To defend our freedom, trust law, not guns

It’s hard to be on middle ground on a hot national topic like gun control, but that’s where I find myself these days.

Constructing public policy with the goal of stopping future Sandy Hook-style shootings is a fool’s errand. People are people, and outside of science-fiction policing that predicts future crimes – as in the Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report” – a free society by definition remains vulnerable to the rare and the unthinkable.

All the gun control laws a free society could conceive didn’t prevent Norway’s Anders Breivik from killing 77 people at a youth camp outside Oslo. Clamping down on gun show sales and limiting the number of rounds a clip holds will not stop that kind of act. Leaders who engage in this Kabuki are not leaders at all.

On the other hand, we’re kidding ourselves if we don’t think the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to arm themselves against a tyrannical government. What part of “Congress shall make no law” don’t you get?

In polite circles, we’re willing to chat about the Second Amendment in terms of the need for personal protection or the joys of hunting. But that’s not what the Second Amendment is about. Shocking as it sounds today, it’s about the possibility of shooting the police and soldiers of a government gone bad.

But here’s the rub: In 1776, a farmer with a few sons and a well-stocked firearms locker could hold off a small band of redcoats.

The advancement of weaponry makes achieving that same level of balance ridiculous, unless we’re willing to allow the people next door to warehouse rocket-propelled grenades, chemical weapons and a backyard full of tanks and drones. And even then, I’ll take the Marines and the points.

So I find myself bridling at politicians who propose stupid rule changes to stop the next Sandy Hook, but in reality do nothing but limit good people from owning and carrying guns. More – not less – responsible gun ownership makes Americans safer.

That said, I can’t buy the idea that in 2013 there’s any weapon I can possess that would give me a fighting chance against a tyrannical government. Even if I got all my neighbors at the Las Vegas Country Club (and we still have quite a few aging Mafia types around), we wouldn’t stand a chance against the U.S. military.

Look, if the president, with zero oversight, can target an American citizen for death by drone and kill him and his family at their dinner table in some far off land, he can do that to me and you. And our little six-shooters in the nightstand drawer aren’t going to protect us from that.

The only real protection for Americans against a wrongheaded government is the genius of the American system of checks and balances and the law itself. The battle cry was once “Give me liberty or give me death.” Today the role of the loyal opposition has never been more important. It sounds a little silly, but with the tendencies of this current government to circumvent tradition and the Constitution, the battle cry today is “Give me gridlock or give me death.”

Some of my hard-core Second Amendment friends like to cite the internment of Japanese-Americans as an example of the need for armed resistance. Count me out of that insanity. When our government illegally rounded up Americans based upon their ethnicity, the only saving grace came from the law, not from armed resistance. While admittedly (and sadly) the law initially failed to prevent the internment by executive order at the hands of that scoundrel known as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (a liberal, as usual), the country’s laws eventually got the injustice rescinded 24 months later.

So, when it comes to personal safety, I’ll keep my handgun close, thank you very much. If push comes to shove with Barack Obama or some other president with FDR tendencies to violate the Constitution via executive order, I’ll take the law as my first and best protector.

Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at

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