4. All the power…

April 7, 2015


Recently a friend contributed the above reference to an article by Gilens and Page in which they concluded that which we all know instinctively to be the case: “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

This discussion reminded me of a Constitutional insight I once had.  I was at the time thinking about the nature of power.  It seemed to me that there were basically two kinds of power operating in any sovereign state: political power and physical power.  Political power, in the form of statutes, laws, ordinances and rules, works when honest citizens voluntarily comply with them.   Physical power is that which the government employs when people refuse to obey the laws, or when foreign enemies attack the sovereignty.

While the 15th, 19th and 26th Amendments make it illegal to discriminate in voting laws on the basis of race, sex and age, there is no individual right to vote in the federal Constitution.  The individual right to vote is given to the people through the laws of each state.  The individual right to vote is a principle that forces the more or less equal distribution of the political power of the state among all of its citizens.  The paper by Gilens and Page offers evidence, that equal distribution of political is greatly modified by the degree to which various people or groups may have access to and influence or control over the representatives whose votes create the laws and public policy which govern us. And that it is also modified by those who have control over the media that shape voter opinion.

However, the Constitution does provide another balancing mechanism, because the Second Amendment guarantees the continued distribution of physical power by the individualn right to keep and bear arms.  A right, the framers said, that came not from the sovereign, but from God or nature.  The framers understood that the when the people were no longer willing to be bound by the king’s edicts, the power of the monarchy thenceforth depended entirely upon the king having armed troops and the people having no way to defend themselves against pikes, swords pistols and muskets.  The framers of the US Constitution had seen an armed colonial populace defeat the king’s army with squirrel rifles.  Various members of my family at that time owned some iron mines and foundries in northern New Jersey, and southern New York, and made some of the cannon and shot that augmented the authority of those hunting rifles, but it was the practiced skill and marksmanship of the individual farmers and shopkeepers that stopped the British army.  It was the equal distribution among the people of the physical power to resist tyranny.

In the context of the present discussion I think it may be no accident that two of the billionaire elite who have already co-opted the political power of our nation, Michael Bloomberg and George Soros, are now spending hundreds of  millions bankrolling the movement to disarm Americans.  Having used their money to consolidate the political power in their own hands, they now seek to unbalance the physical power and concentrate it in the hands of a government they have already purchased.

Lest anyone think that small arms are not significant as against the full might of a military force of about 1.5 million, even assuming that members of our military would all do the government’s bidding against their own family members and neighbors, consider the lessons of the past few decades, and remember that there are enough guns (mostly long guns) in the U.S. to arm nearly 300 million persons, more than the number of all of the adult men and women in the country.

I certainly hope that it does not come to armed conflict to defend and reclaim the political power for the benefit of the general citizenry, but if it were to happen, reason tells us the citizenry would win… unless universal background checks are transformed (as they are fully intended to do), into universal registration of firearms.  Which has typically led, in many examples in past and recent history, to confiscation of weapons and disarming of the public.  During hurricane Katrina, an assistant chief of police ordered his officers to confiscate any firearms they found in private hands. In Australia, firearm registration was soon followed by firearm confiscation. Not long ago Connecticut and New York passed Bloomberg sponsored laws that mandated the confiscation of previously legal firearms no longer “approved” by the state.  This is not a paranoid idea. This is history and it is a real danger.

The Bloomberg sponsored “universal background check” law that passed via a ballot initiative in Washington State last Fall is an example.  Misrepresented in a media blitz throughout the summer as merely a reasonable extension of background checks to all firearm transfers, the law is actually a de facto ban on any private transfer of firearms, even, say, between father and son.  Unlike the majority of voters, I actually read the full text of the law when I voted last year in Washington.  It specifies that in private sales the “police chief” has to write a letter certifying that the recipient is eligible and qualified to own a firearm.  Superficially this may not sound unreasonable, unless it is realized that no police chief has the means to ascertain whether a potential recipient is mentally healthy,  safe or suitable, and therefore no police chief can write such a letter making the positive assertion required by the new law.  Normally a background check can only result in the statement by police authorities that the purchaser has no record of arrest, nor has any condition been reported which disqualifies him or her from legally owning a firearm.

Also missed by most in the Washington law is the fact that the burden of proof regarding  the legal qualification to purchase a firearm has been shifted from the government to the citizen.  It is as if anyone accused of a crime would have to prove his or her innocence, rather than it being incumbent upon the government to prove him or her guilty of the charges.  Before I can receive a deer rifle from my son, or even borrow one from him for a day of hunting, I have to find a way to convince a police chief that I am sane, safe and suitable.

This reminds me of the requirement in one California county in which I had a license to carry concealed, that in my annual renewal letter I had to explain why I “needed” to carry a concealed weapon.   “Proof of need” was not a requirement under state law, and each year I declined to offer it, explaining that there was virtually no way to argue that one “needed” to carry a gun without sounding nuts.

The new Washington law, by the way, noes not solve the actual problem regarding the gaping holes in the mental health reporting system that allows guns to fall into the hands of the unfit.  A total nut-bag in California who has never been hospitalized and is therefore unreported, can pass the background check and buy a gun.  Even if he was hospitalized and reported to the California DOJ, they still don’t report it to the US DOJ’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), and he can drive to a bordering state where he can legally be sold a firearm.

If the fight to protect the distribution of political power via the individual vote has been lost through the corruption of campaign finance laws, the tax code and others, the fight to protect the distribution of physical power, via the right to keep and bear arms, is still being waged against billionaire elitists who seek to wrest physical power from the hands of good citizens. The vanguard of this fight is the National Rifle Association (NRA), of which I first became a member at the age of seven in 1941.  Although it has been preeminent in firearm safety training since 1871, and although I have never seen it publish an untruth or false argument, it is, of course for that very reason, much maligned by the minions of the billionaire elites who seek to disarm America.