As the 2014 election approaches, we would be wise to recall the Founder’s famous quote, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately” is just as profoundly true now as it was more than two centuries ago. But today, differences between us have been exploited by a seemingly endless parade of political demagogues. Young and old, rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight, we are all exhorted to be at each other’s throats.
But when it comes to defending our fundamental right to protect ourselves and those we love, “hanging together” has never been more vital. It has been said that power corrupts, and absolute power simply corrupts absolutely. And as government becomes ever larger, more complex, and more intrusive, it creates an environment that is fertile ground for the abuse of power. What will the next “executive order” bring?
Banding together has helped us achieve significant victories over the last several decades. Before that, gun control was on the march. Starting with the “Gun Control Act of 1968” and continuing with the famous (some would say, “infamous”) “Assault Weapons Ban” of 1994, Federal and state restrictions on guns and gun owners were proliferating.
But starting around the late 1980s, things began to change, with the push in many states to legalize carrying firearms being at the forefront. Few people recall that as late as 1987, the year that Florida passed their landmark “shall-issue” carry law, there were little more than a dozen states where it was legal to carry a firearm, especially if concealed.
The Florida law was particularly significant because the national publicity that surrounded its passing generated interest and encouraged activism in many other states. It was as if the first big crack in the dam had happened. Soon, the damn burst, with gun owners in more and more states organizing to successfully lobby their legislatures for similar changes to their own laws.
Not that long ago, in most states the decision to issue a permit to carry a firearm was left to a chief of police or a country sheriff, with predictable results – unless you were a retired cop or a buddy of the law enforcement official, your odds of getting a permit were pretty slim. If you lived in an urban or inner-city area of your state, the chances were basically zero.
“Shall-Issue” changed all that. Issuance of a permit to carry was no longer at the whim of local law enforcement officials. Instead, the procedure was clearly defined and stated that, unless there was a compelling reason, articulable in court, for denying the permit, the official “shall issue” the permit. It was truly a monumental shift.
Throughout the long-running gun-rights battle, one thing has become clear. We could never have achieved what we did without consensus. Millions of us, with often wildly divergent political views, joined other like-minded people to achieve a common goal. And we did it, in state after state, as well as at the Federal level.
But it is imperative that we continue to unite against our common enemies. We must strongly oppose every anti-gun lawmaker or candidate, regardless of how “liberal” or “conservative” or “libertarian” they might be on some other issue important to us. After all, without our basic human right of self-defense, all our other freedoms are meaningless. It is just as true today as it was in Franklin’s time. We simply must “all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately…”
[John Caile is a writer for the USCCA "Concealed Carry" magazine]