The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

PARANOIA AND LOGIC |

January 07, 2013

Name: MAJ Ben Tupper
Returned from: Afghanistan
Hometown: Syracuse, NY

What seems to be forgotten in the current debate over reforming our gun laws is the introduction to the  2nd Amendment: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state”. When I read these words, which were carefully crafted by our founding fathers, what jumps out is the word “militia." This word symbolizes an organized force, much like the men and women whom I currently serve with in today’s National Guard. Both the historical militia that fought on Bunker Hill, and today’s National Guard which fights natural disasters at home and enemies abroad, have one primary mission: to support and defend the nation and its Constitution.

But the reference to a militia seems to be lost on groups like the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of America, who, in the name of unfettered gun access, ignore the opening clause of the 2nd Amendment, and focus instead solely on its conclusion, which states “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Taken in its totality, the 2nd Amendment is clearly designed for the rapid deployment of an armed militia force in defense of the government and nation. Ironically, today’s gun lobby’s talking points are more about taking up arms and fighting against our government, which does not seem to fit the language nor intent of the 2nd Amendment.

Gun Owners of America spokesman Larry Pratt is regularly on national media outlets advocating for private arsenals as the only means to keep our democratically elected government from morphing into a fantastical tyrannical monster. To people like Mr. Pratt, what makes America a special place isn't the morals or values of its people, nor the character of those we elect to lead us. Instead, the only thing that keeps our nation dedicated to democracy is unregulated, privately held weapons arsenals.

I take personal offense to attitudes like this, because it basically says that people like myself, who serve in uniform in the United States military or in law enforcement, have no conviction to the Constitution, nor to laws of the land, nor to the values of their community. Instead we are only waiting for the chance to enslave an unarmed American nation. When people like Pratt say “guns are necessary to control the government” (Hardball, Dec. 17, 2012), and paint images of black helicopters and jack-booted thugs taking over America, they are talking about me and my fellow brothers and sisters in arms, who in their paranoid fantasy would be those tasked with establishing this tyranny. I can assure Mr. Pratt that we in uniform have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, and to refuse orders that are illegal or immoral, and would do so if our civilian leaders faltered and attempted to overthrow the Constitution. 

A large number of gun owners have served in the military and law enforcement. We don’t fear our government, we love it, which is why we choose careers to serve and protect our nation. Many of us have risked our lives for our democratic way of life, and as a result have extensive experience with the weapons of war. Personally, I am a gun enthusiast and arms collector and own assault-style weapons myself. But I also love my kids, and peaceful streets, and support taking steps to reduce threats to these things we cherish.

Because of this, I fully support efforts being put forth to close gun show purchasing loop holes, and banning the future purchase of assault weapons, as well as other common sense efforts to limit the lethality of firearms in America. I do so because I know that these efforts in no way threaten gun ownership nor deny people the right to bear arms. No one in elected office, from the President on down, is suggesting or proposing legislation that would make gun ownership illegal. Every weapon that is legally owned today should be grandfathered in and legal after the reforms are put in place.

Similar limitations in gun ownership have been enacted in our country’s history with no resulting usurping of the Constitution. In 1934,  the National Firearms Act severely limited Americans' rights to own fully automatic machine guns without special permission from the U.S. Treasury Department. There was no ensuing government tyranny. In 1994, the passage of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban reduced access to and capacity of assault weapons, and again, no government tyranny ensued.    

Let’s move gun reform down this sensible path.The measures being proposed are tempered. They will not solve all gun violence, but they will reduce the ability of the disturbed and disgruntled to sew as much mayhem. That is all we can ask of public policy, to reduce harm and make a safer environment. Many gun rights groups say these gun control efforts are pointless, because if we ban assault weapons, then the crazies will use other types of weapons to kill. I suggest they ask any police officer or infantryman if, given the choice, they would rather face an adversary with an assault rifle or a lesser capacity weapon such as a knife, revolver, or bolt action hunting rifle, and you will see the logic of reforming our current laws.

Comments

I am not a gun owner. I was an expert marksman in the Army on several weapons, and also was in a small bore rifle team. I briefly owned a revolver, which constantly made me nervous to have it in my possession. I enjoyed closely-controlled marksmanship and was proud of the hits I made at 500 yards. All firearms scare me, and I was pleased to have the weapons I was skilled with locked back in the rack at the end of the day. I do not understand the motivation of anyone who owns a quantity of weapons, but each person is entitled to his/her own attitudes. From my position, I trust and believe that most gun owners are like the writer.

So, my comment on the posting is simply "Amen".

