It was 9:30 at night. A young Pasadena mother was rocking her baby when she heard the loud rattling of a metal gate. Her husband was at a meeting 30 minutes away. She called him to recount what was happening. After a few seconds she hung up, knowing that he would call the police for her. Setting down the baby, she pulled the family's loaded 12 gauge from under the bed. Sitting on the floor with the baby beside her, she rested the barrel on the bed and pointed at the entry. Outside, the intruder reached between the security bars and slid open the glass patio door. “I have a gun,” the woman shouted. “Don't come in!” Fortunately, he believed her and fled.
What if the burglar hadn't believed her? If gun ownership had been illegal, would the intruder have taken his chances? The police wouldn't have stopped him, because they arrived too late.
That young mother was mine and I was the baby, and I'm lucky that my mother was able to own that Model 1300 without fear of arrest.
Had she been living under the Castro regime, the intruder would not have feared an unarmed young mother. Thanks to my Cuban grandfather, Senen Gorra, my father and I grew up in a country that honors the Right to Bear Arms, and my mother was allowed to exercise that right.
From my Cuban family, I've gathered history related to gun control and other issues of personal liberty. Fidel Castro's takeover of Cuba in 1959 brought about the restriction of free speech, religion and press, but first Castro eliminated gun ownership. Not even the soldiers who helped him come to power were allowed to be armed. In fact, those men were executed, because Fidel owed them loyalty, and loyalty restricts tyranny. My grandfather saw many of his friends imprisoned or killed for holding “counterrevolutionary” beliefs. In total, 20,000 to 30,000 patriots and principled citizens faced firing squads in Castro's gulags for embracing views contradicting Castro's. 300,000 to 500,000 people were imprisoned for the same reason. Thousands of newly orphaned Cubans and broken families resulted from the restriction of rights, especially that of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
Reading the signs of impending oppression, my grandfather began to plan his family's escape from the island. The only way out of Cuba at the time was to cut sugar cane under the blazing sun in a concentration camp for two years without pay. In this way, Castro gained free labor and discouraged emigration. The program was designed to break people, but my grandfather endured. Instead, after his two years of labor, he was granted exit to Spain. When he left for Madrid, he and his family were allowed a few changes of clothes, but no money.
My grandfather had his sights set on the U.S. for a reason. In this country, there is freedom. For my grandfather in Castro-reigned Cuba, liberty was worth dying for. Like many others he left his home, possessions, friends and loved ones for an ideal. Today, my father, brother and I all feel a deep gratitude for rights and values secured in this country.
When I first heard the haunting melody of “Taps,” a chill ran up my spine. It became clear to me that countless sacrifices have been made to secure our freedoms.
Freedom isn't free. The Right to Keep and Bear Arms was fought and paid for in blood and sweat. Our soldiers' sacrifices were not in vain. Through their valor, countless innocent lives have been spared, and they deserve our eternal gratitude and loyalty. They have made freedom and the Right to Bear Arms possible.
Veterans who hold the utmost respect for our rights in this country have seen the value of those rights on foreign soil, where they fought bravely in answer to the call of their country and endured trials after which one is never the same. Many saw their friends die and came close to the same fate themselves. One can then understand their firmness when it comes to defending the right to bear arms. In most countries, the right to keep and bear arms is a privilege reserved for only a few, and, as veterans can attest, the consequences are disastrous. Our former soldiers are still fighting for our rights by standing up to gun restrictions.
Throughout history, the first step of ruthless tyrants has been to confiscate weapons, because armed citizens are the greatest threat to a dictator. When arms are confiscated, the government has total power. All over the world, the pattern has been repeated. Guns were controlled in Turkey in 1911, resulting in 1.5 million government-sanctioned murders. In 1929, the Soviet Union saw 20 million more. In 1935, China lost 20 million. In 1956, Cambodia, 1 million, and in 1964, Guatemala lost 100,000 and in 1970, 300,000 Ugandans died. Close to 56 million unarmed defenseless civilians died under despotic governments in the 20th century.
Even in our country, arms control has developed. The first incident provoking gun restriction was the murder of an eight-year-old child in a Chicago gangland shooting. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was ready to outlaw machine guns. The attorney general declared the president's ideas unconstitutional, and instead decided to tax the guns out of existence. The cost of a Colt Thompson sub-machine gun was $200 in the middle of the Depression. A 100 percent sales tax was placed on a machine gun sale every time it changed hands. In this way, the government discouraged purchasing of these weapons and kept track of their location. Thirty years later, John F. Kennedy was killed and Lyndon Johnson signed the Gun Control Act of 1968. As a result of the new law, the government was able to control the sale and transfer of all firearms. From there, everything went downhill. In 1994, President Clinton further restricted the Second Amendment by creating the Safe Streets Act, which gave a list of “assault weapons” and tightened up magazine restrictions for handguns. All of these restrictions were made at the federal level, and countless states are willing to make it even more difficult to own a weapon.
The more power the government has over the rights of citizens, the less power the individual can hold and the closer we come to becoming more like our enemies. Perhaps former president Ronald Reagan, in his first inaugural address, said it best: “We are a nation that has a government-not the other way around. And this makes us special among the other nations of the earth. Our government has no power except that granted it by the people.”
Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and the other founding fathers believed the right to bear arms was important to create a country such as the world had never known. They knew that if individuals were allowed to have weapons, there would always be one more check on the government in the event of a crisis. The basis of a democracy is for power to reside within the people. To take away the right to bear arms is to erode the power of the people, which will seal the fate of our democracy.
Countless Americans have faced situations similar to my mother's. Their guns have saved their lives and those of their family members. Private weapons empower Americans with the opportunity to defend themselves from criminals and danger. Felons don't obey the law. Therefore, arms restrictions give them, not the civilians, the advantage. What kind of a policy is this? What kind of a country would give criminals and thugs the upper hand against law-abiding citizens? Fidel Castro's takeover in Cuba, as my grandfather witnessed, and British actions during America's colonial period prove political and social catastrophe results from the infringement of the right to bear arms.
The right to free speech, religion and press, as well as the right to keep and bear arms, are the ultimate checks on government. Nothing deters oppressors more than these freedoms. History vividly describes the effects of restriction on rights for the common man. The Second Amendment helps prevent history's tragedies from befalling Americans, and defends the democratic nature of the United States. This basic yet pivotal right ensures power in the hands of the common American. Freedom is then guaranteed. Our freedoms in America are not merely ends. They have framed and promoted the most productive, receptive and benevolent society the world has ever seen. These principles allowed my grandfather to immigrate and endeavor to make the country even greater. May these words endure: “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.”
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