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News & Editorials

Are you ready for Civil Disobedience?

by Dennis Jackson


On December 1, 1955 after a long and tiring day at work, Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat on a bus to a white man simply because she was black.  This courageous act of defiance caused her arrest for violation of the city of Montgomery, Alabama “Jim Crow” laws.  Her actions gave much needed momentum to the civil rights movement.  The ensuing 381-day bus boycott eventually led to a Supreme Court decision that everyone already knew--discrimination in public transportation is unconstitutional.  It shouldn’t have taken one unpretentious black lady to bring it to everyone’s attention!

In February 1960, the “Greensboro four,” looking for more than the fare served at the Woolworth lunch counter started the “sit in” movement for the civil rights of blacks in the south.  These four students, trembling in fear of repercussion from the police and other patrons, obstructed the wheels of prejudice and injustice with their own bodies.

These heroes of the civil rights movement, along with many others -- through the application of nonviolent protests -- broke the pattern of racially segregated public facilities and services.

“If a man hasn’t discovered something to die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

--Martin Luther King Jr.

America is historically familiar with the concept of civil disobedience.  The beginning of our country was founded on our disobedience to the laws and rule of a tyrant King.  By definition, civil disobedience means: “nonviolent opposition to a government policy or law by refusing to obey these laws on grounds of conscience.”  Even though mass civil disobedience to our laws has been conspicuously absent from our social and political scene lately, this does not negate a need for it.  To the contrary, read on!

“We must be the change we wish to see.”

--Mohandas Gandhi

We, as firearm owners, need to define under what circumstances civil disobedience can be justified and applied to recover our rights.  If we look to the non-democratic societies, such as in Eastern Europe, civil disobedience has been used quite effectively to institute political change.  The labor movement organized by Lech Welesa in Poland led to sweeping reforms that have dramatically altered their political landscape.  Remember, it was civil disobedience that motivated citizens of East and West Berlin to tear down the most dramatic and enduring symbol of government sponsored tyranny, The Berlin Wall.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand.  It never did, and it never will.”

--Frederick Douglass

Can we expect citizens of the United States to make the same sacrifices made by others, in other countries?  We live in a time of abundance, and at the same time a time of dependency!  We are dependent on what government largess we are able to acquire by selling our votes to the highest bidder -- one who will later turn against us.  We are abundant in our incomes and in our material trappings, and many among us have become willing accomplices to our own economic bondage.  We have our comfort, and some are unwilling to lay it on the line for something as fleeting and intangible as liberty and freedom.  I fear that there is little time left for negotiation.  And the non-believers in freedom and liberty have systematically blocked from us the other means that exist to recover our rights.

“God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to defend it!”

--Daniel Webster

Thoreau, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. did not believe that civil disobedience to an unjust law was anarchy.  They believed that their obedience to a higher law was paramount to laws of man.  In the United States that higher law is our Constitution!

"The persons who choose to engage in civil disobedience are actually expressing a higher respect for the law."

So you can see that the persons who choose to engage in civil disobedience are actually expressing a higher respect for the law.  Harriet Tubman, a criminal in her day, would be judged much differently today for her disobedience to the Fugitive Slave laws of the mid-nineteenth century.

“All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void.”

--Marbury v. Madison (1803)

To make our situation worse, since the early 1980’s America has been engaged in what they call a “Drug War”.  Make no mistake, this is a war!  This war has everything a war needs; An objective; A General, soldiers, money; a battlefield and of course, lets not forget the victims of war.  Since 1990, Congress has been appropriating money for the “drug war” and has even ordered the Pentagon to share military intelligence and arms to the drug warriors.  To further erode the rights and protections of citizens, Congress amended the Posse Comitatus Act to allow the military a more active role in law enforcement activities.  Subsequent actions by Congress have loosened the restrictions on the military even more.

This so-called drug war has created a proliferation of a federal police force.  And this has led to rampant civil and human rights violations—all in the name of the law!

“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those they oppose.”

--Frederick Douglass

In 1996 President Bill Clinton appointed Army General Barry McCaffrey as the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.  General McCaffrey has been a good candidate to continue the government policy of the militarization of our domestic police forces.  There is a severe lack of knowledge and understanding of this fact among Americans.  In fact, the proliferation of television “Cop” shows is assisting in this “acceptance” of our “warrior police force”.  How often in one of these shows do you see police officers dressed like soldiers with Kevlar helmets, body armor and fully automatic weapons busting some "criminal" for a petty "drug offense" where there is no victim in the "crime"?  Are you getting the picture?

“The thing that will destroy us is politics without principles.”

--Mohandas Gandhi

In the last five years the Department of Defense gave police departments over 1.2 million pieces of military hardware, including grenade launchers and armored personnel carriers.  At this time, in cities with populations over 50,000, nearly 90 percent of those cities have a paramilitary police unit.  In cities with populations under 50,000, 70 percent of those cities have these units.*  The Pentagon is funding the training and the arming of these paramilitary SWAT offices.  Training is provided by active duty Army Rangers and Navy SEALS!  I don’t know about you, but I have some concern about local police officers with the mindset of a soldier.  One is duty bound to serve and protect, the other to kill without conscience to achieve an objective, regardless of how "the enemy" feels about the "laws" being enforced.

