Right to bear arms lessons available on TV, news media
September 1, 2011
by Joseph P. Tartaro
Just before the tsunami of rioting, violence and arson hit London, and as the struggle for freedom continued to escalate in Syria and Libya, I happened to watch a television rerun of a 1930s movie version of Charles Dickens’ 19th century classic novel about the French Revolution titled “The Tale of Two Cities.”
I was struck by the lesson the book, which might still be read in some schools or colleges, and the movie, available at least on cable TV, should have provided us about the importance of the right of average citizens to keep and bear arms.
History is supposed to teach us something, but there are many people who never really learn.
Just a few years after the American people, with the help of some foreign volunteers, had taken up arms against the most powerful government and army of that period, average French citizens were inspired and driven to overthrow an oppressive monarchial system of government. The problem was the people of France had few arms, most of which were primitive farm implements. When they finally stormed the Bastille they were about to fail, until some of the trained French soldiers joined their fight, equipped with “modern” military arms.
In Dickens’ version of history, it is noteworthy that the monarchists, to preserve their regime, had brought in borrowed German mercenary troops who would have no political, cultural or familial connection that would prevent them from confronting and killing the French people.
I was further reminded of the 21st century parallel when I saw news reports from Libya indicating that the Qaddafi regime was using mercenary troops from neighboring Chad to fight and kill the Libyan people who have been fighting to overthrow his dictatorship. Other news stories reported that while the Libyan people struggled to take control of their own country with common military and sporting small arms, the most important assistance and support they received from other countries came in the form of modern artillery, machineguns, rockets and communications equipmentnot to mention some aerial support.
Needless to say, a single-shot, double barrel or even modern semi-auto or pump shotgun might be useful against rioters but modern, high capacity semi-autos are more useful against a mob, or an oppressive government.
In my column in the last issue, I likened unarmed people to sheep who are easily sheared or butchered by tyrannical governments.
Just a few days later I read a foreign news report from Syria, where another dictatorship that has ruled that Middle Eastern country for over 40 years, is now systematically killing dissident citizens with the latest military weaponry. Ironically, one of the survivors of that government’s oppression and political cleansing was reported as saying “the government is killing us like sheep.”
That’s a stunning way to have your thesis confirmed!
Now, widespread recent rioting, arson and looting across London provides another lesson on why civilized societies should guarantee their citizens the right to personal self-protection and the tools to make it possible.
Rioting that reportedly began over the recent police shooting of a man exploded into anarchy, leaving British citizens stunned and fearful. People have been forced to flee from their homes and scatter like sheep.
In Great Britain, firearms are so strictly regulated that relatively few people own them legally, and self-defense is treated like a criminal offense. That nation’s citizens are literally at the mercy of the predatory mobs that roam at will.
The proscription on possession of small arms and on the moral and historic concept of self-defense from predatory attacks has not only damaged British citizens and small business owners physically and financially but psychologically as well.
History is being made daily and perhaps many in the general public, in the USA and abroad, may take knowledge and principle from what they learn is happening around the world. But some politicians, academics and media executives either can’t or won’t learn. The concept of a right to the means of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is still opposed by many from some sense of distorted logic. They still resist the right to keep and bear arms.
In the US, 48 states provide some means to legally possess and carry concealed firearms. In Wisconsin, where citizens have already possessed a right to carry firearms openly, residents who begin to apply under new state right-to-carry laws, will be able to do so after Nov. 1.
However, in Illinois, the struggle to restore the moral right to the means to self-defense continues, especially in the courts. The Illinois Legislature may still be divided on allowing residents to carry concealed weapons, but Fox Valley police chiefs and sheriffs are much less split.
Of the dozen area law enforcement leaders contacted by The Courier-News, none said they opposed concealed carry.
For Sleepy Hollow Police Chief Jim Montalbano, carrying guns and defending oneself strike very close to home, the newspaper reported.
Last fall, Montalbano was attacked by a man trying to break into his home and ended up grappling with the would-be intruder.
“Actually, I was carrying a gun at the time, but I didn’t need to use it and he had no idea I was armed,” Montalbano told the newspaper. “The guy was high on drugs and had no idea I was a policeman. But if he had gotten inside the house and was threatening my wife, maybe I would have used the gun.”
Montalbano said he sees a gun as a “precision instrument,” a tool that can be used for good or bad, and would support allowing concealed-carry so long as anyone licensed to carry a gun were required to go through proper training.”
“We don’t have problems with legal guns owned by responsible, trained people. We have a problem with irresponsible and criminal people who have guns,” Montalbano said.
Montalbano is in the majority locally. While some department leader’s felt more strongly than others, all who were contacted would at least consider supporting concealed carry legislation.
And that response probably is not surprising. The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association long has been in favor of concealed carry. Last year, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police went from “against” concealed carry to “neutral”a significant change after years of opposition. And other police chiefs and sheriffs contacted by the Courier Journal concurred with Montalbano’s viewpoint.
Law enforcement’s opinion on any potential legislation likely will weigh heavily as the debate continues in Illinois, because people who do not have a clear grounding in the moral and legal concepts involved in possession of firearms for self-defense, rely on the “law enforcement experts.”
Since Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed that state’s concealed carry bill into law in July, Illinois is the last state with a complete ban on carrying concealed firearms, or even openly carried firearms.
Even in Wisconsin, there is still a residue of opposition, probably engendered of equal parts lack of education and fear of the unknown. In Wisconsin, some localities and universities are still struggling with how to deal with the new state gun law.
But law enforcement, particularly in central Wisconsin, where the Stevens Point Journal recently polled some law enforcement officers, the police aren’t too worried about people starting to carry concealed weapons under the state’s new law. They expect the majority of people carrying concealed will be law-abiding people who have proper permits and pose no threat.
So, while we can’t do anything for the people of Great Britain, Libya or Syria, we can learn and educate others about the fact that good and bad will always co-exist, and the good must have the means to defend themselves against common criminals and oppressive governments.
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