(Freedom States Alliance is pleased to post the following guest commentary from Cathie Whittenburg, Director of New England Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence).
Patriot – A person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interest.
Paranoid - Exhibiting or characterized by baseless and extreme fear or distrust of others.
On Monday, April 19th, the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, two rallies will take place in and around Washington, D.C. Those attending the Second Amendment March will gather on the grounds of the Washington Monument. While those going to the Restore the Constitution rally will meet first at Ft. Hunt National Park in Virginia and then travel to the banks of the Potomac River, about a mile from the National Mall, so they can “step up to the edge” of D.C. with their openly carried handguns and military-grade rifles.
While these two events are being organized by different groups, they share a common viewpoint of the role of guns in our society. Both see themselves as part of a people’s militia, one that is arming itself to, if necessary, “rise up and overthrow an oppressive, totalitarian government.” They see themselves as protectors against tyranny in government. They believe that filling their homes with Glock handguns and AK-47s is necessary for the security of a free state. They are gathering in our nation’s capitol to “rattle their sabers”, to tell the government that they are out there, prepared to “overthrow them under certain conditions.” And to underscore the notion that this uprising will come not through the peaceful means of the ballot box but from the barrel of a gun.
Are these self-appointed militia members patriots or paranoid?
These groups claim that their “God-given Constitutional right to keep and bear arms” is under attack. They see the Second Amendment as an absolute right, one that cannot in any way be questioned. They are outraged that a heavily armed protest across the street from The White House is prohibited and view this as “the local and federal governments complete trample of the Second Amendment rights of her citizens.” They see any effort to pass laws intended to keep guns out of the hands of criminals as a movement to ultimately take away all guns. Patriots or paranoid?
In 2008, the Supreme Court, for the first time in sixty years, ruled on the Second Amendment. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court ruled that “like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” The ruling made it absolutely clear that the right to have a gun in your home for protection exists side by side with the right to regulate the purchase, possession and carrying of guns.
But this ruling is not good enough for the organizers of the Second Amendment March and the Restore the Constitution rally. These self-appointed militia members have decided that they should be the ones to determine when and where it is appropriate to use a weapon when they are out in public.
They have determined that they have the judiciousness and prudence to be able to establish when they may fire a gun and end another person’s life. They have decided that they have the right to say when the government is a tyranny simply because they lost to the majority. And they are gathering in D.C. to tell elected officials that they need to be accountable to them and that “their jobs and their very lives depend on it.”
We have laws regulating the sale, possession and carrying of guns for a reason. Every year in this country guns kill more than 30,000 people. An additional 70,000 people are shot and injured, leaving physical and emotional scars that can last a lifetime.
More than 350,000 people are victims of armed robbery or aggravated assault with a firearm annually and countless others are threatened and intimidated with guns—all too frequently by so-called loved ones. There are endless examples of crimes, even murders, committed by people with concealed weapons permits. Every day people do stupid, reckless things with guns and innocent people end up being shot. We have gun laws for a reason. We don’t want any gun, anywhere, anytime, for whatever purpose.
April 19th is the anniversary of the start of the American Revolutionary War at the battles of Lexington and Concord. But it is also the anniversary of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. It is the day chosen by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols to carry out the most destructive act of domestic terrorism on American soil. McVeigh and Nichols killed 168 people, including 19 children under the age of 6, and wounded more than 680 in order to drive home their anti-government message.
It is not a coincident that this is also the date chosen by the Second Amendment March and the Restore the Constitution Rally. These demonstrations fan the flames of violence, intimidate state and federal government, and send the message that armed Americans should challenge and defy our sense of public order and the rule of law. Therefore, we must ask, are these groups patriots or just paranoid?