Last June, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, loosed a posse of some 700 well-armed and irate citizens to win back control of the streets and parking lots of Phoenix from the local goons. The sheriff’s pronouncement, “We’re going to get the bad guys,” alarmed the local ACLU, which likened the militia to “a white citizens council, reinforcing white versus dark and well-off versus poor.” But such are the left’s reactions to healthy violence as the New Age millennium approaches. When private citizens are actually permitted to do something about their own safety—patrolling shopping mall parking lots or driving hookers, pimps, and dope dealers from street corners—the more sensitive, gentle souls among us issue forth with platitudes about race and class oppression. But such action is our only real hope of returning the streets and neighborhoods of urban (and if things get worse, rural) America to law-abiding citizens.

Our federal republic will not long survive national gun control legislation meant to disarm good citizens like Sheriff Arpaio’s posse. Presently, such legislation threatens the original American federal system by preventing the states and their county subdivisions from defending themselves against the tyranny of street crime or of “consolidated” government. Under the Constitution, the states and the citizens thereof enjoy the collective right of self-defense; but during the 20th century, the Supreme Court has undermined that right by ignoring the Second Amendment. The Founding Fathers understood the likelihood of periodic friction between the interests of the states and of the national government and thus specifically recognized the states’ right to arm their citizens. Madison and Jefferson, among others, warned that the people might find it necessary to resort to arms should the national government overstep its bounds, the salient question being: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who shall govern the governors?) Jefferson’s answer was: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

While Congress does have the authority to protect the states against foreign invasion and domestic insurrection and lawlessness by calling out the militia (Article I, section 8 and Article IV, section 4), it cannot command a state’s armed citizenry to do harm to that state. Despite congressional authority to restrict under certain circumstances the states’ rights to exercise discretion over military forces within their borders (e.g. Article I, section 10’s prohibition against the states keeping ships and troops in peacetime without the consent of the national legislature), the states most assuredly retain the right of revolution. If states believe that they have suffered a “long train of abuses and usurpations” designed “to reduce them under absolute despotism,” they can, as a last resort, and without the consent of Congress, call forth the armed citizenry as a militia to defend life, liberty, and property.

Many Americans seem to have forgotten that they were given the right to keep and bear arms by the Second Amendment expressly for the purpose of defending themselves and their property from lawlessness and tyranny. Hunting and “sport shooting” are inconsequential compared to self-protection. Certainly Americans are threatened by street crime and random violence from below; but by far the greatest threat to life, liberty, and property comes from above—from a rapacious national government that increasingly strikes against the law-abiding while ignoring the real criminals (including many of its own employees). The Brady Law, the banning of some 180 assault weapons and high-capacity clips, threatens to impose excessive taxes on ammunition, and further attempts to abridge Second Amendment rights in the name of fighting crime or other social maladies should make us consider an important question: What is the source of the central government’s “right” to designate what types of arms a law-abiding private citizen may “keep and bear”?

Since the end of Reconstruction, the federal courts have issued four major decisions involving the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. In U.S. v. Cruickshank (1876), the Supreme Court held that Congress had no power to regulate the states or the citizens thereof in regard to the? possession and use of firearms. In Pfesser v. Illinois (1886), the Court ruled that a state cannot disarm its citizens to the point that they are unable to function as a militia under congressional order for purposes of national security. Thus, neither of these late 19th-century decisions enhanced state or federal authority to abrogate the Second Amendment rights of American citizens. Two rulings in the present century, however, have subverted the Second Amendment: U.S. v. Miller (1939) and U.S. v. Warin (1976). The Miller case, by upholding Big Daddy Roosevelt’s National Firearms Act of 1934 (which placed certain weapons, especially rifles and shotguns with barrels shorter than 18 inches, under federal regulation), gave the central government power to decide what weapons are appropriate for state militias, and by implication, what weapons are illegal for citizens to own. The right to keep and bear arms had now been infringed by Congress. Building on precedent set by the Miller decision, the sixth circuit court ruled in the Warin case to uphold the Gun Control Act of 1968. That act, at least in the opinion of the ruling elites, destroyed once and for all the Second Amendment rights of individuals by making the possession and use of arms a collective right that applies only to members of “active” state militias. Moreover, the Warin decision acknowledged the power of Congress to regulate arms nationwide, the states’ authority under the Tenth Amendment notwithstanding.

