Guns and Liberty

by Jeffry R. Fisher

Are gun rights out of date?

Quite the contrary, it is gun control that that is out of date. It hearkens back to the days when people were divided into "noble" and "lower" classes with separate and very unequal privileges. Gun advocates have an egalitarian mindset: every citizen is as worthy as every other, except for those few convicted of crimes by due process of law before being deprived of their liberty.

The 2nd Amendment

To paraphrase: "A well-educated electorate being necessary to the preservation of a free society, the right of the people to think and convey ideas shall not be infringed."

If this were the phrasing of free speech, would we put a 400% tax on private radio transmitters? Would we ban privately owned, fully-automatic news presses? Would we argue that the hand presses of the 1700's were all the Founders knew, so that's all that they meant to protect? Could any state require its citizens to register all magazine subscriptions "just in case"? If a state operates a "free press" on behalf of its citizens, can it then prohibit all others?

Guns are Power

Those who beat their swords into plowshares will plow for those who don't.

Actions speak louder than words. Rights and written authority are nice, but they're not worth a hill of beans unless one has the power to assert them. Without the power of guns to imply action, the Bill of Rights is just so many words.

In other words, if we "commoners" are at the mercy of some elite warrior class that holds a monopoly on personal weaponry, then we will only be able to exercise those rights that the power brokers allow us while they will take whatever liberties they want. Those who complain will be ignored or arrested, and there's not a thing they can do about it.

"You're paranoid!"

I could say the same thing about people who want to take away rights from others who haven't committed any crime yet.

Paranoia is assuming "they're after me" without evidence. However, if someone really is after my right to defend myself, then I am not paranoid to oppose them. If criminals really are invading homes and robbing people, then I am not paranoid to want to defend myself. If no totalitarian government has ever arisen anywhere without first prohibiting general civilian gun ownership, then I am not paranoid when I say that don't want to open that door. Must one wait to see a prowler before installing a deadbolt?


What discussion of gun control and the perils of totalitarianism would be complete without bringing up our favorite poster children for political debate?

Claim: "The Nazis succeeded because a large part of the population initially supported them, not knowing what would follow. This would have been no different if the population had had guns."

This is almost a tautology. If the Nazis had left guns in civilian hands, then they wouldn't have been Nazis, and everything would have been different. "Initially supporting them" is also why Germany had gun control. If the population had had guns, it would have meant that they weren't under the sort of government that would give them the Gestapo.

However, even taking the claim at face value, I disagree. If the population had had guns, they would have been the sort of people to start fighting back when Gestapo came to arrest them. Germany would have run out of Gestapo long before they ran out of Jews.

Civilian Gun Ownership Evidence of Liberty

However, civilian access to guns isn't just a chance to fight. It's also a sign. If the government can take your guns, they can take anything else. Therefore, civilian gun ownership is a sign that there are still limits to government hegemony.

Gun Control is a Signal

Furthermore, if the government wants to take your guns, it means they don't trust you. You should wonder what the government plans to do that it views you as an opponent instead of as a participant.

Internal threats are much more likely than external. In the previous century, even after Nazi and Japanese atrocities and American bombing, many more people were killed by their own governments than by outsiders. If we continue to centralize power while lulling the US population into an apathetic sense of security until we disarm ourselves, then a generation or so down the road, some ambitious, opportunistic bastard will (in some manufactured "crisis") seize power to himself after seeding various agencies and military units with loyal followers.

Am I paranoid? No, I don't claim to see anyone doing such things now. It's just a matter of odds. I can see that tyrants have risen many times over the course of history. There seems to be no shortage of them. In fact, it seems that a high percentage of people will behave tyrannically unless their authority is carefully circumscribed.

Therefore, I think it not just likely, but certain, that if we open the door to tyranny, someone among our 300 million will step through it sooner rather than later. It's not a huge, shadowy conspiracy, just human nature, and you've probably seen small scale examples yourself. Therefore, let us hang on tenaciously to the sign that civil liberties still exist, and let us all fix in our minds that national gun control is the red flag signal.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

"Gun ownership should be restricted to people who can prove training"

Somewhat reasonable, especially if the government offers free classes and certification.

Another good filter is real property title. People who've sunk their life savings into assets they can't haul away with them are much, much less likely to embark on violent crime sprees than those with no fixed assets. Those who do will lose their property.

Moreover, someone who owns property has a right to defend it. The government might offer assistance, but it shouldn't usurp that right completely.

Furthermore, prior restraint is doesn't belong in a free society. Burden of proof is supposed to be on government before it can take rights away, not on citizens before they can exercise. To require proof of training smells like earning a privilege granted by government rather than exercising a right with which one was born.

The USA is a Special Case

When coups occur elsewhere, the US can contain their aggression. But if/when a coup happens in the US, who could counter it? How many billions would die? Think it can never happen here? I hope to God you are never proven wrong.

The US is a good, stabilizing force in the world as long as it remains a republic whose citizens are primarily interested in going about their own business. However, the US could become a world conqueror if the republic were ever subverted. Therefore, one of the most important pillars of world security is the internal stability of the republic in the US. I would even go as far as claiming that Britain gets to enjoy its universal gun prohibition only as long as Americans don't.

Even if gun prohibition could save 10,000 lives per year for 100 years, one attempted coup could waste those savings 100 times over. The one superpower on Earth must leave its citizens armed so that it is impossible for it to ever become an aggressive dictatorship. Therefore, we should encourage all lawful citizens to protect the peace through force of arms.

We citizens are the guards guarding the guards. It's ugly, I admit that, but it's the best we can do in an imperfect world.

Gun Control is Misogynistic

Incidentally, when a man and a woman are both armed, the man, on average, has only a slight endurance advantage. When both are unarmed, the man, on average, can kill or incapacitate the woman. Furthermore, men are more motivated buyers of firearms, so women are more easily dissuaded by legal inconvenience. Therefore, gun restrictions and prohibitions are both misogynistic, costing thousands of women their lives and/or their purity (and emotional security) every year.

The benefits to society of having responsible, adult women arm themselves is so high that the government should not only streamline the process, it should offer women free firearms classes and buy each graduate's first pistol to be carried concealed.

The Price of Gun Rights

The price of liberty is high no matter how you slice it. Grant ourselves rights and privileges, and we citizens must bear the responsibility that comes with them, as well as absorbing the sting of each abuse. However, give away our rights and privileges, and we will suffer far worse.

Copyright 2003-2004 by Jeff Fisher: Permission is granted to reproduce this article in whole, but only in combination with attribution, the original title, the original URL, and this copyright notice.

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