Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 12.18.08

Salad Bar of Rights
We don’t get to pick and choose
by C. Michael Arnold

Rick Levin’s cover story commentary, “Bang Bang, Shoot Shoot” (12/4), perpetuates a common flaw in anti-gun rhetoric that somehow the Second Amendment is about hunting rights. The Second Amendment and the Oregon Constitution do not say that there is a “right to keep and bear sporting goods.” The primary purpose of these constitutional provisions is to protect citizens from tyranny — not to preserve a right to shoot deer.

Levin neglects to even point out that the Oregon Constitution affords its citizens broader protections than the Second Amendment and specifically covers self-defense. 

Levin is also quick to point out that there are more than 30,000 people shot to death each year in this country. He neglects to point out how many of those deaths were in self defense or by criminals against an unarmed victim. Additionally, this statistic does not take into account how many crimes are deterred and deaths prevented by citizens with a firearms. 

Furthermore, Levin fails to point out that in the last 100 years, governments have murdered millions more people than were killed by common criminals. More importantly, those government-sponsored murders were preceded by gun control laws making the citizenry easier to control and kill when they were unable to resist. 

It is amazing how quickly we forget the gun control laws of the Soviet Union, Nationalist China, Nazi Germany, Communist China and the Khmer Rouge that preceded their killing of more than 60 million people. And that still leaves us to ponder the gun control legislation that preceded the death of the one million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turkey, or the indigenous peoples and other political enemies killed at the hands of Guatemala or genocide at the hands of government in Rwanda and Uganda. Our Founding Fathers knew the threat of a government to its people, hence the Second Amendment. History has unfortunately reaffirmed this lesson again and again.

We do not get to pick and choose which constitutionally guaranteed rights we will support like we are at a salad bar of rights. It is disingenuous to complain about the neo-cons stepping on our civil liberties (First, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments) — by their dispersing lawful assemblies, illegal wiretaps, deprivation of the right to counsel, torture, etc. — but completely ignore what the Framers found so important of a right that they listed it #2. We should protect all of our civil rights, including the right to keep and bear arms. 

Of course, kudos to Levin for visiting the Baron’s Den for target practice. However, that one experience does not adequately hide his contempt for firearms and those that use them. His contempt was obvious in demeaningly comparing gun range patrons to the “Wild Bunch after a spume of unregenerate violence” and to “children sparking cherry bombs.” 

Truth be told, gun ownership isn’t all about having hee-hawing good redneck fun. Actually, most firearm owners see target practice as a necessary responsibility. Anecdotes about isolated experiences at the gun range only work to perpetuate a stereotype and do nothing to further the journalistic standards that we expect out of the EW.

C. Michael Arnold is a trial lawyer, farmer and lifelong Democrat. He can be contacted at