Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol as an indictment of nineteenth century industrialization and economic social classes. The following is a modern take on the tale exploring a different issue, reprinted from 2009.

That Marley was dead there could be no doubt. All the papers carried the news, the coroner had performed a thorough autopsy, and Scrooge himself had identified the body and bore witness at the funeral.

Was Scrooge certain in his identification? Of course he was! Scrooge and Marley had been friends for more years than either could remember and both considered the other to be family. In reality, each others’ only friend and the only family either cared to associate with.

Marley was a long time politician spending many years at different levels of politics, holding the office of U.S. Senator when he died. Though respected by colleagues and considered a flagstone of his political party, he showed little caring for fellow politicians. Secretly, he hated most of his constituents though was sure to put on a good air while in public to ensure reelection.

 

Scrooge did less. As the owner and editor of an elitist newspaper, he was often openly critical of the general public. Cold and haughty, he made no secret of the fact that he thought most people were barely functional members of society who were all too eager to flush the world down the drain in exchange for their own selfish wants.

To him, civil rights activists were the worst of the lot. People had too many rights to begin with and didn’t know what to do with the ones they had. They tended to treat them as little more than punch lines to a bad joke and fear of an uprising were those rights to be taken away for their own good was what lead to an ineffective and emasculated system of government. The very idea that a potato farmer from Idaho had as much say in how the country is run as a Harvard educated lawyer from Boston turned his stomach.

Of course, the Founding Fathers were little more than terrorists themselves so it should be expected that they’d come up with such a faulty document as the Constitution. Even if it made sense at the time it was nothing more than an outdated relic now, on that point Scrooge and Marley were in total agreement. The people had to be protected from themselves and their “rights” were nothing more than a hindrance to fixing what was wrong with the country.

While Scrooge dedicated countless editorials to railing against civil rights activists for trying to worsen the country by protecting and expanding those harmful rights, he reserved his deadliest venom for gun rights activists. If there was anything that soured the bile in his belly it was the idea that millions of people were running around with guns. With so many guns in circulation, was it any wonder crime was so high?

Marley had tried his best to get guns taken away, but had failed. Scrooge had vowed to continue his struggles and made his feelings clear at every turn. He used his paper for harsh editorials against gun rights, pulled every political string he had to try to whittle those rights down, and gun control groups were the only ones he ever made donations to. Scrooge did hate to part with his money, but it was worth it if he could just rid the country of the “gun nuts.”

So he sat one day in his office busily pondering a particularly nasty editorial against that bastard of an organization the National Rifle Association. The door of his office was kept partially ajar so he could keep an eye on his assistant, who in a cramped little cubicle, more box than workspace, was busily doing research and compiling statistics from Scrooge’s favorite gun control groups. Scrooge knew that Bob Cratchit was one of those people who believed in civil rights and it gave him particular pleasure to make him compile statistics that countered those beliefs.

“Hello, Uncle!” a cheerful voice cried out. It was Scrooge’s nephew, who came in so quickly that Scrooge had no warning of his approach.

“Bah!” said Scrooge, “Humbug!”

“In good spirits, I see!”

“What business do I have to be in good spirits?” replied Scrooge. “Not while the country continues to go to the dogs.”

“Come now,” returned his nephew. “What reason do you have to be so down? You're rich enough and your dream President is sitting in the White House. By all rights, you should be happy to see things going so well for you!”

“Well for me?” growled Scrooge. “How are are things going well? President Obama hasn’t fulfilled half the promises he has made and every day I read more stories about states passing weaker gun laws.”

“Gun control again, Uncle? Must you always bring that up?”

“What else can I do,” replied Scrooge, “when the world is full of fools who think some good can come at the point of a gun?”

“I’m a gun owner,” said his nephew, “and I’m not so bad.”

“Not so great, either,” retorted Scrooge. “You think a gun can keep you safe, but you’re more likely to be killed by your own gun than by any criminal attack. Even if you manage to not shoot yourself and can keep your kids from doing the same, if you were to ever even try to stand up to an armed criminal he’d simply take your gun away and shoot you for your trouble. Thanks to the gun show loophole, even if you finally came to your senses and sold your guns they’d just go to a criminal who would use them to terrorize innocents. If I had my way,” said Scrooge as his face reddened, “every idiot with a gun would be locked away and every gun melted down to make trash cans for that’s all they’re good for!”

“Uncle!” pleaded the nephew.

“Nephew!” returned Scrooge harshly. “Your outdated values do nothing but instill false hope in the masses and create an illusion of security where there is none. Leave security and crime fighting to the professionals, that’s what I say.”

“Where were the professionals the day Marley was killed in his own home?” challenged his nephew.

“Don’t you dare drag Marley into this!” Scrooge yelled, working himself into a rage. “You forget that it was a gun that was used in Marley’s murder and that he was shot to death while hiding locked in his bedroom.”

“If he had a gun of his own he might have been able to fight back,” came the reply.

“You think having a gun is the answer to everything,” said Scrooge.

“And you think taking them away is! As if all crime will suddenly stop and we’ll be a utopian society if we could just get guns out of the hands of private citizens.”

“It would certainly help,” reasoned Scrooge. “Every gun taken away is one less that can be used against us.”

“Uncle, I fear you are hopeless. Yet hope for you I will continue to keep.”

“Then you waste your own time and mine as well,” replied Scrooge. “And good day to you for I have work to do.”

“Good day, Uncle. And I hope one day you will stop believing the lies.”

“Lies?” said Scrooge as his nephew walked out. “The lie is that anything positive could ever come from a bunch of inbred rednecks running around with military weapons inflicting their own brand of vigilante justice.”

