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Why I WILL NOT Obey California's Gun Registration Edict

 

A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE SITUATION

The Democrat-controlled government of California has
recently issued two edicts, one that bans ownership of SKS
rifles with detachable magazines and requires their surrender
to the state, and one that bans buying, selling, or lending of
so-called "assault weapons" and that requires present
owners of such arms to register them. The edicts take effect
January 1, 2000. For all those who have in the past stated
that, "When the state starts confiscating guns, then I'll know
it's time to fight back," that time in California will be January
1, 2000.

Many people oppose registration because it precedes
confiscation. Indeed it does, as those who were foolish
enough to register their SKS's are now discovering. However,
that is a practical reason to oppose registration, not a legal
reason. And while avoiding confiscation is tangentially a
moral reason to oppose registration, neither is it a legal
reason. Refusing to obey a law because of what might
happen or what has happened in other cases will not stand
up in court. But there is a reason not to register or turn in any
firearm that is practical, moral, and legal.

TWO QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

As regards the Second Amendment, determining the
constitutionality of the California edicts mentioned above
forces the examination of two basic questions. One, which
arms are protected by the Second Amendment? And two, is
registration an "infringement" of the Second Amendment's
right to keep and bear arms? Fortunately, answering these
questions is not a difficult or mysterious task. But they should
be answered thoroughly.

WHAT IS THE BILL OF RIGHTS?

The Bill of Rights is not separate from the Constitution but is
an integral part of it, as are all the other amendments.
However, the Bill of Rights is special in that—like sections of
the Declaration of Independence—it contains many of the
core philosophical underpinnings of our government
(especially Amendments 1, 2, 9, and 10). Therefore, it is
easily the most important part of the U.S. Constitution. The
rest of the Constitution, along with most of the remaining
Amendments, deals primarily with the mechanics of putting
this philosophy into effect in the form of a republic.

In the original document that we call the Bill of Rights, the
Bill's ten enumerated items are listed as "articles". Those
familiar with the history of the Constitution are aware that
these articles were not afterthoughts, but were crucial
elements whose written inclusion in the Constitution was
insisted upon before certain states would agree to ratification
of the preceding text. Because of this, a powerful case can
be made that none of these first ten articles may be modified
or revoked, because that would alter the fundamental
philosophy underlying the Constitution and would violate the
original agreement among the states.

THE PURPOSE AND MEANING OF THE SECOND
AMENDMENT

The laws of the pre-U.S. colonies and the writings of the
Founders clearly reveal that they, like all civilized humans,
embraced the personal, common-law right of self-defense
and property defense. The Founders' writings, such as the
Federalist Papers, also clearly reveal their belief that self-
defense includes defending oneself against a government
gone bad. In fact the evidence shows that this latter item is a
primary reason they included the Second Amendment in the
Bill of Rights, and the reason for the Second Amendment's
reference to the militia—the "army of citizens" (as opposed to
the regular army).

The Second Amendment specifies the right of the people to
keep and bear arms. If the people are to keep and bear them
this must include, at the very minimum, personal arms—that
is, arms that a single individual may carry and employ. For
hundreds of years prior to the writing of the Constitution, the
Western world's most advanced and cherished personal arm
had been the firearm. Furthermore, the firearm is the sole
arm continually singled out in the Founders' writings. Owning
firearms was a right exercised in North America long before
the existence of the United States.

TO MEAN ANYTHING, RIGHTS MUST INCLUDE
ASSOCIATED NECESSITIES

For any given right, it is meaningless to affirm that right if the
tools or necessities of effecting that right are prohibited.
Consider our Bill of Rights:

It is meaningless to affirm the First Amendment's right to free
exercise of religion if people are prohibited to own Bibles,
Korans, or Torahs.

It is meaningless to affirm the First Amendment's "freedom of
the press" if people are prohibited to own printing presses (or
today's electronic methods of mass communication).

It is meaningless to affirm the Third Amendment's right to
refuse to lodge a soldier in one's home, or the Fourth
Amendment's right to be secure in one's home, if people are
prohibited from owning their own home.

It is meaningless to affirm the Sixth Amendment's right to
defense counsel if people are prohibited to use their own or
public money to pay for an attorney's services.

And it is beyond meaningless—it is absolutely absurd—to
affirm the Second Amendment's right to keep and bear arms
if people are prohibited from owning arms. Applying the
above-mentioned general principle of rights to the Second
Amendment, it would be correct to state that it is meaningless
to affirm the right to self-defense if people are prohibited from
owning the tools or necessities of self-defense.

