States and local communities are using coronavirus to shut down gun stores


Thanks to the coronavirus, Americans are buying guns.  They viscerally understand that in unstable times, the police, who are the front line of the criminal justice system, may be so overwhelmed that they can no longer appear on the scene in time to save citizens from looters and other marauders.

Various jurisdictions, however, are responding by foreclosing Americans' right to keep and carry arms.  The sheriff in Alameda County, California, forced a gun store owner to shut down because his store was not "essential."  The Los Angeles County sheriff closed gun stores as "nonessential."  New Jersey's Democrat governor, Phil Murphy, issued an executive order shutting down gun sales.  Even in Wake County, North Carolina, the sheriff is stopping new gun applications.

Significantly, although Pennsylvania's governor tried to end gun sales, he backed down when the Supreme Court, although generally allowing the executive order, nevertheless held that, as regards guns, he could not block a constitutional right.  The court was correct.  Nothing good ever flows from allowing the government to deprive people of their right to bear arms.  The Second Amendment's origin proves that.

Looking back at the American Revolution, it's easy to assume that the result — an American victory — was a foregone conclusion.  Right up until the bitter end, though, the odds favored the British, who had the world's most powerful military.

The American advantage was that, because they were far from "civilization," guns were a necessity.  One does not go into the frontier unarmed.  Too many people had untamed forests pressing against their fragile communities to manage without at least one gun.

Because of their circumstances, the American colonists didn't just possess arms; they knew how to use them.  While George Washington despaired of turning his volunteers into a well drilled, spit-and-polish military, at least he didn't have to worry about weapons training.  His ragtag army knew how to load, aim, and shoot.  If the Continental Congress could provide the bullets, many of the colonists willingly provided their guns and know-how.

The Revolutionary War had been over for eight years when the Founders enacted the Bill of Rights.  It was in that context — the aftermath of a small colony's successful revolution against the most powerful nation in the world — that the Founders determined that American citizens would never again be subordinate to, rather than in control of, their government.

For this reason, the first ten amendments to the Constitution do not define government power; they limit it.  More importantly, they limit it not by having the government graciously extend a few privileges to America's citizens, privileges that the government can as easily revoke, but instead by stating rights that individuals automatically possess without regard to the government's powers.

The second of these amendments — one of only two amendments dedicated exclusively to a single principle — refers to every citizen's inherent (not government-granted, but inherent) right to possess arms:

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.

If the Second Amendment were written in modern English, the Founders might have phrased it this way:

The only way citizens can defend themselves against a tyrannical government is to create their own army (which, obviously, is separate from the government's army).  The people, therefore, have an overarching and innate right to have guns, and the government may not interfere with that right.

Regarding that "well regulated militia," the revolutionaries' experience had shown them that citizens don't need to have a standing militia that is always ready to fight.  Instead, citizens need the freedom to come together as a well regulated militia on an "as needed" basis (the need being the necessity to secure individual freedom against the government).  This ability to transform from peaceful citizens into an effective militia when needed requires a citizenry that, on its own initiative, is both well armed and competent with those arms.

The Founders understood that every government has the potential to become tyrannical (although they couldn't have predicted in their wildest dreams the mad scope of worldwide government killing in the 20th and 21st centuries).  They therefore embedded in the Bill of Rights the ultimate barrier against tyranny: an armed population that, if needed, can instantly transform itself into a citizen army.

Yes, some of those armed citizens will do bad things with their guns, but even at their worst, they are insignificant killers compared to rogue governments.  As a matter of principle, supported by data, an armed citizenry is safer than an unarmed one when it comes to the biggest, most bloodthirsty, most deadly predator known to man: government.

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