Skill at Arms and the Free Man

by Scott Harmon

Our life is the standard by which we judge all things. There is nothing so beautiful as living, raising your family, and enjoying the liberties we are so fortunate to have in this country. The Founders of this country understood “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” when they signed their names to the Declaration. They understood this when they pledged “Our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” Words on a piece of paper, whether it is a document as eloquent as the Declaration or as majestic as the Constitution, do not by themselves guarantee any of these things.

The words of the law won’t keep your liberty if a government decides to enslave you and send you to a concentration camp. That same government may well use the law to make you an undesirable, one suitable for ethnic cleansing. And while we all cherish our broad support of our system, history has shown over and over that the same support can also be used to justify a gas chambers and crematoriums. Your right to life and liberty, and the happiness that follows, is only as strong as your commitment, and that of your fellow citizens, to these principles of liberty and to the means to enforce them.

The Founders knew that growing government power, coupled with a loss of civic responsibility, was inevitable. They did their best to give us the weapons we’d need to defend ourselves when the time came. The first is our Constitution that limits what the government can do. However, knowing that there are always those who cannot resist the urge to dominate and control their fellow man, they added the Bill of Rights. These Ten Amendments build a firm wall around the government saying what it may never do. All but one of these Amendments still depends on the willing support and respect of the people and the government. It is the Second Amendment stands alone as the keystone to our entire structure of government.

It is the Second that gives us the means to resist a tyrannical government run amok. It is the Second that gives us the arms we need to resist the attacks of common thugs or foreign terrorists who seek to do us harm. It is the Second that guarantees that we may own the necessary small arms we need whether it is for hunting or plinking, for a revolution or self-defense. Without the Second, the rest of the Constitution is unenforceable.

The Second does something else. It tells us, the American citizenry, that we are part of the militia, an old and honorable institution, and that being a member, we are honor bound to do our part. For most of us, being a citizen means we vote, we do our turn at jury duty, we live a good life, and we build our society. Some of us will be called on to serve in our military. However, especially in today’s world, there may come a time when each of us will be called on to be a modern day Minuteman and a true citizen. For those, the price of liberty and happiness may well be paid for by their lives. They will have a split second to use the warrior spirit that is required in a citizen militiaman to stand up to a suicide bomber, a terrorist assassination squad, or some criminal out to attack you. For that person, the bill must be paid right then, and all of us must be ready to do as our ancestors did.

When that time comes, all the guns on the planet will be useless if you lack this will and spirit. If the will is there, proficient skill at arms is what will allow you to do the right thing with some assurance you’ll do it well. This isn’t the like the movies, and while some may be able to face this situation without fear, I suspect most of us will face it in a state of terror. We’ll worry about being killed or maimed, we will worry about our family and what will happen to them, and we will worry that in this supreme moment, we will not have what it takes, and we’ll fail our fellow citizens. This is when training, good training, is critical.

Having the mindset, and having the gun on you, is better than nothing, but having them reinforced with good training and dedicated practice, makes the difference. By taking the time to learn your weapon and your skills at arms you are preparing yourself mentally and physically by being ready to defend yourself, your family, and your county on a minute’s notice. Being well trained also breeds confidence in your ability, and in those first seconds, when fear threatens to overwhelm your duty, these tools will be there for you. Decisiveness will be your ally, and you will find the skills you honed will free you to concentrate on the battle at hand.

It would be easy to daydream we could do all this when the time comes, but we would be just as likely to daydream our way to the Olympic Marathon Gold Medal, the Van Claiborne prize, or as Chief of Neurosurgery. Visualization is useful, but nothing replaces the correct techniques, carefully learned and rigorously practiced over the years. When I decided to be a true citizen, I began my training, first with my parents and uncles, and then with professionals. I made the commitment to always be armed and to always be prepared by being practiced. Serious training, on a regular basis, builds the mental and physical tools it takes to be successful when it is your turn to pay the dues.

My ancestors fought in the American Revolution, and I am proud of the example they set for us. I often think of Ebenezer Ingersoll, a Massachusetts man, who was so upset over a penny sales tax and a gun control raid on Lexington, that he went to war at Bunker Hill against the most powerful army of the time. What must it have been like to be in those fortifications that morning, smelling the freshly turned dirt, wishing he’d rather be getting ready for spring plowing? He was probably scared, thinking of the coming battle against a professional army, but also, I think he was ready to his duty. He had practiced his skills at arms in his militia, and I know he had sharpened his courage and commitment to liberty or he wouldn’t have made that stand. I ask myself whether I can do any less than those who paid so high a price so I could live as a free man.

I ask, and I always reach the same answer. I honor them by understanding what they gave us and promising to preserve it. I honor them by being armed so I’ll have the means to do it. I honor them by being well trained and prepared to do my part so I can perform. There is no guarantee that I’ll succeed, or even survive, if that time comes, but I would hate to face myself, my family, and my fellow citizens with my last words being, “If only …”

Ignatius Piazza
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