For example, consider elderly people, women, the physically
handicapped, small-statured men, or anyone who is not a
master of unarmed combat being faced with a large, or
muscular, or armed assailant, or multiple assailants. It
happens every day in this country. It is absurd, illogical,
illegal, and inhumane to uphold their right to self-defense
while prohibiting them from owning the most portable, easy to
use, proven, and inexpensive of instantly effective self-
defense tools—guns.

WHICH ARMS ARE PROTECTED BY THE SECOND
AMENDMENT?

Along with "the people", the Second Amendment specifically
mentions the militia, consisting of armed citizens not enlisted
in any regular military corps—the "citizen army". The militia's
purpose is, as its name implies, a military one. The militia
was—and still may be—pitted against other military forces.
That was true in pre-U.S. North America, it was true during
the Revolutionary War, and it is true today.

If the militia may be pitted against regular soldiers, whether of
a foreign invader or of a tyrannical domestic government,
then it follows automatically that at a minimum the citizens
comprising the militia must possess personal arms (as
opposed to large or crew-served arms like cannon) equal to
those of the opposing soldiers. Equal personal arms means,
of course, those that include all design features, capabilities,
and ergonomics that make a military firearm suitable for
modern battle. If this is not the case then there is no point in
having a militia, as it will not pose an effective fighting force.
For example, the extreme inadequacy of bolt action rifles in
combat against semiautomatic arms is well known. But the
Founders' firm insistence upon having an effective militia is
absolutely clear from their numerous writings on the subject
and from the existence of the Second Amendment itself.

That being so, military-pattern firearms are obviously
protected by the Second Amendment. Therefore any
restrictive legislation on military-pattern firearms, or on
military design elements of other firearms, is completely
contrary to the word and spirit of the Second Amendment and
is therefore flatly unconstitutional. [U.S. v. Miller, 307 U.S.
174 (1939)completely supports this.]

REGISTRATION IS INCOMPATIBLE WITH RIGHTS

Consider the situation if a state declared that it was perfectly
legal to own a Bible—or a copy of the Koran or the Talmud—
but that you had to register it in order to keep and use it.
Now, what if you did not register it—would you lose the right
to own and read it? Of course not. The very idea is absurd.
Under the laws of this nation you have the right to worship as
you please. As we have seen, that right automatically
includes articles necessary or associated with the right, such
as books, crucifixes, stars of David, yarmulkes, and so forth.

In exactly the same way, if the state suddenly required
registration of printing presses, would the owner of a press
lose his right to own or use it by not filling out a registration
form? Of course not. The right would still exist. No piece of
paper affects it.

In exactly the same way, one does not have to register one's
vocal cords, bullhorn, typewriter, pens, pencils, computers,
movie cameras, etc, to exercise the right of free speech (or
stated in modern terms, the right of uncensored
communication). Under the Constitution, if a state issued an
edict demanding registration of such things that rule would be
invalid as law. Your right to use them would still exist,
completely unaffected.

In exactly the same way, prior registration of one's body,
home, address, papers, possessions, etc, is not necessary in
order to enjoy the Constitutional right to protection from
unreasonable searches and seizures of one's person, house,
papers, and effects. These various physical things are
automatically included, automatically protected by the right.

In exactly the same way, one does not have to register
anything or fill out any forms in order to have the
Constitutional right to a speedy public trial. It is automatic.

Now consider the situation if you do not register a gun. Is the
Second Amendment somehow instantly suspended? Did it
vanish? Do you somehow lose the right to keep and bear
arms? Certainly not.

If you can lose a "right" by not filling out a piece of paper,
then it is not a right. It is a privilege granted by the
government, which is a different thing altogether. In the area
of government, a privilege is a special permission or
immunity granted by a government, it is generally related to
the use of some public facility (such as driving on the streets,
or using the public library) and it may be suspended or
revoked even for minor infractions or misdemeanors.

In sum: Rights do not require government registration,
certification, or approval, and are not subject to any form of
taxation—otherwise they are not rights, they are privileges
granted at the discretion of the government, controlled by the
government, and revocable by the government.

REGISTRATION IS MORE THAN AN INFRINGEMENT

The Second Amendment reads. "A well-regulated militia,
being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the
people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." The
question may be asked, "Is registration of a particular gun
truly such a burden that it can be called an infringement of
the right to keep and bear arms?"

To begin with, if we were speaking of registering religious
items or communications devices, none but socialists would
dare ask such a question. Yet the Second Amendment
directly follows the amendment concerned with the free
exercise of religion and freedom of the press. The Second
Amendment holds a place of priority in the Bill of Rights,
which is primarily a list of inalienable personal rights.