"We can't be fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans."

--William J. Clinton

These changes to the mission of our police are due in part to this misguided and dangerous war against some drugs.  We all know that the friendly BATF was expanded after the repeal of the prohibition of alcohol.  After the repeal of prohibition all those soon to be out of work federal agents needed a mission, so Congress passed the National Firearms Act in 1934.  The Gun Control Act of 1968 continued to bolster federal control of the firearms industry.  The drug war created a new breed of federal and local officers to combat these new “threats” to our domestic security. The government is using a non-existent or limited crisis to place more restrictions on our liberties, or eliminate them entirely.  With each new draconian gun law comes more federal police and more money appropriated to arm them. 

 “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”

--Frederick Douglass

Since 1968, federal BATF agents have had a field day at our expense.  The abuses are too numerous to mention.  However, it is appropriate to mention that there have been confiscations of “spud guns” as destructive devices, murders, destruction and seizure of personal property, cover-up of crimes committed by agents, and planting of “evidence” to make an arrest.  All of this has been and still is conducted without fear of prosecution!  At the end of the day, “officer friendly” is standing in the smoldering embers of our Constitution claiming the “Eichmann Defense” by saying “I was only following orders”!  That didn’t work in Nuremberg and it shouldn’t work today!

For the life of me I do not understand why a seemingly good police officer will follow plainly illegal orders that cause the unwarranted destruction of life and property.  The police who will follow any order are nothing more than tools of oppression.  In the end, I predict that they will also pay a high price for their actions in the coming resistance to government sponsored oppression.

Don’t you agree that they should at least be on the side of an honorable cause?

“We must never forget that everything Hitler did was legal.”

--Martin Luther King Jr.

Our community police departments are becoming willing accessories to these unlawful acts because of the support they receive from various federal agencies -- not to mention, their share of federal seizures from the “asset forfeiture laws”.  There is a lot of incentive for a local police department to participate in these activities.  These government policies are creating a standing army within our communities, an act feared by our Founding Fathers.  Don’t get me wrong; I am not against a duly organized and legitimate constabulary.  There is a place for the police in our society and I support the sincere efforts and sacrifices of our men and women in blue, as long as their duties are conducted under the legitimate laws of the land. 

“No free man shall ever be disbarred the use of arms.  The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

--Thomas Jefferson

Now back to civil disobedience!  Recently the State of California has enacted several draconian firearm laws, including confiscation.  Many patriot firearm owners have refused to comply with these illegal laws, at risk of a felony conviction.  These citizens should not be judged harshly by others for their defiance of these unjust and illegal laws.

They understand, and have not abandoned the principles of individual liberty and freedom.  The action of these citizens is called “Civil Disobedience”, and we should all express our gratitude to them for their courage.  This could be the beginning of our movement!  However, there are too many armchair patriots who are waiting for the “feds” to come down the street with bullhorns ordering citizens to “bring out your guns” before they take a proactive stand.  Folks, when that day comes, it is already too late!

“Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we transgress them at once.” 

--Mohandas Gandhi

For the purpose of illustration, I am including the non-violent dictum of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.  You are welcome to use the advice as you see fit to your own intent:

We will take direct action against injustice without waiting for other agencies to act.

We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices.

We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade.

We adopt the means of non-violence because our end is a community at peace with itself.

We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts.

We will always be willing to talk and seek a fair compromise, but we are always ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to the truth as we see it.

There is so much that can be done! Instead of civil disobedience, I prefer the term “Civil Resistance”.  First of all, let all your elected representatives know that you will never register or give up your firearms, that you will not obey illegal firearm laws. Then stick to it!

"The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws!" 

--Tacitus (A.D. 55-130) 

Some ideas for activism

These are a few of the things you can accomplish on a daily basis without disturbing your lifestyle, but can have positive impact on legislation.  Depending on your imagination and creativity, you can add more.

Write letters to the Editor of your daily newspaper.  Especially in response to a damaging article about firearms.

Educate yourself on the issues.  Arm yourself with the facts to refute the outrageous claims made by the anti-rights crowd.

Get involved with the activities of a pro-gun organization, but don’t expect them to do all the work without your assistance.

Resolve to call or write your representatives at least once a week expressing your views.

Start or circulate a petition.

Confront the media on their misinterpretation of the facts.

And, most importantly, set your mind on a firm foundation of commitment to be and remain a free individual.

"Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed."

--Abraham Lincoln

Activism leads to a positive change; apathy leads to the continued loss of rights and liberties.  If only a small fraction of the firearm owners in the U. S. became active in preserving their rights, we could permanently change the current anti-rights climate.

