Over the weekend, Democratic operative and CNN contributor, Paul Begala penned an opinion piece for CNN on Iowa Senate candidate Joni Ernst, entitled, “Candidate’s Gun Remarks Should Scare Us.” In the article, he focuses on a statement made by Ernst during a 2012 address to the NRA: “I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from a government,should they decide that my rights are no longer important.” To which, Mr. Begala’s learned response is . . .
Begala says that the notion that the Second Amendment gives citizens the right to fire on local, state, or federal officials is popular among right wing nut jobs, but is scary when it comes from a potential Senator. He quotes a question from a blogger who asks, “Exactly what circumstances would justify you shooting a police officer or soldier in the head?”
Setting aside the needless hyperbole (no one mentioned anything about head shots), it is, Begala allows, a good question. Begala proceeds to postulate a number of scenarios that have already happened and asks if any of them would be just cause for armed insurrection. In the interest of enlightening an obviously confused person, let’s take a crack at answering Begala’s questions.
“[I]f, say, the Supreme Court stops the counting of votes so as to give the presidency to the candidate who got fewer votes?”
He is, of course, referring to the results of the 2000 presidential election in which Begala along with a number of his Democratic compatriots managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and blew the election for Gore. Granted, Gore did win the popular vote, but this country hasn’t chosen its president by direct popular vote since…let me think…oh yeah — never. The Electoral College system exists for a number of reasons, but one of them is so that even if every tree-hugging liberal in California voted Democrat or every horse-riding conservative in Texas voted Republican, the smaller states with smaller populations would still have a say in the matter.
Gore may have won the popular vote, but he lost the Electoral College math, so he lost the election. This had happened three times before in Presidential elections, but not in the recent past. The incident that Begala specifically refers to is the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the endless recounts in Florida that Democrats demanded and declare a winner a month after the election had been held. It’s something that Democrats remain sore over to this day. But I digress.
To answer the question, no, Mr. Begala, you don’t start shooting cops “in the head” over this.
“How about Segregation? If ever American citizens were oppressed by their government it was African-Americans under Jim Crow. Thank God we had Dr. King and not Ms. Ernst leading the civil rights movement.”
Good point. However, two things to consider. First, following Reconstruction after the Civil War, some of the earliest gun control laws were put in place by southern states aimed specifically at depriving black Americans of their right to keep and bear arms. This served to keep them under the bootheel of Jim Crow laws longer than they might have been had they been able to defend themselves from racist white southern sheriffs and sheet-wearing lynch mobs. And yes, when the corrupt local law enforcement came around to string up some poor Black person, the correct response might very well have been a bullet.
Dr. King and other advocates of non-violence were ultimately successful, but only because they were able to generate enough outrage from people across the nation that changes happened. If, on the other hand, much of America didn’t demand changing these horrible laws, the non-violent civil rights advocates would probably have had as much success as this guy:
“Perhaps Ms. Ernst reserves her bloody right to truly egregious government actions, like ensuring affordable health care, even to folks with pre-existing conditions?”
Really? Guess when you are a has-been political operator, you gotta check all the boxes on the Democratic platform list of hot-button issues. But since you asked, Paul, let me try to shed some light of situations where the ability to put up a fight may have been helpful.
Perhaps shooting back might be called for when police round up and arrest protesting college students, handing them over to a cartel who kills them and dumps them in a mass grave. Or maybe it might be called for when a government subverts the democratic process by placing the opposition candidates under house arrest and then brutally suppresses protests. There’s also that little matter in Tienanmen Square that I alluded to above.
Sure, you might say, but all those things happened in countries with totalitarian governments. Yes, that is the case with the latter two, but even with its history of corruption, the Mexican incident shocked people like you won’t believe. During this drug war, many police and federal officials have been relieved of duty for things they have done. So, yes, I think this may be an example of when its fair to take up arms against officials. Lots of Mexican locals seem to be thinking along the same lines.
Besides, for those who think it could never happen here, I suggest you read about the Battle of Athens (Tennessee) which took place in 1946. This was a situation in which local party officials effectively controlled the town and the elections until some WWII vets got their hands on some firearms and changed the course of political history in that town. Granted, this was almost 70 years ago, but I would argue that even today, government will seek to overstep its authority unless challenged.
Consider the much more recent decisions by the Governors of New York, New Jersey, and later Illinois (all Democrat-controlled nanny states – yes, even NJ) to unilaterally decide to imprison American citizens returning from West Africa for a 21 day period to guard against Ebola. Never mind the fact that there is not a single documented case of person-to-person transmission in the U.S. other than the two nurses who were deeply involved in the care of an Ebola patient for an extended period of time. Not one person who was on either of the flights for taken by Amber Vinson has tested positive nor has anyone else (so far) that had come into contact with her or with Nina Pham, the other nurse infected.
