The gun haters say that because of Newtown the gun rights advocates need to pipe down and accept whatever they want to dish out. I say there’s no better time than now to dispassionately look at how and why there is a violence problem here. The first thing that needs to be faced is that things are never simple. The problem is complex and simplistic approaches like banning guns or putting police in the schools won’t work for a number of reasons. No issue can be looked at in a vacuum. Therefore, as with any issue, we have to start with basic principles and moral implications. That means talking about the one moral imperative that guides us in all human relationships, the non-aggression principle, the one that was so horribly violated at Newtown. It is immoral to initiate the use of force or the threat of force against peaceful people. In other words, a person has to be actually engaging in aggression or credibly threatening to do so before it is morally justifiable to use force in retaliation. What does that have to do with guns? The mere possession of an inanimate object such a gun aggresses against no one. There is no moral justification for taking guns away from people who adhere to the non-aggression principle since this involves initiating the use of force to separate them from their weapons.
Property rights are part of this equation also. People have a right to their property. Guns are property. Separating people from their guns by force is theft of those weapons.
There is a moral justification for, at times, using force. That is self-defense. Since the initiation of force is immoral the right to self-defense seems obvious. Depriving people of their guns is clearly taking away part of their ability to use defensive force. This is another way that gun control is a violation of people’s rights.
Before anyone says “that sounds nice in theory but doesn’t work in the real world” let’s look at how this plays out in the real world. To write about all the tyrannical governments that have killed, raped, tortured, enslaved, imprisoned, exiled, and stolen from all the people they have disarmed would require a book. Gun control is in reality people control starting from some very racist roots. In Maryland the law read "That no Negro or other slave, within this Province, shall be permitted to carry any Gun or any other offensive Weapon...." In Nazi Germany the law read “Jews are prohibited from acquiring, possessing, and carrying firearms and ammunition, as well as truncheons or stabbing weapons”. Whether it was not allowing African-Americans to own guns in this country or not allowing Jews to own guns in Nazi Germany the intent was the same, to have disarmed victims incapable of resistance. In the bloody 20th century, Mao Tse-tung summed it up perfectly, “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Governments want disarmed victims. This is what Mao had in mind and there are seventy million dead Chinese to prove it, part of the over two-hundred million killed by governments in the 20th century. Governments that implemented gun control have committed all of the major genocides.
That’s why there’s never a good time to talk about disarming the people. What the discussion should be about is disarming the government. There is a massive imbalance between the power of the government and the power of the people. Not only the military but the law enforcement establishments here are overwhelmingly strong. We need to start shifting power away from the government by putting these functions back in the people’s hands where they belong. One of the lesser known Founders, and anti-federalist, Tench Coxe, explained it well. Picking up on the same theme as Mao he wrote:
Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man against his own bosom… Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American ... the unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people.There is only one way to guarantee our lives and liberty. That is to be stronger than those who seek to take them are.
This is why the Founders warned us against having a standing army. They knew that such a force would be used to oppress. Today, the “standing army” that we have to worry about domestically is the huge law enforcement establishment. I’m talking about not only state and local police but also agencies like the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and ad nauseum. Rather than deploy troops on the streets they use law enforcement to control us. While these agencies exist our liberty will always be in danger. In his greatest speech titled “Shall Liberty or Empire be Sought?”, arguing against adoption of the constitution, Patrick Henry warned us:
The honorable gentleman who presides told us that, to prevent abuses in our government, we will assemble in Convention, recall our delegated powers, and punish our servants for abusing the trust reposed in them. O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone….Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation, brought about by the punishment of those in power, inflicted by those who had no power at all? You read of a riot act in a country which is called one of the freest in the world, where a few neighbors cannot assemble without the risk of being shot by a hired soldiery, the engines of despotism. We may see such an act in America.Patrick Henry was right. Gun owners today can’t stand up to the law enforcement establishment much less the military. People that advocate civilian guns to counter-balance the government’s weapons are engaging in a dangerous fantasy that is rightly ridiculed. In the US since the government can’t disarm us completely they have armed themselves to the hilt. This has a similar effect as disarming us. One only needs look at the militarization of the law enforcement establishment to see this. There is only one answer and that is institutional change shutting down those agencies while building up the private means of defending ourselves. We need to move to a system of private security. There is no need for local police. History has already proved that private security is better at protecting us than the government is. A shining example is Oro Valley, Arizona. In 1975 they hired Rural/Metro Inc. to be their police department, providing the services previously provided by the county sheriff. Crime rates where greatly reduced at a fraction of the cost of a government police force.
