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There’s a reason the Founding Fathers considered the right to bear
arms fundamental in a free society.

A couple of recent unrelated incidents should bring this home to all
of us.

In Seattle last week, the local government, faced with widespread
civil disobedience over the city’s hosting of the World Trade
Organization conference declared a state of emergency, a curfew and even
went so far as to ban the use of gas masks by anyone except police.

Now, in case you hadn’t considered this before, gas masks are not
weapons. They can only be used to defend oneself, usually from tear gas
fired by government police. Now imagine you lived in Seattle and had
some urgent business. Perhaps you have an asthmatic son or daughter with
a doctor’s appointment. You live outside the immediate area of protests,
but as a precaution against what could be a life-threatening attack to
your child, you feel compelled to break out the gas mask collecting dust
in the basement.

In Seattle, you would be treated as a criminal.

It’s arbitrary. It’s capricious. And I say it’s unconstitutional. And
the Constitution doesn’t even explicitly guarantee the right to bear
strictly defensive tools such as a gas mask. I think many, if not most,
people — left and right — would agree with me.

Nevertheless, there is still, somehow broad debate in this country
about whether the Constitution really means what it says about firearms.
I don’t get it.

Some of the anti-gun, anti-Constitution, anti-freedom crowd looks at
it this way: “Yeah, it’s in the Constitution. But the Constitution is
outdated and in need of change — especially the Second Amendment. Our
first priority needs to be to protect people from violence. If we take
the guns away from ordinary people, they will be safer and more secure.
They can rest easy knowing the government will protect them.”

Of course, the facts, the statistics, the evidence just doesn’t bear
out any such theory. On the contrary, the only cold, calculating,
objective, scientific research conducted in this area, by Dr. John Lott,
shows just the opposite to be the case — more guns mean less crime.

But put that aside for a moment and consider a recent development in
a police shooting case in Claremont, Calif. Last
January, Irvin Landrum Jr., 18, was stopped for a traffic violation. The
cops say Landrum pulled a gun on them, so they shot him and killed him.
The family never bought the story and filed a lawsuit suggesting the
police shot the kid and planted a gun on him.

It turns out ballistics tests showed the gun was not fired that
night. It had no fingerprints on it. And the last traceable owner was
the late police chief of a neighboring town.

I don’t know about you, but I believe the kid was shot three times by
the cops and the .45 was dropped on him.

It happens. You see, some cops are crooked. Some cops are dishonest.
Some cops are even unbalanced, untrustworthy and unqualified to carry a
gun. And even more of them are unsuited to that role if and when the
police hold a monopoly on firepower.

When some nut climbs a tower somewhere and shoots innocent people,
too many Americans begin clamoring to take away guns from perfectly
law-abiding citizens who need them to protect themselves as well as to
protect our own liberty from the creeping police state. When a nutty cop
goes berserk and kills innocent people — and it happens — I never hear
anyone suggesting we disarm all police.

True self-government requires an armed citizenry. If the government
holds a monopoly on force, tyranny is only a shot away.

We can never allow that to happen in America.

Nor can we ever tolerate American city governments, state governments
or federal government suspending the constitutional rights of free
people. The WTO be damned. Let the organization meet in China. Let it
hire its own private security force to protect Fidel Castro and Bill
Clinton. We shouldn’t suspend the Constitution to protect people who
would like to shred it permanently.

Remember, gas masks don’t kill people. Overbearing, unchecked,
heavily armed governments kill people.

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