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Giving up liberty in hope of safety will lead to neither

Originally published in the Fullerton College Hornet, Vol. 79, Issue 5; 22 Sep 1999

“This year shall go down in history. For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration. Our streets are safer, our police more efficient and the world will follow our lead into the future!”

These words were spoken in 1935 by German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. History has documented well the atrocities that occurred under his rule. This quote hangs over my desk as a reminder that we must be ever vigilant to protect our rights.

Paging through a small album I always keep with me, I see photos of what I hold dear: my family and friends, camping trips and the Army base in Germany where I grew up.

All precious, but none of the experiences in my life would have been possible without the rights acknowledged in the Constitution.

Of these precious rights, the Second Amendment, hotly debated of late, is again under fire. Following the recent tragedies at schools nationwide, lawyers and politicians (although there seems to be little difference these days) were quick to jump on a campaign to destroy the right of every American to keep and bear arms. We don’t need new laws; we need better enforcement of the laws we already have.

Peace between all people is a noble goal. The sad truth of the world, however, is that it’s dog-eat-dog out there. Truly twisted individuals exist who would not think twice about harming others and would, in fact, enjoy doing so.

Every day in America, according to FBI statistics, 14 people are murdered, 48 women are raped and 578 people are robbed by criminals who are on parole or early release from prison.

While I lived in Europe, I saw countries where, past and present, people were denied basic rights. Nations that were once as free as our own quickly descended into dictatorships and worse. The despots started their reigns of terror by banning guns, leaving the populace defenseless to resist.

The Brady Law originally mandated waiting periods for background checks before a citizen was allowed to purchase a firearm. Now the checks can be performed instantly over the telephone or computer through the National Instant Check System, or NICS.

NICS allows a store owner to prevent sales of firearms to criminals who, by pre-existing laws, are barred from firearms ownership. It doesn’t put the criminals in jail, leaving them free to walk the streets.

President Clinton is trying to use NICS to create a database of everyone in America with a firearm. The fear among gun owners, which is far from unwarranted if history is any guide, is that Clinton will attempt to seize all legitimately owned firearms using this national checklist — a list of “enemies of the state,” if you will.

As I look at the photos of my niece, I want to see her grow up in a world where she will be able to enjoy the same freedoms that I have enjoyed thus far in my life. It is our responsibility, as law-abiding and decent citizens, to stay vigilant and be wary of those who would do away with our rights.

As Benjamin Franklin said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Please note that, while the above quote attributed to Hitler was later shown to have not been said by him, the sentiment expressed in it is still indicative of his rule. I have elected to leave the story as originally published, rather than remove it.

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