Closing Statement

by John H. Trentes

In this debate, I have learned that for a debate to have any value, that is to say, in order for it to be something other than inflammatory propaganda, the participants must observe two rules:

1. Argue what it is that you know in your heart to be the truth.

2. Argue with intellectual honesty.

I am certain that I have not changed Jon Wallace's mind about the practicalities and ethics of the right to keep and bear arms. Likewise, he has not changed mine.

But we have each succeeded in stating our cases observing the two rules above. And in doing so, Jon and I have each been forced to honestly examine the logical underpinnings of our positions. Jon's "truth" differs from my "truth", but why do we believe what we believe? In my case, it was high time I made this examination. This is what I found out:

First, I do not accept that the last word of the legislature, or the last word of the courts is the last word on our right to keep and bear firearms. Jon's argument is that ownership of arms is not constitutionally guaranteed and that to learn the status of gun ownership, you must look to judicial and legislative interpretations, and that the inquiry stops there.

In order to believe in the concept of a free state, you must recognize that a limitation on the power of government must exist outside its political might; and that limitation is called an inalienable right. It must exist outside the grasp of government because individuals in power can never be trusted to police themselves; because individuals in power will naturally tend to expand their influence over their minions, not restrict it.

In this debate, I had to consider something I always knew but had never articulated to myself. The will of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary is written in pencil. It is always subject to re-examination and change. That is its nature. Inalienable rights, however are written in indelible ink. The concept of such rights cannot be harmonized with and exist within the environment created by the ordinary functions of government. Therefore they exist outside that environment. And such rights, including the right to keep and bear arms, are owned by us, not by our government.

Second, I learned why I don't accept the argument that the presence of guns in our society is really a public health or environmental concern. These arguments are repugnant to me because they ignore the first concept stated above. These arguments completely discount the nature of the right to own arms and treat such ownership as a grudgingly tolerated nuisance, like alcohol comsumption or loud music. The illness in our society, I firmly believe, resides in our child rearing practices, our cartoon-like popular culture glorification of violence and our own intolerant nature, not with the guns in our closets or in our pockets.

Children have been handling and using firearms on this continent for 500 years. The NRA has been teaching firearms saftey and proficiency for 127 years. It is only within the last ten to twenty years that children and guns have become an "ethical" issue. Ask yourself what in our society has changed in that time? But permit me to point out that the possession or use of firearms is not one of those things.

Lastly, I learned that my ethical view of firearms ownership is not shaped by their misuse in the hands of defective individuals. My ethical view of firearms is based on the need for them in a free society and for the need for self-defense the law-abiding person has for them.

Emotional arguments against firearms based on their violent misuse are disingenuous. Every day we are aware of, and may participate in a variety of pursuits that produce nationwide fatality rates well in excess of deaths from firearms. When we get behind the wheel of our cars, do we brood over the ethical implications of an automobile accident in a school zone? When we feed pork chops to our children, do we agonize over the moral issues of heart disease? We do not. And it's because we are not constantly bombarded with self-righteous sermonizing from the media elites about these issues. In short, we are having our ethical debates framed for us by self-interested individuals that don't give a real damn about what our best interests are. What are the ethical implications of THAT?

In all of this, I have learned that an honest examination of the debate over firearms leads you unavoidably into considerations of fundamental freedom, the rights of citizens and the fabric out of which this nation was sewn. It also shines a light on who has political power in our nation, how it is used (misused) and for whose benefit.

Jon, in his conclusion, speaks of apportionment of blame. Let me offer my own conclusion.

If we, some time in the very near future, wake up to a day where we have become servants of the state, rather than citizens, where we have surrendered our voice in government for our own good, where we must live our lives according to the moral dictates of faceless bureaucrats because we can't be trusted with our own safety and welfare, then......

Then we must each accept 100% of the blame for that.