Late last week I posted an email I sent to a local state representative named Charlie Davis. The issue was something Mr. Davis had said on a local right-wing radio station regarding a proposed amendment to our state constitution. Well, I heard from Mr. Davis on Monday.
For the purpose of tidiness, I will post my initial email to Rep. Davis, followed by his complete response, followed by my second email to him:
I heard you on KZRG this morning say the following about the proposed new amendment to the state constitution:
“It gives the constitutional right to keep and bear arms and also to have your ammunition and any other object that is a normal function of such arms. Because we see what the federal government is trying to do. They say, yeah, you have the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, but it doesn’t say anything about ammunition. Well, for us common-sense folks here in Southwest Missouri, “keep and bear arms” means arms, ammunition, the things that you need to protect yourself from an individual or from an overextension of government.”
Sir, I like to think of myself as one of those “common-sense folks” who lives here in Southwest Missouri. But I’ll be darned if I know what you meant by “overextension of government” in this context or exactly what kind of overextension of government would justify a Missourian picking up a weapon and shooting and perhaps killing a government official doing his or her duty. Please enlighten me as to a specific circumstance in which you, a state legislator, would condone the use of violence against any government official.
R. Duane Graham
I appreciate your email and also for you listening to ZKRG Radio [sic]. I will try to answer your email in as short of a response as possible. I believe in accountability when it comes to ownership of guns. Unfortunately it seems like we have been attempting to get law abiding citizens to be accountable and not the criminals. We pass legislation in this country constantly that attempts to ban more and more items or actions, yet it is only the law abiding citizens that are effected. Criminals do not follow or comply with the law. We have had a ban on murder and rape since this country was formed yet criminals continue to commit these horrible crimes. We have banned the sale of alcohol to minors, yet I can take you to places in our neighborhoods that these teenagers drink and party it up. We have banned drugs of so many sorts yet we have a severe drug problem in our country. Simply banning things is not the solution, changing hearts is. We have to educate our children about the adverse effects of drugs and ensure they are informed and have the opportunity to make the right choices. We have banned God and morality from our schools, not so much in our area, and kids don’t know right from wrong. They are taught there are no moral absolutes. Laws are not the solution, changing hearts is.
We have seen a huge push over the years to ban as many “styles” of weapons, ammo and accessories as possible. Even here in Missouri, Representative Ellinger filed a bill requiring law abiding citizens to turn in their guns and magazines within 90 days or be charged with a felony. Who would have turned in their guns? Law abiding citizens? Criminals? We know the criminals would not have. One study indicates that ‘legal’ guns are used 2.5 million times per year to properly and lawfully protect citizens. There’s also a possibility of the gun itself being legal, licensed to someone, but the criminal carrying it had stolen it. Approx. 95% of “gun crimes” are performed with a gun that has been obtained illegally.. Therefore, gun crimes won’t really decrease by not allowing law abiding citizens to carry guns. You mentioned in your email “a Missourian picking up a weapon and shooting and perhaps killing a government official doing his or her duty… Please enlighten me as to a specific circumstance in which you, a state legislator, would condone the use of violence against any government official.” I am a bit confused, I don’t remember saying we need to kill anyone. We have a legal right to keep and bear arms, ammunition and accessories because I feel it is our Constitutional right, I never said we should use them against a specific individual. Peace through strength. We have alarm systems in our homes and businesses to deter crime, that is why we put stickers in the windows and in the yard. I do not like RAP music because of the degrading messages in just about every song but I do believe in the Constitutional right to free speech. I simply educate my children in the content and they choose to not listen to it. Education, that’s the key. Educate our citizens about their responsibilities with the liberties and freedoms our Constitution protects. Just because something is not against the law doesn’t make it ok to do it or right.
I hope this answers your question.
Missouri House of Representatives
Phone: (573) 751-7082
Thank you for the timely and courteous reply.
I will not attempt in this email to address some of the dubious claims you made (like, for instance, “We have banned God and morality from our schools…”). Rather, I want to follow up on the original reason I emailed you.
Your response ended with, “I hope this answers your question,” and I want to tell you that it certainly does not answer my question. In fact, with all due respect, your response seems to, purposely or otherwise, miss the point I was making by asking you the question in the first place.
You say you are “a bit confused” and that you “don’t remember saying we need to kill anyone” and that you “never said we should use [arms] against a specific individual.” Okay, let me attempt to make the issue clearer. No, you didn’t say we need to kill anyone. No, you didn’t say we should use weapons against any specific individual. Of course you didn’t put it that way. But what you did say is that we need to expand our right to keep and bear arms in this state, including the right to keep and bear ammunition, because we need arms and ammunition to protect ourselves “from an individual or from an overextension of government.”
Now, presumably, if we are to use guns to protect ourselves from either individuals or from government (in context you were talking about the federal government), that suggests we may possibly have to do so by actually firing the weapons at real people, either individuals acting on their own or acting as representatives of government. We can’t always count on the mere brandishing of arms to do the trick.
I certainly understand what it means to use guns for protection against, say, someone who breaks into your home. I get that. Bang, bang! They’re dead. What I do not understand is what it means to use guns for protection against “an overextension of government.” That sounds a lot like what happened in this country’s Civil War or, more recently, what those Bundy-friendly folks in Nevada did when they chased away federal officials with guns. If that is what you mean, feel free to say so. If you think it is okay for citizens to ultimately settle disputes against the federal government by resorting to arms, admit as much.
But if that is not what you mean, if you really don’t think disputants have the constitutional right to shoot it out with the feds, please clarify what you said on KZRG. Please explain what it might mean to say that someone can use their right to bear arms against “an overextension of government” without actually having the right to fire on a government employee who is representing the interests of the government, of “we the people.” And please explain who gets to decide what “overextension” means.
Or you could simply say that you made a mistake. You could admit that you misspoke. You could tell Missourians that you did not mean to imply that they would—if voters approve the change to our state’s constitution that you champion—have the right to challenge the authority of the federal government by aiming at and, if necessary, shooting at one of its agents. That is up to you. But hiding what you mean behind a maxim like “Peace through strength” simply won’t do.
R. Duane Graham