His nephew rolled his eyes as he left. Before walking out the door he recalled the purpose for his visit, though Scrooge turned down the invitation to join him and his wife for dinner which was expected.

Scrooge found himself too worked up to continue working on his editorial, but no matter for the workday was over anyway. He scowled as he watched Cratchit punch out. Leaving as soon as the clock hit 5, how typical. Rushing to pick up that son he always talks about from daycare no doubt.

Scrooge locked up and headed for home. The sky was already turning purple as he made his way down the street to the local diner for his dinner, and it was quite dark as he trudged home after.

Now, there was nothing particular about the knocker on the door. Scrooge had glanced at it thousands of times over the years, both while Marley lived there and after Scrooge had inherited the house. Yet, when Scrooge inserted his key into the lock he thought for a moment that the knocker had taken the shape of Marley’s face. He stared transfixed for a moment for the features were unmistakable, then a blink and it was back to normal.

Scrooge was startled and blinked several times in surprise. Then, with a shake of his head and a grunt he passed it off as a figment of his imagination and went inside. He punched in his code to silence the beeping of the burglar alarm, locked the door securely and drew the deadbolt before going to the control panel and rearming the alarm. Scrooge continued through the house in the dark, knowing his way easily and possessed of no desire to waste electricity by turning on the lights.

He made his way through the house and checked all the windows and back door. All were secure. He made his way into the living room and sank into his favorite chair. After a glass of brandy he went upstairs to bed, locking the bedroom door behind him. The house was an old one, and there was a small fireplace in the master bedroom. Scrooge lit a tiny fire and sat brooding in the chair in front of it.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement, and turned his head slightly to see his cellphone beginning to rise. Suddenly, about six inches off the nightstand, it began to loudly ring. At the same time, Scrooge’s home phone started to ring, the doorbell sounded, he could hear the sound of the door knocker banging, the alarm on his watch sounded, the alarm clock sounded, the TV came on, and his burglar alarm went off.

Scrooge jumped at the sudden din, yet as quickly as it began silence returned to the house and his cellphone sat quietly on the nightstand. Scrooge had just begun to recover from his fright when he heard a clanking sound coming from below. His first thought was that it was an intruder, yet how would they be able to silence the alarm? And speaking of the alarm, why was there no call from the monitoring company to check on the alert they had just received?

As he puzzled over this development, he heard footsteps and what sounded like chains being dragged slowly ascending the staircase. The thought crossed his mind that he should call the police, yet for some reason had no inclination to rise from his chair. Just then, the footsteps coming down the hall passed right through the door and a figure came into the room as the flames in the fireplace suddenly leaped to a small roar. Scrooge recognized the figure immediately and gasped “Marley!” as the fire died down once again.

Scrooge stared at the figure before him. It was Marley’s form, clearly, yet he could see right through him to the door beyond! Scrooge began to quiver as the cold, lifeless eyes returned his gaze.

“What,” gulped Scrooge. “What do you want of me?”

“Much!” came the haunting reply, Marley’s voice for sure.

“Who are you?”

“You know me!”

“I do not!”

“You claim,” said the apparition, “that you do not recognize your old friend Jacob Marley?”

“I recognize the form, yet do not believe it is you!”

“What would I be then?”

“A dream, I’m sure. Or the effects of too much brandy. Or maybe a bit of undigested food. There’s more gravy than grave about you!”

“DO NOT MOCK ME, EBENEZER!” cried the ghost and raised a wail while rattling his chains. Scrooge’s fear finally got the best of him and he fell out of his chair to his knees.

“Mercy, dreadful apparition! Why do you trouble me?”

“I come not to trouble you, but to warn you.”

“Warn me about what?”

“Warn you about what lies at the end of the path on which you walk upon. Do you see these chains that bind me?”

Scrooge climbed back into his chair and looked more closely at the long chain which was wrapped around Marley. It looked heavy despite its near transparency with thick links like you might see on a ship's anchor.

“I do.”

“I forged it link by link during the life I chose to lead. You have been forging your own chain, and it was as long and heavy as this one when I died seven years ago. In the years that have passed, you have worked to make it even longer and heavier. It is a ponderous chain.”

“Why do you tell me this?”

“I tell you so that I might save you. Save you from my fate, the fate to wander, lost upon the world while weighed down and tormented by my own misdeeds.”

“Misdeeds? But you were always such a good man of politics.”

“Mankind should have been my politics,” wailed Marley’s ghost. “The good of man with all his God-given rights and freedoms. Now, I roam bound by the chains which I would have gladly enslaved others.”

“You don’t mean to say you’ve changed all your views?”

“I have. I was wrong to think that people are not responsible enough to be entrusted with Constitutionally protected civil rights and wrong to think that I knew better than they do how to lead their own lives. In particular, I was wrong on gun control.”

“But you were killed by a gun!”

“I could have been saved by a gun! Blaming an object for the actions of a man left me at the mercy of one who had none. Worse, this chain I bear is made heavier by my mistaken views. For every life that was lost as a result of my helping disarm an innocent, an extra length of chain was added.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will, Ebenezer,” promised the phantom. “That is why I’m here, to help you to understand so that you might escape my fate.”

“Oh, thank you, Jacob. You always were a good friend.

“But this is a task I cannot do alone and my time here grows short,” Marley continued. “You will be haunted by Three Spirits.”

Scrooge’s face fell into a frown. “Is that the hope for escape that you mentioned?”

“It is,” came the reply.

“I think I’d rather not.”

“Without their visits, you cannot hope to part from your current course and avoid a fate worse than mine. Be prepared, Ebenezer, for the first spirit shall visit you tomorrow when the clock strikes one.”

