Editor's note: This is an unabridge version of a Community Viewpoint published in the Nelson County Times on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019.
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The time allotted an individual citizen to address the Board of Supervisors on a matter open to public comment being too brief to give vent to the passions aroused by an attack on the very core of American liberty, I humbly submit my articulation of those passions for publication as an open letter to the Board and my fellow citizens of Nelson County.
At the Dec. 10 Board of Supervisors meeting, I and many of my Nelson County neighbors were able to cheer the passing of R2019-46, a resolution in favor of the Second Amendment proposed by East District representative Jesse Rutherford. I could not help but notice the opposition’s confusion as to the purpose of the Second Amendment, as well as Supervisor Ernie Reed’s sanctimonious bemoaning of “division.” In the real world, the world of adults, truth always divides. The lord of truth himself said it would. Today, even suggesting that there is objective truth, is enough to invite condemnation. How much worse when one dares to actually name and speak the truth and facts.
Here are a few objectively true facts that should be considered by Reed and his fellow followers of Disney fairy dust:
In America today (2018 data), there are about 85 million private gun owners, almost 400 million guns and eight billion to 15 billion rounds of ammunition sold annually. The federal government accounts for only about one million of those rounds (the total standing supply of ammunition is impossible to estimate). If we were the problem, you would damn well know it. We all know exactly where the problem of violence resides. It is not galloping around the fields and farms of rural America; it is breeding in squalid urban communities that have been ruined by their Democratic Party control and “progressive” policy. One can always trot out some exception from the end of the bell curve and claim that the rest of us are in danger of being swept away in a tsunami of violence. But the claim just isn’t true, not even close.
During the debates regarding what should be the nature of our Constitution, even those who argued in favor of a stronger central government understood the necessity of an armed citizenry as the best possible guarantee of a peaceful and secure nation, specifically as a safeguard against our own government. I would have you remember the words of that Federalist of recent revived popularity, Alexander Hamilton, writing in Federalist Papers No. 28: “[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist."
Less than 70 miles away from us sits Red Hill, the home of Patrick Henry. We all are familiar with his famous words “Give me Liberty or give me death!” wherewith in 1775 at St. John’s Church in Richmond he called Virginians to action against the crown. At the Virginia ratifying convention, on June 5, 1778, he also spoke these words: “Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings -- give us that precious jewel, and you may take everything else!” -- an allusion to the metaphor used by his Christ to describe the surpassing value of the kingdom of heaven. Henry’s speech and conversation were often salted with such biblical allusions that hark back to a time when scriptures were the foundation of literacy, before we had forgotten they were in fact the very basis of raising us up from brutishness to civility. He was one of “us,” clinging to his Bible and his guns. "Guard with jealous attention the public liberty,” he continued. “Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined.”
Though mine is but a poor echo of the voices raised in chorus for the love of liberty nearly 250 years ago, I will raise it. Though it may be unheard above howling winds of time and political corruption, I will raise it. I will raise it to recall us to both liberty and virtue. Not that I myself am a virtuous man, but like you, I have sucked the sweet milk of this country’s bounty at liberty’s breast. I will raise it to decry tyranny, who was not laid to rest 250 years ago, but lives today in the hearts of men and women drunk with power and ambition. They sit in seats of government in our very own Richmond and in the nation’s capital.
We the people of Nelson County do not consider this resolution symbolic. Yes, I say “we” because I know that I do not stand alone. I stood just last Monday night shoulder to shoulder with more than 200 of my neighbors at the county courthouse, and again on Tuesday in a packed courtroom with hundreds more when we celebrated the passage of R2019-49.
We mean the resolution to be our notice to Richmond of our intent to confirm and defend our God-given rights (not our government-granted privileges). You speak of symbolism; we speak of defiance. We will unite in resistance against any government that seeks to wrest those rights from us through intimidation or by the use of force. Again, Patrick Henry speaks to us: “O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone ... ”
It will be said that my remarks are seditious, but how is it possible to commit sedition against a government that ignores the Constitution and usurps the rights of the people in whom supposedly rests the final authority to govern? That would be tantamount to committing sedition against oneself. It is the passage of laws contrary to the articles and spirit of our Constitution that is seditious. Those in Richmond pervert our Constitution, standing it on its head to establish a pretext for attacks on peaceful citizens. I would further contend that if the sheriff of Nelson County intends to enforce any part of the proposed gun-related “legislation” coming out of Richmond or if the commonwealth’s attorney intends to prosecute Nelson County’s good citizens under such unconstitutional and unnatural laws, Nelson County needs both a new sheriff and a new commonwealth’s attorney. I say let them be clear as to what are their intentions so that we of good will might rally and support them.
For those of us who cheered its passage, this resolution is not a petulant impotent voice of disapproval to Richmond. Richmond doesn’t even hear, much less heed the voices of resentment among the governed. They have no fear of the people, and they intend to act quickly to ensure they will never have to fear us. Those who have subverted our government and stolen the soul of Virginia with money foreign to our state care only about their own power. We know this, but let us speak openly.
Don’t sugarcoat it by saying the people in Richmond just want everyone to be safe. That is a lie. Rather they hope to use our fear to guarantee their own safety -- safety in their secure grip on power. They are happy to throw the victims of violence, our own Virginia sons and daughters, on the altar of their boundless ambition. Richmond has said the proposed legislation is necessary to combat an “epidemic of gun violence.”
As William Pitt said to the British House of Commons in 1783: "Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves." And Daniel Webster noted: "Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters."
Let it not be fear or hatred that inspires us; rather let us rediscover that early and true American love for Liberty. Let that love rekindle our souls to readiness and action, to be willing to defend her at a minute’s notice. To stand between precious liberty and tyranny as we would defend our own wives and children, because make no mistake, that is exactly what is at stake.
Tyranny has already broken down the door and entered as a thief; he has come to steal and destroy -- your lives, your children's lives and all posterity. Richmond stands poised to whittle away to nothing your means to defend Liberty. When will you say “No more”? Every good citizen and patriot must answer that for himself; we must as a community and people answer that together. Will you not act until liberty is mortally wounded? Will you wait until she is a corpse? Will you eulogize her with symbolic memorial resolutions? It will be too late to stand in her defense then. Liberty will be a wistful entry in some esoteric history of Virginia and the radical revolution that was America.
Let us return instead to a course charted by early Virginians; the path lit by reluctant but ineluctable leadership that led the way to freedom -- and then to liberty. Let the entire nation be encouraged once again by us. We dare not bend the knee to this foul lot in Richmond. Gov. Ralph Northam and the legislature will take as their earliest victims of “necessity” those newly born. Having survived the first attempt on their lives, they will be executed for the crime of inconvenience. No law will ban the assault weapon of the scalpel. No #MeToo movement will defend the rights of girls who have done nothing but fill their lungs with innocence and live a few moments of helplessness.
Let us speak plainly: The causes of the radical leftists are false because their hearts are false. Fortunately, so is their arithmetic. They have not counted that there are yet millions -- millions -- who love liberty and will still die for her.
The spirit of America lives in those millions of true hearts, coloring the map, county by county, with a warning to aspiring tyrants in Richmond and across the nation: “Sic Semper Tyrannis!” The radical left baits the spirit of America at the risk of their own doom and the country’s peril.
Amante is a resident of Shipman. He wrote this column for the Nelson County Times.