I have to take issue with Pat Veesart's "A modest proposal" (March 29) as it would not have stopped any of the mass shootings that have occurred within the last 25 years. It would require a national gun registry/licensing scheme, which is fiercely opposed by defenders of the Second Amendment. The reason is simple: Such registries have been repeatedly used as a tool for confiscation of firearms from the law-abiding citizen via bureaucratic fiat leaving the citizen to the mercies of violent predators or worse, government tyranny.
Those who dismiss such concerns as paranoia haven't been reading the papers lately as emboldened progressives, such as former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, are openly calling for the repeal of the Second Amendment. That's a hard road but not impossible as many progressives are also calling for eliminating or re-writing the First Amendment's protections of free speech, the press, and religion to accommodate their political preferences. The Second Amendment is the ultimate guarantor of the First.
The only real guarantee of preserving any part of the Bill of Rights is the willingness and capability of the populace to defend those rights with deadly force. Without both the means and the will, the amendments are meaningless. The upcoming generation seems quite willing to surrender their rights to speech and conscience to conform to whatever is deemed acceptable by a majority.
The loss of the ability to defend those rights with deadly force negates the will to fight in most cases. It's not an easy thing to stand up to heavily armed "legally constituted authorities" willing to shoot to kill unarmed protesters. Civil disobedience was tried in China and Iran within the last 25 years and ended badly for the protesters; some estimates put the death toll in China as high as 20,000 civilians killed by the military and security forces. An uncertain number were also massacred in Iran a few years ago.
The will to fight is critical to preserve freedom with the desire for freedom usually strongest among those deprived of it. I observed elderly people in Iraq who walked miles to vote in a free election for the first time, even while under the threat of torture and death by terrorists. They had the will, and we provided the guns to protect most of them as they voted for the first time.
Ignorance of the evolution of the Second Amendment and American history is prevalent among academics and the general population. It's enough to make members of the WWII Greatest Generation ask themselves, "Why did we bother?"
The scholarship of professor Joyce Lee Malcom of the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University formed the basis of Justice Scalia's arguments in the District of Columbia v. Heller decision, which confirmed the Second Amendment as an individual right for citizens to keep and bear arms, not just a collective right to have a government sponsored militia. Her work is a thorn in the side of collectivist-statists, such as U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York who openly mocked her during her congressional testimony on the subject, but he was unable to muster intellectual arguments against her scholarship.
Malcom is an expert on the "area of constitutional history, focusing on the development of individual rights in Great Britain and America," according to her bio. She's not an avid firearm owner or user nor does she hunt. She is a lover of history and the Constitution that evolved from it.
An anecdote from her doctoral thesis, later her first book, (a 1,000-plus page tome on political tracts of 17th century England) published by the Royal Historical Society of Britain identified circumstances that led the English people to demand codification of their right to bear arms for self-defense. Villages and towns were at great risk from marauding mercenary armies, so locals formed militias for personal and collective defense. They acquired the best weapons they could, which were owned and used by individual peasantry. But when the king showed up, he demanded the local militia turn out with their best weapons. If they complied, he would confiscate their weapons. Subsequently, the people successfully demanded that the 1689 English Bill of Rights codify the right for "Protestants to have arms for their defense" irrespective of the wishes of the monarch.
Again, having a right and the will to keep it are separate issues. During the 19th century, private firearm ownership in Britain was common and crime was relatively low. However, by the mid-20th century crime began to spike. At the beginning of April, London had the dubious distinction of having a higher murder rate than New York City. There are a multitude of factors for this, but the major one is that Britain has disarmed its citizens via parliamentary decree. Thugs are emboldened: attacks on the elderly, sexual assaults upon women, burglaries/home invasions with occupants present are dramatically increasing with urban gang-related homicides exploding. Women in England are allowed to have "rape alarms" but not chemical repellents, lest it become an "offensive weapon" and harm their attacker.
All of the "modest proposals" previously mentioned were adopted in Britain, whose "subjects" (not citizens) are now defenseless.
Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor firstname.lastname@example.org.