“Tomorrow,” asked Scrooge. “But couldn’t I get it over with all in one night?”

“The second will come the following night at the same hour,” continued Marley, paying his question no heed. “The third the night after before the clock finishes ringing midnight. Listen to what they teach, and for your own sake remember all that I have told you.”

With that comment, Marley began to grow dim and retreated through the window, passing outside the house. After all fell silent again, Scrooge walked to the door and saw it was still securely locked. Suddenly, he felt very weary and crossed to his bed and fell asleep without undressing.

When Scrooge awoke it was so dark that he could hardly make out where the walls ended and the window began. He was just trying to discern which way was up when he heard the chimes of Marley’s old clock downstairs begin to ring and listened to learn the hour.

To his astonishment, the chimes continued to intone, six, seven, eight, all the way to twelve. Yet, how could this be when it was past two when he had gone to bed? Was it possible he had slept through an entire day and it was now the following night? He glanced at the red glow of the alarm clock and verified it was midnight.

He lay in bed puzzling yet could make nothing of it and decided to think on it no more, for he had more pressing matters to dwell upon. Only an hour until the promised visit of the first spirit! He vowed to stay awake until the hour had passed, desperate to convince himself that it was all but a dream. He watched the clock as the minutes slipped by. A quarter past! A half passed! A quarter to it! He watched in anticipation as the hour crept closer and watched the digits flip.

“The hour itself,” said Scrooge triumphantly, “and nothing else!”

He spoke before the hour chime from the old clock below, which now sounded with a deep, hollow, melancholy ONE. Light flashed upon the room in an instant and Scrooge found himself face to face with an unearthly visitor.

It was a strange figure of a middle-aged man dressed from a bygone era. He was wearing dark boots which rose to his knees into which a pair of brown trousers were tightly tucked. He wore a dark brown overcoat with a green vest beneath out from under which peeked a white shirt. In his hand he tightly gripped what appeared to be an old musket. But the strangest thing about the figure before him was that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright jet of light, by which all of this was visible. This could no doubt be dimmed by the tri-corner hat he carried under his other arm.

“Are you the Spirit whose coming was foretold to me?” asked Scrooge.

“I am!”

“Who and what are you?”

“I am the Ghost of Gun Rights Past.”

“I see,” said Scrooge. “Or rather,” he continued while raising a hand to shield his eyes, “I don’t see much at all. Would you mind putting on your hat?”

“What!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give? Is it not enough that you are one of those whose passions made this cap and force me to wear it more and more often?”

Scrooge denied any knowledge of willfully “bonneting” the Spirit at any period of his life and inquired as to what business brought him there.

“Your welfare,” said the Ghost. “Rise and walk with me.”

Scrooge rose, but seeing that the Spirit moved towards the window stopped short.

“But Spirit, I am mortal and would fall were I to step out the window!”

“Grasp my rifle,” intoned the Spirit.

It had been many years since Scrooge had touched a gun, but he did as he was instructed. As soon as he did, they passed through the wall and stood upon an old country road. The city had entirely vanished and fields spread out upon either side.

“Why, I know this place!” said Scrooge. “I was a boy here!”

“Do you remember the way?” asked the Ghost.

“Remember it? Why, I could walk it blindfolded!”

“Strange to have forgotten it for so many years,” observed the Spirit. “Lead on.”

They walked along the road and Scrooge recognized every tree, every rock, and every fencepost along the way. A small group of boys came down the road from the opposite direction, and Scrooge knew them as his childhood friends.

“These are but shadows of the things which have been,” advised the Ghost. “They have no consciousness of us.”

They passed by and Scrooge felt a twinge of nostalgia. It strengthened when he caught sight of his grandfather’s old farmhouse. Up the walk they went, onto the porch and right through the door. What nostalgia Scrooge had before was nothing compared to the memories that came flooding back at the sights, sounds, and smells of the old farmhouse. The Spirit pointed and Scrooge saw his younger self planted in the rocking chair by the fire reading while his father and grandfather gathered their clothing and gear.

“Tomorrow is opening day of deer season,” Scrooge explained to the phantom. “I was too young to go with them but always wanted to.” His voice grew sad, “my grandfather died of a heart attack before he ever got a chance to take me. My dad quit hunting for a few years after that. He tried to get back into it when I got older but…”

“But by then,” the Spirit finished for him. “You had moved to the city and believed your teachers who told you that hunting was cruel and uncivilized.”

“It was a different time then,” Scrooge explained. “People hunted not for sport but for food.”

“They still do, not only for food, but for tradition and bonding.”

“It was different then,” Scrooge sounded as if he was trying to convince himself as much as the Spirit. “Plus, we are far out in the country. If there was trouble it could take the Sheriff more than an hour to arrive.”

“Haven’t you said,” countered the Ghost, “that citizen self-defense is vigilantism?”

“It was a different time,” said Scrooge quietly.

“Indeed it was. There you sit, a young boy, yet above the fireplace within easy reach is a hunting rifle.”

“I knew not to touch it,” answered Scrooge. “At least, not without adult supervision. Sometimes my grandfather or father would take me out back and set up targets.”

“But I thought kids and guns don’t mix?” asked the Spirit.

“It was a different time! Kids didn’t go around shooting each other then!”

“But haven’t you’ve written in your editorials that it is the easy availability of guns that leads to youth violence? Yet you have a gun within easy reach, as did all of your friends. Not only that, but didn’t your grandfather have an entire cabinet full of rifles, shotguns, and pistols?”

“It was a different time!” Scrooge repeated. “Times are much more complicated now.”

