The Las Vegas shooter who murdered some five-dozen country-music fans and injured over 500 more had barely cashed in his chips when Democrats, celebrities, and the punditocracy—not yet knowing exactly which guns the killer used—began calling for their favorite gun-control measures and blaming the NRA, Republicans, and even country-music fans themselves for this latest episode of “gun violence.”
Their statements—they are not arguments—are familiar and tiresome. No one needs “these guns” (Jimmy Kimmel’s tears turn AR-15s into AK-47s and M16s) for personal self-defense or hunting; the Founding Fathers didn’t want us to have machine guns; thoughts and prayers aren’t enough; Europe and Australia live in luxurious peace because of their massive gun-control laws; “this isn’t about gun control, but about common sense,” ad nauseam.
A Republican who isn’t cowed by the media—a rare bird now on the endangered-species list—will typically respond with limited but fact-based arguments and similes, pointing out the numbers involved in mass killings in gun-restricted countries and reminding us that trucks have been used by jihadists to mow down innocents, yet we aren’t banning trucks. All true.
And yet there is a deeper cultural phenomenon here, a barrier that cannot be breached by facts and logic. As argued regularly in these pages, this barrier does not demarcate “two Americas”; rather, it is between America as she exists and those who hate her, who imagine her always to have been an idea, and who feel compelled to make her conform to their mental image by any means necessary. In other words, revolutionaries.
The Founding Fathers did not wish for anyone to have “machine guns.” Neither did the state ratifying conventions, who properly speaking are the founders of our Union. This is because machine guns did not yet exist, nor did banana clips, revolvers, or compound bows. Yet rather than joining with the producers of Hamilton in creating caricatures of 18th-century men based on our own prejudices, we might instead remember what lies behind our commitment to the right to keep and bear arms.
Ruled by the British Crown, our American ancestors lived as colonists for decades under “salutary, benign neglect,” as Russell Kirk put it, which was fair considering the hardships they faced during their errand into the wilderness. But when Parliament began to treat them as cash cows and not as citizens, violating their constituted order, they “prevented” revolution (Burke) by declaring independence and unifying their states for defensive and economic purposes. Providing for the “common defense” meant, for the most part, giving Congress the authority to declare war and call forth the state militias. These militias comprised citizen-soldiers, mostly farmers, who brought their best, most deadly assault weapons along when they were mustered, since the purpose of war, after all, is to kill the enemy quickly and efficiently.
Certainly, it would have made little sense for citizen-soldiers to have possessed artillery, as they would not have needed it on their farms, and of course weaponry had not advanced to today’s levels and could not at that time be produced industrially, en masse. But to argue from those circumstances is to miss the larger historical reality, one that is utterly ignored by today’s snowflakes who tremble in shame and embarrassment before Europeans and their gun laws: We are not in Europe, nor are we Europeans.
The point is also missed by those who seek to fight leftist multiculturalism, only to fall off the horse on the other side. Undeniably, as a country, a culture, and a nation, we have a European, in fact a British, heritage. But we are Americans, forged in unique circumstances, and the right of the citizen to possess the means to deliver a powerful, lethal response to threats against the civil order is not an insignificant privilege that can be removed without damaging the rest of our traditional liberties. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights came not just from English common law, the Roman Republic, Reformed theologians, and Locke, but from our colonial experience. Our Second Amendment assumes that, as free citizens, we will be armed to the teeth, not just to hunt turkeys but so that we may join others under duly constituted authority to defend ourselves against invaders and revolutionaries.
Our Constitution confirmed the constitution that was already there, and can still be seen in such people as the country music fans gathered in Las Vegas, who (as has been widely reported) did not wait for permission from authorities to protect the weaker among them, shielding women with their bodies, loading casualties onto the backs of their pickup trucks, and speeding them to the hospital. Many of the concertgoers told reporters that the first thing they did when returning safely to their vehicles was reach for their lawful firearms, licensed to carry by their home states. Yet in their name the left is now clamoring for restrictions on their liberties, insisting that, Constitution and constitution be damned, homicidal maniacs can be stopped only by the central government in Washington, D.C.
Decades of waves of immigrants—including white people from Europe—have changed the composition of the nation, but they cannot change the American character, which as an historic reality exists whether its scoffers like it or not. Today, unassimilated antigun nuts are the same ideologues who insist that millions of unassimilated illegals have the “right” to treat Middle Americans as cash cows and, ultimately, to disenfranchise them in their own country. And this will surely happen, if more Americans do not remember who they are and teach their children to refuse to be cowed by the calumny of revolutionaries.
Aaron D. Wolf (1973-2019) was Chronicles' executive editor. His writings have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers. He was a frequent guest on Issues, Etc. (Lutheran Public Radio) and The Paul Youngblood Show (nta.fm), and has appeared on several other radio programs, including The Tom Clark Show (Wisconsin Public Radio) and Extension 720 With Milt Rosenberg (WGN).