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I just got back from “The Farm” in north Florida, our 10-acre weed patch with the world’s most poorly built mobile home on it. My sons and I play with guns up there. We play shotgun games like trap and skeet. We shoot clay targets on the backyard range. Blasting a clay Frisbee out of the sky with a shotgun is just the kind of noisy, reckless fun that old fat guys and eleven year olds can both appreciate. More importantly, my boys are learning a valuable skill and invaluable lessons about gun safety and grown-up responsibility.

The smell of cordite and spent brass always sharpens my attention to the Big Lie that passes for firearms reporting in the mainstream media. Many of the restrictions against scary looking rifles will expire on September 13, 2004 unless Congress votes to extend them. The media’s call for continued and expanded victim disarmament will become louder and more frenzied as that date approaches. The networks will use a multifaceted Big Lie to justify disarming the law-abiding. The Big Lie depends on the public’s ignorance and fear of firearms as much as it does on an ignorance of history. It never asks why the behavior of criminals should determine the rights of honest citizens.

CNN set the tone in a recent broadcast by reporter John Zarrella. In what was supposed to be a “range demonstration” of how much more dangerous banned weapons are than those now available, prime time audiences saw a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy fire what CNN claimed was a “pre-ban” AK-47 rifle. Bullets from the weapon smashed a pile of concrete blocks and punched through a bulletproof vest on a target dummy. The report was a double fraud. First, the rifle the deputy used was a fully automatic machine gun, a weapon that fires continuously with a single trigger pull. No such gun was available to the public before the ban. Nor will such weapons be available when the ban expires. Second, the deputy then fired a post-ban gun, causing no apparent damage to the target or the concrete blocks. How could that be? It’s easy with the magic of television and producers unburdened by integrity. While the camera focused on the target, the deputy fired into the ground deliberately missing the targets and giving the false impression that post-ban rifles were no more lethal than snowballs. Outraged phone calls and mail forced CNN to broadcast the truth.

The whole broadcast was a fraud designed to spread the Big Lie. CNN’s fraud is just an early volley in what will be a long barrage of media promotions designed to extend and expand the “assault weapons” ban. The Big Lie is that civilian small arms are less powerful than those used by the military and that civilians have no use for such weapons. Both arguments ignore our history and the clearly stated purpose of the Second Amendment — to prevent tyranny in government. 

The Founders didn’t beat around the issue. The militia is all of us. The weapons we should keep and bear are military small arms.

Patrick Henry: “…the great object is that every man be armed. Everyone who is able might have a gun.”

Thomas Jefferson: “No free man should be debarred the use of arms.”

Richard Henry Lee, the “father of the Bill of Rights”: “A militia, when properly formed, are in fact the people themselves, and include all men capable of bearing arms.”

Mr. Lee again on the purpose of the militia: “To preserve liberty it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.”

Eldridge Gerry, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, who originally voted against the Constitution because it had no Bill of Rights: “What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty.” 

I could go on, but you get the idea. The Second Amendment isn’t about duck hunting or shotgun games. It’s not about “sporting arms,” a term, by the way, copied from the Nazi gun laws of 1938 into our own Gun Control Act of 1968. The Second Amendment is about limiting the power of government. It is the second item in the Bill of Rights because it guarantees all the others. 

The argument that modern rapid-fire weapons are too dangerous to trust to civilians ignores the Founders’ intent that the populace be able to defend itself against standing armies and tyranny in government.

It is only recently the armed citizen has had to sacrifice firepower to the average soldier. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries civilians who could afford it, and most could, were better armed than any soldier. Since the Civil War, the U.S. Army’s Office of the Director of Civilian Marksmanship has sold surplus military small arms of all kinds to the public. Throughout the 30’s and the Second World War, well into the 1960’s, civilians could still own powerful military weapons, and usually buy them from the U.S. Army. Civilian sporting arms used for large game like elephant, buffalo and bear are even more powerful than standard military rifles. 

The first federal gun control act came about because of the fiasco of alcohol prohibition and the gang wars that grew out of organized crime. Because Americans then were keenly aware of the limits of Federal power, the National Firearms Act of 1934 didn’t ban any weapons, but instead placed what was for the time a substantial tax of $200 on the transfer of weapons the government wanted to regulate — mainly machine guns and short barreled shotguns and rifles. Although machine guns were as rare in crimes in the 1930’s as “assault weapons” are in crimes today, famous shoot-outs with the likes of “Machine Gun” Kelly, “Pretty Boy” Floyd and John Dillinger caused public outrage. The NFA finally allowed soldiers to be more heavily armed than civilians. Even then, most soldiers did not outgun civilians until many years later.

The NFA and later laws now prevent the sale of surplus military automatic weapons to civilians. Congress added further restrictions to ownership of military type rifles in 1986 and 1994. These restrictions have grown to include banning weapons that simply look scary or hold more than 10 bullets, as if painting an AK-47 pink instead of black would make it more acceptable for civilian use.

The argument that military rifles are the “weapon of choice” of dope dealers and bank robbers is just another part of the Big Lie. Military type rifles account for less than 1% of all criminal firearms abuse. Criminals are misguided but not stupid. They prefer small, concealable guns for protection and extortion to 10 pound, 3 foot long rifles like the AK-47 or M-16.

Restrictions such as those set to expire next year turn the intent of the Second Amendment on its head and run counter to American tradition. Forbidding civilian possession of small arms amounts to a massive transfer of power to government. Governments in this century have proven less than trustworthy. They have murdered over 50 million of their own citizens in genocides alone. That figure doesn’t include the millions of civilian and military casualties of war. There is no reason to believe that governments can always and forever be trusted to defend the civil rights of all its citizens.

As the expiration of the “assault weapons” ban approaches we can expect the media to use every sniper rampage, terrorist bombing, domestic shooting, and tragic gun accident as an excuse to further spread the Big Lie. Those who have the nerve to point out the purpose of the Second Amendment can expect vilification as extremists and “gun nuts.” Even those normally inclined to mistrust government may be so busy cheerleading for Arabian conquest as to be willingly disarmed for “national security.”

Never the less, I still believe the ballot box will allow us to keep possession of the cartridge box. The law expires just before the 2004 election. Politicians know the voters have not been kind to opponents of gun rights. Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee on the issue.

Me? I’m throwing in with the gun nuts, guys like Patrick Henry and his boys, all of us heavily armed and very polite. I urge you to do the same. Mr. Henry would never have voted for someone who wouldn’t trust him with a gun, neither will I. Neither should you.