The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, along with possibly the First Amendment, is the most often discussed and most often misunderstood.
This simple sentence, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” has been the subject of more hyperbole and irresponsible misinterpretation than perhaps any other contribution from our Founders.
But let’s first turn our attention to the protests in Hong Kong, which started on June 9 in dramatic reaction to a proposed extradition law. The law would allow China to compel the mostly autonomous “special administrative region” of Hong Kong to ship people across the Pearl River estuary to the mainland for trial. The citizens are right to fear this strong-arm control, because today’s modern archipelago of gulags resides squarely within mainland China. This is the same China that Napoleon referred to as “a sleeping giant” and warned to, “let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world.”
In the middle of their brave stand for freedom—and shamefully, barely reported upon in the mainstream press—Hong Kong protesters have been carrying the American flag and singing our National Anthem as they stand in defiance of the Chinese Goliath before them. Their love of American-style liberty has led to condemnation by some American liberals, who go so far as to equate Hong Kong protesters with white supremacists.
To the contrary, these courageous protesters are practicing civil disobedience in a way that would have made Gandhi proud. Of course, Gandhi was protesting against the 20th century British and, as Jonah Goldberg has pointed out, if you were going to defy an empire, that was the one to pick. Since the Brits relinquished their rights in Hong Kong back in 1997, the new Chinese landlord hasn’t been quite as lenient.
In stark contrast to the American-style liberty they seek to harness, gun ownership is not a right in Hong Kong. Under the Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance, private ownership of guns, legal or otherwise, is estimated at only 3.60 per 100 residents among the its 7.4 million Hongkongers. In other words, gun ownership is extremely limited and highly controlled. Compare those numbers with the United States, where three-in-ten people own a gun and another 11 percent of people say they live in a house with someone who does. Of those who own a weapon, 66 percent say they own more than one, and 29 percent own five or more.
Let me reduce the calculation a bit further.
The State of Alaska, with a population of less than 700,000 people, has a gun ownership rate of nearly 62%. Using the percentages above to approximate the number of guns that are privately owned in Alaska, it is not unreasonable to believe there are more than a million firearms in the hands of ordinary Alaskans who could very quickly mobilize into a “well-regulated militia.” If 62% of Hongkongers were similarly armed with say, AR-15s to accompany those American flags they’re holding, the Chinese government’s attempt at totalitarian control of the island would require a vastly different calculation.
Before I go any further, let me be emphatically clear: I am in no way advocating for violence or armed riots. Whether it be in the U.S., China or elsewhere, protesters must do everything humanly possible to avoid devolving into violence. Quite the contrary, the right to bear arms is the surest way to peace—through deterrence. It’s Reagan’s “peace through strength” doctrine in the context of a citizenry’s relationship to its government.
Alexander Hamilton penned the definitive piece on what would become the Second Amendment when he wrote Federalist 29 in January of 1788. Hamilton wrote the piece in defense of the idea that arming the citizenry was needed to provide the means to “…resist a common enemy, or to guard against the Republic against the violence of faction or sedition.” For those who like to argue that the “well-regulated militia” phrasing applied to only a “national guard” type construct, and not to the citizens in general being allowed to own guns, they need to take a deeper read of Hamilton.
Hamilton explained that it is not practical to take all citizens away from their daily lives and their employment for the purpose of training them as professional, or even semi-professional, soldiers. Only a segment of the population could be trained in such a way. To the concerns of those who felt that government-controlled soldiers could pose a threat to liberty, Hamilton said:
…if 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.
Our Second Amendment isn’t about hunting, and it isn’t about self-defense. It’s about Americans having a credible check and balance against the threat of tyranny and dictatorship. To those who say, “Charlie, we don’t have a dictatorship in America today,” I respond by asking, “Just why do you think that might be?” Without the Second Amendment, all the others are reduced to empty words.
China is our 2019 reminder of why totalitarian leaders love gun control. The people in Hong Kong are courageous for protesting and asking for their freedom. Without the right to bear arms, all they can do is ask. Taking is out of the question.
Lucky for China they don’t want to extradite people from Alaska.