History does not justify paranoia about guns

A cursory look at human history, or even the present state of the world, should convince anyone that tyranny is an important issue. Indeed, most tyranny is perpetrated by tyrants against their own people. One might, therefore, sympathize with Kathy Morgan (Letters, Herald, Jan. 7) that we all need guns to protect ourselves against our government.

On the other hand, if one looks at the history of American constitutional democracy throughout the last two centuries, it is a little hard to see where the threat to our freedoms – from the government itself – is supposed to come from. For the most part, the federal government has acted instead to guarantee freedom in the face of slavery, religious intolerance and prejudice, and assaults on those whose behavior strays from the straight Anglo-Saxon norm.

An obsession with the threat from the federal government seems seriously misplaced. One is tempted to suggest that this paranoia stems from the desire to enjoy the benefits of a well ordered, relatively tranquil society, which provides protection against enemies foreign and domestic, without paying for them – whether in the form of taxes or reasonable limits to anti-social or pathological behavior, including the totally unrestrained use of firearms.

To be sure, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Second Amendment permits private ownership of guns for personal protection. But the text of the Amendment actually refers to a “well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,” that is, preservation of the state as opposed to threats from it. It is not that there is zero threat from a tyrannical government in this country – the Bush administration’s assertion of a “unitary presidency” gives one pause – but there surely is no “clear and present danger” that justifies the obsessive paranoia that is so rampant.

Dan Purrington

Durango and New Orleans