But to answer the above question—Yes. Registration is
absolutely an infringement, on at least three grounds. In fact,
we will see that the rights versus privileges issue makes
registration far more than a mere infringement.

Information. Registration of a firearm gives the government
information that can be used (and has been used, and is
being used right now) to confiscate that firearm or to pinpoint
its owner for weapon seizure, fining, incarceration, or
execution. Having the government in possession of this
information is directly contrary to the Second Amendment's
intent to ensure that citizens always possess the means to
overthrow the government should it become corrupt or
tyrannical.

Government control. Allowing the government to seize a
citizen's firearm, or to suspend, revoke, or diminish a citizen's
ability to defend life, family, property, and country for
paperwork omissions or errors, for regulatory violations, for
minor infractions of the law, for misdemeanors, or arguably
for anything less than conviction for a major crime of violence
is also directly contrary to the intent of the Second
Amendment. This is because virtually all citizens have
committed, or will commit, one or more of the listed non-
violent errors listed above, whereas the entire point of the
Second Amendment is to place this same citizenry's right to
keep and bear arms (and therefore the right of self-defense)
out of the government's grasp.

RIGHT VERSUS PRIVILEGE.

Critically relevant to all our
rights, is that any edict that attempts to convert a right into a
state-granted privilege by imposing prior requirements—such
as registration—before it may be exercised goes far beyond
mere "infringement" of that right; it becomes an attempt at
outright abrogation of the right.

Therefore the state's demand to comply with the
requirements of such an edict—no matter how physically
easy compliance is—imposes not some mere inconvenience
on the individual. It imposes the enormous moral, ethical,
intellectual, and spiritual burden of denying the existence of
the right.

It does not matter if the state demands that one simply tap
one's nose five times in succession in order to be able to
keep and bear a particular gun. This would still be a state-
mandated prior requirement. Compliance would indicate tacit
denial of the validity of the Second Amendment, and denial of
the right it protects. Compliance would encompass an implicit
acceptance of the right as a mere privilege, which is directly
contrary to both the letter and spirit of the Second
Amendment.

APPLYING THESE CONCEPTS TO CALIFORNIA'S EDICT

The argument against registration of, and restrictions on,
military-style firearms may be approached by two logical
paths that reach the same conclusions:

1. If the supreme law of the nation protects a personal right to
keep and bear arms (which it does) then the failure to comply
with a state mandate to fill out some registration form cannot
revoke this, or any other, right. If the right to keep and bear
arms cannot be revoked (and it can not be), then the right to
keep and bear militia arms, which are the very arms implicitly
referred to in the Founders' writings and in the Second
Amendment itself, cannot be revoked. If the right to keep and
bear militia arms cannot be revoked (and it can not be) then
we may own and use any military-pattern individually portable
firearm, all of which are practical militia arms. If that is the
case (and it is), then any restrictive legislation based on
militarily useful design elements of such firearms is flatly
unconstitutional.

2. If the supreme law of the nation protects the personal right
to keep and bear arms (which it does), then the right to keep
and bear militia arms, which are the very arms implicitly
referred to in the Founders' writings and in the Second
Amendment itself, certainly exists. If that is the case (and it
is), then we may own and use any military-pattern individually
portable firearm, because all are practical militia arms. If that
is the case (and it is), any restrictive legislation based on the
militarily useful design elements of such firearms is flatly
unconstitutional. If that is the case (and it is), then the failure
to comply with a state mandate to fill out some registration
form cannot revoke this right.

Again, the same situation prevails with all the personal rights
in the Bill of Rights. That is, no state mandate requiring
registration—either of oneself or of things directly associated
with a right—can be a prerequisite or condition of exercising
a right, nor can it affect that right in any way. If it does, then
the right has been unconstitutionally declared a state-
controlled privilege.

SUMMARY

As we see from the above, no American can be legally
compelled to register any militarily useful individual arm. That
includes pistols, revolvers, carbines, semi-autos, military-
style guns, hunting guns, self-defense guns, pump guns,
lever guns, bolt guns, black powder guns, scoped guns, .50
caliber guns, .338 caliber guns, .30 caliber guns, .223 caliber
guns, etc. All have been used, or are being used, as
individual military arms, and therefore are implicitly referred
to by the Second Amendment's militia clause.

Moreover, no American can be legally compelled to register
any firearm of common design or function because the
Second Amendment does not protect only guns that are
useful in military affairs; it protects all guns. The militia
reference is clearly meant as one important reason for
protecting the right which follows: the right of the people to
keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment says simply
"arms", which imposes no quantity or design limits. It says
"bear", which in its narrowest sense would still include all
firearms capable of being carried and used by one person.