Governor Cuomo in particular has a habit of running his state like a private fiefdom, never letting the rule of law get in the way of implementing his agenda. And Christie isn’t much better in this regard. Both governors “know what’s best for us.” Granted, the vast majority of the population doesn’t have a problem with any of this in the case of Ebola, largely because they aren’t going to be personally affected by the quarantine and Ebola scares the hell out of most people (me included). The point, however, is that it’s unclear whether the governors of NY, NJ, or IL have any more authority to quarantine American citizens merely as a precautionary measure than governors Brewer or Perry would have the authority to order the National Guard or their respective state police to secure the Mexican border.
It’s pretty clear that these elected leaders have overstepped their authority, but this didn’t stop the organs of government (police, etc.) from unquestioningly executing those orders. Granted, the politicians in question have already backpedaled on this issue, but the people cannot always rely on pressure being exerted from outside entities to force politicians with Napoleon complexes to rein in their ambitions. Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy really made a mess of things and it took quite a while for true lawfulness to be restored. Some of the things that government agents perpetrated in the name of “security” during those events were highly questionable, if not outright illegal.
Begala runs down the typical anti-2A path of linking firearms ownership to service in the militia. He explains that the whole reason for the Amendment’s existence was to protect the militia as Jefferson and many other founders would not have wanted a standing army. Begala correctly notes that a peacetime standing army such as we have today would have been anathema to the framers of the Constitution. What he fails to say is that the large police forces fielded by many cities including Bloomberg’s “seventh largest army in the world” would also have been anathema to the Framers. It’s probably also safe to say that the founders would be appalled by the nanny/welfare state the U.S. has become.
Essentially, Begala is implying that since we have a standing army, we have no need for the Founders’ “militia” and since firearms ownership is tied to membership in the militia, there is no right of personal gun ownership. Furthermore, the Founders would never have supported the concept of taking up arms against the government. To support this assertion, he cites the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791.
The Whiskey Rebellion came out of the Federal Government’s decision to raise a tax on distilled spirits to pay off the debt incurred during the Revolutionary War. Western farmers who often distilled excess grain resisted the tax under the guise that it was one more tax without representation as it was imposed by the Federal government, not the local one. Some minor skirmishes were fought and there were armed protests against tax officials. Ultimately, George Washington led a force of 13,000 militia soldiers to put down the rebellion. By the time the force showed up, most of the protesters had gone home, so no real fight occurred and only a few arrests were made.
Begala cites this example of the Framers’ intent that federal laws should never be opposed by the people under force of arms.
Let’s think about that statement for a moment.
I seem to recall a similar situation where colonists, finally tired of government interference decided once and for all to oppose that government by force of arms. It seems to me that there were certainly a lot of colonists who were “shooting police and soldiers in the head” during that little dust up we call the Revolutionary War. In fact, if memory serves correctly, Washington, himself had some small role in that minor affair.
In fact, I would argue that the incident of Washington’s flip flop in approach between the Revolutionary War and the Whiskey Rebellion demonstrates exactly what can happen even to a “good man.” Washington was all about fighting the power until he became the power and then he would not tolerate dissension.
So, Mr. Begala, am I suggesting that the Second Amendment preserves the right of the people to take up arms against their government when that government stops serving the people and insists that the people serve it? While I hope and pray that it never happens, I think that it’s important to preserve the right and ability to do just that. This county was born out of that very action and it is the implied (although highly unlikely) threat of it happening again that is one more factor to keep self-interested politicians from overstepping their authority. That said, I consider this an implied threat at best. With our current back-and-forth political party system, I don’t see something like that happening – at least not on a large scale. As experience has taught us time and again, there are always bad apples in every bunch and just because they happen to be wearing a badge doesn’t mean that we have to do what they say without protest.
Joni Ernst is a Republican candidate for the Senate in an election year where the Democrats increasingly fear that the American people’s disgust with the actions of the Dear Leader over the past six years is going to cost them their power. As such, they will say and do anything to hold back the flood including mining a sound bite from two years ago in an attempt to disparage their opponent.
I expected nothing less from a Democratic operative, but I hope the people of Iowa are smart enough to see through this kind of election year politicking. There may be many good reasons not to vote for Ernst, but this shouldn’t be one of them. I think the notion of electing someone to Congress who really understands the intent of the Framers and the Second Amendment is not a bad thing.