We, as firearm owners, need to become the so-called “800 pound gorilla”.  We must claim respect for our passion and our exuberance toward our goals.

Do everything within your power to hamstring those who wish to deny you your God-given rights.  Flood the offices of your elected officials with letters expressing your views, and insist that they honor their oath of office. Gandhi used the religious beliefs and the sense of honor of the British to win independence for India.  The British became victims of their own conscience. Our foes have no conscience or principles for us to rely upon.  All we have is our own resolve and our resistance to further capitulation with the extremists who are denying us our safety and security.  And they are the “extremists”!  What is the difference between the homophobic and racist extremists who murdered Mathew Sheppard and James Byrd, and the government-paid extremists that murdered Carl Ray Wilson in his sleep recently in Arkansas?

"Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression."

--Malcolm “X”

Ideas for Civil Resistance

Why would you comply with state sanctioned “concealed carry laws” when you already have the right to carry a firearm.  The only reason CCW laws exist in the first place is so we don’t offend anyone by open carry.  We need to start offending a few people!

With as many firearm owners as there are cell phone subscribers (about 100 million each) we can make the firearm as common as the ubiquitous cell phone.  Think about that when you see someone on the road with a cell phone or the dozens you see in a shopping mall.

Do your civic duty by serving on a Jury.  Educate yourself about the rights and duties of a juror.  You have the sole power to nullify an illegal or unconstitutional law.  When a jury finds a defendant not guilty where the defendant did in fact violate the law, it nullifies the law in that case.  Repeated nullification of an unjust law makes it unenforceable in future cases and will eventually lead to a repeal of that law.  Juries repeatedly nullified prosecutions under the prohibition laws. That is the primary reason that the Eighteenth Amendment was repealed.  Let's create a future that is equally bleak for our senseless firearms laws.  Does it make sense for any citizen to be jailed for the constitutionally protected act of  “possession of a firearm”?  (Prosecution for violent actions with a firearm is another matter.)

“There are not enough jails, not enough policemen and not enough courts to enforce a law not supported by the people.”

--Hubert H. Humphrey

Without raising one fist in anger against an unjust and illegal law, one juror can stop governmental abuse and oppression.  If this responsibility is not exercised by juries, trial by jury becomes trial by government!  Jury nullification is part of our “checks and balances” system and is not a violation of the rule of law, because it is the rule of law!

This is true even though it contradicts instructions from a biased and politically appointed judge and prosecutor.

“The law itself is on trial quite as much as the cause which is to be decided.”

--Harlan F. Stone U.S. supreme Court, 1941

How far can we expect the abuses against our right to keep and bear arms to continue, before we stand up and take a stand and say NO MORE!  How many more stories do we need to hear and read about?  How many more blatantly illegal “Lautenberg” amendments need to be foisted on us?

“The law is not to be respected merely because it is the law, but only because it is right and just.  If unjust laws exist, civil disobedience is an effective way to oppose and change them.” 

--Henry David Thoreau 

Any talk about civil disobedience must include a disclaimer on the risks for your actions.

Group or individual disobedience could cover such crimes as:

  • Disorderly conduct

  • Trespass

  • Resisting arrest

  • Assault

  • Inciting a riot 

Plus a myriad of other state and local laws that could include violations of firearm laws.

The penalties for these crimes will vary from one jurisdiction to another.  If you decide to (and I hope you do) participate in civil resistance to our unfair and unjust firearm laws and enforcement, please check with your particular state and local laws and learn what your rights are in case you and the law find yourselves at cross purposes.

More serious crimes could cross over into federal jurisdictions.  To wit; In 1970, congress passed The Organized Crime Act and The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. (RICO)  Penalties under the RICO statutes are more severe and preferred by prosecutors because of the stiffer penalties and higher damage awards.

I bring up RICO because it is important for anyone considering civil disobedience and political protest.  Primarily because it brings groups with opposing views, political agendas and interests into a position to file claims under the RICO statutes.  Left wing liberal groups love the RICO laws and use them frequently to silence their opponents.

We can use those same laws against them!

Originally, RICO was used as a tool to prosecute organized crime.  However, it has been perverted into a method to squash free speech and free assembly protections.  The bright side to RICO is that the Supreme Court will probably rule that RICO cannot be used against protections guaranteed by the Constitution.

With this information I hope to have inspired you to become more involved in protecting our rights and stopping continued assaults on these rights.  Never forget the goal of our enemies -- total domestic disarmament.  Think about the persons whom I have quoted in this article and the sacrifices they made for their cause.  Remember, they eventually prevailed.  We can too!

“In Germany, first they came for the Communist, and I didn’t speak up, because I was not a Communist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew.  Then they came for the trade unionist, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a trade unionist.  Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant.  Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

--Pastor Martin Niemoller (Nazi victim)

*1997 study by Professors Peter Kraska and Victor Kappeler at the Eastern Kentucky University School of Police Studies


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