This article was published by Pro Libertate on May 20.
“The right to buy weapons is the right to be free.” — A.E. van Vogt, The Weapon Shops of Isher
The presence of a single, nonviolent citizen openly carrying a firearm is sufficient to cause panic in people habituated to the evil idea that only state functionaries should be armed. So acutely alarmed do such people become that their first reaction is to call the police, thereby inviting the intervention of additional armed strangers who — owing to the indoctrination they’ve received and the “qualified immunity” they enjoy — are immeasurably more dangerous than the first.
The actual presence of armed citizens is not necessary to induce a panic among hoplophobes. All that is required is public discussion of the right to armed self-defense.
On May 16, the Idaho Republican Liberty Caucus and the Boise State University chapter of Students for Liberty sponsored an event devoted to the right to keep and bear arms at the BSU Student Union building.
The featured speaker that evening was Dick Heller, a resident of Washington, D.C., whose lawsuit resulted in a Supreme Court ruling recognizing (albeit ambiguously) that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms. (Full disclosure: I was also on the program as one of several preliminary speakers.)
Unfortunately, the event was sparsely attended, which isn’t all that surprising for a Friday evening during graduation season. In fact, the police officers deployed outside the auditorium nearly equaled in number those who attended the speech.
Just hours before the event, BSU officials demanded that the sponsors pay an additional $510 to hire extra security in the form of 20 additional police officers, who were on hand for the specific purpose of harassing any attendee who was exercising the right being discussed and celebrated at the event.
The Idaho Statesman reported that the police had been sent to watch “for people trying to open carry guns into the Special Events Center” and to turn away any armed citizen who refused to divest himself of his weapon.
“Boise State’s policy prohibits guns on university grounds,” observed the Statesman, dutifully — and, I’ll warrant, thoughtlessly — retailing an official lie: That policy applies only to members of the non-coercive segment of society, who are prohibited from carrying guns on campus.
BSU’s administration thus did its part, however modest, to advance the Progressive vision in which the most dangerous elements of society — private criminals and public agents of state-authorized violence — would cartelize firearms ownership.
That cartel is a very unequal partnership: The state’s privileged purveyors of officially sanctioned violence pose a far deadlier threat to the lives and property of the innocent than do their private sector counterparts.
Taken together, all of the non-state criminal syndicates known to history have failed to compile a body count that represents a significant fraction of the death toll compiled by governments in the 20th century. Yet advocates of civilian disarmament — which is the expression honest people use to describe what collectivists call “gun control” — are perversely determined to provide the most dangerous element of society with a monopoly on the use of force.
All political constitutions are designed to ensnare the kind of earnest and credulous people who believe such documents can restrain the ambitions of those who consider themselves entitled to exercise authority over others. People who display such pathological impulses generally won’t allow Constitutional “limits” on their powers to interfere with their plans for the rest of us.
However, just as Stalin preferred to hold public trials and extract confessions from people he was going to execute in any case, those who are determined to disarm the American public would prefer to exercise “legal” authority in doing so. This explains a proposal by former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens to subtract rights by adding five words to the Second Amendment: “when serving in the militia.”
Stevens, a longtime opponent of the right to armed self-defense, insists that proponents of armed self-defense misrepresent the clear intention of the Framers by saying that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms. However, he also insists that the same Framers somehow neglected to make that intention clear in the plain language of that Amendment.
Exhibiting the peculiar generosity for which Progressives are renowned, Stevens has offered to fix the defects in the Framers’ handiwork by re-writing it to reflect what he pretends is the true meaning of their words.
Thus, he suggests that the phrase “when serving in the Militia” should be added to the 2nd Amendment, which would then read: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.”
In this way, Stevens says, government would be able to enact measures “designed to minimize the slaughter caused by the prevalence of guns in private hands.”
Like most people of his persuasion, Stevens believes that firearms are endowed with peculiar properties: In the unhallowed hands of private citizens, they are implements of murder and mayhem; yet when touched by the blessed hands of the state’s anointed enforcers they are transmuted into instruments of peace, harmony and goodwill.
That point of view was expressed very candidly in “Armed to the Teeth: The World-Wide Plague of Small Arms,” a 2000 propaganda film produced by the United Nations. In familiar fashion, the U.N. agitprop film retailed the sympathetic fallacy, depicting firearms as objects endowed with an innate capacity for malicious evil: “Small arms are not fussy about the company they keep. They can murder indiscriminately. The gun that killed in Africa can murder again in Latin America, or in Asia.”
Rational people understand that a gun is a tool that can be used to murder human beings, or used to defend the innocent. The U.N.’s anti-gun film seemed to concede as much — while insisting that guns should be denied to everybody but designated agents of the state. Private ownership of firearms is “illegitimate,” the presentation insisted, and can bring only “insecurity, pain, suffering and devastation.” The only “legal” firearms, the film insisted, are those “used by armies and police forces to protect us.”
This arrangement is part of what the U.N. describes as its program for “human security,” which envisions, among other things, “norms of non-possession” of guns by citizens. Each national government would claim and exercise a territorial monopoly on force, overseen by the U.N.’s peacekeeping apparatus.
