A Shadow on the Second Amendment
I’m reprinting this for a second time here from the July 15, 2009 issue of The New Gun Week.
The assassination attempt made yesterday on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D, AZ) is exactly the sort of politically-motivated violence I discussed in my Gun Week guest editorial published 18 months ago. I contemplated that the target would be President Obama. That’s it’s a moderate Democratic Party Jewish Congresswoman in Arizona doesn’t change my point: that there are always what I called “demented clowns” who attach themselves to any cause, and whose identification with that cause can damage it, perhaps irreparably.
Jared Lee Loughner’s ravings on YouTube against fiat money will be used to dismiss as demented anyone who now advocates gold and silver as money, and charges the Federal Reserve to be a criminal fraud that dwarfs anything done by Bernard Madoff.
His choosing a politician who voted to expand the powers of the federal government — and who deserved a Tea Party challenge for that reason — gives sympathy to those who advocate for greater government control over our lives.
There is a message here that must be taken from it: bad things done in the name in a good cause must not be used to dismiss the rightness of the cause.
For murdering nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, and five others, may Jared Lee Loughner swiftly get a needle in his arm that delivers him to Hell.
— JNS, January 9, 2011
Anybody old enough remembers 1968 as the year the Second Amendment went into a coma.
Five years earlier, November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by rifle fire in Dallas.
Then, April 4th, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated by rifle fire in Memphis.
Two months after King’s murder, June 5th, 1968, after celebrating victory in the California Democratic Presidential Primary, President Kennedy’s younger brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated with a handgun at the Ambassador Hotel in L.A.
Twenty weeks after the second Kennedy murder, the Gun Control Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson October 22nd, 1968, imposed federal gun controls on the sale or transfer of common firearms. Now any firearm crossing state lines had to be transferred or sold only through a federally licensed firearms dealer and records kept on buyers.
Why this history lesson?
Ever since June 26th, 2008, when the Supreme Court in its Heller decision recognized the Second Amendment as constitutionally enshrining an individual right to keep and bear arms, there’s been guarded optimism among Second Amendment proponents that a slow-and-steady march toward extinction of our rights had finally been reversed. The Ninth Circuit Appellate Court, which in its 1996 decision HICKMAN v. BLOCK wrote “[i]t is clear that the Second Amendment guarantees a collective rather than an individual right,” reversed itself on the basis of Heller and on April 20th in NORDYKE v. KING not only recognized the Second Amendment as an individual right but incorporated it through the 14th Amendment as one that must be recognized by state and local governments. On June 2nd the Seventh Circuit reached an opposite conclusion in NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA v. CITY OF CHICAGO, increasing likelihood the Supreme Court will have to decide between them.
But the Supreme Court’s Heller ruling was 5-4, and if the Court shifts to an anti-Second Amendment make-up, Heller could be short-lived.
Second Amendment politics is therefore still critical and politically motivated murders using firearms – particularly those identified with conservative causes – could once again swing the balance of public opinion against the Second Amendment.
We’ve had two political murders identified with conservative causes – both using firearms – within as many weeks.
On May 31st anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder, using a handgun, fatally shot George R. Tiller, MD, while Dr. Tiller was handing out prayer books during services at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas. Roeder is reported to have been a member of the “anti-government Freemen Militia” in Topeka, and a 2005 court ruling in a custody case identified him as schizophrenic. Dr. Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services in Wichita was one of only three clinics nationwide performing late-term abortions. It wasn’t the first time Dr. Tiller had been a shooting victim. On August 19th, 1993, using a handgun, anti-abortion activist Shelley Shannon had shot Dr. Tiller in both arms.
Ten days after the church shooting, June 10th, James von Brunn carried a .22 rifle into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and shot to death African-American security guard, Stephen T. Johns. Motive? FBI Agent Richard Farnsworth filed a sworn affidavit that he found a handwritten note in von Brunn’s car that reads, “You want my weapons – this is how you’ll get them. The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews.”
Clearly both Roeder and von Brunn identified with conservative causes. The Right to Life movement is right wing, as are “anti-government militias.” Not only did von Brunn worry about losing his firearms but in 1981 he’d pulled a sawed-off shotgun at Federal Reserve headquarters, threatening to take the Board hostage. As author, myself, of a novel in which the Federal Reserve causes a U.S. economic meltdown – a point of agreement between this particular right-wing Jew and this particular right-wing neo-Nazi — there’s no question for me that right-wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck are engaging in a disgustingly dishonest game of spin when they try to convince their listeners that James von Brunn’s Nazi affections are left-wing, and his anti-Semitism no worse than President Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright’s.
