A MATTER OF TRUST
By Michael Mitchell
defines "trust" as "a firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity,
reliability, justice, etc. of another person or thing." To have confidence in the
reliability of another is to trust. To believe that another individual is responsible is
to trust. To believe an individual's veracity is to trust.
In the United States, we entrust our elected officials with running our government. We send them to the state or federal legislature with a mission: to support and defend the Constitution, and to look out for our interests and desires. The responsibility is enormous. Not only are these men and women in control of national or state policy - thus affecting millions of lives in very real ways - but they also hold the trigger of a massive military machine, including the world's foremost nuclear arsenal. As justification for our trust, the government offers rules and regulations designed to prevent abuse. We have no recourse, however, to enforce these rules should they be broken. Such enforcement can only come from other government officials. Not only are we required to trust government officials to manage their awesome power responsibly, we are required to trust them to police themselves to avoid abuse of that power.
By contrast, what do our elected officials entrust to us? Objectively speaking, very little. We are regulated and controlled down to the most minute levels. We can't be trusted to drive a car without passing a government test. We can't be trusted to educate our own children without the approval of the state educational systems. We can't be trusted to build structures on our own property without the approval of government zoning boards and code inspectors. And, these requirements carry with them the force of law. Should we fail to comply, we can be arrested and imprisoned by government officials. Clearly, the government does not trust the people.
Nowhere is this lack of trust more evident than in the area of private firearm ownership. Not only are gun owners strictly regulated throughout the country, there is a strong movement on the part of many in government to restrict the ownership of guns even further, even to the point of prohibition. Apparently, the government feels that you cannot be trusted not to go insane and begin killing at random. (Of course, you could still do so with your car or a bottle of gasoline, but I digress.)
If the government is trusted with massive responsibility and power, and the people are trusted with very little, from where did the gap emerge? Why is it 'natural' for the people to trust the government, but not for the government to trust the people? At some point, the government must have proven itself trustworthy, and the people must have proven themselves manifestly untrustworthy, right?
Incredibly, the opposite is true. There are approximately 83 million lawful firearm owners in the United States. Combining accidents and homicides, approximately 18,000 Americans die each year as a result of firearms-related injury. Even when you consider that 2,000 - 3,000 justifiable homicides (by civilians and police) are included in that number, the death rate per firearm owner per year is 0.0002. To put that into perspective, each gun owner in America will be involved with one firearm death every 5000 years. That's an incredibly successful record for any group of people handling a dangerous technology. And even that number is inflated, since it includes police shootings and homicides by felons, who are not included in the 83 million. Considering these facts, it is patently obvious that American gun owners behave very responsibly. And isn't responsibility a key component of trustworthiness?
Contrast this with government behavior. How many times has the government assaulted its own citizens with little or no provocation? Ask Randy Weaver, whose wife was shot in the head by a government sniper while she was nursing their infant, and his son shot in the back by government agents as the boy fled to the house. What was Weaver's crime? Sawing off two shotguns to the length specified by government undercover agents - a length which was less than 1/2" shorter than the legal limit--a "fact" that was also never even proven.
Ask the Branch Davidians, who openly invited government agents to come and inspect their guns prior to the raid that cost over 80 men, women, and children their lives. Ask the government why they injected pyrogenic tear gas into an enclosed wooden building, against the recommendations of the manufacturer. And, ask why they have never been able to produce the illegal guns they said they were there to seize.
Ask Kenny Ballew, shot and permanently paralyzed in his own bathtub by ATF agents who had the wrong address. Ask HUD housing residents in Chicago, as their homes were systematically searched without warrants, looking for illegal guns and drugs. (Why doesn't that constitute "unreasonable search and seizure"?) Oh, and these are the same HUD housing residents who are forced to live in buildings that don't meet basic code requirements the government imposes on any other landlord.
Ask the Japanese-American citizens who were imprisoned during the Second World War for no reason other than their genetic heritage. Ask the victims of asset forfeiture laws, their property seized and never returned merely because they were accused of a crime, even if they were acquitted or the charges were dropped. (You have to file suit to get your property back in such a case.)
Ask California and New York owners of "assault weapons", who complied with the law and registered their guns on the government promise that the registrations would never be used to facilitate confiscation. This promise, of course, was promptly broken, and the government demanded that these citizens surrender their politically incorrect guns or take up residence in a jail cell.
Consider the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars on research to analyze, for example, what gases cows belch. Consider the use of taxpayer funds to file lawsuits against manufacturers of products unpopular with the government - after legislative efforts to control those products have failed.
Consider the radiation exposure experiments conducted on US soldiers in the 1950s without their knowledge or consent. Consider the US Marines training to operate checkpoints to search for guns in North Carolina, pointing machine guns at people not involved in or knowledgeable of the exercise.
Consider Watergate, Filegate, Paula Jones, and Chinese espionage. Consider the promises made to Elian Gonzales' American family that they could keep him until the court hearing, only to have their doors kicked in at 5:00 AM and the child taken by government agents brandishing machine guns - machine guns banned from private ownership. (Why are government officials trusted with automatic weapons, but you aren't? How many doors have you kicked in lately?)
Consider the insulation of government officials from the people and from accountability for their actions. In what other realm do you require the permission of a company's president to file suit against an employee? (Suits filed against agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms must be approved by the Director of the agency.)
Consider the massive network of government agencies, each empowered to create regulations of their own accord - regulations which carry the force of law, even though they are created by unelected government bureaucrats, accountable to no one. What happened to the Constitution's expectation that legislation was the sole province of Congress?
Consider Dianne Feinstein, US Senator from California, who recently demonstrated egregiously unsafe gun handling habits at a press conference calling for more gun control. (Sweeping the crowd with the muzzle of an AK-47 with her finger planted firmly on the trigger, magazine inserted, bolt closed, Feinstein horrified gun owners, who instinctively know never to do such a thing.) Consider that she holds a concealed weapons permit for California - a rare commodity to say the least. Why is she, with her demonstrated disregard for basic gun safety rules and her vocal outcry to disallow citizens to carry a gun, worthy to be trusted with a loaded, concealed weapon, but the rest of us, who have demonstrated ourselves to be extremely responsible, are not?
Consider the ongoing refusal of Janet Reno's Justice Department to open inquiries into government abuses. Consider the fundamental disregard for the Constitution, as the President issues Executive Orders banning gun exports to Canada and encourages lawsuits against gun manufacturers, bypassing Congress and ordering his staff to "find a way around the Constitution." Isn't that the same Constitution the President swore to uphold, protect and defend?
We trust the government with massive control of our lives and the potential to wipe out human life on Earth, despite the fact that they have repeatedly violated that trust. They won't trust us with small arms - even though we've proven ourselves worthy. You have to ask yourself: who should be trusting whom?
Copyright 2000 Michael A. Mitchell. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce this article in its entirety, including this copyright notice.
There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible to live without breaking laws. ~~ AYN RAND
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