Benjamin, remember that in the early days of this nation, there was an intense discussion about whether or not to have a Regular Army. These were people who had been repressed by the armed forces of their legitimate (British, at the time) government. They had a distrust of military forces and how they could be used by a government to suppress dissension. At the time of the writing of the Second Amendment, it was still an active issue under discussion. Also, as you put it together, the militia was the organized militia, which is responsive to the government and the calls of the governor. Read the sentence you are referring to in the Second Amendment this way; "Since we must have an army to maintain the security of our nation, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

It's not all about hunting, Ben. It's not all about defending oneself against the predations of criminals. While both of those are legitimate uses of any weapons, such as a bat or a knife or a gun, there is a larger purpose to this amendment. It is the reason that it required an actual amendment to our Constitution, which is the document that lays out the purpose and LIMITATIONS of our government. These people, who had been forced to rise against their... at the time... legitimate government and throw off its yoke and establish a new government, knew all too well what happens when the citizenry is disallowed arms. The purpose of the Second Amendment, my dear Benjamin, is to preserve our ability to defend ourselves from a government run amok.

I'm a little disturbed that this forum was used to make your political statement in favor of gun control. I always thought of this as a place to discuss experiences related to preparing for, deploying and returning home. Benjamin Tupper can write to his local paper with his opinion pieces any time he chooses. Proselytizing for legislation that has nothing to do with deployments should not have been placed here.

Very nicely said, Major. Well done.

Major Tupper,

Three things...

1. Thank you for your post.

2. Sadly, the reference to a militia has also been lost on members of the Supreme Court. I wonder if Three Tour Constitutionalist was referring to the Supreme Court when he wrote this, "The purpose of the Second Amendment, my dear Benjamin, is to preserve our ability to defend ourselves from a government run amok."

3. I wish you and yours a Happy New Year.

Thank you. Eloquently and logically expressed. And absolutely legitimate; it's a personal point of view from a soldier on active duty, who has a right to express political views.

Thank you, for your wise comments AND your service to the country!

Per The Sandbox, at the top of this very page:

"The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd."

I suggest that the editor here has not followed his own policy. MAJ Tupper, having been published here before and having a relationship with the editor, has used this as a forum for his personal political view. There is no doubt that this is a political issue. The editor certainly has editorial control and can violate/abridge his policy at any time. I simply lament the fact that he has done that in this case, and it is my right to do so. It is also the right of the publisher to remove my comment if he so chooses.

In regards to Brian's comment, the Supreme Court has to this point generally understood that the 2nd Amendment refers to the right of the people to be armed as a counterbalance to a government that could, over time, become despotic. The Founders knew at a deep level that this is possible. Remember, they were the citizens who had been caused to take an armed stand against their own government. The Declaration of Independence clearly points out that from time to time it becomes necessary for the people to shrug off a government that has become intolerable. Without arms, the United States would never have existed, and all of this discussion would not be occurring. Armed citizens are the very reason you have such a thing as a 1st Amendment, never mind a 2nd Amendment. Our Constitution exists because subjects of the British Crown picked up arms against their own government when all other attempts to redress their grievances had failed.

You seek safety from violence. I get that. Remember, it is always in the best interests of the government to assure you that it alone can provide that safety. It is in the best interest of any government to secure its undisputed power over those it would govern/rule. But once that power is indisputable, you get what you get and asserting the rights of man over government will come at a price so dear that it will take unimaginable bloodshed to achieve.

Military officers are members of the executive branch of the government, by the way. They are direct representatives of the President. Basic military education teaches us that. So if the people were to run out of options, the Supreme Court fails us and we have no other means, MAJ Tupper would be among those called upon to suppress us. It would be most helpful to him in this task if we agreed to disarm ourselves first.

The shooter in Connecticut violated numerous existing laws. Those laws did not save those children. So we answer the failure of existing law with new laws. And we sacrifice our liberty in favor of safety. There's a famous quote from one of our founders regarding selling our liberty for safety... anyone remember that quote?

As The Sandbox's editor I felt that since MAJ Tupper's piece was based in his service, current and past, it was a legitimate and interesting contribution. A bit of a departure from the norm here, yes, and there have been others over the years -- each of which allowed a little leeway to a longtime contributor. It also seemed likely that the Comments section would receive thoughtful responses, which it has. Thanks to all.
-- David Stanford, Duty Officer, The Sandbox

I served with Ben Tupper. I have also been a very long time contributor to this blog, going on 7 years.

He was on my team in Afghanistan as I was part of the leadership of the team, so I know what he has done and not done. Please don't take his limited time in the service as some kind of validation of his opinion. He is a guy who brags about fighting with and supporting the communists Sandinistas back int he day, se he is the last one I want lecturing me on what the authors of the Constitution meant. I also take offense to the fact that he thinks he speaks for me, my real brothers (most of which have disowned him) and the entire US Military.

"We don’t fear our government, we love it, " No WRONG. I don't love my government, i LOVE my country. This is a classic example of Ben Tupper feeling like he is some high and might voice of the soldier. He may think that since he is or has been a Public Affairs officer but that doesn't mean he speaks for anyone. Tupper is not an authority on the Constitution, an authority on law, or on guns.

