An Open Letter to J. Karl Miller

Karl's much better looking in person.

J. Karl Miller is a friend and fellow columnist on Thursdays for the Columbia Missourian. He is the conservative to my liberal points of view. We have defended each other many a time and have disagreed often. He is a retired Marine officer and for his service to the country I am most grateful. I respect his ability to articulate his political positions and his writing along side myself and the other citizen essayists. However, in some cases, like this, I must openly state my disagreement.

Please read Karl’s column concerning gun control laws and the role of the media and “liberals” to gut the Second Amendment. I may disagree with his proofs, but I certainly admire his writing style.

I started to write a short, 200-word response to Karl’s column, but… Because the space for comments in the Missourian is limited and as a writer, I tend to say things in 500 to 1250 words, this was too long to publish there.

Karl ~ As always, a well written opinion column in the April 12 edition.  I agree that we, as individuals, are being too quick to prejudge Mr. Zimmerman.

I am also a gun owner and a former member of the NRA, so I do respectfully disagree with parts of your premise and your proofs. Let me start with your statement that, “The NRA has long been in the vanguard of promoting safe, responsible firearms use and the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment…”

Florida’s gun laws are some of the most liberal (not in terms of political) in the nation. Yet their legislators kowtow to the National Rifle Association on a regular basis and not always for the betterment of the nation, or in this case the state.

Florida doctors are no longer permitted to speak to gun safety to parents of very impressionable children, a law sponsored and written by the NRA.

The “stand your ground” law in Florida has produced a reduction in the number of manslaughter cases prosecuted in the state because of the broadness of the statute, something Zimmerman’s new attorney is seeking to use in his client’s case.

The liberalization of concealed weapon laws in most states, including Missouri, has not lead to the reduction of gun related crimes. Today’s news alone featured a shooting in Ohio in a Cracker Barrel Restaurant because a wife told her husband that she is leaving him. Two innocent by-standers were killed as well as the shooter.

We have seen a seemingly increase of gun violence here in mid-Missouri, including the shooting of a seventeen year old by a fifteen year old.  Including gunfire close enough to the Chucky Cheese that bullets penetrated the wall. Including another shooting yesterday (April 12, 2012) in which, fortunately, no one was injured.

What I am most distressed about your column is the immediate blame of “The New York Times and The Baltimore Sun, the Brady Bill aficionados, Sen. Charles Schumer and even former President Bill Clinton, the left and progressive wings of the Democratic Party” seeking to prevent further gun violence.

A standardized practice of “the opposition” is to blame the “liberal media” and those who are brave enough to take a stance for something of which the conservatives disagree. And when liberals attempt to do the same with conservative media, they are labeled as “un-American.” This itself has become a tired argument and one, quite frankly, is below your otherwise intelligent and well written opinions.

A history lesson…

In 1789, there was no standardization of English in terms of grammar and spelling. It is, and always has been, my stance that the argument concerning gun ownership concerns the use of a comma, a definition and a possible missing word.

In 1789, the Militia was the equivalent to today’s National Guard, operated by individual states. In all cases, every able bodied man was required to take up arms as a member of the state militia and because the new nation was short on funding, each man was expected to bring his own weapon into battle.

The state conventions concerning the adoption of the first ten amendments were held in secret, so we really do not know the actual intent of the law. Is our right to keep and bear arms meant to include all people or only to those who were (and are today) in the various arms of the military? The courts have battled this question for decades.

Next, your flat statement that, “Truth be known, most “assault weapon” ban proponents are not able to distinguish one from a semi-automatic .22-caliber rifle,” is an insult to those liberals who are registered hunters and gun enthusiasts, which is not a “small minority” in this group. Kathy and I have owned various fire arms over the years. I do know several conservative families in Columbia and Denver that do not want guns in their homes.

Finally, I have heard and read the Thomas Jefferson quoting of Cesare Beccaria’s Essay on Crimes and Punishments before and must note that this is not the entire passage. Here is Jefferson’s reproduction of the segment he quoted as it was translated from French to English in 1809:

Portrait by Charles Willson Peale 1791

A principal source of errors and injustice are false ideas of utility. For example: that legislator has false ideas of utility who considers particular more than general conveniencies, who had rather command the sentiments of mankind than excite them, who dares say to reason, ‘Be thou a slave;’ who would sacrifice a thousand real advantages to the fear of an imaginary or trifling inconvenience; who would deprive men of the use of fire for fear of their being burnt, and of water for fear of their being drowned; and who knows of no means of preventing evil but by destroying it.

Cesare Beccaria

The laws of this nature are those which forbid to wear arms, disarming those only who are not disposed to commit the crime which the laws mean to prevent. Can it be supposed, that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, and the most important of the code, will respect the less considerable and arbitrary injunctions, the violation of which is so easy, and of so little comparative importance? Does not the execution of this law deprive the subject of that personal liberty, so dear to mankind and to the wise legislator? and does it not subject the innocent to all the disagreeable circumstances that should only fall on the guilty? It certainly makes the situation of the assaulted worse, and of the assailants better, and rather encourages than prevents murder, as it requires less courage to attack unarmed than armed persons.”

The quote was not a statement in support of the right to bear arms, but written as part of Jefferson’s studies to become a lawyer. Jefferson was quoting important cases of the time which he complied in a series of two books titled “Commonplace Books,” the first concerning the legal system of the time and the second concerning literature of importance.  I argue that calling this passage one that Jefferson supported in incorrect.

Karl, I respect your positions, your opinions, and your work. However, in this case when you and I disagree, I need to “pipe up” and call you on your stance.

 

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About David Rosman

David is the winner of the Missouri Press Foundation's "Best Columnist" in 2013 (First Place) and 2014 (Second Place). He is the winner of the 2016 Harold Riback Award for excellence in writing. He is also an editor and award-winning speaker. His book, "A Christian Nation? An examination of Christian nation theories and proofs" is available on Amazon, com as a paperback and eBook.
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