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Can the Government Keep Us Safe?
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Here we go again. The United States has been rattled to the core by an unspeakable act of evil perpetrated by a hater of humanity. A quiet, wealthy loner rented a hotel suite in Las Vegas, armed it with shooting platforms and automatic weapons, knocked out two of the windows, and shot at innocents 32 floors below. Fifty-nine people were murdered, and 527 were injured.

The killer used rifles that he purchased legally and altered illegally. He effectively transformed several rifles that emit one round per trigger pull and present the next round in the barrel for immediate use (semiautomatics) into rifles that emit rounds continuously when the trigger is pulled — hundreds of rounds per minute (automatics). Though some automatic rifles that were manufactured before 1986 can lawfully be purchased today with an onerous federal permit, automatic weapons generally have been unlawful in the United States since 1934. Even the police and the military are not permitted to use them here.

I present this brief summary of the recent tragedy and the implicated gun laws to address the issue of whether the government can keep us safe.

Those who fought the Revolution and wrote the Constitution knew that the government cannot keep us safe. Because they used violence against the king and his soldiers to secede from Great Britain, they recognized that all people have a natural right to use a weapon of contemporary technological capabilities to protect themselves and their liberty and property. They sought to assure the exercise of this right by enacting the now well-known Second Amendment, which prohibits the government from infringing upon the right to keep and bear arms.

When the Supreme Court interpreted this right in 2008 and 2010, it referred to the right to keep and bear arms as pre-political. “Pre-political” means that the right pre-existed the government. It is a secular term for a fundamental, or natural, right. A natural right is one that stems from our humanity — such as freedom of thought, speech, religion, self-defense, privacy, travel, etc. It does not come from the government, and it exists in the absence of government.

The recognition of a right as fundamental or natural or pre-political is not a mere academic exercise. This is so because rights in this category cannot be abrogated by the popular will. Stated differently, just as your right to think as you wish and say what you think cannot be interfered with or taken away in America by legislation, so, too, your right to own, carry and use arms of the same sophistication as are generally available to bad guys and to government officials cannot be interfered with or taken away by legislation. That is at least the modern theory of the Second Amendment.


Notwithstanding the oath that all in government have taken to uphold the Constitution, many in government reject the Second Amendment. Their enjoyment of power and love of office rank higher in their hearts and minds than does their constitutionally required fidelity to the protection of personal freedoms. They think the government can right any wrong and protect us from any evil and acquire for us any good just to keep us safe, even if constitutional norms are violated in doing so.

Can the government keep us safe? In a word, no.

This is not a novel or arcane observation but rather a rational conclusion from knowing history and everyday life. In Europe, where the right to keep and bear arms is nearly nonexistent for those outside government, killers strike with bombs and knives and trucks. In America, killers use guns and only stop when they are killed by law-abiding civilians or by the police.

The answer to government failure is a candid recognition that in a free society — one in which we are all free to come and go as we see fit without government inquiry or interference — we must be prepared for these tragedies.
We must keep ourselves safe, as well as those whom we invite onto our properties.

Surely, if the president of the United States were to have appeared at the concert venue in Las Vegas to address the crowd, the Las Vegas killer would never have succeeded in bringing his arsenal to his hotel room. Government always protects its own. Shouldn’t landowners who invite the public to their properties do the same?

Add to government’s incompetence its useless intrusive omnipresence. In present-day America, the National Security Agency — the federal government’s domestic spying agency — captures in real time the contents of every telephone call, email and text message, as well as all data sent over fiber-optic cables everywhere in the U.S. Thus, whatever electronic communications the Las Vegas killer participated in prior to his murders are in the possession of the federal government.

Mass surveillance is expressly prohibited by the Fourth Amendment, but the government does it nevertheless. It claims it does so to keep us safe. Yet this exquisite constitutional violation results in too much information for the feds to examine in a timely manner. That’s why the evidence of these massacres — from Sandy Hook to Boston to Orlando to San Bernardino to Las Vegas — is always discovered too late. At this writing, the government has yet to reveal what it knew about the Las Vegas killer’s plans before he executed them and executed innocents.

This leaves us in a very precarious position today. The government cannot keep us safe, but it claims that it can. It wants to interfere with our natural rights to self-defense and to privacy, but whenever it does so, it keeps us less safe. And in whatever arena it keeps us less safe and falsely fosters the impression that we are safe, we become less free.

Copyright 2017 Andrew P. Napolitano. Distributed by

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  1. BozoB says:

    I don’t know if your anti-gun-law position is right or wrong, but I find your arguments disappointingly insufficient. (1.) You write: “Can the government keep us safe? In a word, no.” But you don’t seem to object to criminal trials and to prison, which are clearly undertaken to “keep us safe.” Why don’t you, or do you? (2.) You write: “In Europe, where the right to keep and bear arms is nearly nonexistent for those outside government, killers strike with bombs and knives and trucks.” True enough, but why don’t you acknowledge that the homicide rates in all or almost all European countries is lower — often vastly lower — than in the United States? Do you really maintain that professional arms manufacturers waste their time in trying to increase the efficiency of their products and that “bombs and knives and trucks” are really just as useful when it comes to slaughter? Do you know any professional armies that prefer knives to AK-47s? (3.) When you write that “your right to own, carry and use arms of the same sophistication as are generally available to bad guys and to government officials cannot be interfered with or taken away by legislation,” aren’t you ducking the issue by employing the phrase “of the same sophistication … “? If government has no rights in the matter, who do you imagine will judge whether the sophistication of someone’s arms is appropriate? If I as a free and independent man worry that bad guys, perhaps in the government, might attack my home by helicopters, who has the right to deprive me of surface-to-air missiles?

