Tuesday, January 11, 2005


On Dec. 17, the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel announced its conclusion that the Second Amendment "secures an individual's right to keep and bear arms." This is huge. For generations, gun control advocates have made many misleading statements, and many lives have needlessly been lost in reliance on the wrong-headed philosophy that individuals should not have guns.

Those buying into the gun control movement have very sadly come to experience the realities of being unarmed and defenseless � the District of Columbia and the United Kingdom most recently. They are rethinking their position of banning guns, with renewed debates and bills introduced to permit private ownership of firearms once again. The D.C. bill's sponsors realized that an unarmed citizenry is at the mercy of criminals. The U.K., also experiencing a horrific rise in violent crime since banning guns, is revisiting being gun-free. Similar gun-free countries � Australia, South Africa, the Philippines � are experiencing a tragic rise in crime.

But what about vigilantism and chaos? In those states where right to carry concealed weapons is law, this has not been the case after decades of experience with both veteran and new permitees. This year, President Bush signed the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2003, which in 2004 became Public Law 108-277, putting not more cops on the street, but, in licensing retired officers, the law in effect put more armed private citizens on the street. The president also signed into law Dec. 17 the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, a move that is not unconnected to the nationwide movement to organize defenses. The FBI and other authorities show that though about 47,000 persons a year are shot or killed by guns, more than two million crimes per year are thwarted by the legal and proper use of a gun, often without firing a shot. The number of acts not permitted to escalate tells the story.

Washington state now recognizes concealed carry permits from other states. With one more state added to the list, many citizens can legally carry concealed weapons in nearly two-thirds of the states of the Union, but where right to carry is needed most � in California, for instance � it is frustrated the most. At present, a gun ban for San Francisco is proposed. Nationwide concealed carry is a necessary action worth completing, and with many bills pending for just that, constituents are urged to contact their representatives to see them through. A few examples are HR 990 for nationwide concealed carry, and, of course, D.C."s bill. Variations on these nationwide concealed carry bills are in the works. All of these actions are part of an intelligent movement to recognize the true authority of the people as an immense and dependable resource not only in time of threat to the nation, but also for local, individual self-defense in time of violent crime and other instances where first responders are not immediately available.

The significance of the DOJ announcement is stunning. For the first time in a long time, it represents the beginning of a shift in the professional relationship between the government and the governed. Even though law-enforcement officers are divided and not monolithically against citizen concealed carry here, one of the distressing notions handed down as training is exemplified in the December 1999 issue of the FBI's Law Enforcement Bulletin. That article emphasizes that officers should notice political stickers on a stopped vehicle, where NRA stickers and the like should warn the officers of a "violence potential" of the motorist. The DOJ announcement represents a possible turnaround of this attitude (which should next be handed down as training as well) and proper recognition of the individual not as an interference with law enforcement, but of being the first line of defense for individual and for community.

The announcement fortifies the argument against national identification cards, which are objectionable on so many grounds, not the least of which is the further alienation of constituents. National ID cards shouldn't be imposed on Americans, but on aliens, and that's where it should end if it isn't entirely abandoned as an idea.

The DOJ announcement suggests strongly that officials may come around and view constituents as a resource in the defense of America, not someone to sit on the sidelines, or worse, to be suspect. A national ID card would not serve national defense if, by its very existence, it states that law enforcement cannot discern the good guys from the bad guys and has to know everything about everyone.

I am so pleased with the Office of Legal Counsel's conclusion recognizing the realities of being disarmed, and recognizing necessarily the American people as a resource willing to participate in their own governance and defense. Informed and heard � and certainly not suspect � the individual citizen as the first line of defense is the ultimate homeland security.


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