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Bill of Rights Under Fire

by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

The US Constitution has few friends on the right or the left.

During the first eight years of the 21st century, the Republicans mercilessly assaulted civil liberties.  The brownshirt Bush regime ignored the protections provided by habeas corpus.  They spied on American citizens without warrants. They violated the First Amendment.  They elevated decisions of the president above US statutory law and international law. They claimed the power to withhold information from the people’s representatives in Congress, and they asserted, and behaved as if, they were unaccountable to the people, Congress, and the federal courts.  The executive branch claimed the power to ignore congressional subpoenas. Republicans regarded Bush as a Stuart king unaccountable to law.

The Bush brownshirt regime revealed itself as lawless, the worst criminal organization in American history.

Now we have the Democrats, and the assault on civil liberty continues. President Obama doesn’t want to hold Bush accountable for his crimes and violations of the Constitution, because Obama wants to retain the powers that Bush asserted.  Even the practice of kidnapping people and transporting them to foreign countries to be tortured has been retained by President Obama.

The civil liberties that Bush stole from us are now in Obama’s pocket.

Will it turn out that we enjoyed more liberty under Bush than we will under Obama?  At least the Republicans left us the Second Amendment.  The Obama Democrats are not going to return our other purloined civil liberties, and they are already attacking the Second Amendment.

Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D, IL) has introduced the Blair Holt Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009.  As the British and Australians learned, once firearms are registered, the government knows where they are.  The government’s next step is to confiscate the firearms.

Moreover, the Act would permit the government to negate Second Amendment rights by refusing to issue a license.  Any parents who bequeathed family antique or historic firearms to heirs would be in violation of the act, as it bans any transfer of a firearm other than via a licensed dealer.

William Blackstone, the revered 18th century defender of liberty whose Commentaries on the Laws of England was a bestseller in colonial America, wrote that “the last auxiliary right” of free men is “having arms for their defense.”  Blackstone, England’s greatest jurist, said that the right to bear arms enables the “natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”

The Bush regime’s reversion to medieval methods of incarceration and torture are an indication that we now live in a time “when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.”  Why do the Democrats desire  Americans to be helpless in the face of oppression by the armed state.  How can it be that Democrats want Americans to be free from the threat of being thrown into dungeons and locked away without a court ever hearing evidence, but are prepared to deny Americans the ability to resist such horrendous treatment should it come their way?

In response to my question, one progressive acquaintance said that he wanted to reduce “gun violence.”  As guns are inanimate objects, I assume he meant violence committed by people who use guns instead of knives, fists or some other weapon.

“Gun violence” is not something committed by the vast majority of gun owners.  “Gun violence” is the preserve of the criminal elements, such as gangs fighting over drug turf. Criminals are already prohibited from owning guns, but criminals pay no more attention to this law than they do to laws against robbery, rape, and murder.  Why do Democrats think that disarming law-abiding citizens will disarm outlaws?  For how many decades have drugs been banned?  Does any Democrat think that the ban on drugs has succeeded?

All the ban on drugs has done is to make the drug trade profitable.  Now people fight over it.  How can guns be successfully banned when the war on drugs is a failure?  All a gun ban would do is to create a new criminal activity.

England, in violation of its unwritten constitution, banned ownership of pistols and rifles.  But now the police have to be heavily armed, because criminals are now armed, but not law-abiding citizens.  When I lived in England, the police were not armed with firearms.  I remember reading a few years after the passage of England’s gun ban that criminals were selling submachine guns on London street corners.  The police discovered a warehouse in London filled to the brim with machine guns that were being sold to all comers.

So much for gun bans.  They only disarm the law abiding and leave them defenseless.

Gun bans also greatly increase the crime rate.  When households are armed, robbers prefer houses where no one is home.  In England, criminals are no longer deterred from entering an occupied home.  The more people at home the better.  There might be someone to rape and someone to beat up.  There is little to fear from a disarmed household.

When I lived in the metro area of Washington DC, I resided on the Virginia side of the Potomac.  There was no problem with owning a gun in Virginia, but in DC, until the recent Supreme Court ruling, the only way a person could have a firearm was to keep it disassembled and unloaded.

The Washington “gun control” ordinance benefitted criminals.  The crime rate in DC was much higher than across the river.  Despite, or because of, the gun ban, DC was the murder capital of the US.

Police seldom, if ever, prevent a crime.  Their job is to appear after a crime is committed and to investigate with a view to identifying the perpetrator.  A large number of careful studies show that private gun ownership prevents far more crimes than police ever solve.  Criminals are routinely deterred, apprehended, and sometimes killed, by armed private citizens.

In contrast, police, especially the notorious SWAT teams, accidentally kill more law abiding citizens than they do criminals.  If anyone should be disarmed, it is the police. When police become militarized, as they increasingly are in the US, their attitude toward the public changes from protective to hostile. Militarized SWAT teams have established a record of showing up at the wrong address.

In Maryland recently, a SWAT team mistook the mayor and his wife for drug dealers.  A large number of armed men in black, and not identified as police, broke into the mayor’s home, killed the family’s Labrador dogs, and held the mayor and his wife spread eagled on the floor with loaded automatic weapons a few inches from their heads.  Fortunately for the mayor and his wife, a local policeman happened by and informed the paramilitary unit that it was the mayor and his wife whom the SWAT team was terrorizing.

Many progressives oppose gun ownership because they have sympathy for animals and oppose hunting.  However, most gun owners are not hunters.  Most members of gun clubs are content to shoot holes in paper targets or at clay pigeons.  They enjoy hand-eye coordination, the study of ballistics, and reloading for antique rifles.  An outing is really just a chance to get together, to talk about history and the load they are working up for their 1873 Winchester, and to enjoy each other’s company.

There is a vast number of small businesses that exist because of gun ownership.  Repairs, customizing, parts, sights, brass, bullets, primers, and powders for reloading, reloading equipment, targets, cleaning, refinishing, engraving, it goes on and on.  What would happen to these hundreds of thousands of people, to the family businesses and to the skills accumulated, if Americans are deprived of their Second Amendment rights? We would have another million people deprived of livelihood and on the streets.  Would they turn to crime?

The progressive canard is that the Second Amendment, unlike the rest of the amendments to the Constitution, is not a constitutional right for citizens.  Rather it is a right for a defunct organization known as the militia.  Why in the world would the Founding Fathers, when laying out the rights of individuals, confound the point by sticking in among individual rights a right for a military organization?

But so what if they did.  Americans have had squatter’ rights to firearms since 1776.  In 1992 when the Supreme Court revisited Roe v. Wade, the justices acknowledged that the legal argument behind the 1973 decision legitimizing abortion was flawed.  However, the justices ruled that women had exercised abortion rights for 19 years, and the passage of time had given women squatters’ rights to abortions.

Americans have exercised Second Amendment rights for 234 years.  Regardless of the meaning of the Second Amendment, the right of adverse possession makes gun rights final. To assault such a well grounded right is an act of tyranny.

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration.  He is the author of numerous books, including with Lawrence Stratton The Tyranny of Good Intentions, an account of how Americans have lost the protection of law. He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts@yahoo.com

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

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