As Bill Clinton might say, “it depends on what your definition of ‘legal’ is.”

From the A.P.:

The House voted Tuesday to prevent law enforcement officers from confiscating legally owned guns during a national disaster or emergency.

This vote was meant to address the fact that firearm confiscations during hurricane Katrina left residents unable to defend themselves from various threats, such as looters or visits from Sean Penn.

The NRA may consider this vote a small victory, but it still outlines the depth of the problem as it exists: that the 2nd Amendment can be subject to temporary repeal based on the whim of the moment.

The vote also directly implies that the confiscation of legal firearms when there isn’t an “emergency” is perfectly acceptable. So, who gets to decide what is or isn’t an “emergency”? The government, of course. The next time there’s a major problem, such as another Katrina or something along that level, if the government decides they should confiscate legal firearms, if they only refer to it as a “big inconvenience” instead of an emergency, can they sidestep the House resolution?

I’ve always been fiercely pro 2nd Amendment rights. The thinking behind my stance when I was young and didn’t really know much about the issue was, “even if I’m wrong, I’m on the side of the people with all the guns.”

That opinion still stands (unless the government has taken their guns), but it goes much deeper than that.

About 230 years ago, a people who were sick and tired of living under a faraway king’s laws, taxes and fruity-looking powdered wigs, sacrificed their lives, and in many cases, fortunes, and staged a daring fight for independence. The U.S. government, which now consists, figuratively speaking, of more Brits than colonists, can’t allow that to happen yet again.

Fortunately, the battle against the British was facilitated by the British, who dressed their soldiers in bright red uniforms. The only way they could have stuck out more would have been to sew a giant neon “bullseye” sign on each coat. Now, for Americans, the distinction between good guy and bad guy isn’t nearly as easy.

So, government has decided to let us have our guns during an “emergency,” since, while we’re busy fighting for our lives we probably won’t have any thoughts about overthrowing any government entity. When things are going smoothly, that’s when the government has something to worry about, and that’s why they can still take our guns pretty much whenever they want.

Rest easy, America. The government is proving that they may, if the mood strikes, fight for your constitutional rights during hurricanes, nuclear attacks or earthquakes. Aside from that, you and your rights are still fair game.

By the way, who gets to constitute what is or isn’t an “emergency”? Here’s a hint: Not you.

Many of us consider some of the tripe that comes out of Congress to be a major emergency, but that’s why we’re not the ones who get to decide.

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