“Surely all those guns laying around must have lead to a lot of shootings?”

“No, people were more responsible back then.”

“You’re saying that it isn’t the guns that cause crime, but the people using them criminally?”

“Exactly!” said Scrooge.

The Ghost smiled thoughtfully and waved its hand, saying as it did so, “Let us see another time!”

Scrooge’s former self grew larger at the words and the walls of the farmhouse shimmered and changed. Scrooge soon found himself standing in his father’s hardware store. His younger counterpart was sitting behind the counter. On the wall behind him was a rack with assorted rifles and shotguns.

“More guns,” observed the Spirit.

“Father sold them for a time,” answered Scrooge. “That was before gun control laws were strengthened and the government cracked down on who could sell guns. Before then, all kinds of stores sold guns and you could even buy them through the mail.”

“There must have been a lot of mass shootings,” said the Ghost with a knowing look on his face. Scrooge was silent.

Just then the door opened and rang the small bell which hung above it. Both Scrooge’s looked to the door as a young girl came in.

“Fran!” exclaimed the older Scrooge. “My sister!”

They both watched as the girl ran across the store and talked and laughed with the young Ebenezer.

“Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have withered,” said the Ghost. “But she had a large heart!”

“So she had,” cried Scrooge. “You’re right. I will not argue it, Spirit. God forbid!”

“She died a woman,” said the Ghost, “and had, as I think, children.”

“One child,” Scrooge returned.

“True,” said the Ghost. “Your nephew!”

Scrooge seemed uneasy in his mind; and answered briefly, “Yes.”

“Remind me how it was that she died,” inquired the Spirit.

“She was killed in an automobile accident by a drunk driver,” said Scrooge sadly.

“Yet you had a glass of brandy before going to bed tonight,” reminded the Spirit.

“I don’t understand your meaning, Spirit.”

“You blame guns for Marley’s death yet do not blame alcohol for your sister’s. Both were killed by the criminal actions of another, why do you blame the person for one tragedy but an object for the other?”

Scrooge began to grow angry. “Spirit!” he said, “show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?”

“One shadow more!” exclaimed the Ghost.

“No more!” cried Scrooge. “No more. I don’t wish to see it. Show me no more!”

But the relentless Ghost ignored his pleas and again the scene began to change until Scrooge found himself back in his house, yet something was different. Many of the furnishings were the same yet somehow not the same. Scrooge had no time to contemplate for with a loud bang the back door flew open and a man burst in and Scrooge suddenly knew just when he was.

“Spirit!” said Scrooge in a broken voice, “remove me from this place.”

“I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,” said the Ghost. “That they are what they are, do not blame me!”

“Remove me!” Scrooge exclaimed, “I cannot bear it!”

A commotion from the other room and Scrooge turned to see Marley run towards the stairs and the intruder followed yelling for Marley to tell him where he kept the money. They both ran up the stairs and in a flash of light Scrooge and the Spirit stood inside the bedroom. Marley hid behind the bed as the intruder slammed his shoulder into the door over and over. Scrooge could hear the wood beginning to splinter as Marley cried out in terror.

“Spirit, your gun!” Scrooge urged breathlessly as he watched the door. “Fire the moment he breaks in!”

“You wish me to take the law into my own hands?”

“I wish you to save Jacob!”

“I cannot. I warned you that these are but the shadows of what has been.”

Scrooge spun to face the Ghost.

“Make it stop!” he pleaded. “Take me back to my own time, haunt me no longer!”

He began to wrestle with the Spirit, if it can be called wrestling as the Ghost offered up no resistance other than to hold firmly to his ground and seemed undisturbed by Scrooge’s efforts. Scrooge observed that its light was burning high and bright; and dimly connecting that with its influence over him, he seized two corners of the extinguisher-cap, and by a sudden action pressed it down upon its head.

As Scrooge pulled down upon the hat the Spirit seemed to be swallowed up into it until he finally got it to the floor and the light went out taking the sounds with it. Scrooge relaxed his grip and was soon aware of being completely exhausted. Overcome by an irresistible drowsiness, he barely had time to stagger into his bed before sinking into a deep sleep.

Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, and sitting up in bed to get his thoughts together, Scrooge had no occasion to be told that the bell was again upon the stroke of One. He felt that he was restored to consciousness in the right nick of time, for the especial purpose of holding a conference with the second messenger dispatched to him through Jacob Marley’s intervention. He noted that he had become uncomfortably cold but did not want to get out of bed to stoke the fire, for he wished to challenge the Spirit on the moment of its appearance, and did not wish to be taken by surprise, and made nervous.

Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing; and, consequently, when the Bell struck One, and no shape appeared, he was taken with a violent fit of trembling. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter of an hour went by, yet nothing came. All this time, he lay upon his bed, the very core and center of a blaze of ruddy light, which streamed upon it when the clock proclaimed the hour; and which, being only light, was more alarming than a dozen ghosts, as he was powerless to make out what it meant, or would be at; and was sometimes apprehensive that he might be at any moment an interesting case of spontaneous combustion.

At last, however, he began to think that the source and secret of this ghostly light might be in the adjoining room, from whence, on further tracing it, it seemed to shine. This idea taking full possession of his mind, he got up softly and shuffled in his slippers to the door.

The moment Scrooge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed.

