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By Andrew P. Napolitano
Saturday, March 9, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

In all the noise caused by the Obama administration's direct assault on the right of every person to keep and bear arms, the essence of the issue has been drowned out. The president and his big-government colleagues want you to believe that only the government can keep you free and safe, so to them, the essence of this debate is about obedience to law.

To those who have killed innocents among us, obedience to law is the last of their thoughts. And to those who believe that the Constitution means what it says, the essence of this debate is not about the law; it is about personal liberty in a free society.

It is the exercise of this particular personal liberty — the freedom to defend yourself when the police cannot or will not and the freedom to use weapons to repel tyrants if they take over the government — that the big-government crowd fears the most.

Let's be candid: All government fears liberty. By its nature, government is the negation of liberty. God has given us freedom, and the government has taken it away.

George Washington recognized this when he argued that government is not reason or eloquence but force. If the government had its way, it would have a monopoly on force.

Government compels, restrains and takes. Thomas Jefferson understood that when he wrote that our liberties are unalienable and endowed by our Creator, and the only reason we have formed governments is to engage them to protect our liberties. The anti-Second Amendment crowd cannot point to a single incident in which curtailing the freedom of law-abiding Americans has stopped criminals or crazies from killing. It is obvious that criminals don't care what the law says because they think they can get away with their violations of it. And those unfortunates who are deranged don't recognize any restraint on their own behavior, as they cannot mentally distinguish right from wrong and cannot be expected to do so in the future, no matter what the law says.

When the Second Amendment was written and added to the Constitution, the use of guns in America was common. At the same time, King George III — whom we had just defeated and who was contemplating another war against us, which he would start in 1812 — no doubt ardently wished that he had stripped his colonists of their right to self-defense so as to subdue their use of violence to secede from Great Britain. The lesson here is that free people cannot remain free by permitting the government — even a popularly elected one that they can unelect — to take their freedoms away. The anti-freedom crowd in the government desperately wants to convey the impression that it is doing something to protect us. So it unconstitutionally and foolishly seeks, via burdensome and intrusive registration laws — laws restricting the strength of weapons and the quantity and quality of ammunition and, the latest trick, laws that impose financial liability on law-abiding manufacturers and sellers for the criminal behavior of some users — to make it so burdensome to own a gun that the ordinary folks who want one will give up their efforts to obtain one.

The right to self-defense is a natural individual right that pre-exists the government. It cannot morally or constitutionally be taken away absent individual consent or due process. We cannot let a popular majority take it away, for the tyranny of the majority can be as destructive to freedom as the tyranny of a madman.

Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.

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