During the 2001 U.N. Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Isaac Lappia of Amnesty International’s chapter in Sierra Leone offered one of the few dissenting voices regarding the world body’s vision of “human security.”
In his address to the conference, Lappia pointed out that “small arms and light weapons” — that is, firearms that are commonly owned by private citizens — “are now the principal weapons” that are used “to facilitate serious crimes by law enforcement personnel — including police, prison authorities, paramilitaries and the army — where they commit persistent human rights violations including torture, rape, ‘disappearances’ and arbitrary killings.”
Seven years before the U.N. held its first global civilian disarmament summit in 2001, the world body presided over a lurid demonstration of its “human security” program in central Africa. The result was the Rwandan genocide, in which between 800,000 and 1.1 million people were slaughtered over the course of 103 days. The indispensable prelude to that bloodletting was a U.N.-conducted mission to disarm all Rwandans except for the army, police forces and government-aligned militias.
For decades, Rwanda had been the scene of cyclical interethnic violence between Hutus and Tutsis. When the killing began in April 1994, the government was controlled by a “Hutu Power” faction. Obviously, most of the victims of were Tutsis, but the rampage also claimed quite a few Hutus who were seen as traitors by the “Hutu Power” regime.
The overwhelming majority of the victims were hacked to death by machete-wielding assailants. It is possible to outrun someone carrying a machete. However, behind the people armed with machetes stood agents of the government-aligned militia with machine guns.
“They take us from this building, this church,” recalled survivor Jeanne Niwemutusi, referring to the Hutu militias. “They have guns and knives and machetes, the people from the Government party, so we can’t fight back. We don’t have arms.”
Niwemutusi managed to survive because someone had broken the “law” by providing her with a hand grenade, which she used to frighten off several thugs who intended to hack her to pieces.
Within the past week, residents of a Nigerian village staged a desperate counterattack against the Boko Haram terrorist group (which, like most criminal bands of its kind, appears to have connections to the CIA).
At least some of the citizens who participated in the defensive action acted in defiance of Nigeria’s firearms laws, which — in keeping with U.N. mandates — established “norms of non-possession” by civilians.
Like armed citizen defense organizations that are coalescing in Mexico to deal with government-allied criminal bands, the Nigerians weren’t willing to prolong the pretense that the police and military were interested in protecting them.
Advocates of civilian disarmament routinely perform arias of outrage over a social problem they dishonestly call “gun violence.” Properly defined, the problem is aggression, which has no necessary connection with morally neutral inanimate objects called guns. If “gun control” of some variety is to be undertaken, the proper approach would be to deny that tool to people who advertise their intention to commit aggressive violence — which is why police should be the first to be disarmed.
“A gun is not a defensive weapon,” insists Emeryville, California Police Chief Ken James, who is a prominent supporter of civilian disarmament. James, who strikes me as someone whose mind boggles easily, said that his mind is “boggled” by the idea that guns could serve a defensive purpose.
“That is a myth,” he continues. “A gun is an offensive weapon used to intimidate and used to show power. Police officers do not carry a gun as a defensive weapon to defend themselves or their other [sic] officers. They carry a gun in order to do their job in a safe and effective manner, and face any oppositions [sic] that we may come upon.”
James’ candid assertion of the privilege to commit aggression underscores the wisdom of the arrangement described in A.E. van Vogt’s classic science fiction novella The Weapon Shops of Isher. That quasi-utopian story depicts a distant imperial future in which the dictatorial ambitions of the ruling empress are held at bay by armed citizens who enjoy a prohibitive advantage over the government’s police and military forces.
The guns designed by the weapons makers of that era can destroy all matter within the range of its owner, which means that “whoever possesses one of our weapons is more than a match for any soldier of the empress,” a weapons maker proudly explains to a time-displaced visitor from the 20th century. Understandably, he continued, “such a potent weapon cannot be allowed to fall, unmodified, into irresponsible hands. Accordingly, no gun purchased from us may be used for aggression or murder.” This is why no gangster, soldier or police officer was permitted to obtain one.
The objective was “to ensure that no government every again obtained complete power over its people,” explains weapon maker Lucy Rall. “A man who felt himself wronged should be able to go somewhere to buy a defensive gun” — one that was indestructible, “tuned” in such a way it could only be operated for defensive purposes by its purchaser.
It wasn’t necessary that every individual be armed: “What counts is that many millions of people have the knowledge that they can go to a weapon shop if they want to protect themselves and their families. And, even more important, the forces that would normally try to enslave them are restrained by the conviction that it is dangerous to press people too far. And so a great balance has been struck between those who govern and those who are governed.”
That “balance” could be described thus: The “rulers” pretend to govern, and we allow them to indulge that fantasy as long as they don’t attempt to coerce others into playing along.
Regrettably, a personal energy weapon of the kind described in The Weapon Shop of Isher isn’t currently available. The advent of open source 3-D printed firearms does suggest, however, that ere long it will be impossible for aspiring rulers to impose a firearms monopoly.
That prospect should be as heartening to those who love freedom as it is horrifying to people, like the execrable Charles Schumer, who believe they have the right to rule others.
–William N. Grigg