It was his own room, there was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. Red, white and blue streamers decorated the walls and hung from the ceiling. A blazing fire, the likes of which he had never seen before, danced and rolled in the fireplace. Heaped on tables - which hadn’t been there before! – were all manners of food you might expect to see at a summer picnic such as hamburgers, hotdogs, BBQ chicken, grilled steaks, sausages, bratwurst, pizza, macaroni salad, potato salad, jello salad, bean salad, vegetable trays, gallons of dip, potato chips, cheese puffs, pretzels, cookies, brownies, cakes, pies, puddings, and every type of pop, punch, beer, and wine imaginable. The whole room looked like the world’s most opulent Fourth of July party. In the middle sat a tall, beautiful woman dressed in a flowing green robe. She wore a crown with seven spikes upon her head and carried a large tablet in her left arm. Her right hand bore a glowing torch which she held aloft and it shed its light on Scrooge as he came peeping round the door.

“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in and know me better!”

Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.

“I am the Ghost of Gun Rights Present,” said the Spirit.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge submissively as she rose, “conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now. Tonight, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.”

“Touch my robe!”

Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast. Instantly the room vanished and Scrooge found himself standing in the streets of the city. The streetlights were lit but many of the windows and storefronts were dark and the sky was gloomy.

“The city can be a dangerous place, particularly at night,” said the Spirit.

“It can,” agreed Scrooge.

“Do you see the young woman across the street?” asked the Spirit.

“I do.”

“In some countries, women have few, if any, civil rights. They are little more than property and treated as such.”

“I know, but it is not that way here.”

“Though, you have said that she has too many rights.”

“Not her, in particular, Spirit.”

“So you generalize ‘the public’ without considering the individual?” the Ghost asked. Scrooge was silent.

“You attempt to remove rights in political halls,” continued the Spirit. “But what of those who would assail them in person?”

“I don’t get your meaning, Spirit.”

“Look there,” she said and pointed to a dark alley. Scrooge peered forth and was able to perceive a hulking, shadowy form.

“Is that a mugger?” he asked.

“Perhaps,” came the reply. “Or perhaps a rapist or even a killer. Should that woman, being small and weak, be at the mercy of the strong?”

“Of course not!” cried Scrooge.

“What’s to protect her then?”

“The law!”

“What would the law do to protect her from a criminal, who by definition breaks the law?”

“There are police!” Scrooge insisted.

“Where? I see none in the area.”

“She could carry pepper spray or a stun gun,” Scrooge said triumphantly, feeling he had the better of the Spirit this time.

“She could,” agreed the Ghost. “Although, pepper spray is not always effective particularly if the attacker is on drugs or wearing glasses. And most stun guns require close contact. Would you really advise allowing a dangerous criminal attacker to get that close? If she had a taser she could maintain a distance, but must be able to hit her attacker with one shot.”

“You would suggest she carry a gun, Spirit?”

“I would suggest she have a choice,” came the reply.

“As small as she is, a gun would just be taken away from her!” insisted Scrooge.

“Possible, yet couldn’t pepper spray or a stun gun also be taken away? It is very unlikely in truth. Have you ever even heard of that happening?”

“I have not.”

“Police officers confront criminals regularly and even with them it is rare.”

They both watched as the woman passed the alley and continued on her way.

“That man,” explained the Spirit, “is harmless. Looks can be deceiving.”

The Spirit began walking again and Scrooge followed. They passed into a darker area of the city where streetlights were scarcer. The Spirit’s torch kept the way well lit, though Scrooge could well imagine the gloom were she not there. He followed her to an old apartment building and they went inside and passed into one of the apartments. There, Scrooge saw his own assistant resting in a chair in the kitchen.

“Is Martha still coming for dinner?” Bob Cratchit asked.

“She is,” replied his wife. “She should be here soon, it is a long walk from where the city bus drops her off.”

“I should have liked to go meet her there and walk with her, it isn’t safe.”

“You can’t be with her all the time, Bob,” said his wife. “Especially since you had to go pick up Tim from daycare and it is in the opposite direction.”

“How was work today,” he asked to distract himself.

“It was a good day. A full-time position has opened up and I’m hopeful I’ll get it. We could use the money.”

“Yes,” agreed her husband. “Perhaps it would allow us to move out of this wretched city and to a place that doesn’t legislate defenselessness.”

Just then there was a knock at the door, Martha had arrived. Mrs. Cratchit let her in and Scrooge recognized the woman he had seen earlier.

“You and Jacob Marley,” said the Ghost to Scrooge, “worked to allow cities to ban guns. Now, it is people like the Cratchits, those who obey the law, who do not have guns, while the criminals who don’t obey the law still have them. Is that what you intended?”

“It is not.”

“Even if the city did allow them, you also banned what you called ‘Saturday Night Specials,’ which were in reality just small inexpensive guns that a family like the Cratchits would be able to afford. With every crime committed, you tried to pass a new law. What sense does it make to disarm the people who do not commit crimes to try to stop those who do?”

Scrooge said nothing, but watched the small family reunion now that Martha was home. The other Cratchit children gathered around, including small Tim spinning excitedly about in his wheelchair. His eyes were bright and clear, though he quickly grew tired due to his enthusiasm.

“Spirit,” said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, “tell me if Tiny Tim will live.”

“I see a vacant seat,” replied the Ghost, “and a wheelchair without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.”

“No, no,” said Scrooge. “Oh, no, kind Spirit! Say he will be spared.”

“If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,” returned the Ghost, “will find him here.”

“But surely,” reasoned Scrooge, “there are city welfare programs that can help him!”

“There are,” explained the Spirit. “Yet it is not the sickness within that will kill the child.”

“What then?” asked Scrooge.

“What do you care,” asked the Spirit. “if he lives or dies? His destiny is not to go to an ivy league school and join the social elite you wish to have run the country. Why should one poor boy make a difference to you?”

Scrooge had no reply.

