Skip to comments.Guns and Freedom: A Different Argument
Posted on 02/18/2011 6:22:54 AM PST by marktwain
A recent post by former BBC North American editor Justin Webb expresses puzzlement at the pattern of gun ownership in the U.S., reporting that the zip code he used to live in, an area safe enough so that people routinely left their doors unlocked, had a surge of gun purchases after the Supreme Court found unconstitutional the D.C. ban on handgun ownership. He thinks it is obvious that his one-time neighbors have no need for guns to protect themselves, and attributes the pattern to a peculiarly American belief in a link between private ownership of firearms and political freedom.
I have no idea whether his facts or his interpretation are correct; his post does not provide any link to his data source on handgun purchases, leaving open a variety of other explanations. He is surely correct, however, that many Americans see private ownership of firearms as something that makes tyranny less likely.
The interesting question is why. Webb takes it for granted that the underlying argument is that firearms make rebellion against oppression easier, and that is indeed an argument common among supporters of the Second Amendment. He points out, as evidence against, that we have just had an example of a successful rebellion in Egypt, and private firearms played no significant role.
As it happens, I agree with the view that private ownership of firearms helps prevent tyranny. But I don't think the main reason is that it makes rebellion easier. That argument was plausible in the 18th century, and probably played a considerable role in the writing of the Second Amendment. But changes since then make it a much weaker argument now. The gap between private weaponry and military weaponry has become much larger, as has the size of the professional military. Part of the original theory, at least as I read it, was that a large militia made a large professional army unnecessary.
In my view, the real argument for private firearm ownership is a different one. The less able individuals are to protect themselves from crime, the more dependent they are on protection by government law enforcement. The more dependent they are on protection by government law enforcement, the more willing they will be to accept abuses by government law enforcement. The more willing we are to be pushed around by the police, the harder it will be to prevent a tyrannical government from arising. Indeed, in some contexts, most obviously the War on Drugs, one can argue that one has already arisen. And been tolerated.
There is no comparison whatever between an armed and disarmed man; it is not reasonable to suppose that one who is armed will obey willingly one who is unarmed; or that any unarmed man will remain safe.... - Niccoló Machiavelli, The Prince. 1537.
So many inconsistencies about this Brit’s hypothesis, don’t know where to begin.
He thinks an unarmed populace in Egypt has effected a relatively bloodless revolution. But it is the heavily armed Egyptian military that has proven the ultimate decider of events. The role of the Muslim Brotherhood which fanatically believes in armed jihad, remains to be seen.
The Brit is genuinely puzzled at the quaint American notion that holds an armed citizenry to be freer than one that is not. I have spoken to British subjects; in general they do tend to trust their government more than us Yanks, so there’s little commonality on which to agree on anything having to do with guns and gun ownership.
He is further puzzled at Americans who stock up on guns and ammo whenever the Obama administration makes noises about the need for “reasonable” restrictions on guns. The Brit needs to study the evolution of gun control in both societies; Britain after the 1914-1918 war, and the U.S. following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
In the wake of the First World War, captured and souvenir firearms flooded the U.K., and the powers that were decided that this simply would not do, British subjects with military style guns in their possession. Parliamentary government (majority party controls all branches) moved swiftly to restrict and control guns.
From 1963 to 1968 in America there was a constant drumbeat for gun control culminating in GCA ‘68. However, the gun control tide began to recede during the Reagan years, and has subsided further to the degree that advocacy for gun control now begets defeat at the ballot box.
The separation between America and Britain began violently. Though there has been a special relationship between the two for more than a century, fundamental disagreement about the role of government and the individual exists and probably will never be bridged. The lack of understanding of this gulf is amply demonstrated by the BBC chief’s bemused regard for gun rights in America.
which was never sposed to happen in general...a large militia and a small professional military wouldve kept the balance...
and a lot less un-Constitutional bench decrees...
Your last statement sums things up nicely. British citizens do not have a bill of rights, in the same sense that Americans do. The United States was founded on the concept that all rights come from God, not the king, or even a group of elected overlords. The FIRST civil right is the right to continue to exist, and sometimes that requires a firearm.
Why the Gun is Civilization
By Marko Kloos (close)
Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, thats it.
In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.
When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force. The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gangbanger, and a single gay guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.
There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations. These are the people who think that wed be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a mugger to do his job. That, of course, is only true if the muggers potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiatit has no validity when most of a muggers potential marks are armed. People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and thats the exact opposite of a civilized society. A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.
Then theres the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways. Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser. People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones dont constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip at worst. The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker. If both are armed, the field is level. The gun is the only weapon thats as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weightlifter. It simply wouldnt work as well as a force equalizer if it wasnt both lethal and easily employable.
When I carry a gun, I dont do so because I am looking for a fight, but because Im looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I dont carry it because Im afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesnt limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation and thats why carrying a gun is a civilized act.
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