First and foremost: Virginia Tech, you are in all of our thoughts and prayers, and we will never forget you or your loved ones. That being said, this terrible tragedy should not be turned into the political circus that some are attempting to make it.
As is often the case after any tragedy, people need someone or something to blame. In this case, fingers were pointed at the Virginia Tech administration, society, guns and countless other scapegoats almost as soon as the terrible news broke. Whatever happened to the idea of personal responsibility? No one but Cho Seung-Hui is at fault here.
Yet there are some who believe in making this tragedy into a political statement, finding blame in almost anyone and anything but Cho Seung-Hui. Many attacked firearms, and some even argued against the continuing relevance of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Just this past Friday, in fact, The Badger Herald published a column entitled "Second Amendment out-of-date."
For those who agree with that author and believe the Second Amendment is an "archaic amendment in the Bill of Rights" and that guns should be abolished altogether, let me assure you, this amendment is one of the most fundamental rights that the nation's forefathers bestowed upon it.
The right to bear arms is not solely about minutemen needing to be able to "arm themselves with muskets at the drop of a hat to defend their nation" as the author seems to suggest. It is also not just about gun enthusiasts, collectors or even sportsmen. There are much greater principles at stake here, and the idea of an armed populace is one of the most "necessary to the security of a free state."
Encroachment on the right to bear arms has historically been one that precedes great tyranny. Historical leaders that disarmed their citizens include Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Saddam Hussein and Adolf Hitler. Gun rights were taken away in Rwanda and Ottoman Turkey with horrific genocides ensuing afterward.
Why? Because these infamous leaders knew that they could never consolidate power, disregard the opinions of the minority (or even the majority), or commit the atrocities they committed with an armed populace. As Aristotle said, "Both the oligarch and Tyrant mistrust the people, and therefore deprive them of arms."
The people must always be a threat to the government, and as the American author Edward Abbey once wrote, "A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government." If the government is not cowed by the threat of its own people, then what is to stop it from trampling the most basic human rights?
The dictators listed above disarmed populations so no one could challenge their powers, thus enabling them to pursue tyrannical doctrines. An armed populace forces governments to act in the people's interest.
In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is [the people's] right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government."
So not only is it our right to rise up against a tyrannical government, it is our duty, and that holds true to this day. Now imagine if we had to do that without an armed populace. What would we do, throw rocks at the Capitol?
Imagine if the colonists in the American Revolution had been disarmed. The British (our rulers at the time) would have been able to put down every rebellion. In fact, much of the early strategy employed by the British in the war was aimed at disarming the colonists.
At the battle of Lexington and Concord, the British were moving to destroy a known colonial weapons cache at Lexington. Had the citizens not been armed, it is safe to assume there would have been no battle at Concord.
Also, if the government can take away one right, nonetheless an entire amendment or even part of an amendment, then what is to stop them from taking away another one? It's a very frightening proposition, and it seems to be the first step in a long and arduous route to tyranny.
Furthermore, if citizens are disarmed by law, then what is left? By definition, all law-abiding citizens would then be disarmed, leaving only the criminals with weapons. Criminals will be criminals, and they will find ways to attain weapons, while law-abiding Americans will be left unarmed and defenseless.
No law is going to stop a criminal from getting a gun if he is that hell-bent on getting one, for a criminal has no regard for law in the first place. As Plato said, "Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws."
Joe Trovato ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in journalism.