Life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness


Now the 1st amendment is under attack as the battle for health insurance reform heats up.  Hey, Washington…free speech means we can lie, hurt your feelings and communicate with our fellow Americans in any way we choose.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson created a manifesto that transcends temporality and continues to inspire each generation to greatness.

Among the three famous inalienable Rights of Man, Life is self-evident.  We have the right to be born and the right to defend our children as well as ourselves from harm.

This basic right is at the locus of the two most debated policies of recent history; abortion & gun control.

Do you have an inalienable right to life?

The question is obviously rhetorical, but how does the answer reconcile a federal government that condones abortion?

Recent polls show most Americans oppose abortion, meaning that 2 generations removed from Roe v. Wade, maybe people are becoming aware of what an inalienable right to life means.  Even Americans who support abortion in the first trimester lose their enthusiasm for killing after the 3rd month, once an unborn baby starts to look “real”.

15 years after Jefferson wrote about the cardinality of life, his fellow Virginian James Madison introduced the concept of the Bill of Rights and its then-uncontroversial 2nd amendment.  Madison (inspired by his mentor George Mason) knew that any right to life is worthless if it can’t be defended nor preserved.

Unless each member of your family has his own 24-hour bodyguard detail, or you can somehow persuade an assailant to do whatever you tell him, you need to learn how to use a firearm.  Failing to do so is an abdication of your duty as a human. This nation would be exponentially safer if everyone took responsibility for their own safety, and developed the skill to protect themselves and their families.

Every right implies a responsibility.  (Which, according to George Bernard Shaw, is why so many people dread freedom.)

Don’t let yourself be scared into becoming a disarmed ward of the state.

Here are some excuses for not owning a firearm, all of which are easily dismissed:

Guns are dangerous

Yes. They kill people. That’s what they were created for, which is sort of the point when a bad guy is trying to hurt you or your family.

In the hands of a responsible (there’s that word again) person, a gun is a tool, just like a car.   If you use a car improperly, you can easily kill. But we take it for granted that the overwhelming majority of the tens of millions of car owners in this country are responsible enough not to.

Guns are illegal

No, but some states have made it difficult to buy, carry & store them. Every state allows you to keep a weapon for your home.  Why? Because it’s a constitutional right, and this isn’t the United Kingdom yet.

If you live in one of the 48 states that issue concealed carry permits*, get one once you’ve determined you know how to use a gun. It takes a few hours of ridiculously simply classroom work, along with a shooting test.

With a concealed weapons permit, you can carry a gun inconspicuously (except in those few places where it’s expressly prohibited.) Or just hope you won’t be a victim. Because that works, sometimes.

Most states’ permits are honored in multiple states. (They should be honored in all 50, like driver’s licenses are, but that’s a topic for a different post.)

My gun will be used against me

No, unless you’re an idiot. If you want to take full advantage of your God-given freedom (and the responsibility that entails), take a defensive weapon class and practice a lot.

According to , “For every accidental death, suicide, or homicide with a firearm, 10 lives are saved.” Even with most Americans walking around unarmed and unaware, “the rate of defensive gun use is 6 times that of criminal gun use.” (Again, according to The criminals are there, but fortunately, the rest of us still outnumber them.

If a preponderance of weapons leads to violence, why not disarm the cops along with the rest of the citizens?

That was supposed to be sarcasm, but sometimes the more cloistered among us have a tough time with that. Let’s hear from an academic on this issue. Val Moeller, president of Columbia State Community College**, says “…when someone comes on campus and sees armed public safety officers, it indicates that the campus is not safe.”

Which, of course, is why bloody massacres occur daily on every army base throughout the country. Ms. Moeller is not alone in her ludicrous beliefs. According to the US Department of Justice, about 20% of campus police departments are unarmed.

Here’s CSCC Chief of Police Mike Stritenberg, who manages to give a lucid argument despite being hog-tied:

“Of course there are risks inherent to being an armed police officer, including attacks that result in your weapon being used against you and armed encounters that result in legally challenged shootings but that’s part of police work.  To say that because there are risks associated with being armed, police officers shouldn’t carry guns seems mind-boggling,”

You can substitute “citizens” for “police officers” in that last sentence.

