Somber Respect for Those Who’ve Ensured Our Right to “Fight” Among Ourselves


Today, an anti-gun group tagged me on social media with a post using Memorial Day as a pivot to oppose Tiverton’s prospective declaration of status as a Second Amendment Sanctuary Town:

Beautiful day to remember those who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms.
Also a day to contemplate that those freedoms afforded us come with a responsibility to uphold our democracy and the rule of law .
Tomorrow evening the Tiverton Town Council will vote on a resolution to undermine their responsibility To do this.

The founders of our nation designed our Constitutional order to protect our fundamental, God-given rights from the natural tendency of people to attempt to dominate each other.  Thus, neither the federal nor the state government runs the Tiverton Police Department; local elected officials do that.  If a local government attempts to infringe on its constituents’ rights, they have recourse to higher levels of government for appeal, and similarly, when those higher levels of government are the ones attempting the infringement, the locals can decline to participate.

If, in turn, that decision somehow violates somebody else’s rights, then once again, they have recourse for appeals.  Nobody should claim that it is easy to have 16,000 people living peacefully under consensual government, let alone 320,000,000.  By definition, the answers to challenging questions are not obvious, and neither is the “will of the people,” and all must be balanced with some filters against the irrational impulses that can come in a wave of public sentiment.

Those whom we remember on this day gave their lives not only for the right of Americans to keep and bear arms, and not only for the right of other Americans to advocate for a more-restrictive regime, but for this entire system of ours — this experiment.

The nature of that experiment is profoundly relevant to the hard, painful fact of their deaths.  Protecting rights in this intricate system of overlapping laws and elections is not only a matter of principle, but also a means of avoiding violence.  A citizen who faces an injustice or who feels that he or she is not living under a government that represents his or her values can work for change without bloodshed.

(Citizens’ ability to be individually armed is, by the way, an important part of that balance, because nothing invites violence like a weak or unarmed opponent.)

Unfortunately, in a fallen world, our differences do sometimes come to blows.  On our big, broad planet, evil ideals can take hold and fester in an individual mind and infect an entire country, and those who carry such diseases are not always content to spread them at the pace of persuasion.  Sometimes the difficult differences between human beings do come down to a fight, and sometimes it isn’t obvious who is in the right.

So, the men and women of our military have defended our experiment, and what an honorable, noble calling that is!  Throughout the ages, people have fought and died because they had no choice, or because life was short and brutal, even in peace, and battle at least brought clarity of purpose and adventure, or because they had been bred to war, or because they were caught up in some furor of popular pride, or because everything they held dear seemed under threat.

In the United States of America, everything we hold dear is protected by our respect for rights and for disagreement, by our Constitutional order.  We fight among ourselves — or rather, we quote-unquote “fight” — with words and on the political battlefield.

The freedom to disagree in this way has come — and will continue to come — at the cost of diverse lives.  Our freedom has been purchased and protected even by people with whom we would have shared almost no beliefs.  Somewhere under those fields of stones are men and women who would have opposed this or that side in a local political dispute, and they deserve our bowed heads and respect no less than those who would have had different opinions.

And if our heads are bowed and if our attitude is one of somber respect, we should resist the urge to enlist our fallen soldiers in our wars — or rather, our “wars” — against each other.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    The Bill of Rights is not a grant of rights by the government. It is a recognition that these are God given rights unassailable (within reason) by the government. There are many who think the Constitution should end at “Congress shall make no law”.

    It is well to remember that a major reason for the Second Amendment was to provide the governed with the ability to resist federal intervention in their local affairs. The “militia” referred to was “the Governor’s army”. No one imagined a U.S. Army as currently constructed. See the “Whiskey Rebellion”.

  • bagida’wewinini

    You are, by advocating and advancing a resolution to have Tiverton join with a few other RI town to declare yourselves Second Amendment Sancuary towns, in effect practicing a form of nullification of prospective state laws that do not exist as of yet. You wrote this a week ago..

    “If there’s hope, it must involve a near-universal insistence that we follow the ordinary course of our election cycles and a willingness not to perpetuate outrage even when those in office are doing things with which we disagree, provided they follow the rules.”

