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The Second Amendment’s Enduring Relevance

Last Friday marked the six month anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Despite a quick call to action by President Obama following the shooting, federal efforts at gun control amounted to little more than increased demand for guns and ammunition nationwide. Following the failure of a bill to require universal federal background checks for firearms purchases in the Democrat-controlled Senate, anti-gun rhetoric only became more ignorant and juvenile from certain corners.

A number of pundits marked the Newtown anniversary with opinion pieces, some with cautious (nonetheless exaggerated) optimism for gun control at the state level, others repeating the same righteous indignation against any support for gun rights. What’s most telling is that these articles all assume that the gun-control debate is taking place in a vacuum, and recent events are overshadowed by Newtown. This is simply not true.

Just days after President Obama urged the graduating class at Ohio State University to “reject these voices” that claim “tyranny’s always lurking just around the corner,” the Internal Revenue Service scandal broke, showing that the IRS targeted Tea Party and other advocacy groups for invasive scrutiny and extensive delays when they applied for tax-exempt status. Despite continuing efforts by some to sell the “real” scandal as anything but the one the IRS and President have already acknowledged, Congressional investigation continues and paints the IRS as, at best, completely insensitive to political speech and association.

In the following days, we learned that the Department of Justice obtained more than two months of information from more than 20 telephone lines at the Associated Press in a leak investigation, and named Fox News reporter James Rosen a “co-conspirator” in another leak case in order to subpoena his phone records. These both marked a seriously overbroad targeting of journalists, and by extension the free press, on the flimsy justification that the DOJ needs to do this to keep the federal government clean. Naturally, the DOJ stands by its work.

Finally, the most controversial revelation came early this month with news that the National Security Agency is indiscriminately collecting telephone records of millions of foreign and domestic calls. The NSA also has a program, Prism, that “allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats” from Google, Facebook, Apple and other major companies. This unfortunately is garnering bipartisan defense in Washington (and even from Miss Alabama). Of course, coming so quickly on the tails of the IRS and DOJ scandals, it’s very difficult for many (myself included) to believe law, oversight and other safeguards will prevent these programs from being abused if indeed they’re even lawful in the first place.

The implication of these scandals on gun rights is self-evident. It is hard to say when acts of tyranny become an irredeemable tyrannical regime, and thus justification for revolution. I still believe we are far from that given the changes we can make with our other freedoms, but we must always have the option. Even with a well-armed citizenry government oversteps, and with the recent callousness by numerous federal agencies the Second Amendment is as relevant as ever.

None of this is to say that Newtown was not terrifying. But tyranny is far worse, and there are numerous public policies, some proposed right here in Wyoming, that can prevent mass shootings while respecting the right to bear arms. By ignoring recent events in discussions of Newtown and the resulting anti-gun efforts, gun-control advocates reveal a severe case of myopia that thankfully dooms their cause politically if not in principle. Nevertheless, their continuing rhetoric reveals just how far they’re willing to take the fight, and that the enduring principles of the Second Amendment will need enduring advocates.

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Thursday, 19 October 2017
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