Trust, the government, and civilian/military gun rights

Navy Yard shooter, Arron Alexis

WASHINGTON, April 9, 2014 — In the wake of the second shooting at Fort Hood, and the last in a line of several incidents which have occurred on military installations over the last ten years, Washington will again become embroiled in the gun rights debate. After every high profile shooting, anti-gun and pro-gun politicians use the incident to push their message. They weigh in, gather their lobbyists and their contributors, and attempt to gain any advantage they can against one another.

The reactions are predictable. The Left calls for more controls to prevent future killings. The Right points to the Second Amendment. Both parties want to prevent future killings; both feel the need to respond.

Americans always feel the need to respond to tragedy, often through legislation or restrictions on liberties. Partisans play one political faction off of the other, driving their own agendas.

The Fort Hood shootings didn’t result from partisan politics or overzealous gun control. Neither the 2009 nor the 2014 incidents were the fault of Democrats or Republicans; they were the fault of the government.

Neither party is singly responsible for those shootings. It was government as a whole, and those who support expansive government, and the underlying problem which faces the government when it comes to firearms and the American people.

That underlying problem is that government does not trust the people with firearms. When it can, it restricts the people’s right to bear arms regardless of which party is in charge. And some of its efforts are aimed at disarming the United States military on United States soil.

The Fort Hood shootings, the Norfolk shooting, and the Washington Navy Yard shooting all took place at “gun-free zones.” Carrying firearms except by authorized personnel is prohibited. That makes these installations targets for potential mass shooters.

These are the laws we need to review and that we need to address. Shootings in gun-free zones involve shooters who count on their potential victims to be unarmed when they attack.

The history behind gun-free zones (GFZ) is not cut and dry. You might think that GFZ on military bases were created by Democrats. The order to strip military personnel from carrying weapons on a military installation was signed by George H. W. Bush.

This should surprise no one.

In the last 30 years, Republicans have not been entirely sympathetic to gun owners. Ronald Reagan was in favor of an “assault” weapons ban, as was George W. Bush. Democrats are the natural scapegoat for gun-rights advocates; they are the party of gun registration. And while Bill Clinton did not ban weapons on military bases, he did sign the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004, under the protest of George W. Bush. It would be easy to blame Democrats for the assault on gun rights in the United States, but Republicans share the blame.

That has serious implications for gun owners. With the Democrats pushing to ban “assault” rifles and Republicans supporting GFZs on military bases, there is an underlying theme when it comes to their efforts.


The government does not trust the people of the United States to be adequately armed, nor do they trust the military to be armed on their own bases.

These restrictions seem like reasonable precautions to prevent dangerous individuals from obtaining destructive weapons and harming the public. The government wants people to be safe; they believe that by limiting access to semi-automatic rifles, people will be safer. They would not want arguments between soldiers to escalate, nor do they want trained killers to have easy access to automatic weapons.

But it goes deeper than that. These restrictions are not enacted just for public safety; they are enacted for control, and they are imposed out of mistrust.

An armed populace is always a threat to the government. That is why we have the Second Amendment, and why the Founding Fathers cemented the right to bear arms in our Constitution. The people are the ultimate check on the powers of the government: Their first weapon is the right to free speech, but it is supported by the right to bear arms.

An armed populace is the greatest check on government encroachment on individual liberties. It is easy to understand why the government would want to restrict the very weapons that the people would use to rise up against them in revolution or insurrection. It is not just for public safety considering that a minute percentage of gun deaths each year are carried out with such weapons.

Just as the government fears a well-armed public, it fears a domestically armed military. This country was founded on the principles of a citizen-army, much like Athens and Sparta. In times of war, the people would mobilize.

However, the needs of the country have evolved to necessitate a standing force capable of projecting strength and deterring invasion. There is little history of armed unrest in the United States since the end of the Civil War, but the fear is there, and the government tends towards policies which mitigate that risk. It is far safer to disarm the domestically stationed military and maintain control and access to the weaponry than it is to trust that the military will not revolt and burn down American cities over their displeasure with the government.

Trust. It all boils down to trust. The government of the United States does not trust the people, or their military, with weapons. This is un-American. Under the guise of public safety, following national tragedies, our government has enacted firearms restrictions which play on our complacency and our will to be safe over our will to be free.

The government was never supposed to be above the people. The people were supposed to be above the government and maintain a healthy distrust for it. Now, it seems that the government has developed a distrust for the people, holding them in disdain.

While GFZs in civilian areas are bad enough, on military bases they are asinine. Much of the trepidation on the part of gun control advocates over civilian use of arms is that they are not adequately trained, and that the police and military should be the only ones armed. Yet those same people vehemently defend GFZs on military bases.

Military personnel should be able to enjoy the same rights as civilians. This does not mean that every soldier, airman, sailor, or marine should be walking around military bases in full gear with M-4’s, but it does mean that those people who are charged with defending our freedom to bear arms in our own self-defense should have the freedom to bear arms in their own defense.

So why should they protest allowing those who are more than adequately trained to handle firearms from handling them?

The answer is; control and trust.

A government that cannot trust its people with firearms is a government not to be trusted. The American ideal of government is that it exists to serve the people. It does not exist to decide what their needs are, or to strip freedoms in order to provide for the greater good. Government’s attitude towards armed civilians and a domestically armed military displays a deep mistrust of the people they are supposed to represent, and the people who are charged with our national guardianship. That is toxic to the liberties of Americans, and to those who protect this country.


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  • BDUB

    I agree for the most part, but I don’t think the distinction between civilians and military personnel is necessary. Military personnel who are not currently serving in harm’s way in a war-zone, doing the bidding of an administration, are simply just other civilians as far as the government is concerned. So their thinking is unless we are serving their agenda (usually some form of coercion) there is no need for any of us to be armed.

    • Conor Higgins

      I for the most part agree with you, and I attempted to make that distinction in the article though I failed to do so. Thank you for reading.

      • BDUB

        NP. I just think the average person thinks the two are different and have different privileges and/or rights, with regards to firearms, and possibly even supports the idea that they do or should, when in fact the reality is they do not. Saying that neither party, civilian or military, is trusted by the government reinforces the perception of difference in the two, which you and I both seem to agree the government makes no such distinction of. I felt the article fell just short of dispelling this notion in the laypersons mind and may even have encouraged continuation of that thinking. And you are welcome. I like your writing.

  • JoeZ

    The next logical question is WHY doesn’t the government trust the citizenry with firearms?

  • RGZ_50

    Conor, as you make clear, an emerging Police State and Fascist regime does not want to bust a move and find citizens lined up to resist that move. That’s what they’re looking at now, and what’s behind the little gimmicks like ‘gun bracelets’ and all the rest.

  • Chris

    Excellent article Mr. Higgins. It reflects my sentiments precisely. The mistrust you speak of, from government, may have started with the gun control issue but now has spread throughout all branches.
    The disdain from government to the people is obvious and increasing in intensity. As it matures it may get worse with sides pushing the other in conflicts. It is not supposed to be this way. This responsibility lies at the feet of this administration. Their actions have caused this and they are the ones to be held responsible. The ballot box will save this country yet again.

  • Barry Hirsh


    The. Reason. For. The. Second. Amendment.

    Distilled to its essence.