The words of Thomas Jefferson: "No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.'
Said James Madison: "Disarm the people — that is the best and most effective way to enslave them.'
And Alexander Hamilton: "The constitution shall never be construed ... to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.'
I've never understood why otherwise intelligent people are satisfied to let incantation of the words of the dead take the place of reasoned argument. What species of necromancy yields the delusion that reciting quotations is reason made manifest?
Not long ago, I was confronted by someone who quoted a Founder defiantly; she was confident, even haughty. She figured she had nailed me. I'd be forced to concede that guns are good.
"That's just white noise,' I told her.
We don't use guns to defend against foreign invasion. We have no militia. Prattling on about guns and tyranny is plain stupid. No one uses guns in acts of political defiance against the government.
Instead, we just keep shooting one another, and then letting the government we fear lock us up for our violence. Guns are corporate candy.
I wish I could take seriously the gun-toters parroting the Founders. But I cannot. The last group in America to resort to arms in the name of freedom was the Black Panthers. I don't hear a lot of patriotic-sounding sentiments about the Panthers from the National Rifle Association.
We've more guns per capita than any other nation. We're better armed than the good people of the failed state of Somalia.
And now we've got folks calling for armed guards in the schools. Guns, guns, everywhere — and the folks who sell them are laughing all the way to the bank.
We also have the highest incarceration rate on Earth. We lock up the most people, for longer sentences. And we call ourselves the land of the free.
I say we are the land of the people pretending to be free, and guns are corporate props sold to the credulous to keep them quiet. Give me a gun and tell me I am free. Tell me I can resist the tyrant. Never mind that the only person I will shoot is my neighbor.
This week, two 4-year-olds got their hands on guns.
In Lebanon, Tenn., a lawman took some relatives into his bedroom to admire his gun collection. A short time later, a 4-year-old boy picked up a pistol and shot 47-year-old Josephine Fanning, killing her.
In New Jersey, another 4-year-old got one of the family's weapons, a .22-caliber rifle. He shot his 6-year-old playmate in the head, killing him.
I am reminded of Joe Camel and the appeal to young smokers decades ago. Smoking was cool. Stuff a coffin nail in your mouth, and you, too, could be a cowboy, just like the Marlboro Man.
It took work, but public opinion was transformed. Smoking is no longer cool. It is recognized as a public health problem. It's time to recognize that guns, too, are a public health issue. If part of the response entails amending the Constitution, so be it.
"You hypocrite,' the gunsters croak. "How can you pick and choose which part of the Constitution to defend?' How can you not make choices? I respond.
I am no fan of government. I make my living picking fights with government in whatever courtroom will permit me to appear. Often, I think the government is wrong, misguided, stupid, wasteful. So, I listen with interest when I hear the gun lobby talk its talk about tyranny. But the gun groupies are just running their mouths.
Guns are sometimes deadly when we use them against one another in private acts of violence.
But most often they are mere social pacifiers. Pretend patriots arm themselves for a rebellion they have no interest in waging, relying on the white noise of a bygone era to justify transforming the nation into an armed camp.
Jefferson, I suspect, would be disappointed in how his words have been cheapened.
Norm Pattis, a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer with offices in Bethany and New Haven, Conn., blogs at .