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Environmental activists stumble into the obvious
By Charles Bloomer
The town of Escalante, Utah is considering an ordinance that would require all heads of households to own a gun. The ordinance is intended to make a statement about American's individual right to keep and bear arms, according to supporters.
But environmental activists perceive a threat. They believe that such an law is a vague warning to them -- a warning that the people of Escalante are unwilling to endure continued misuse of state and federal laws that restrict the use of public and private land.
The environmentalists should feel threatened. And if they had any sense of history, any sense of the ideals held by the writers of the Constitution, they would better understand the threat. As it is, they have blindly stumbled onto the obvious purpose of the Second Amendment. If they would take the time to study the history of the American founding, they would realize that what they are doing is misguided at best and unconstitutional at worst. They would also understand why the people of Escalante and other town in Utah are eager to protect their rights.
The Second Amendment was included in the Bill of Rights because it provided a method to ensure the right to self-defense. Citizens have the right to protect themselves and their families for criminals and other predators, and the right to protect themselves from an oppressive, tyrannical government. The founding fathers recognized that the tendency of governments was to grab more and more power, and that it may become necessary for citizens to take up arms, or threaten to take up arms to keep government power in check.
The environmentalists could start by reading the Federalist Papers. In the Federalist No. 28, Alexander Hamilton writes: "If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right to self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government...."
Tench Coxe endorses Hamilton's opinion: "As civil rulers, not having their duty to the people duly before them, may attempt to tyrannize, and as the military forces which must be occasionally raised to defend our country, might pervert their power to the injury of their fellow citizens, the people are confirmed by the article [Second Amendment] in their right to keep and bear arms."
Thomas Jefferson, in his "Commonplace Book" quoted Cesare Beccaria, an Italian criminologist: "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms...disarm only those who are neither inclined not determined to commit crimes....Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
The apex of this line of thinking is expressed in our own Declaration of Independence. "That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation of such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness." Further, "when a long train of abuses and usurpations...evinces a design to reduce them [mankind] under absolute despotism, it is their right, their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide news guards for their future security."
It is obvious that the founding fathers understood the potential for abuse that existed in established government and that unchecked power led to tyranny and despotism. The ultimate check on abusive government was an armed populace.
This makes it fairly obvious that the citizens of Escalante are exercising their fundamental right to self-defense, and that they perceive some threat to their independence and autonomy. This feeling of threat is a direct result of the indefensible land grab by the Clinton administration that created the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument in 1996 and closed 2 million acres of coal-rich land to development and other productive use.
It is also obvious that the actions of the federal government supported by environmentalists have no constitutional basis. To try to justify the land grab using the "general welfare" clause or the "interstate commerce" clause doesn't hold water. Creating this monument was the act of an arrogant, obnoxious administration, especially when we consider that the only other source for the clean burning coal found in Escalante is in Indonesia, controlled by James Riady.
If environmentalists feel threatened by Escalante's gun law, it is for the same reason that criminals feel threatened by concealed carry laws. Their criminal acts may be met by armed opposition. Actions that violate constitutional rights are criminal. Obviously, the people of Escalante are tired of being victims.
The activists should set aside their irrational, emotional support for nonsensical environmental causes that blind them to the obvious. They should spend more time studying the foundations of freedom -- life, liberty, private property. Read the Constitution. Read the Declaration of Independence. Read the words of the people who gave us the opportunity to oppose overbearing, rapacious, arrogant actions of government and ignorant special interest groups.
They should open their eyes to the obvious.
Charles Bloomer is a Senior Writer for Enter Stage Right. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2001 Charles Bloomer
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