The present Congress points to such decisions to defend the Brady Law and Feinstein-Schumer assault weapons ban, but the federal courts are clearly wrong in their ruling on the Second Amendment. Congress still has no right under the Constitution to determine what arms the American people may keep and bear. Many liberals and mainstream conservatives argue that Congress must have control over gun ownership lest “gun nuts” of all stripes brandish machine guns, rocket launchers, mortars, grenades, and various sorts of even heavier hardware, making life unsafe for the poor thugs and deadbeats of Phoenix as well as Janet Reno’s baby-burners. Perhaps some wild-eyed Branch Davidian types would manage to lay their hands on tactical or strategic nukes and unleash Armageddon on the Potomac. Ever mindful of such possibilities, our esteemed Solons must make the nation safe for democracy by declaring from on high what sorts of weapons we citizens may possess. But look for a moment at history and consider what would have been our fate had the British, in the name of public safety, succeeded in regulating American arms prior to Lexington and Concord. Had the patriots who stood their ground against General Thomas Cage’s Redcoats been restricted to “keeping and bearing” blunderbusses as opposed to state-of-the-art “Brown Bess”-style muskets and Kentucky and Pennsylvania long rifles, then we might still be subjects of the Empire. The point is that if citizens have firepower comparable to their government’s, then that government is less likely to turn tyrannical.

The development of sophisticated military technologies that are beyond the ability of the average American to purchase and maintain certainly has changed the firepower equation between the citizen and his government. Until World War I and the introduction of the airplane and tank, our forebears had little trouble acquiring and learning to use and maintain most of the advanced weapons systems of the day (perhaps excepting Dreadnought battleships). But the increased complexity and destructiveness of armaments and the subsequent monopolization of the means of violence by the state has put the citizen at a great disadvantage. Facing Leviathan against such odds is a daunting prospect.

So what is the answer? If Americans had guts, they would tell the courts to go to hell, take back their Second Amendment rights to arm themselves, and organize “well-regulated Militia” state by state. Liberals never tire of pointing out that the 20th-century equivalent to a militia is the National Guard (which of course can be federalized). This simply is not SO; the traditional meaning of a militia is all males aged 16 to 60 acting in defense of their states and local communities against whatever threat may present itself. Since we are charged by the Constitution with defending ourselves in an organized, private fashion, then why cannot we (like the nation’s armed services) obtain the most effective weapons for that vital task?

Let us assume, for the moment, that we will not be facing the 82nd or 101st Airborne, but rather the BATF, DEA, FBI, and other guardians of the public weal. In case there are more Wacos, should we not be able to load our assault rifles with armor-piercing ammo (outlawed, by the way, in popular and cheap 7.62/39mm steel-core “armor-piercing” form by a Clinton edict last year) to make it a fairer fight against the Kevlar-clad feds? Should we not be allowed to have assault rifles with full-auto capability to give us at least a chance against the BATF’s new ground-attack aircraft with infrared night-fighting equipment? What about Stinger missiles, which taxpayers paid for and our government gave to Afghans for use against Soviet helicopters? Without heavy antitank weaponry, how are we going to combat the Bradley fighting vehicles and MlAl tanks that the FBI used to scorch the Branch Davidian compound at Waco? What about sophisticated chemical warfare gear to offset that dastardly CS gas (outlawed for use against foreign enemies) so prized by the FBI and BATF as an immobilizer of women, children, and old men? If the British had played this unfairly in the 1770’s or our forebears had quietly knuckled under to arms restrictions . . . well, you know.

Before our Second Amendment rights are whittled away to the point where all we are allowed to own are single-shot .22 caliber rifles and 410-gauge shotguns, the law-abiding among us must steel ourselves and brook no interference with our right to keep and bear whatever arms we think necessary to preserve our liberties. We need more folks like Sheriff Arpaio and those in the three westernmost counties of the Florida Panhandle, who are not fearful of taking collective self-defense as the very serious matter that it is. After all, why should a national government that purports to protect such liberties object if the people are equipped simply to help it do its job? But as the readers of this publication well understand. Leviathan wishes to disarm us because a well-armed and vigilant citizenry is all that blocks it from its ultimate goals: subverting the Constitution, imposing a police state, and merging the United States into the “New World Order.”