill people in a short amount of time on a battlefield.

Here’s the thing though, there is no constitutional right for people to own and operate military assault-type weapons. They do not fit the definition of arms in the Second Amendment. Furthermore, when soldiers are issued these types of weapons, the military has complete control over them. No soldier today can take these types of weapons home and put them next to their bed or under their pillow. These types of weapons are issued to soldiers only when the military sees fit to do so.

So, why do federal and state senators/representatives have trouble passing legislation designed to try and reduce the number of gun deaths that occur in America each day? Why do judges who believe in a “strict interpretation of the Constitution,” want to change the definition of arms to include military assault weapons? It’s bad enough that each day we are losing over one hundred people to gun violence. Add to this fact that most mass killings are caused by a person using an AR15 and it’s hard to understand the thought process of some judges on this problem. Do they not want to end this partial “State of Warre” in America or not? No other country in the entire world has a gun violence problem to this degree.

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are in a partial “State of Warre.”  There is just no other way to explain what is happening today. But it doesn’t have to be like this. People have the ability to elect resolute legislators who are willing to pass legislation to restore peace and stability in America.

So, let’s make this a true Call to Reform. Forget about your political affiliation. Get involved by at a minimum, checking out organizations like the ones listed below. They are all dedicated to gun safety and offer ideas to solve the horrific problem of gun violence in America.

Join us and with them and others in asking legislators their views on gun violence. Ask them if they favor any of the suggested solutions like a ban on military assault-type weapons, extensive background checks, red flag laws, or not allowing anyone less than twenty-one years old (at that age a person’s brain is not fully developed yet) to purchase a gun, and more offered by the above organizations. And if they don’t favor these solutions and cannot commit to collaborating with other legislators to compromise and get something done, vote them out at your earliest opportunity regardless of their political party.

Also, don’t let any legislator or anyone tell you the government wants to take away your guns unless of course, it’s a military assault-type weapon. It’s simply not true. The Second Amendment guarantees people the right to own and bear arms. That means a hunting rifle, a shotgun, and or a pistol (all with smaller magazines to hold eight to ten bullets…legislators can compromise on the exact number needed to protect one’s home and loved ones).   

The point is, that we need resolute legislators who are willing to try and solve the problem of gun violence in America. Their job is not to build up the power of their political party or to get re-elected to preserve their special benefits and perks. Their job is to serve their constituents and to help other elected officials in the United States defend and preserve our inalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. If they are not willing to do this, they do not belong in government serving people.

Other countries have managed to control or solve the problem of gun violence and we can too. Americans have the power to do this for themselves and for future generations. So, let’s just do it. Let’s at least try something NOW to reduce the horrific gun violence in this country.

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