In a social setting, I was jesting that perhaps democratic constitutions in Arab countries should have a First Amendment without a Second Amendment, prospects for well-regulated militias in that environment being rather slim. "Oh, no," a clever woman retorted. "That's what the Arab women are fighting for, the right to bare arms." Sure enough, now, a whimsical, serendipitous fate has brought the issue of gun ownership rights for citizens before the U.S. House of Representatives just as Hezbollah guys are doing spring cleaning on the rockets that were cluttering up the rec room.
Our duly elected reps "represented" boldly yesterday when they passed by a wide margin a measure preventing law enforcement officials from confiscating legally owned weapons during a period of emergency. The roots of this law are in the post-Hurricane Katrina hullabaloo in New Orleans last year. At that time, in an effort to maintain order -- or, better said, to reimpose it -- the embattled chief of police, Eddie Compass, ordered all firearms to be confiscated. Naturally, the onus fell mostly on legal owners, their title being duly recorded.
Hooligans howled and goons sported guns as the streets and stores were looted. Stranded homeowners huddled over the waterlogged remains of their earthly estate, with police as protectors hardly to be found, but it was deemed by the powers that were -- yes, the same geniuses who had made all the brilliant decisions leading up to that condition -- that safety could best be guaranteed by stripping those people of their "equalizers." Such was the wisdom that obtained.
Nor is the mindset that policy reveals a terribly unusual one in the precincts of liberal government. The notion has long been that guns constitute a locus of danger. The mere presence of them is a potential for destructive activity. The mere having of them is a potential for destructive behavior. If one is engaged in an effort to cool a volatile atmosphere, the removal of the implements of conflict is seen as a calming maneuver. We are meant to think of Bruce Dern in The 'Burbs, a wild-eyed Vietnam vet (named, yep, Rumsfield) who thinks that a submachine gun is the preferred solution to all of life's annoyances. "Give us the gun, Bruce, and get a grip on yourself."
The fallacy here is twofold. The first, and smaller, error is that the initiatives to clear the area of guns tend to mainly locate those that are legal, that "exist" in the eyes of the law. But the greater error is the inability to accept that component of the Founders' insight; namely, that guns in the hands of solid citizens actually make a society safer. By vesting that degree of trust in our citizenry, by essentially enrolling them in a full-time informal militia devoted to the security of our nation, we actually breed a higher level of responsibility -- both individual and communal.
The greatness of the United States of America, eleven score years and a decade into this glorious experiment, is that we have succeeded in fostering a quality man-in-the-street who can be trusted with a deadly weapon. He picks it up like a soldier, committed to reserve it for purposes of enhancing social order. He or she is a militia person, an auxiliary cop, a volunteer in the sheriff's posse, a builder not a destroyer. The gun protects the good guys and threatens only the bad guys.
The Congress of the United States, in asserting this truth by preventing the post-Katrina outrage from being repeated, has also afforded us an incidental insight into the more pressing events of the moment. It is underscoring the courage of our Executive branch in refusing to sign on to a construct that obligates Israel to "cease fire" in the direction of the Hezbollah marauders in Lebanon.
Think about it: in the long run, only Israel can be held to an agreement, by virtue of its being a sovereign entity. The same principle applies. Don't shut down the legal guns, because you only strengthen the illegal ones. Israel is a trustworthy citizen of the world, firing only when fired on, keeping the peace with its weaponry rather than fomenting instability and hostility.
It's fascinating to realize that the same liberal recipe that makes a local hash of things makes a nice international goulash as well. Good thing that we have the right boys and girls doing K.P. duty in both the White House and the Congress. The popular joke features a negotiation between Osama bin Laden and George Bush, where Osama storms out and says, "That's it, I'm going back to Afghanistan." To which Bush replies: "What Afghanistan?" Let's hope that we will soon be saying "What Hezbollah?"
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