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Gun Owners Should Relax

You can still accumulate an arsenal

If you’re a hunter who goes into the woods in order to put food on your family’s table, you can relax. Government agents won’t be coming around trying to confiscate your rifle – unless you hunt out of season or without any required licenses.

If you’re a trophy hunter who kills for sport, you might need to worry about the safety of your soul, but you don’t need to worry about keeping your weapon safe at your side. The government doesn’t care about the morality regarding what you shoot or why – unless, of course, you shoot the wrong animal at the wrong time.

If you own a few handguns or shotguns for purposes of defending yourself and your family, you can relax, too. Even if the government wanted your weapons, it will never come looking for them – unless a vast majority of the public demands it. That simply won’t be happening, not in my lifetime or yours. But it’s best to have that weapon registered, for there will be hard questions asked and sanctions imposed if you use an illegal gun in self-defense.

Of course, you’re more likely to shoot someone by mistake than use it in defense, as happened on Gun Appreciation Day (also known as Martin Luther King Jr. Day) this year when five people at three different gun shows were wounded by guns that were accidentally fired. But that’s your right, and it’s not going away.

If you feel the need to keep a cache of weapons ready in order to fight back against a tyrannical government that threatens your freedom, you might want to rethink your position. History is not on your side. Public opinion is against you, and after all, the people own the government and we have exactly the kind of government we deserve.

The success rate of armed insurrection in America is pretty bleak from an insurrectionist’s point of view – it’s zero. That’s no surprise; the constitutional right to bear arms was created primarily to help the small federal government deal with people who challenged its authority when there was no standing army or federal police force available. Those uprisings included slave rebellions, which were a great concern to people like Patrick Henry, who proclaimed “Give me liberty or give me death” but offered only submission or death to victims of the slave trade. As time passed, however, federal and state governments grew beyond any need to raise a militia of citizens to put down uprisings.

When the primary weapons were muskets and sabers and rebels traveled on foot or horseback, it was possible to commit treason and have some success — for a little while. A small region might contain enough sympathizers to support a local tax revolt like the Whiskey Rebellion until people started dying and the cost became too great.

Today’s revolutionaries have no hope of overcoming the number of agents the federal government can bring to bear, and zero chance of matching its firepower. They also lack any genuine public support; when faced with a choice between compliance with authority and the certainty of death or imprisonment, all but a small few of those who talk about armed resistance against tyranny today will just stay home and keep quiet.

You can still put together an impressive arsenal. You will always have that right, even if you buy only regulated guns — and if you want illegal hardware, there’s an easily accessible black market just waiting to fill your particular needs. But if you think an armed revolution is necessary to secure your freedom, you’ll need to recruit at least half of the combined military forces to your cause. Good luck with that.

So let’s all tone down the rhetoric in this national discussion over how to prevent massacres from happening in our public places. There are more guns than people in America, about half of us own at least one, and the supply always meets the demand. There is no proposal to take existing guns away from anyone except felons and dangerously unstable individuals. The proposed ban on so-called “assault” weapons would be a return to previous policy and has a majority of popular support. Proposed limits on the size of cartridges and magazines can be debated or negotiated calmly. Concealed weapon permits will continue to be issued by all states which regulate it now.

Every aspect of gun ownership can be examined without fear, because Amendment II of the Constitution is pretty clear – the right to bear arms cannot be denied, but can be regulated. It was worded to allow states to control their own residents. It has almost universal support among the citizenry and the institutions of power. It’s not going away ...