    • Replies: @Bro Methylene
    , @Alden
  2. Of course violent crime rates in Europe are lower than in the US. So? You are comparing Apples to Oranges. What is the violent crime rate of Whites in the US versus Whites in Europe? Negroes, at about 13% of the US population commit about 55% of its violent crimes.

    • Replies: @another fred
  3. The Constitution: Increasingly a dead letter of the law, suitable for framing only.

    • Replies: @Alden
  4. I think the question should not be, “Can the Government Keep us Safe?”. Rather, it should be, “How best can we remain safe from the Government?”

    In weighing this substitution of questions, please consider that history clearly shows that 100′s of millions and more likely even billions and billions of people, often their own citizens, have been killed by governments. Indeed, governments are the greatest mass-murderers of all time and their wanton killing is only exceeded by pathogenic diseases.

    So, comparatively speaking, government murders make near-insignificant the contribution to that tally made by the Las Vegas shooter and all others who have preceded him. But, in light of this some want us to give up our guns?

    Senseless. Hysterical. Self-defeating.

  5. @BozoB

    The historically low rate of violent crime in Europe is attributable to Europe’s (quickly disappearing) racial and religious homogeneity, and not to the unavailability of firearms. But you know this, and it infuriates you, because you (for some unknown reason) hate Europeans, and you want to see them suffer! The purpose of your post is to display what you believe is your superior intellect. It is not working. You are, in truth, a knucklehead, and, as I have pointed out, motivated by hatred. Have a nice day!

  6. BozoB says:

    Please try to relax, Bro M. I am quite prepared to agree that the homogeneity of European countries plays a large role in their low murder rate. But I was responding to a point made explicitly by Mr. Napolitano, which is what this comment space is for. He wrote: “In Europe, where the right to keep and bear arms is nearly nonexistent for those outside government, killers strike with bombs and knives and trucks.” Although I generally appreciate his pieces, I thought this point was weak; in fact, it smacks of a rather common desire on the part of some gun-law opponents to ignore the relative lethality of different weapons. As for the rest, well, I’ll assume you were just having a bad day.

  7. To me it isn’t a “keep us safe” position. It’s a position of “we-get-rich”, meaning the contractors, the agencies, the MIC. I think it was established once and for all on 9/11 and again with the DC Snipers that these intel and defense mopes cannot keep us safe no matter the impositions on our privacy. And so, if we’ll just spend this, just spend that, all these trillions spent, all the Jewish Billionaires minted in the defense and consulting and contracting business and we aren’t (surprise) “safe”.

    But those bastards are entrenched, the money is good and really, Vegas is forgotten already anyway. Hell, my fatigue and boredom with these mass-murder events kicks in with the first lie from the FBI. All I have to hear is that the FBI moved in, scooped everything, blew off the local cops and then dribbled out pretty-little-lies over the course of the first hour or two and my eyes gloss over with indifference because they do it every time. At that point, I simply shift my attention and go play golf ,smoke dope, bang my girl. Really, following the FBI-Lies method, there’s no drama and hence, I already know how it turns out.

    Once any Federal agency is involved, there is no truth, only their lies. The Alphabet Soup of Law Enforcement Depravity (each agency is a part of the broth) tells lies where really, the truth would do. And so, since I can’t get at the truth, since they tell only lies to cover up either their own failures or perhaps to cover up the sins of their own (someone owned this guy Paddock), I get bored from the first hours. Really, they don’t even care we know they’re lying, it’s just all routine now. And so, “Ain’t That A Shame”?

    • Agree: Alden
    • Replies: @ThreeCranes
  8. If people knew the truth about DHS Task Force Agencies, Intelligence & Defense Agencies, their Contractors Organized Surveillance Crimes, Trafficking Operations and Terrorism against Targeted Individuals – NO ONE Would Ever Be Convicted or Believe Anything a Government Agency or their Contractors would say in a Court of Law.

  9. @Jim Christian

    Was it ever thus? Honest question.

  10. @George Weinbaum

    Some have proposed that there has also been a filtering process where more adventurous, less docile personalities were more likely to get on the boats crossing the Atlantic. Self domestication in reverse as it were.

    An hypothesis certainly impossible to prove at our present level of knowledge, but not unreasonable.

    • Replies: @Alden
  11. How would a corrupt treacherous criminal organisation keep its victims safe, and why would it want to?

  12. Alden says:

    Burglaries and horrible home invasion burglaries are rampant in Britain since the restrictive gun laws were enacted and people have been told it is against the law to use even a kitchen knife in one’s home ot defend against a home invader burglar.

    Home invasion crimes are very, very low in America because the criminals know their victims might have a gun. Even the Guardian admits this.

    I don’t think you are an American????? Perhaps you don’t realize that black crime is so rampant in this country that it’s a good idea to carry a gun. In America, the big cities that have very restrictive gun laws. Few have guns for defense so the criminals murder, rob and rape at will.

    The cities and states that have almost no gun control have the least amount of crime, even with very high criminal (black) populations. There are counties in the rural south that have 30 percent black population, high poverty, high school dropout rates but low crime.

    Why?????? Because everybody carries guns and has guns in the night stand.

  13. Alden says:
    @another fred

    Most American historians believe that 66 percent of the White population who came before indentured servitude was outlawed shortly after the revolution were deported convicts and indentured servants.

    But the main argument for the 2nd amendment is personal protection against the very huge criminal element in the population that is protected by government, the media, Democrats, Liberals and Jews.

  14. Alden says:
    @The Alarmist

    The Constitution is whatever some random Judge says it is. The founders wrote it that way. They sure weren’t going to write laws that could actually be enforced by the rabble against the elite.

    One of the founders, President Madison made that very clear when he caved to the court in Marbury vs Madison 1804. It’s not 20th activist judges who mis interpett the constitution, it’s what the founding fathers who wrote the constitution wanted.

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