Jimmy Knows Why We Need Guns

James Stewart that is, in the movie Shenandoah.

While considering the various angles of the DC gun ban debate, I happened to see the film (after many years of hearing what a great it is) Shenandoah; boy was I glad when those credits rolled. This touching story of a quiet Virginia farmer during the civil war and his quest to hold onto his land, his family, and the right to live his life as he saw fit was a perfect concretization of the concept of a right to bear arms. It gets to the heart of why that particular right is so important.

In the DC debate, there has been a lot of talk about the”public good” and whether or not a ban on gun ownership is better or worse for public safety, whether it lowers crime rates or simply makes it difficult for honest people to own guns. These arguments, though they are interesting points of discussion, miss I think the fundamental reason for our right to bear arms. That is, we have the right to self defense; the right to protect and defend our other rights (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness) against any unlawful aggressor–even if that aggressor happens to be the United States government.

Living, as we do, in a time when there is no living survivor of a war on our own soil, it is difficult for most of us to imagine ever having the need to physically defend ourselves against a foreign army (let alone our government). That is one reason to watch Shenandoah, beside the fact that it is a brilliantly entertaining movie.

Below are two of my favorite quotes from the movie. Nobody puts it quite like Jimmy Stewart when his character, Charlie Anderson is confronted by a Lieutenant of the confederate army (this particular scene reminds of a somewhat similar occurrence in D.C. lately) :

Charlie Anderson: Can you give me one good reason why I should let my sons march down that road like a bunch of damn fools?
Lt. Johnson: Virginia needs all her sons, Mr. Anderson.
Charlie Anderson: They don’t belong to the state they belong to ME! When they were babies I never saw the state comin’ around here with a spare tit!

Lt. Johnson: When are you going to take this war seriously, Anderson?
Charlie Anderson: Now let me tell you something, Johnson, before you get on my wrong side. My corn I take seriously, because it’s mine. And my potatoes and tomatoes and my fence I take note of because they’re mine. But this war is not mine and I don’t take note of it.