Well, that didn’t take long.
Mere hours after the Las Vegas massacre — a horrible act of pure evil that claimed the lives of 59 of our fellow Americans — political and media elites were already out in full force, blaming the attack on regular Americans who cherish our Second Amendment rights.
Social media swelled with left-wing vitriol, while the mainstream media filled with preachy do-gooders blaming the victims and calling for an end to our rights. One CBS vice president asserted that those killed in Vegas didn’t deserve our sympathy because “country music fans are often Republican gun toters.” Even Hillary Clinton popped in, using the tragedy to criticize common-sense legislation in Congress to legalize hearing protection devices.
And we wonder why Americans feel so divided.
As a lawmaker and candidate for the U.S. Senate, I recognize the need for compromise and understanding. I also take seriously the oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution.” There are many policy areas appropriate for elected leaders to compromise, but their oath to defend the essential cornerstones of our free society — the constitutional liberties of the American people, including our Second Amendment — is not an area where we should ever tolerate compromise.
As the communist ruler Mao Zedong (infamously responsible for the deaths of 45 million of his own people) wrote, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” His dark observation explains why, throughout history, every would-be ruler’s first act is disarming those he seeks to rule.
Throughout history, humanity had known one power structure: authoritarianism. Kings did as they saw fit, and their subjects accepted that or faced the consequences. The king would never allow his subjects to own firearms. Only his military and hand-picked elites could be trusted with such power. How would the king rule a people who could stand up for themselves? How could he take the fruits of their labor? How could he dictate their religion? How could the king ensure obedience?
Rejecting the rule of kings, our Founding Fathers committed our new nation to a brilliant and radical experiment that turned this cruel pyramid on its head. Our American experiment asserts that “We the People” are better off when power is entrusted into the hands of common citizens, not the rule of kings.
In America, many constitutional rights and responsibilities rest with common citizens, including our rights to vote, speak and pray. But our founding generation knew that declaring these rights meant little if we could not defend them. So, in our Constitution, they enshrined one essential liberty necessary to defend all others: the right to keep and bear arms to protect oneself and one’s community.
To the founders, a “well regulated Militia” didn’t mean soldiers commanded by a government. The militia meant common citizens who are disciplined and proficient, and our founders called for every willing household to have weapons and to be trained in their use should the worst occur.
In America, power and liberty rest with the people. Should a tyrant ever attempt to seize that power from us, the Second Amendment ensures the little guy has the ability to stand up for himself. Without that right, all other American rights are ultimately at risk.
So, every time political elites feed us the story that we little guys must surrender this right because we cannot be trusted, we must remember that the Second Amendment is the right that defends all others. We must hold firm and not allow our rights to be trampled.
We must also remember to arm ourselves with respect, kindness and fact. While political and media elites politicize tragedies and stoop to fear-mongering, name-calling and hyperbole to advance their agendas, we must do better. Many of our friends and neighbors are justifiably scared, but they are good people. While the elites would prey on their fears to seize our freedoms, it is up to those of us who value liberty to win the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens with reason, compassion and understanding.
And win we must. For to lose the right that defends all others is to watch all American liberty be lost.
Eric Brakey is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. He currently represents District 20 in the Maine Senate.