AMEND CORNER: Our government is elected, not seized

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Once again, this nation finds itself confronted with the tragedy of lives ended too early by an invader who chose their school as a place to vent his rage at the world.

Consequently, we once again find ourselves looking for some way to solve the puzzle of why someone takes such deadly measures and stop such rampages before they begin.

Allow me to say up front that I’m not going to blame guns for causing such episodes, although they certainly play a role in them. Nor am I going to claim that firearm-free schools are an invitation to someone inclined to slaughter people. And if you’re thinking that better access to mental health care will end such shootings, forget it. In recent days, numerous mental health professionals have said such attacks by individuals with mental health issues are very rare. Moreover, they say there is no sure way of predicting if or when someone suffering from depression or some other malady will pick up his knife, a baseball bat or an AR-15 and try to wipe out a generation of our young people with it.

However, among the many voices holding forth on the Florida bloodshed, one speech caught my attention, and I’ve been thinking about that speech ever since, because it reveals a mindset that I think is more dangerous than any firearm.

It came from the mouth of Wayne LaPierre, a leader of the National Rifle Association, during a speech to the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, an organization whose members are among the most conservative people in the nation. During his speech, LaPierre blamed the usual conservative boogeymen — including liberals, the nation’s colleges and universities and the press — for every problem under the sun. Then, he issued this warning, “If they [liberals] seize power, if these so-called European socialists take over the House and the Senate, and God forbid they get the White House again, our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever.”

It’s that “seize power” thing that caught my attention, because it rather strongly implies that a win by Democrats would be, by definition, an unlawful taking of power.

At first, I found this a bit amusing. The idea of a gang of liberals, armed, I suppose, with sticks and stones, since, as LaPierre will tell you, all liberals hate guns, swooping down on Washington and forcing Republicans to swim across the Potomac River to safety sounds like something dreamed up for Saturday Night Live.

Unfortunately, though, the use of the word “seize,” which I’m sure was chosen carefully and used intentionally, plays into the notion that armed resistance may be required to protect our rights; therefore, real Americans need to arm themselves for that conflict.

I would like to think LaPierre’s talk of seizing power is simply rhetoric, but in the context of his speech, I have to wonder. In other parts of his speech, he reiterates the NRA mantra that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun. I have to wonder if he sees people working to elect Democrats as bad guys trying to seize the government. If so, is he calling on good guys with guns to stop the liberal bad guys from winning control? It makes me wonder whether LaPierre cares much for my rights, one of which is the right to join with like-minded people to elect a government we approve.

As an American, LaPierre should be aware that nobody “seizes control” of the government. Control of the government is won through legally conducted elections and peaceful transfers of power to the winners, who are then entitled to govern as they wish within the Constitution. Ideally, the majority would work with the minority to provide effective government for the people, but, unfortunately, that hasn’t happened much in recent years, in large part because members of both parties tend to make speeches similar to the one that inspired this column.

As citizens, we can, and we should demand that the two sides work together in an effort to make government serve all of us, not just your party or mine. After all, there is no Constitutional right to have everything your way or mine.

And nobody has the right to seize control of the government.

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