Guns are loud and look scary.

Yes. This paragraph is for the ladies:

Remember the first time you went to the gym?  It’s loud, sweaty, smelly and filled with men who clearly know what they’re doing, leaving you to stand around feeling out of place.

Your first time at the range will be the same.  And, because you’ve been bombarded with messages telling you how dangerous and bad guns are, you’ll be nervous.  The first time you shoot, your hands will shake.

You’ll then notice that it takes some applied force to pull a trigger.  Guns don’t just “go off.”

Keep going to the range.  Keep practicing.  You’ll eventually get used to the noise, the gun & the feeling of shooting.  Don’t let fear stop you.

I don’t need a gun because the police will keep me safe

No. Whether you live in the city or the country, there aren’t enough cops to prevent crimes in progress.  95% of the time, an officer arrives on the scene too late.  Response times in some cities are over 45 minutes.

Freedom means you can live where you want, speak your mind without fear of reprisal, attend the church (or not) of our choice, write critical articles about your government (or anyone else) and know your home is your castle.

If you think these rights are common throughout the world, you’ve obviously never written about Muslims in Canada, tried to Google “Tiananmen Square” in China or attempted to attend Sunday mass in Saudi Arabia.

Why do so many Americans gladly relinquish their freedoms?

They become prisoners of dependency and fear because freedom comes at a price, a cost paid both by your nation and yourself.   You’ll make bad decisions on occasion. If they’re bad enough, you might go to jail, declare bankruptcy or lose your home.

When James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights, Americans who made bad decisions had no choice but to live with the consequences of their actions.  Today, everyone wants to be free to make poor choices detached from consequences.

If you’re truly free, then you’re free to succeed or fail.  Failure is the mechanism through which we grow & learn.  For every bad decision made, you learn and correct course.

If you allow someone (e.g. the government) to control your failures, that caretaker will also limit your successes.

Are we guaranteed happiness?

Jefferson would never have imagined today’s Americans who expect society (government) to make them happy.  Many believe that they have a right to own a house, work at a high paying job, obtain a college education and receive health care.

And you do.

You have the right to an equal opportunity to earn those things for yourself.

Equal access to the system of capitalism (get a job, live within your means, invest the difference) is sufficient.  The rest is up to you.

Equal access is not the same as equal outcome.

According to the Department of Labor these are the 3 jobs in which the highest proportion of people doing it are women: 1) secretarial; 2) nursing and 3) teaching (elementary school level).

For men: 1) Construction (including steelworkers & electricians); 2) logging and 3) heavy equipment operator.

Male secretaries, nurses or teachers (and female electricians, loggers and heavy equipment operators) prove we have the freedom to work wherever we fit best.

Why are most secretaries and nurses female?  Those careers require levels of education and experience that fit with a working mother’s lifestyle.

Teaching is the ultimate mother’s job: you work when (and sometimes where) your children are in school.

Salaries in these professions are low because a lot of people can (and want) to do them.

Why don’t more women become electricians, loggers or heavy equipment operators?

Becoming an electrician requires a 4-year apprenticeship, consisting of 144 hours of classroom training and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training.  The apprenticeships are hard to get and if you drop out in the middle, you won’t get another chance. Also, seniority dictates that you need a consistent work history to become an electrician.  Mothers are more likely to start and stop their education, call in sick and miss work.

You don’t need a lot of education to become a logger, but you might have to move, live onsite or drive long distances to get to the logging site.  The weather can be awful, and the job is physically demanding, in addition to being about the most dangerous one in existence.

Most heavy equipment operators are high school graduates with a farming, commercial vehicle or military background. In some parts of the country (e.g. Alaska), work might be seasonal.

Most women won’t make the sacrifices to go after these well-paying jobs, but that’s hardly a failure of opportunity.  Women choose a less-demanding way, and the compromise is in the compensation.

Don’t expect anyone to hand you your future.  It’s your responsibility to fight for your happiness. Thousands have died to give you the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  In return, the least you can do is not surrender it.

*Illinois and Wisconsin don’t allow concealed weapons. Which works beautifully, because both states reported exactly 0 violent crimes last year.

**Last year sanity & common sense prevailed and the CSCC trustees voted to arm the campus police.

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