Therefore, under the supreme law of the land, the right to
own one or several of any type of individually portable firearm
exists permanently, inherently, automatically, without prior
approval or conditions.

RELATED ISSUES

1. The single debatable exception to the above would be fully
automatic firearms having reasonable restrictions, but not an
outright ban, placed upon them. Being a highly specific,
highly moot case, this subject will not and need not be,
addressed here.

2. All indiscriminate weapons—those whose effects are
difficult to direct upon, or confine to, a discrete target (such
as flamethrowers, fragmentation bombs, chemical and
biological weapons, mortars) etc.—are arguably excludable
from the protection of the Second Amendment as posing an
unreasonable danger to friend and foe alike.

But absolutely no individually portable firearm of common
design or function may be determined to pose such an
unreasonable danger. This is because a ban on such a
firearm could "logically" be extended to all other firearms of
similar design and function (exactly what is occurring with
California's SKS edict now), which would completely vitiate
the Second Amendment. Thus, the 1994 Federal "assault
weapon" ban and magazine capacity limit are both
completely unconstitutional.

2. The issue of a firearms seller determining the legal status
of a potential buyer is separable from the issue of
registration, and need not be dealt with here. Suffice it to say
that the primary legal principle involved is declaring it a crime
to sell or give a firearm to anyone who is legally—that is,
legal in accordance with Constitution—prohibited from
owning a firearm. Registration need not be, and may not
Constitutionally be, part of any firearm sale or transfer.

REGISTRATION--YOUR DECISION AFFECTS ALL RIGHTS

If a military pattern firearm, the firearm most suited to the
militia mentioned in the Second Amendment, is not protected
by the clear wording of the Second Amendment, then there is
no meaning to the Second Amendment. If there is no
meaning to the Second Amendment, there is no reason to
infer meaning in the rest of the Bill of Rights.

If converting the Second Amendment into a privilege by
means of a registration edict is not the maximum
"infringement" of that right, then nothing is.

If converting the Second Amendment into a privilege by
means of an edict is possible, then it is possible to do so for
any other right.

Therefore, regarding the Second Amendment, refusing
registration affirms the right to own a militia firearm. It affirms
the right to keep and bear all personal arms. It affirms the
validity of the rest of the Bill of Rights. It affirms that
attempting to convert the Second Amendment into a privilege
is the maximum infringement of that right. It rejects a state's
power to convert any right into a privilege. And lastly it affirms
the validity of the Constitution, and the rule of law, not men.

DEMANDING OR COMPLYING WITH REGISTRATION IS
BETRAYAL

Article VI of the Constitution designates the Constitution as
the supreme law of the United States, and specifically states
that it prevails over all state constitutions and statutes.
Further, Article VI requires all legislative, executive, and
judicial officers of the U.S. government and of the state
governments to take an oath to obey the Constitution. Some
of these officials may hate firearms and the power they give
to the citizenry, but that is irrelevant—they must treat the
Second Amendment as they would the rest of our Bill of
Rights.

All state officials—judges, representatives, law enforcement
officials—know these facts, but many are corrupt and ignore
them. Their sworn word means nothing to them, nor does the
Constitution, nor do the rights of the constituents for whom
they work unless it suits their own political agenda. It is
against this conscienceless species of human that decent
Americans must continually fight, in California and in the rest
of the United States.

If you believe you have the right to keep and bear proper
militia arms in order to defend yourself, your family, your
home, and your country, and if you believe this right is
recognized in the Bill of Rights, then you cannot register or
turn in any firearm whatsoever. You may rationalize it any
way you wish, but if you register a firearm you are implicitly
agreeing with the proposition that your right to own that
firearm is nonexistent, and that such ownership is dependent
upon permission from the government. Registration equals
betrayal of yourself, your family, your ancestors, your
birthright, your country,
and your Constitution. Period.

A PERSONAL POSITION

Every new illegal gun control edict issued, and every day that
existing illegal gun control edicts continue to be enforced,
brings inexhorably closer the time when firearms owners will
train their guns on the politicians, judges, and other officials
who have misled the rest of the public into giving up their
sacred and ancient rights. A desire to avoid this terrible
tragedy motivates my own actions regarding the Second
Amendment and the rights it protects.