    The Governor and members of the General Assembly were recently elected to govern and enact legislation including those concerning gun ownership. Substitute outrage with nullification in your sentence above and then try to square your written sentiment with your proposed actions tonight

    • Justin Katz

      The problem is that “nullification” doesn’t substitute for “outrage” for at least two reasons. First, the point about outrage had to do with our coherence as a society willing to live within a structure of rules. Second, a resolution from a town government is within those rules. As I say in the essay, if people think the council’s action violates their rights (and those people can be within state government), then they can challenge the policy, and we can work it all out within the system.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This is a portion of the U.S. Constitution, to which Rhode Island is a signatory. “Nullification” is the least that can be done, I might prefer “throw the bums out”.
        When I was a kid, “going shooting” was a way to pass a Summer afternoon. At 13 I bought ammo at the local hardware store, with a note from my mother. There were plenty of guns. I don’t recall news of large scale shootings. The “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” (1929?) of 8 gangsters was still well known. If guns kill people, cars drive drunk, pencils misspell.

        • bagida’wewinini

          The fact that cars can be used as weapons or used in a reckless manner does not change the fact that certain types of guns have no other purpose than being used as a weapon of war designed to inflict injury and death very different than the shotgun I’ve used in competitive shooting. Cars are designed to not bring death and destruction but to convey its occupants safely from one place to another. And cars are subject to safety inspection with their drivers licensed and subject to penalties for a variety of violations. I have absolutely no idea what your point is about pencils and spelling

          • Rhett Hardwick

            To say that a gun operated by a person “kills” is the same as saying that a pencil operated by a person “misspells”. “Weapons of war”, I have clear memories of “fully automatic” weapons hanging from basement ceiling joists, brought home as “souvenirs”. I don’t recall those killing anyone either. Compare the number of car deaths to the number of gun deaths (eliminate Chicago, which is reason to eliminate Chicagoans) complete with penalties, licenses, etc. Your logic would require the elimination of cars.

          • Joe Smith

            Insurance is often designed for a worst case scenario, with the “consumer” often hoping *not* to use the product. While there are other methods to hedge against a bad financial outcome, insurance is one useful option.

            Same with certain types of weapons. The Constitution was not a suicide pact. Sure the Federal Government has responsibility to provide for the “common defense”, but states and individuals were afforded the option to do so regionally and locally, against both foreign *and domestic.* enemies.

            My actions with my firearm may subject me to violation – taking it through airport security for example; carrying it concealed without a permit as another. However, it’s harder to stop a criminal threatening my life or property without a firearm (again, not my only option but a pretty good one), even if the firearm’s only purpose is exactly for that purpose – and ideally I’d never like to use it.

        • Christopher C. Reed

          …and in NYC high school target shooting team members brought their rifles onto the subway.
          That country is gone, dead, over…cancelled. Swept into the dustbin of history alongside Pharaonic Egypt and Imperial Rome.

      • bagida’wewinini

        It sounds as though it’s all been decided. Will public comment be allowed?

        • Rhett Hardwick

          “Public comment” is usually acknowledged as a way to wear out the public. Then they can say we “we had hearings, we took comments” You won’t see it in the “legislative history” of a statute.

  • Christopher C. Reed

    So Tiverton is going to strike a blow for lawlessness by resolving to uphold the Constitution? While so-called sanctuary cities for illegal aliens flout the law, because “that’s not who we are”. Welcome to clown world.

    • Rhett Hardwick

      I am always amazed by meaningless phrases which capture the public imagination, “that’s not who we are”, “Diversity is our strength”. I suppose that permits the “public” to attach what ever meaning appeals to them. Throwing it into any conversation proves you are “woke” and are on the “right side” of things; you can be sure that no one will challenge you. “Diversity is our strength”. Yesterday I went to see a doctor, she was a Russian immigrant, she was very pleasant, seeming competent and thorough. I suppose I am glad she is here, Not sure how I feel about some Guatemalans doing some roofing. All roofers are Guatemalans, and they are working. But I am not sure they will ever feel a true alignment with DWMs such as Washington, or Jefferson. I expect blacks assign an equal, or higher status, to MLK; and not without a point. But, without Washington and Jefferson, there would have been no MLK.