By Scott Kimmich
NORWALK, Conn. – Mr. Jay Jacovitz recently claimed in an letter to The Hour that gun ownership prevented the Japanese from landing on the West Coast during World War II. Yes, and the moon is made of blue cheese, too. He also states that, based on a 1993 survey, guns are used 2.5 million times a year in “self defense.” That survey was shown to be badly flawed by methodological and statistical errors. The actual number has been shown to be about 100,000 per year.
Based on these wild claims, Jacovitz advises us all to stock up on assault weapons and be ready to shoot it out with the feds, the real enemy.
Because Mr. Jacovitz’s crystal ball tells him what the Founding Fathers were thinking, it is instructive to look at the historical record and see what they actually did.
Right from the start, American colonies formed armed militias to fight native Americans. For example, in 1623 Virginia’s General Assembly ordered “that men go not to work in the ground without their arms.” During the French and Indian war (1756-63), the Virginia legislature declared “it is necessary, in this time of danger, that the militia of this colony should be well-regulated and disciplined [and] that every person (except free mulattoes, Negroes, and Indians) shall be armed….” [No mention of women!]
Twenty years later, when the American Revolution began, the Virginia legislature passed a Bill of Rights stipulating that “the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state rested in a well-regulated militia composed of the body of the people …” The Articles of Confederation, which governed the 13 colonies during the Revolution, required every state “to keep ready, a well-regulated, disciplined, and equipped militia….” As British descendents, Americans hated the idea of standing armies and preferred part-time militias made up of citizen-soldiers.
Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, proposed “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country.” Indeed, the Second Amendment now stresses that the overriding need is a regulated militia, not scatterings of armed individuals: “Awell 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.”
Were the Founding Fathers more worried about external as well as internal threats to their young country or were they worried that their creation, the United States, was the real bogey man, as Mr. Jacovitz would have it? Let’s go to the historical record.
The very fact that they replaced the weak Articles of Confederation with a Federal Constitution giving stronger powers to the central government demonstrates their overall philosophy.
But – Mr. Jacovitz says an armed citizenry was meant to protect us against tyrannical government. Really? In 1786, Shays Rebellion in Western Massachusetts pitted rural farmers and war veterans against government officials, and urban merchant and business interests. The American Confederation had no troops, so a private militia was funded by business men and defeated the rebels with arms from the federal armory in Springfield. As a result, a number of anti-federal delegates to the Constructional Convention switched their positions and voted for a stronger federal government. The intention – including, notably, Washington’s –was not to arm people to revolt against the government, but to arm a militia to protect the government from people trying to break it up.
A few years later, just as the Bill of Rights was being ratified, a similar insurrection broke out in Western Pennsylvania, where farmers refused to pay taxes on the whiskey they distilled. This time, several well-regulated militias – 13,000 men in all — marched out with President Washington leading them and ended the “Whiskey Rebellion.” A clear-cut case where state militias were used to put down a popular grassroots uprising.
The intent was crystal clear. Men were mandated to bear arms to defend their settlements and the government. Period. In the main, Americans are a people who cherish the rule of law, not the rule of guns. If people don’t like their government, they have the power of the ballot.
Moreover, times have changed since the amendment was written. There are no more Indians on the warpath. One person with an assault gun and a big magazine has more firepower than those 13,000 militia men that Washington led. An assault gun is not made for sport. And the hundreds of thousands assault guns now in the hands of individuals – not the National Guard – are not worth a single one of the precious lives lost in Newtown.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ review of epidemiological studies, “the absence of guns from children’s homes and communities is the most reliable and effective measure to prevent firearm-related injuries in children and adolescents.” If the wording of the Second Amendment is ambiguous to some, let’s amend the Constitution to protect our children from gun-induced mayhem.