For nearly twenty years I have legally owned a militia rifle
possessing the characteristics of the socialists' so-called
"assault weapon". Now my right to own this arm, a right that
has existed far longer than the two centuries-plus that this
nation has existed, is suddenly being challenged by corrupt
politicians. But I vehemently reject any infringement of my
rights. I will never register this or any other firearm. Nor will I
ever turn it in, nor will I ever alter any characteristic or
attachment to it. I will never again concern myself with
legislation about pistol grips, bayonet lugs, high-capacity
magazines, flash suppressors, threaded barrels, folding
stocks, pre- or post-ban manufacture, or any other irrelevant
detail of my firearms.

I will certainly not do as the NRA Members Councils suggest
on their internet site, which is to saw off the pistol grip of
one's AR-style rifle to make it "legal". Understand this: in
America it is already legal. I sometimes wonder whether the
socialists will issue an edict requiring all firearms to have a
pink ribbon tied to the barrel, just to get a belly laugh as the
panicked descendants of once-proud American patriots
scurry to comply.

California's current governor, attorney general, and
legislators who voted for these edicts can undoubtedly find
thugs as corrupt and anti-American as themselves to send to
my home. I vow not to physically interfere with their illegal
activities, because I wish to see this matter in court. I hope
that other men and women will join me in this public
declaration of civil disobedience, because it would be best to
have ten thousand civil disobedience cases in court, not just
mine. But I understand why, in this day and age of brutal,
ethics-free "public servants"; citizens are reluctant to make
themselves a target of the state. Fortunately, the citizens of
California and other states demanding registration can strike
a powerful blow for humanity simply by refusing t
o comply.

SEIZE THIS OPPORTUNITY

To those of you who whine, complain, and talk, talk, talk
about your loss of freedom—I say now is the time to do
something. There are few times in an average man's life
when the occasion presents itself to take part in history. Here
and now is such a time. This refusal to submit to tyranny is
not simply about firearms. It is about human rights, it is about
the rule of law, and it is about the continuance of this great
nation. To what better use will you ever put you life than to
stand up for these things? Will you look back on this moment
and say, "I wish I had done something", or will you step
forward and seize this chance?

With the government having grown so powerful and corrupt,
defying it is frightening. It is especially frightening because
many Americans seem fairly content right now. But the
feelings of the apathetic mass are irrelevant. They have
never figured in history, and never will. The apathetic mass
will go along with whatever system exists. It is the freedom-
loving individual who, although part of a much smaller group,
has guided every free nation toward the light.

Freedom is not maintained without taking risks and making
sacrifices, without fighting for it. This has always been true,
throughout history. If you are afraid to take a stand against
this tyrannical government, if you excuse yourself by saying
you must "take care of my family first", I say thank God there
were men in the past who understood the priority of freedom.

Look at your children. Is it more important that they have an
uninterrupted flow of plastic toys and the soft luxuries of
modern American life, or that they grow up as free men and
women, with all inherent rights and responsibilities? I say any
man who does nothing while even a single basic freedom he
has enjoyed is stripped from his offspring—a freedom
secured by the blood of others—deserves no offspring.

As I said, I will turn in no firearms, ever. I will register no
firearms, ever. My right to own and use firearms predates the
Constitution. It existed before the corrupt socialists in
Washington and Sacramento came to office, and it will exist
forever afterward. The Second Amendment simply
recognizes this right. I do not know where my civil
disobedience will lead, but I am certain where the
slavishness and cowardice of compliance will lead. I refuse to
take part in this foul business of registration. I hope that you
refuse also. If we stand together we will set fires of freedom
burning across America.

Mr. Puckett is a free-lance writer who's past work includes
articles on U.S. foreign, domestic, and military policy for the
Houston Post. His firearms and Second Amendment articles
have appeared in the magazines Handguns, Combat
Handguns, Guns and Ammo, SWAT, Police, and numerous
other publications. He is the author of the essay "A Plan to
Restore the Second Amendment", appearing in an upcoming
issue of Handguns Magazine. He is a co-founder of the gun
rights resource organization GunTruths (www.guntruths.com)
and the gun rights media action organization Citizens Of
America (www.citizensofamerica.org). Mr. Puckett believes
that much of the annual slaughter of Americans by criminals
can be blamed directly on those who advocate gun control,
and that any politician who advocates gun control neither
trusts his constituents nor cares about their lives or property.
The above statement/essay is an expression of his opinions
alone. He may be contacted regarding this article at
guns1776@earthlink.net. Put the word RESISTER in the
subject line.

The above essay, which includes the biographical note, may
be reproduced in any medium provided it is reproduced in
full. A copy has been sent via email and regular mail to the
governor of California. Feel free to forward it to all gun rights
activists and lists.