A standing army we shall have, also, to execute the execrable commands of tyranny; and how are you to punish them? Will you order them to be punished? Who shall obey these orders?
There is no need for national level law enforcement. Agencies like those I mentioned, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and the Drug Enforcement Administration are merely instruments of oppression enforcing many unconstitutional laws. One is reminded of Thomas Jefferson's words about the overly powerful capitol,
When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.Not only is private security better able to protect people, and their property, they have a provider/client relationship with them. Under this scenario there is no incentive for private security to enforce something like the drug prohibition and the government wouldn't have the means to do so.
Bear in mind that policing, as we know it today, got its start in the mid-19th century. It wasn't truly about preventing crime, as crime rates were quite low back then. It was all about expanding the government's power. Fast-forward to today and we find that the greatest threat to our lives, liberty, and property is the government. This is due to their tremendous police power. The only way for us to restore our rights is to take that power away from the government.
There is a foreign policy aspect to this too. While the US government has a huge military to wield against the rest of the world it will remain, to quote Patrick Henry again, “a powerful and mighty empire”. Moving to a militia-based defense is impossible while there is gun control. All too many who advocate peace also advocate civilian disarmament not realizing that they are actually empowering the military that they oppose. We can guarantee peace, at home and abroad, only by disarming the government and arming the people.
Digging deeper, though, there are other connections between domestic and foreign tyranny that many don’t see. The Communist Manifesto is a good a place to start this analysis. The four of the ten planks in that book that have been openly implemented in the United States are most relevant to this discussion:
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax. - Not only does this furnish money for the government’s use (such as paying for aggressive wars), it provides them with one of its worse organs of plunder and domestic repression, the IRS.
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly. - The Federal Reserve System, the United States’ central bank, is the greatest enabler the government has. It creates the easy money that finances all its mischief.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State. - The corporate media are but the government’s propaganda arm, hyping the wars and glorifying the troops and LEOs at every turn. The government owns the roads, most public transportation, ports, and the airports, giving it control of all movement and vast resources.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. - Government schools are in reality also indoctrination centers. They produce loyal citizens trained to unquestioningly support the state.
It is truly scary how mainstream these destructive ideas have become. Today, we live in a world of the progressives’ creation, somewhere halfway between socialism and liberty. It is a volatile mixture. It is a world increasingly ruled by force; force wielded by a powerfully armed government. Whether it is the force of the income tax, the force of compulsory education, the force of regulation, or the force of law enforcement the effects are clear to all willing to see: a society becoming sicker and more aggressive. We’ve sunk a long way since 1850 when a Frenchman, Frederick Bastiat, wrote in his book “The Law”:
Is there any need to offer proof that this odious perversion of the law is a perpetual source of hatred and discord; that it tends to destroy society itself? If such proof is needed, look at the United States. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person's liberty and property. As a consequence of this, there appears to be no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation.They’re sure not talking about us like that in France anymore! Progressivism has failed to achieve its lofty ideals. Instead it has created our present situation of crime and murder, war and empire. It is this failure that the advocates of gun control want to cover up. Instead of facing reality they want to blame guns for the problems the implementation of their ideas has created. Before anyone gets too smug, let me emphasize that both political parties have adopted the progressive ideology. Today’s so-called liberals and conservatives advocate different degrees and different aspects of it, but advocate it they do. The liberals may advocate gun control, but it is the conservatives who advocate the police state that can enforce it. Stop and frisk is a great example of this. Gun control is what drives it. While the liberals object to stop and frisk they support its driving force. While the conservatives advocate stop and frisk they oppose the gun control that drives it.
It’s past time for both sides to realize that the killing will only end, society will only heal by turning it away from being ruled by force and toward voluntary interaction between its members. Liberty is the answer. Implementing it means change at the institutional level, disarming the government and keeping the people not only armed but also organized to defend themselves. Back in 1789 Representative Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts explained it well. During the Floor debate over the Second Amendment he said:
What, Sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty.... Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberty of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins.Today, society smolders in those ruins. It’s time to put that fire out.
[author's note: some parts of this article were taken from articles previously published. See here and here]
This article was based on my speech "The Relationship Between Liberty, Power, and Guns"