“It is time to move on,” advised the Ghost and walked out with Scrooge close behind, casting glances over his shoulder as he left, especially upon Tiny Tim at the last.

After they passed beyond the door and walked on, their speed seemed to increase. Though Scrooge worked his legs no faster than a walk, the scenery began to blur and buildings whisked by. Soon, they slowed and Scrooge recognized the house they were at as belonging to his nephew. They went inside.

“I can’t believe, Fred,” Scrooge heard the voice of his nephew’s wife as he came in, “that you got into another argument about gun control with him. You know he won’t change!”

“I know,” returned the Nephew. “I just keep hoping that he will. It’s kind of funny, he thinks I’m paranoid for owning guns and was furious when he saw my name on the list of concealed carry licensees he printed in his newspaper, yet he’s the one who locks himself tightly away from the world.”

“He’s rich enough,” returned his wife. “Why doesn’t he just hire a bodyguard to go with him everywhere?”

“I doubt he could stand the company,” laughed Fred. “Him or the guard!”

One of Scrooge’s great-nephews ran into the room.

“Father,” he asked. “Are we going shooting tomorrow?”

“We are,” answered Fred smiling. “You did very well in your gun safety class.”

“Guns and kids don’t mix, so you say Scrooge,” said the Ghost. “Yet here is a child who knows every bit as much about gun safety as you and your friends did when you were a boy. Now he and his father will spend the day at the range tomorrow. They will also go hunting later this year, something that you always wanted to do with your father and grandfather as I recall.”

Scrooge felt a twinge of envy.

“Oh, Fred,” Scrooge’s niece interrupted his thoughts. “Don’t forget that tonight is ladies' night at the range.”

“I haven’t forgotten,” came the reply. “Would you mind picking up a few bricks of .22 for when I take the kids to the range tomorrow?”

“Certainly,” she said cheerily. “Oh, did you convince Ebenezer to come to dinner tonight?”

“I did not. He didn’t even want to talk about it. It is too bad, because I was going to invite him to go with us tomorrow. Mom always talked how he wanted to go hunting when he was younger. I had hoped a trip to the range might ease some of his prejudice against guns and then maybe he’d go when deer season opens.”

“A lost cause, if you ask me,” said his wife.

“You might be right, but I keep hoping.”

Scrooge felt an unexpected longing at the thought of being included. If he had been asked two days ago he would have never even considered it, but after the trip back home he was surprisingly interested in the idea and the thought of teaching his great-nephew and great-niece how to shoot as his grandfather had done for him was very appealing.

Presently, there was a knock on the door and Fred got up to answer it.

“Fred!” cried the visitor breathlessly. “Have you heard?”

“Come in, my friend,” Fred beckoned. “I have been out of touch today. What has happened?”

“Your Uncle’s last editorial was read in the Senate today. It may have persuaded enough Senators to vote for the assault weapon ban!”

“That is terrible news,” observed Scrooge’s nephew.

“It gets worse,” continued the visitor. “It looks like your Uncle listened to you for once. You convinced him that the ban as written was little more than a ban on how guns looked, so the Senate added an amendment to ban all semi-automatic firearms!”

“Father,” asked Scrooge’s great-nephew, who had been eavesdropping all along. “Does that include the rifle we are taking to the range tomorrow?”

“It does,” answered his father. “But fear not, the ban has not yet been passed and we’ll still be able to go tomorrow.”

“Victor,” he said, turning back to his guest. “We must get to work immediately working the phones and getting people to call their representatives. We cannot allow an entire class of firearms to be outlawed!”

“Spirit,” Scrooge said. “I’d rather I had not written that editorial now.”

In a flash they were back outdoors. “The past cannot be changed,” came the reply. “Only the Future has not been set. We must be going, my time here grows short.”

Scrooge caught a glimpse of movement beneath the Spirit’s robes as she spoke.

“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?”

“It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.”

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meager, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shriveled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

“Spirit, are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Denial. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!”

The bell in the old church steeple rang twelve. Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently, approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

“Am I in the presence of the Ghost of Gun Rights Yet To Come?” said Scrooge.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.

“You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,” Scrooge pursued. “Is that so, Spirit?”

The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received.

Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him, and he found that he could hardly stand when he prepared to follow it. The Spirit paused a moment, as observing his condition, and giving him time to recover.

But Scrooge was all the worse for this. It filled him with a vague uncertain horror to know that behind the dusky shroud there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black.

“Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed, “I fear you more than any specter I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?”

It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.

“Lead on!” said Scrooge. “Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!”

The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him. Scrooge followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him up, he thought, and carried him along.

Soon they were back in the city, though this time at mid-day. The Spirit stopped before one small group of men speaking on the sidewalk. Seeing that the Spirit’s hand was stretch to point to them, Scrooge moved closer to listen.

“No,” said one of the men, “I don’t know much about it. I only know he’s dead.”

“When did he die?” inquired another.

“Last night, I believe.”

“How did he die?”

“Home invasion gone awry is what they reported in the news.”

“What has he done with his money?” asked a red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose.

“I haven’t heard,” said the man with the large chin, yawning again. “Left it to his company, perhaps. He hasn’t left it to me. That’s all I know.”

This pleasantry was received with a general laugh.

“It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral,” said the same speaker; “for upon my life I don’t know of anybody to go to it. Suppose we make up a party and volunteer?”

“I don’t mind going if a lunch is provided,” observed the gentleman with the excrescence on his nose. “But I must be fed, if I do.”

Another laugh.

The phantom glided on and Scrooge followed. He thought it strange that the Spirit would put such importance on a trivial conversation but assured himself that everything the Spirits did they did with purpose and was confident the meaning would be revealed.

