An underlying theme percolating in the gun control debate is that anyone who doesn’t trust their own government is absurd and bizarre and might even be a little unstable.
On Fox News this morning, Geraldo Rivera told Eric Bolling that the government has the right and duty to take away assault rifles from citizens and that anyone who thinks they need to defend themselves against the government is just plain paranoid. With shock and dismay, Rivera described people who are stocking up on guns as “deeply suspicious OF THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT” (his emphasis) and that this is “bitterly ironic” because these are the same people who “claim a mantle of patriotism.”
“What’s going to happen?” Rivera scoffs. “Are helicopters going to come and kick down your door. . . . I think it is bizarre that you don’t trust your own government of the United States.”
Another example comes from CNN’s Piers Morgan’s interview with Ben Shapiro, author of Bullies. The debate about gun control was heated, but the end was particularly significant. Morgan pressed Shapiro about why Americans need assault weapons, and Shapiro answered that they need them ultimately to fight tyranny, which might not happen today but it could happen in the future.
“And where do you think this will come from?” Morgan asked.
“It could come from the United States because democracies have gone tyrannical before,” Shapiro answered.
With smug indignation, Morgan replied, “Do you know how absurd you sound? . . . Do you genuinely believe your own government is going to turn on you?”
The lesson to be learned from these clips (and these aren’t the only talking heads making these comments) goes far beyond the second amendment debate. It reflects a deep confusion in this country regarding the distinction between government and the civil society and a naiveté about the power and role of government in our lives.
Is it absurd and bizarre not to trust our government? Not according to the founding fathers who fashioned our laws to protect us from tyranny. Patrick Henry wrote, “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”
So, no, Piers Morgan, adhering to the Constitution out of distrust of government is not absurd at all. It is reasonable, and it is necessary.
The likes of Morgan and Rivera and anyone else out there accusing defenders of gun ownership (and even of semi-automatic rifles, which you would need in a real gun fight) of being bizarre and even a little unstable should heed the words of our first president, a man who knew a lot more about tyranny than any politician today: “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”
You don’t trust fire. You keep a vigilant eye on it, never turning your back, always containing it because, in a moment of inattention, a split second of blind trust, it can spread, transforming into a conflagration of ruin that will consume everything in its path.
The founding fathers are the voices Americans should be listening to, not Piers Morgan or Geraldo Rivera, or even Barack Obama. That’s because the founding fathers understood the difference between government and society. They knew that patriotism meant allegiance to a set of ideas, to the principles of freedom laid out in the Constitution. They understood that to be a patriot was to trust in those ideals, not in government. That’s because they knew what tyranny looked like, and it was “their OWN GOVERNMENT.”
One of the first steps the British government took in suppressing the colonies was to take away their arms. This is what George Mason had to say about it at the Virginia Constitution Convention: “When the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually.”
And yet, many in America say the current U.S. government is not like the British crown. All our government is trying to do today by slowly eliminating which guns you can use or how many bullets you can buy is to protect people from themselves. All Obama is trying to do through gun control is protect us and our children, to keep us safe even from ourselves. His motives are pure and designed only for the betterment of society, for the greater good.
To this claim, there is no better response than another insight from Patrick Henry: “Are we at last brought to such humiliating and debasing degradation that we cannot be trusted with arms for our defense? Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?”
Not trusting the government is neither absurd nor bizarre. It is wise, and the extent to which every American takes this fact to heart will be the difference between liberty and enslavement.