85479952By Raúl Mas Canosa | Pub­lished Jan­u­ary 15, 2013 | Fox News Latino

All of us griev­ed last Decem­ber when a deranged mad­man shot and killed his moth­er, stole her weapons and then killed dozens of inno­cent chil­dren and adults at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary. Such evil is incom­pre­hen­si­ble and unac­cept­able to a soci­ety that val­ues life and espe­cial­ly the inno­cence of childhood.

How­ev­er, as trag­ic and hor­rif­ic as it was, peo­ple should think twice before allow­ing politi­cians to use a lunatic’s rage to once again erode one of the fun­da­men­tal rights grant­ed to all Amer­i­cans: the Sec­ond Amend­ment and the right to self-defense.

Lati­nos in par­tic­u­lar should care about the Sec­ond Amend­ment. Many of us come from coun­tries where only the police, the mil­i­tary, and the crim­i­nal ele­ment have access to firearms. In most of Latin Amer­i­ca it is dif­fi­cult, if not impos­si­ble, for the aver­age per­son to legal­ly obtain a firearm for self-pro­tec­tion or sport­ing use. As a result, most peo­ple are defense­less against vio­lent crim­i­nals and gangs who are well-armed with stolen or smug­gled weapons, includ­ing machine guns and grenades in places like Mex­i­co, El Sal­vador, Hon­duras, Guatemala and Colom­bia. In addi­tion, those coun­tries (and many oth­ers) have a check­ered his­to­ry of their own gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary often turn­ing against their peo­ple and killing or “dis­ap­pear­ing” indi­vid­u­als who are per­ceived to threat­en the pow­er of the state and its rul­ing class.

One rea­son why Cuba remains a total­i­tar­i­an régime after 50 years is that ear­ly on, Fidel Cas­tro ordered the con­fis­ca­tion of all firearms in pri­vate hands. Short­ly after his tri­umphal arrival in Havana in Jan­u­ary 1959, Fidel bragged about a new dawn of free­dom and an hon­est and open gov­ern­ment that would now respect the rights of the peo­ple. He asked the ques­tion: ¿Armas para qué?, ¿para luchar con­tra quién?, ¿con­tra el Gob­ier­no Rev­olu­cionario, que tiene el apoyo de todo el pueblo? The Eng­lish trans­la­tion is “Why do we need arms? To fight against who? To fight against a rev­o­lu­tion­ary gov­ern­ment that has the sup­port of all of its peo­ple?” A com­plete copy of this speech, one of his many cyn­i­cal dis­cours­es, can be eas­i­ly found on the Cuban gov­ern­men­t’s website.

Short­ly after the speech, Fidel’s sol­diers began round­ing up all the pri­vate weapons in Cuba. It was an easy task since a gov­ern­ment com­piled data­base already exist­ed of every cit­i­zen who owned guns. Thus began the sub­ju­ga­tion of the Cuban pop­u­la­tion, a con­di­tion that has now exist­ed for more than five decades. Sim­i­lar sub­ju­ga­tion has tak­en place in oth­er Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries, under right wing total­i­tar­i­ans and even under sup­posed democ­ra­cies. It is easy to con­trol a pop­u­la­tion when the gov­ern­ment con­trols all the weapons.

Amer­i­ca’s found­ing fathers knew about gov­ern­ment tyran­ny. They had fought a rev­o­lu­tion to escape it. In craft­ing the doc­u­ment that would guide their new coun­try, a doc­u­ment called the Con­sti­tu­tion, they estab­lished clear lim­its on what rights would be guar­an­teed to the peo­ple and not to the state. They did so to ensure that its cit­i­zens could speak and assem­ble freely, could prac­tice what­ev­er reli­gion they chose, and that they would be free in their own homes and per­sons. Those rights lim­it­ing the scope and pow­er of gov­ern­ment became known as the Bill of Rights. They are the first ten amend­ments to the Con­sti­tu­tion and they specif­i­cal­ly delin­eate where gov­ern­ment can’t intrude on pro­tect­ed rights and activities.

The Sec­ond Amend­ment guar­an­tees indi­vid­u­als a right to keep and bear arms. This right was reaf­firmed recent­ly in the Supreme Court’s 2010 Dis­trict of Colum­bia vs. Heller deci­sion. The rul­ing set­tled, once and for all, that indi­vid­u­als do indeed have the right to use com­mon­ly avail­able weapons for self defense. Like all of our indi­vid­ual lib­er­ties, it is not absolute and gov­ern­ment can reg­u­late the right to ensure the prop­er use of firearms by sane and respon­si­ble indi­vid­u­als. Gov­ern­ment can­not how­ev­er, unnec­es­sar­i­ly bur­den or pre­clude indi­vid­u­als from access to firearms suit­able for defense of them­selves and their families.

Many of us, as well as our par­ents and grand­par­ents, came from coun­tries where a Sec­ond Amend­ment did­n’t exist. We came to Amer­i­ca (or were brought here) in order to find not only eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties but more impor­tant­ly per­son­al lib­er­ty and free­dom from gov­ern­ment harass­ment and per­se­cu­tion. We sought to con­trol our des­tiny and not have oth­ers con­trol it for us.

As you lis­ten to the emo­tion­al debate on gun con­trol cur­rent­ly tak­ing place, take a moment to reflect on the his­to­ry and neces­si­ty of the Sec­ond Amend­ment. It is the ulti­mate defense against an over­reach­ing and abu­sive gov­ern­ment. It pro­vides the weak and defense­less with a means to pro­tect them­selves and their fam­i­lies. I would argue that the Sec­ond Amend­ment is nei­ther out­dat­ed nor unnec­es­sary. In fact, giv­en the trou­bled times we live in, it is per­haps more essen­tial than ever.

Final­ly, keep in mind the obser­va­tion of the great Amer­i­can patri­ot, James Madi­son, the man prin­ci­pal­ly respon­si­ble for the adop­tion of the Bill of Rights:

“Amer­i­cans have the right and advan­tage of being armed, unlike the peo­ple of oth­er coun­tries, whose lead­ers are afraid to trust them with arms.”

Raúl Mas Canosa is a finan­cial advis­er and a fre­quent com­men­ta­tor on radio, tele­vi­sion and dig­i­tal media. He can be reached at rmas@mba1986.hbs.edu