They passed the offices of Scrooge’s newspaper and Scrooge glanced into the window. He was usually at work at this hour, yet saw the face of another in his stead. It gave him little surprise, however; for he had been revolving in his mind a change of life, and thought and hoped he saw his newborn resolutions carried out in this.

Scrooge followed the Spirit into an even worse section of town than where Bob Cratchit lived. Alleys and archways, like so many cesspools, disgorged their offences of smell, and dirt, and life, upon the straggling streets; and the whole quarter reeked with crime, with filth, and misery. What purpose they could have in such a place of ill repute Scrooge could scarcely imagine.

Into a small shack they passed and inside found three dirty looking scoundrels sitting by an old charcoal stove.

“Let me see what you got,” said one of the men. At his words, another man opened up his bag and spilled the contents upon the floor. Scrooge strained to see what was there, but the third man had his back to him and was obstructing his view. The phantom was before Scrooge wedged into the tight room and Scrooge dared not brush past him.

“A good haul,” said the first.

“Even better than the last time,” agreed the man who had displayed his plunder.

The first began to chronicle the contents. A watch, some silverware, a brooch of no great value, a silver picture frame, and other assorted items. Each of these the first man appraised aloud and set aside.

“These should all sell nicely,” he presently said. “Any worry of the ‘original owner’ looking for them?”

“Not unless his ghost is the seeker!” came the reply and they all laughed.

“Friends or relatives?”

“Not likely, he had no friends and I don’t think his family cared for him much.”

Another laugh.

“Spirit!” said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. “I see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my own. My life tends that way, now. Merciful Heaven, what is this!”

He recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed, and now he almost touched a bed, a bare bed on which, beneath a ragged sheet, there lay a something covered up, which, though it was silent, announced itself in awful language.

The room was very dark, too dark to be observed with any accuracy, though Scrooge glanced round it in obedience to a secret impulse, anxious to know what kind of room it was. A pale light, rising in the outer air, fell straight upon the bed; and on it unwatched, unwept, uncared for, was the body of this man.

Scrooge glanced towards the Phantom. Its steady hand was pointed to the head. The cover was so carelessly adjusted that the slightest raising of it, the motion of a finger upon Scrooge’s part, would have disclosed the face. He thought of it, felt how easy it would be to do, and longed to do it; but had no more power to withdraw the veil than to dismiss the specter at his side.

“Spirit!” he said, “this is a fearful place. In leaving it, I shall not leave its lesson, trust me. Let us go!”

Still the Ghost pointed with an unmoved finger to the head.

“I understand you,” Scrooge returned, “and I would do it, if I could. But I have not the power, Spirit. I have not the power.”

Again it seemed to look upon him and this time relented. Again the scene changed and Scrooge found himself back in Bob Cratchit’s house. Only this time it was quiet, very quiet.

“ ‘And He took a child, and set him in the midst of them.’ ”

Where had Scrooge heard those words? He had not dreamed them. The boy must have read them out, as he and the Spirit crossed the threshold. Why did he not go on?

“It is nearly time,” said Mrs. Cratchit, “for your father to come home.”

“Past it, rather,” said the oldest Cratchit boy. “But I think he has walked a little slower than he used to these few last evenings, mother.”

They were very quiet again. At last she said, and in a steady, cheerful voice, that only faltered once:

“I have known him walk with—I have known him walk with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder, very fast indeed.”

“And so have I,” cried Peter. “Often.”

“And so have I,” exclaimed another. So had all.

“But he was very light to carry,” she resumed, “and his father loved him so, that it was no trouble: no trouble. And there is your father at the door!”

Bob came into the room, and though tried to put on a cheery air for the children there was a great sadness about him.

“Specter,” said Scrooge. “What has happened to Tiny Tim?”

The Ghost said nothing, but pointed to a newspaper at the opposite end of the table and Scrooge recognized it as his own paper. He bent over the table and began to read. According to the article, Bob Cratchit had been coming home from the daycare with Tiny Tim when they were mugged by an unknown assailant. Bob Cratchit had turned over all his money as was demanded, but the meager take did not satisfy the robber. He had stricken Bob with the club he was carrying several times and while trying to flee Bob had fallen. Tim struck his head in the tumble and died soon after.

“Specter,” said Scrooge, “something informs me that our parting moment is at hand. I know it, but I know not how. Tell me what man that was whom we saw lying dead?”

The Spirit did not answer but moved on and Scrooge followed.

“Spirit tell me,” said Scrooge. “If Cratchit had been armed, would he have been able to defend himself against the mugger and save Tiny Tim?” Still no answer.

The Ghost lead him to the house of his nephew where he found Fred’s wife sitting with a friend he did not know.

“How is Fred holding up?” the woman asked.

“As well as can be expected,” came the reply. “His lawyer thinks he can get Fred out of prison, but it won’t be easy. The law clearly states that all guns must be turned in or accounted for if no longer owned. Fred had six guns for which he had no explanation as to what became of them.”

“You’d think they’d be more understanding.”

“I had hoped, but they’re making examples of anyone who was a member of the grassroots gun rights group Fred belonged to.”

The Spirit turned to leave and again Scrooge followed, this time to a churchyard and on to the graves. The Spirit stopped before one and pointed. Scrooge advanced trembling, then stopped.

“Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,” said Scrooge, “answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?”

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

“Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,” said Scrooge. “But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!”

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE.

“Am I that man who lay upon the bed?” he cried, upon his knees. “Am I the one who was killed, like Marley before me, by a violent home invader?”

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

“No, Spirit! Oh no, no!”

The finger still was there.

