Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Does the Constitution Really Protect Anything?

More and more, I put less and less faith in the Constitution as an instrument to protect our individual rights. I think it is time we stopped fooling ourselves that a mere piece of paper with some words on it is going to ever be an effective barrier to those who would enslave us. After all, politicians and lawmakers dedicate their entire lives to learning how to most effectively influence the thinking of the greatest number of people, and one of their favorite tactics is to twist and change the meanings of words, to deny their opponents the ability to formulate an answer that most people can understand.
I am by no means the first to come to this conclusion. Kenneth W. Royce aka Boston T. Party has espoused this viewpoint for some time as has, to a lesser extent, John Silveira.

One of the things that caused me to start thinking seriously about this is the recent elation among some gunowners that the US Supreme Court may actually condescend to “decide the issue” of whether or not the second amendment applies to individuals. Now, I have my own thoughts on that matter, but I'm not going to address them here because it's irrelevant to this discussion. Instead, for those folks who think this is a wonderful development, I have a question: What are you going to do if they decide the answer is no? More to the point, what will you do if it's yes?
If you assign any weight to what the black-robed activists decide on the Second Amendment, first of all, you must be willing to turn in your guns to the government on demand if they decide the answer is no, and to forevermore concede that you were mistaken, and in fact never had a right to keep and bear arms. To do otherwise would be dishonest, and cheating on the question is in itself an admission that you don't really believe in what you claim to stand for.

But now let's consider the flip side of the coin: what if the answer is yes? What are you gonna do? I'm not talking about those of you who live in a “shall issue” jurisdiction and have paid your money to take a certified gun safety class (“certified” being the operative word, because we can't be trusted to learn gun safety through self-study or from our fathers or whatever, can we?) and then paid more money for a license (“License: a permission granted by competent authority to engage in a business or occupation or in an activity otherwise unlawful” -Webster's) because in applying and paying for that license or permit, you have already conceded and given up any claim to a right in favor of a government-controlled privilege.

Let me expound on that point, just a little more. Any jurisdiction that offers a permit or license to carry a gun in any manner, does not uphold your right to bear arms. Instead, they are offering to “allow” you to do so, subject to their rules and requirements, and revocable at any time with or without notice, but only if you will accept and concede that they, not you, decide whether or not you may do so. In so doing, you are also giving them your tacit consent to arrest and prosecute (and kill, if they deem it necessary) anyone who does carry a gun in their jurisdiction without first obtaining their permission. Ain't democracy wonderful?

But what about those of you who, for whatever reason, feel constrained from bearing that arm? If the Supreme Court were to decide today that the Second does indeed refer to an individual right, would you strap on that arm tomorrow and head out into the world to conduct your business as usual? I wouldn't recommend it, because I can just about guarantee the cops would arrest your butt and confiscate your gun just as quick as they would have yesterday; maybe even quicker, to set an example.

Consider the recent 9th Circuit court decision concerning home-built machine guns. Any student of constitutional law is aware that the entire excuse for the existence of the BATFE rests on the “interstate commerce” clause. So the question that finally made it to the 9th Circuit court was, is it legal for an individual to build himself a machine gun, for his own otherwise-legal use, if it never crosses state lines? The court ruled that it is indeed legal. So are people all over Arizona and California now building their own machine guns and showing up at local shooting ranges with them? No. Why? Because they know that they would still likely end up with a lengthy prison sentence, $250,000 fine, forfeiture of the privilege of ever owning a gun of any kind again, etc., regardless of that 9th Circuit ruling.

Because deep down we all know that any question of what the Constitution means is academic, because it is gonna be applied or not applied according to the whims of any government entity from the Feds all the way down to Jim Bob the local cop with whom you went to school; and nobody is gonna come rushing to your aid. Unless, of course, you have millions of dollars with which to grease the rails of justice.

I use the Second Amendment because it is the most contested of our rights, or at least the most in the public eye. But it is not the only one of our rights that are being denied. Take the Fourth for example, the right to be secure from unreasonable search and seizure (by whose estimation? Why, by those doing the searching and seizing, of course!). Let's just say you are driving your car on the government-owned and controlled roads (that used to be public, that is, owned by the people. Right to travel? Oh, I'm sorry, that's a privilege. The DMV told me so. ) and you are stopped and detained at a police checkpoint so they may check all your papers to ensure you are properly licensed, insured, registered, haven't been consuming anything the law doesn't approve of, don't have any guns in the vehicle, etc. and they claim to see something they want to look closer at; the way the laws are now they can pull you out of your car and search the car, and the Fourth doesn't apply. Why? Because the State has decided that, for our protection, our cars are considered "public areas". Also, I won't go into any of the various ways cops can insinuate themselves into your living room without a warrant (OK, I'll offer a couple: they could claim that a neighbor reported hearing a scream from inside your house. Of course, they can't tell you which neighbor. Or, they could bang on the door when you aren't immediately available, and your teenage kid isn't able to deny them entry, strongly enough) but either way, once they are inside, the courts have upheld their right, nay DUTY to look around for anything that may give them an excuse to search even further. For, uh, their protection, which ALWAYS trumps our rights, since they are such heroes and so much better than us lowly civilians.

So how are we lowly peasants going to make a difference? Well, there are a number of things we can do (besides educating ourselves, of course) without getting ourselves in trouble, but the first is to think about what they need from us, in order to oppress us. First, our tax support. The most basic tenet of Possum Living is to live on the least amount of the legal tender that we can manage, within the constrains of what we consider an acceptable lifestyle. Spend less. Scavenge more. Build more of our own stuff. Buy more of what we need from flea markets and garage sales. Barter more, both goods and services. That way, we are not paying sales taxes. If we buy land, find the area with the cheapest property taxes, within the general area of where we want to live. It helps that those are the areas that are also least likely to harass us for living offgrid, living in a structure they haven't inspected and approved, raising livestock, etc.

The government regularly instructs us to spend more, for the good of the economy. In my opinion, we should work towards spending less, for our own good and to reduce our financial support of the programs that steal our freedom.
Just something to think about.


Anonymous said...


This site has a free text copy of the book Possum Living

Starve the beast.

Anonymous said...

The Answer: Live like the Amish.

They pay the least amount of taxes, have the least stress, and the least amount of doings with the law.

Tracy said...

That's true, they do have a very good approach. There are some other similar groups too, including at least one in the Montana area; similar but different.
Of course, part of the secret of these groups' success is a large and well-established support system, and the fact that they spend their entire lives learning how to live the way they do.

Anonymous said...

I would like to carry a weapon on my person for lawful purposes, but I will be arrested, or worse shot, for doing so. Unless I spend about 3 days of my time filing and nearly 100 dollars paying for various steps of the permit process, and then I have to wait 3-6 months for permission to be granted. And then permission only lasts 5 years, and not if I leave the state. THIS PROCESS IS A VIOLATION OF MY RIGHTS BUT IS THE LAW ON THE BOOKS. I AM TIRED OF BEING TOLD WHAT TO DO.