The Arms Rights Struggle As Civil Rights Struggle*

By Jeff MORAN | Geneva

Eleven score years ago, great Americans, in whose symbolic debt we stand, signed and ratified our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.  These momentous actions came as a great beacon light of freedom and hope to countless people who had been seared in flames of injustice.  They came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of tyranny and dependence.

Two hundred twenty years later, the second of our enumerated individual rights stands threatened.  Two hundred twenty years later, armed citizens face a new bigotry, a rising chorus of condemnation, and strident calls for arbitrary deprivation of their rights.  Two hundred twenty years later, armed citizens face having their rights rolled-back to become badly crippled by the manacles of prohibition and the chains of extreme regulation.  Two hundred and twenty years later, armed citizens face a reactionary wave of irrationally punitive policy, relegation to the fringe of American society, and exile in their own land.

Must we assemble in Washington to dramatize this shameful condition?

Perhaps, in a sense, we must go to our nation’s capital to cash a check.  When the architects of our republic wrote their magnificent words of the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.  This note was a promise that all people could be guaranteed the fundamental rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is evident today that America is at risk of defaulting on this promissory note insofar as her armed citizens are concerned.  Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, our current President, of all Presidents, stands ready to give armed citizens a bad check, a check that will come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we must refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.  We must refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of civil rights this nation protects.  We must cash this check, to assure for us the safety and security of armed freedom against injustice, oppression, and wanton violence.

Perhaps we must gather on a hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.  Now is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of reasonable disarmament.  Now is no time to answer misguided cries to justify any arms in common use for self-defense.

Rather, now is the time to scrutinize our government and its leaders.  Now is the time to insist on a course of action built on firm analysis and appropriate problem definition and not on shifting emotion and policy pretext.  Indeed, now is the time to halt movement toward the dark and desolate valley of irrational prohibitions and to orient ourselves to the sunlit path of individual freedom and civil liberty.  Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of convenience to the solid rock of our Constitution and its Bill of Rights, to our sacred right to defend ourselves and our own.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.  This chilling winter of discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating spring of commitment to armed freedoms, freedoms to defend ourselves when evil and injustice present.  Two thousand thirteen is not the beginning of our struggle, no, this much is clear.  But two thousand thirteen may prove a decisive year.

Perhaps those who believe that armed citizens should just blow off steam and then be content as freedoms expire will have a rude awakening if our government takes arbitrary action towards de facto disarmament.  Perhaps there will be neither rest nor tranquility in any state to abridge the privileges and immunities of armed citizens.  Perhaps whirlwinds of revolt will shake the foundations of our nation until a bright day of justice emerges.

If such times must come to pass, there is something to say to those who demand respect for their arms rights before the palace of justice.  In the process of defending our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds.  Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.  We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline.  We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.  Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting determined hostility with honesty, integrity, and moral courage.  The marvelous new activism which has engulfed the responsibly armed must not lead us to a distrust of all people who dislike arms, for many of our unarmed brothers and sisters have come to realize that their destiny is tied to ours.  And they too realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.  As we walk together, we must make the pledge that we shall always march forward.  We cannot turn back.

Now there are those who are asking the advocates of arms rights, “When will you be satisfied?”  And to this I say, we can never be satisfied if laws make us defenseless victims of unspeakable horror from another’s brutality.  We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, fatigued by ever more rules and poll taxes, cannot vote for life and so shield our children in terrible places.  We cannot be satisfied as long as the armed citizens’ basic mobility is restricted beyond their home, to places away from compelling necessity.  We can never be satisfied as long as people in public are stripped of their safety and robbed of their lives by signs stating “no arms allowed.”  We cannot be satisfied as long as a responsible woman in Connecticut cannot shoot back and a responsible man in Colorado believes he has nothing for which to defend himself.  No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have experienced great fear and pain by irresponsible evildoers.  Some of you, sadly, are still fresh from farewelling those taken too soon.  Some of you inhabit places where freedom’s exercise has left you battered by storms of prosecution and staggered by winds of adversity.  You have been the veterans of creative suffering.  Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Though we face great difficulties today and tomorrow, remember that our cause is to champion civil rights after all.  Our dream too is worth fighting for.  So, let us not wallow in the valley of despair.  Wake now, open your eyes wide and guide your lives so that somehow our situation will change.

Rest not, march forward!


* This work was adapted from the “I Have A Dream” civil rights speech given by the Reverend Marin Luther King, Jr. on 28 August 1963.  The author’s intent was to preserve much of the original language and structure for comparative and educational impact.  Readers are invited to read King’s original speech, which can be found here.


About The Author

Jeff Moran, a Principal at TSM Worldwide LLC, specializes in the international defense, security, and shooting sports industries.  Previously Mr. Moran was a strategic marketing leader for a multi-billion dollar unit of a public defense & aerospace company, an American military diplomat, and a nationally ranked competitive rifle shooter.  He is currently studying international humanitarian and human rights law with the Executive LL.M. Program of the Geneva Academy.  Mr. Moran has an Executive Master in International Negotiation from the Graduate Institute of Geneva, an MBA from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, and a BSFS from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.


First Published: 31 December 2012.
Last Updated: 3 January 2013.


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