“Spirit!” he cried, tight clutching at its robe, “hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope!”

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

“Good Spirit,” he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: “Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life!”

The Specter’s hand trembled slightly.

“I will change! I will honor the rights of all men and women, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All of the Bill of Rights shall be sacred to me and I will defend every free man’s right to keep and bear arms! Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”

Scrooge reached out to grab the Spirit’s hand, yet it crumbled in his grasp. Scrooge looked up as the spirit shrank, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!

“All of the Bill of Rights shall be sacred to me and I will defend every free man’s right to keep and bear arms!” Scrooge repeated as he scrambled out of bed. “Oh, Jacob Marley! Heaven be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!”

He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions, that his broken voice would scarcely answer to his call. He had been sobbing violently in his conflict with the Spirit, and his face was wet with tears.

“Everything is here,” cried Scrooge, his eyes flashing around the room and glancing in particular at the silver picture frame and his gold watch. “They are here—I am here—the shadows of the things that would have been, may be dispelled. They will be. I know they will!”

His hands were busy with his garments all this time; turning them inside out, putting them on upside down, tearing them, mislaying them, making them parties to every kind of extravagance.

“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect fool of himself with his stockings. “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man!”

He had frisked into the sitting-room, and was now standing there: perfectly winded.

“There’s the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered!” cried Scrooge, starting off again, and going round the fireplace. “There’s the corner where the Ghost of Gun Rights Present, sat! There’s the window through which I passed into the cold night! It’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened. Ha ha ha!”

“I don’t know what day of the month it is!” said Scrooge. “I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits. I don’t know anything. I’m quite a baby. Never mind. I don’t care. I’d rather be a baby! Ha ha ha!”

He dashed to the nightstand and grabbed his cellphone lifting it to look at the date.

“It’s the next morning!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. It isn’t too late to get out a retraction before today’s Senate hearing. A lot to do today!”

He dressed himself “all in his best,” and at last got out into the streets. The people were by this time pouring forth, as he had seen them with the Ghost of Gun Rights Present; and walking with his hands behind him, Scrooge regarded every one with a delighted smile.

As he walked, he saw a taxi and a thought crossed his mind. He bent down to speak to the driver and instructed him to go to the bus depot later that evening when the bus from the suburbs came in and to transport Martha Cratchit to her father’s house.

“I’ll ferry her straight to Bob Cratchit’s door!” whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. “He sha’n’t know who sends it. Johnny Carson never made such a joke as fetching her to Bob’s will be!”

The hand in which he wrote the address was not a steady one, but write it he did. The cab driver was unsure of this development, but a few crisp bills soon convinced the fellow to go along with the scheme.

Scrooge moved on and had a full morning. He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk—that anything—could give him so much happiness. He also went to work and dashed off a quick editorial renouncing all he had written before to be sure it was in the evening edition. In the afternoon he turned his steps towards his nephew’s house.

He passed the door a dozen times, before he had the courage to go up and knock. But he made a dash, and did it. His nephew was the one who opened the door.

“Fred,” said Scrooge and his nephew had a look of astonishment on his face.

“Why bless my soul, it’s Uncle Scrooge!” Fred exclaimed.

“It is. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?”

Let him in! It is a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. His niece looked just the same and the two youngsters bounced and laughed with their great-uncle and Scrooge did feel great on that day.

“Fred,” said Scrooge hours later. “Can you ever forgive a bitter old man?”

“Forgive you? But of course, Uncle! I also wanted to ask you, I’m taking the kids to the shooting range tomorrow, would you like to accompany us?”

“Like it? I’d be delighted!” beamed Scrooge.

Presently, there was a knock on the door and Fred got up to answer it.

“Fred!” cried the visitor breathlessly. “Have you heard?”

“Come in, my friend,” Fred beckoned. “I have been out of touch today. What has happened?”

“Your Uncle’s latest editorial was read in the Senate today. It may have persuaded enough Senators to vote against the assault weapon ban! Oh, hello,” he said when he noticed Scrooge sitting in the next room.

“Hello Victor,” Scrooge said, surprising the visitor as he was unaware Scrooge knew who he was. “I’ve been telling Fred how wrong I’ve been and from this day forth I am dedicated myself to the preservation of gun rights. In fact, I was hoping one of you could assist me in locating a training class so that I might learn more for I intend to apply for a concealed carry license without delay.”

They talked long into the night, but Scrooge was at his office bright and early the next morning. He sat typing away at an editorial, a fierce scowl on his face, when Bob Cratchit arrived for work. Seeing Scrooge’s demeanor, he scurried to his desk and began working.

“Cratchit, come in here,” growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. Bob Cratchit got to his feet and shuffled towards the office.

“I’ve been going over the statistics you compiled yesterday,” said Scrooge solemnly. “Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,” said Scrooge, “I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,” he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a scare that he staggered back into his desk; “and therefore I am about to raise your salary!”

Scrooge began laughing and Bob Cratchit barely knew what to make of it.

“Now, I want you to get on that computer of yours and bookmark all of the Gun Rights Examiners. Use their work to debunk all the lies and mistruths put out by the anti-gunners.”

“One more thing,” Scrooge said as he walked to the window and ripped down the ‘No Guns Allowed’ sign. “You should have the same right to self-defense to and from work as you have anywhere!”

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a boss, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or village, in the good old world. He became one of the leading voices for gun rights and fought tirelessly to preserve and expand them all. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for his own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him. For the rest of his days, and they were plentiful, he lived by the principle that we must carry arms because we value our lives and those of our loved ones, because we will not be dealt with by force or threat of force, and do not live at the pleasure and discretion of the lawless.