As my fellow libertarian novelist, Brad Linaweaver, pointed out to me, the Nazi Party in 1930’s Germany came to power by fusing left-wing economics with right-wing nationalism.
And as far as I know, the only thing the Reverend Wright has ever shot off is his mouth.
The issue is not whether Roeder or von Brunn were hateful and mentally unbalanced. Of course they were. Neither one could have passed a firearms background check, particularly the convicted felon, James von Brunn.
Nor is it reasonably deniable that there are as many hateful and mentally unbalanced individuals on the hard left. Mega-deaths achieved not only by Nazis but Communists – plus endless ethnically and religiously motivated killings in Ulster, Rwanda, and Sarajevo – leave few political movements free of bloody hands.
Unlike much of the rest of the world violence is still the exception rather than the norm in the struggle for American political change. But no “American exceptionalism” can shield us from political violence if we’re not as vigilant in purging the haters who join our causes as we are in pursuing our love of those values which make our lives fruitful, free, and just.
Silent tolerance of bigots and haters is an intolerable danger to our just causes – particularly when one of those causes is the deterrence to despotism the Framers intended widespread private firearms to be. Our movement has a good track record in rooting out and shunning extremists, but that’s not good enough. We also need to admit openly that evil men do walk among us, and to tell the pundits who claim to educate us that that lying in defense of our rights is no virtue.
Most importantly, we need to remain civil in disputes with our opponents, even while we fortify our backbones with steel.
The Second Amendment movement just can’t tolerate a Bill O’Reilly who – knowing that Dr. Tiller had previously been shot at and his clinic bombed — repeatedly and editorially called George Tiller a “baby killer.” O’Reilly boasts The O’Reilly Factor has the highest ratings in cable/satellite television news. O’Reilly knew there are always psychotics waiting for a justification to commit mad violence and it was as foreseeable endlessly repeating “Tiller the Baby Killer” was inviting murder as it was for King Henry II’s infamous remark that led to the assassination of Thomas à Becket: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”
It’s a lesson I learned in 1994.
While promoting my book Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns on the Chuck Baker radio show in Colorado Springs in August, 1994, I implored listeners to burn up Congress’s phone lines to stop passage of the unconstitutional Federal Assault Weapon Bill.
One listener was Francisco Martin Duran, who was so worked up by our feverish rhetoric that he travelled to Washington D.C. and on October 29th, 1994 opened fire with his SKS semi-auto rifle on the White House lawn. Duran was convicted of trying to assassinate President Clinton and sentenced to 40 years. Like Roeder, Duran was mentally unbalanced. Like von Brunn he had a criminal record.
Knowing that, I still now temper my rhetoric whenever I’m at a microphone.
I have as many policy differences with President Obama as anyone else in the conservative or libertarian movements, particularly with economic policies. Nonetheless I voted for Obama over the slightly-more centrist John McCain. I saw Obama’s election as an opportunity to show the world once-and-for-all that America had moved beyond its sad history of race slavery and Jim Crow. It hurts me when I receive email from a conservative friend with an animated cartoon of a shucking-and-jiving dancing Obama that easily could come from the KKK.
It frightens me when Sean Hannity churns listeners by endless harping on the President’s guilt-by-association with a 1960’s anti-Vietnam-War terrorist and oppression-legacy black minister, or calling the President’s quest for an end to violence between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs “selling out Israel.”
How can Hannity claim to be fair-and-balanced when he refuses to inform his listeners that President Barack Hussein Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Israel Emanuel, is an observant Jew whose father fought with the Irgun underground in the founding of Israel and, himself, served as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli military base during the Persian Gulf war of 1991?
I have no problem with anyone opposing any Obama policies that we consider compromise our founding principles or weaken our rights.
But neither can we Second Amendment supporters tolerate extreme rhetoric directed at a President certified as achieving electoral victory who’s taken the oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The remedy provided by the Constitution, should he fail to live up to that oath, is impeachment by the House and trial in the Senate – not a knife on the floor of the Senate or rifle fire aimed at a presidential motorcade.
God help us if another demented clown — even remotely associated with any of our causes — shoots at the first black President of the United States.
I do not believe the Second Amendment could survive it.
It’s not like change can’t be inspired by civilized rhetoric.
Read Thomas Jefferson’s harshest summation about King George III in the Declaration of Independence:
“A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
Jefferson didn’t even need to drop the F-bomb.
–J. Neil Schulman
J. Neil Schulman is author of the book, Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns, of which Charlton Heston said, “Mr. Schulman’s book is the most cogent explanation of the gun issue I have yet read. He presents the assault on the Second Amendment in frighteningly clear terms. Even the extremists who would ban firearms will learn from his lucid prose.”
This article is Copyright © 2009 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
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