How Many Bullets Are Enough?

Gun control advocates, in their infinite wisdom, seem to think they have the definitive answer to this question. The answer is "less than ten."

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is seeking extensive gun control legislation to "tighten the assault weapons ban" and "ban all large-capacity gun clips." To these ends, he addressed the gun "extremists" by quipping, "It's simple -- no one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs ten bullets to kill a deer."

The first time I remember being introduced to this feeble (yet somehow, incredibly persistent) argument for gun control was while watching an Eddie Murphy movie called The Distinguished Gentleman as a kid. In the film, Eddie Murphy's character is a con artist who scams his way into a vacant seat in Congress. He initially chums up to the House chairman of the energy committee, who is your stereotypical greedy, right-wing, oil-sucking politician that Hollywood loves to portray. He's anti-gay, anti-environment, anti-cancer prevention, and he also happens to be in bed with (you guessed it!) the pro-gun lobby.

So he and Eddie Murphy go duck hunting with military-grade rifles to promote such weapons' recreational use. The whole thing is purposefully absurd, with Eddie Murphy puzzling over these gun nuts firing hundreds of rounds in the air only to have one duck fall from the sky, which Eddie Murphy suggests "must've had a heart attack."

The implication is simple. Like Cuomo, the filmmakers expect the people watching to assume that the gun control debate centers on whether or not weapons capable of delivering large numbers of rounds have a legitimate recreational use. And if they do not have such utility, there is simply no need for Americans to have access to them.

This argument is entirely reliant on the hope that the electorate will never delve past this assumption. It requires that a large number of Americans be so unbearably ignorant and aloof that they fail to recognize that a firearm's recreational use has absolutely nothing to do with its usefulness in the context of the most obvious enumeration of our rights as Americans -- the Bill of Rights.

Our Founders had very specific intentions in regard to firearms and the protection of the people's right to own them. And the intent had little, if anything, to do with hunting or sport. The more practical use of guns is to kill people, should that unpleasant need arise.

Consider Thomas Jefferson's reasoning for why the citizenry must have firearms: "And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms."

Thomas Jefferson is not known to be a careless author. This statement clearly shows our Founders' resolve in keeping the public armed. Neither was James Madison, principal author of the Bill of Rights. And neither are the chosen words of the Second Amendment careless in conveying this message: "A well 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."

Notably absent is any specificity about hunting or killing game. Notably present is specificity about what and whose rights must not be infringed. It is the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" that shall not be infringed. The "well-regulated militia" is admittedly necessary, but it is not the militia's right that is specifically protected. It is the "people" whose right is specifically protected, because our founders understood that to preserve our liberties, we must have the ability to take up arms against our rulers.

Like it or not, this requires weapons capable of delivering a high volume of payload. Weapons required in killing people, not game. Nine bullets would hardly be enough to defend against government tyranny. So the suggestion that Americans should be limited to nine bullets is a pure betrayal of Constitutional intent.

And "the right to keep and bear arms" is not limited to the purpose of fighting government tyranny, but necessary for the broader preservation of liberty. My family and property may come under attack from nefarious elements separate from government, and defending against them also requires weapons designed to kill people.

And as William A. Levinson points out in American Thinker, nine bullets might not be enough to kill even one person, referring to instances reported about American fighting with the Moros in the Philippines. "The Moro insurrection," he writes, "exemplifies why even a 30-round rifle clip might not be enough to stop a crazed and determined attacker, such as one hopped up on a drug like PCP."

If thirty bullets may not be enough to bring down one assailant, what guarantee is there that nine bullets would protect my family against a single attacker?

And in the event that a law-abiding citizen is attacked by multiple assailants, such as a group of gang bangers, wouldn't it be even less likely that nine bullets would protect that citizen?

If those gang bangers happen to be members of a Mexican drug cartel, armed with the very weapons and high-capacity magazines that this government wishes to prohibit to law-abiding citizens, wouldn't the prospect of nine bullets providing sufficient defense become abysmally grim?

Finally, we might note that it would be extremely possible in this scenario that the very government which would deny such deadly weapons to its law-abiding citizens provided such deadly weapons to the criminal members of Mexican drug cartels -- through the government sanctioned program called Fast and Furious.

Is this sick and twisted irony not enough to convince Americans to abandon this foolishness and give up this mad quest to let the government disarm the public?

Governor Cuomo is engaging in obvious political gamesmanship, and nothing about it is honest. After all, if the discussion were truly honest, the question to be answered would never have been about how many bullets it takes to kill a deer. It would be about how many bullets it takes for a free man to defend against those people who would rob him of life, liberty, or property.

I don't know the answer to that question. But I do know that the number is a great deal more than nine, and that we should be wary about a government so eager to decide for us what that number should be.

William Sullivan blogs at: and can be followed on Twitter.