The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) does good things for human rights. Since 1974, SAF has been integrally involved in the fight to keep the most basic right of all—the right to defend your own life—available to every person who wants to protect herself or himself. Every year since 1986, SAF has sponsored the Gun Rights Policy Conference (GRPC), an event that brings together human rights activists from all over the country. At the GRPC, these leaders compare notes and discuss the ways they are defending human rights in their own states and local jurisdictions. Sometimes the news is exciting, as when the Heller vs. DC case came out of the Supreme Court, which recognized the individual right to own and carry weapons. Other times the news is a bit more discouraging, as it was the year Illinois moved to require every gun owner to register with the state. In recent years, the victories have been many and the setbacks few, which makes the GRPC an exciting place to be.
This may seem like a no-brainer these days, but twenty or thirty years ago, protecting human rights as they relate to firearms was a losing battle on many different fronts. One of the fascinating people I met at the GRPC was a feisty redheaded woman who was actually the only woman in attendance at the very first GRPC in 1986. That year, she scrounged together enough money to fly from Georgia to Washington state, just so she could have a voice in protecting her right to create and sell a specific category of firearms. During the Resolutions part of the conference—a phase during which motions are introduced and discussed among the members—this woman proposed a resolution that came to be known as “the Farmer Resolution.” It reads like this:
An attack on one type of firearms is an attack on all types of firearms.
Because of her, firearms owners began to realize that the divide-and-conquer tactics of freedom’s enemies could no longer be allowed to prosper. Shotgun owners should step up to defend the rights of rifle owners; non-hunters should be as vigorous in protecting the rights of hunters as they were in protecting their own rights. “Evil black rifles” should no longer be treated as the dirty little secret of the firearms world, and every gun owner—whether they understand and own military rifles or not—should rush to defend those rights whenever and wherever they are under attack. That was the radical idea this woman introduced at the first GRPC, and it was so widely recognized as an essential truth that this resolution has been reaffirmed every single year since then.
Except this year.
This year, the people at the conference voted to amend the Farmer Resolution rather than affirming it as it stood. Based on a firm understanding that the 2nd Amendment does not say anything about “guns,” but does talk about “arms” (that is, weapons!), the modified Farmer Resolution now reads:
An attack on one type of arm is an attack on all types of arms.
We should and will continue to protect the rights of handgun owners and rifle owners, of shotgun owners and evil black gun owners. But we in the human rights movement have begun to recognize that firearms are not the be-all and end-all of self defense. Whether you prefer firearms, or a pocket knife, or chemical arms such as pepper spray or Mace, or an electrical disruption device such as a Taser: as a lifetime member of SAF, I strongly support your basic human right to protect yourself using the effective tools of your choice.