He is one of the most socialist and ultra-liberal people I have ever known in the military and I am still astounded to this day that the military has allowed him to continue to serve in the capacity he has.

Troy, you make him out to be a bad guy. I loved Officers like him because they were far and few which means I rated higher then those guys on the fitreps since 97% of the fellow Officers do not think like that.

Major you said:
"I fully support efforts being put forth to close gun show purchasing loop holes, and banning the future purchase of assault weapons, as well as other common sense efforts to limit the lethality of firearms in America. I do so because I know that these efforts in no way threaten gun ownership nor deny people the right to bear arms. No one in elected office, from the President on down, is suggesting or proposing legislation that would make gun ownership illegal. Every weapon that is legally owned today should be grandfathered in and legal after the reforms are put in place."

I too support Private to private sales (close the gun show loopholes) to be done with an FFL for a small 15 dollar fee to make sure the guy isn't wanted, mental or otherwise not allowed to have a weapon. But I think you are absolutely dead wrong when you say "no one in elected office is suggesting..." have you read Dianne Feinstein's proposals? I think you should b/c you state you are a gun owner. At least catch up on the stakes here on who in office is putting forth what sort of Bills to be turned into laws by the President.

Hope the Newspaper didn't publish your address up there and good luck with your next "Self Published" book...
Semper Fi,
Mitch Bell
LtCol USMC

In response to the above comments-
Troy- I hope the new year finds you well. I would obviously disagree with the comments you have made, suffice to say you still have some sour grapes and its evident from the tone and content of your comments.

I am glad to see you are still a firebrand conservative, I enjoyed the many hours of debates we had over religion, politics etc. I am also glad that I live in a country that does not have political litmus tests, and allows even us "ungodly liberals" to serve in the armed forces. Despite what you get fed on your right wing entertainment cites, there are patriotic liberals out there.

LtCol Bell- you should not besmirch the route of self publishing, as it is the path many veterans pursue to get their foot in the door, and to get their veteran stories out there to the civilian world. In my case, it let to a very lucrative book deal with Penguin (http://www.amazon.com/Greetings-From-Afghanistan-Send-More/dp/B0064XBQKK). In fact this book was even purchased by DOD and distributed to Marines in Afghanistan because "the gods that be" felt it would serve Marines well in country. None of these little intel nuggets would have made it down range if I hadnt first self published.

Anyways this strayed a bit off the topic of guns, but I felt it was relevant given the large number of veteran authors who contact me for advice on getting published, and the first thing I tell them is self publish and get their work out there, because it can open doors with major publishing firms.

I grew up in a small town wherein the overwhelming majority of the households owned a gun. My father kept his rifle loaded within reaching distance next to he and my mothers' bed. During the academic year 1975 -76, four third grade classes were held hostage at the local elementary school. My cousin and I were students in that class. The man was a committed mental patient who had walked into town and purchased a knife and a gun at a local pawn shop which violated no laws at that time. I remember looking for my cousin and someone telling me "She's face down on the black top." I, of course, thought she had been killed. Luckily, I was later proved wrong.

I was seven or eight years old and can not tell you what sort of gun, beyond it having been some sort of rifle, that the man had.He didn't know how to load it. The four teachers, two of them in particular, took what could deemed almost insane steps to keep him from getting that gun loaded. When he dropped the gun and cut the throat of one young teacher who had become particularly physical with him and threw her into the dirt for dead, uniformed men rushed the field before he could recover the gun.

My uncle was among the rescuers. At my grandmothers' weekly Sunday dinner he stated that every father in town had shown up with their personal weapons. The local police had to contend with both the hostage situation and would be rescuers some of whom were commonly known to be scarcely able to hit the side of a barn from 3 paces away. One poor fellow discussed at the dinner table was purported to have fed his family a regular diet of Bambi complete with spots because he was too poor of a shot to hit an adult deer - male or female.

There was a sweeping cry from our citizens for gun control then. They demanded that every gun purchaser undergo a check to make sure s/he was not currently wanted for, oh say, murder or mentally insane. Assault weapons weren't even on the radar yet. No one had even heard of an ordinary person having automated weapons. The town was a heavily armed pro-gun control community with a sizable percentage of the population rarely purchasing store bought meat.

I know in my heart, with no doubt in my mind, had the wayward patient that took us hostage wandered into a store or gun show selling the kind of military grade weapons available now; he would have killed us all. I have absolutely no doubt about that. It makes me angry that, after all the hard work my parents' generation put in, my children are now in more danger when they go to school than I was in 1975-76. It makes me angry that the right to profit from the sale of firearms (which is the only right the NRA really cares about) has become more important than the right of a child to not be shot in school.

I loved Officers like him because they were far and few which means I rated higher then those guys on the fitreps since 97% of the fellow Officers do not think like that.

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