In the short time since the Las Vegas Massacre, we have again seen much of the media using the tragedy to call for more gun control if not an outright ban on individual ownership of weapons. Honestly, sometimes being an American makes me tired. The hysteria of a momentary crisis seems to always lead to the plea from many to "give us a king" as we seek to buy a little safety by giving up more freedom. We did that after 9/11 when we enacted the Patriot Act. We did it when we interred Japanese-Americans during World War II. The examples could go on and on.
Like others, I am tired of the "mass shootings" in America. But I do not favor giving up the Second Amendment to achieve that. I keep hearing about how great it is in Europe where there is little private ownership of firearms. Are we forgetting that in the 20th century Americans twice crossed the Atlantic to fight wars of liberation in Europe against some of the most educated and "advanced" nations in the world?
Fascism was born in the country that gave us the Renaissance. Nazism was born in the nation that produced Kant and Goethe. As recently as the 1990s, American soldiers crossed the Atlantic to liberate Europeans from "ethnic cleansing" in the same lands where World War I began. People are people, and a high degree of education and "civilization" is not an adequate safeguard against tyranny.
During the 20th century, 60 million to 100 million people were murdered by their own governments. A high percentage of those were in Europe. Some of the biggest "mass shootings" in history occurred when unarmed European Jews were lined up in front of trenches and executed by their own governments.
I don't want a society where only the military and police are armed. In America, we are used to a society where the government is not tyrannical. But in history, America is the exception. Most of the people who have lived in this world have lived under tyranny.
I am not opposed to reasonable regulation, including background checks to identify violent criminals and the mentally impaired. But I'm also for a population of free people who are armed. As Chairman Mao infamously said, "Political power grows out the barrel of a gun." The sovereignty of the people means little if they are helpless against their own government. During ratification debates for the Constitution, Noah Webster said:
"Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States."
A disarmed citizenry in Europe is not a new phenomenon, and it has produced some of history's bloodiest tyrannies. The idea that we may need a revolution here in America seems remote. But our Constitution is not for the moment. It is for the ages. It is intended to see past the exigencies of the present to the long-term preservation of liberty. The first battle of the Revolution was fought over the British army's attempt to disarm the militia. People who understand freedom will not give up their means of defending it.
Considering the last 200 years of history, do you prefer the tightly controlled and statist direction of Europe or the more messy and liberty oriented direction of the United States? Freedom is chaotic sometimes. I hate the shootings we have seen. But if the alternative is a tightly controlled society with authoritarian principles, I'll take the American way every time.
Let's have a discussion in America about preventing shootings. But let's stop using every tragedy as an excuse to start disarming the American people.
Jeff Teichert, JD, LLM, is an attorney serving the Wasatch Front in Utah.