Vice President Joe Biden has now publicly acknowledged that gun control legislation of the type currently proposed will do nothing substantively to eliminate firearms-related massacres like the catalyzing event that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut in December. So, given that even the administration’s gun control “task force” lead has essentially admitted this proposal can only serve to restrict law abiding citizens’ rights while failing to appreciably diminishing the probability of mass shootings taking place going forward, what are we to make of the implied intent behind such potential measures?
Since the vice president will admit a so-called “assault” weapons ban will not work as promised, as has been thoroughly demonstrated, it is appropriate to inquire what will happen when someone utilizes a post-ban weapon(s) to commit another such atrocity? At what arbitrary line in the sand will anti-gun types draw short of outright prohibition to properly demonstrate their alleged respect for the 2nd Amendment (and by logical extension, the Constitution in general)? On the one hand, gun control advocates insist that they respect the right of the individual to defend him- or herself and on the other wish to ban weapons that commensurately counterpoise the prevalent threat that they concededly point to as apparent justification for their additional gun control policies. Is this not akin to admitting that we possess an inherent right to fight back against an attacker while simultaneously insisting that one of our hands must always be tied behind our back (or amputated altogether)?
In many circles, and you can no doubt guess which ones, talk of a disarmament agenda is considered shocking and/or downright paranoid. But if there is no malevolent “gun grabber” agenda at the heart of such restriction policies, particularly when they clearly will not yield the touted results, the only other logical conclusion to draw is that the president and his various gun control supporters in the Congress are simply morons. I would like someone who supports these measures to stand up and clarify once and for all which is the case: is the president knowingly attempting to eliminate the individual natural right to self-defense in practice or is he just pitifully unintelligent?
On second thought, the answer is largely irrelevant because either is sufficient to render the man unfit for executive office. But my problem with such a rights-restricting government overreach has not so much to do with the politicians themselves, per se, but rather with the masses of uninformed and unprincipled folks that support them. This sort of perspective, spoon-fed by the mainstream media and the aristocratically hypocritical celebrity class, is perhaps most prevalently represented by the not uncommon claim that the people have no “need” for “military” style weapons (whatever that distinction subjectively means from person-to-person). Never mind that what makes an “assault” weapon in most people’s casual observance is largely cosmetic in nature, is there any other kind of weapon in reality?
When opponents of certain types of weapons, usually an opinion rooted almost entirely in ignorance to be sure, assert that they do not belong in the hands of “average” citizens another question should follow. Who is the presumably “above-average” citizen? Is it the government (i.e., law enforcement)? I have never understood the collectivist deference commonly paid to the supposed benevolence, competence, and responsibility that government representatives apparently embody in such greater degrees than “average” citizens. Police officers, for just one example, are people too, notwithstanding the psychological effect their uniforms have on the feebleminded. They are no inherently better or worse than anyone else and certainly are not exempt from their institutional share of irresponsible, incompetent, and/or outright malevolent individuals. In this case, as with all cases where government propriety is concerned, collectivism is simply not an ethically or practically appropriate approach to evaluating individuals’ fitness, choices, and behavior.
But to my main point: I have discussed ad nauseam regarding the nature of the delicate relationship between a free people and their constituted government. Suffice it to say, for individuals that make up a free society to remain such the government simply cannot legitimately wield any authority or privileges that the people themselves do not retain – indeed, do not originate – differences of scale reasonably excepted. In conjunction with this principle, individual rights and freedom cannot legitimately be subjugated to the subjective determinations of “need” by the masses.
If such weapons are not necessary in America, as so many gun control advocates dubiously assert, why then do police increasingly carry them nowadays? Clearly, a law enforcement officer’s personal protection is important but is this not true for the rest of us as well? As I alluded to previously, is it not the extreme prevalence of violent actors in society – the very prevalence that the gun control lobby points to as justification for such measures – the same threat that necessitates such weapons for law enforcement? How can a society of free individuals be justly exempt from these same considerations, particularly when the government itself – either via the vice president’s remarks or through detailed studies on the subject – acknowledges that prohibition policies do not and will not deter criminals?
Clearly, there is no “need” for such weaponry in an enlightened and civilized society such as America so let us practice what we preach and apply an “assault” weapons ban to the government as well. After all, if these law enforcement officers simply lay down their “assault” weapons, I am sure the criminals will follow their noble example and all will be shiny in Shangri-La.
If the principle of self-defense is an inherent right retained by the individual, a basic sentiment that I believe most reasonable people would generally agree with, then the identity of an unjustified aggressor that one might find themselves in conflict with is incidental. This basic fundamental is to either be respected or it is not; considerations of self-defense from whom is inconsequential, whether it be from a common criminal, a criminal state actor, foreign invaders, potential spillover of Mexican narco-terrorism (as is peculiarly possible in my region), or a number of other possible scenarios. To deny the application of the right to self-defense simply because a government police force exists is morally equivalent to denying one a first aid kit or fire extinguisher on the basis of an existence of state emergency medical and fire services. A man or woman’s peaceful acquisition and possession of a given type of firearm as a safeguard and/or deterrent against the use of unjustified violence against him/her by someone else, regardless of the possible source and however subjectively remote the chances, is no different in principle than obtaining health insurance as a hedge against illness, home insurance as a guard against fire, or gold as an asset protection against monetary inflation. The vast majority of law abiding firearms owners purchase their protection with the intrinsic hope and intent to never have to use it, but with the confidence and peace of mind provided by knowing if forced to it will give them some chance against the potential threat posed in a modern world.
Abstractly, the greater firearms debate, besides being specifically about the obvious issue of the individual right to self-defense, more broadly represents the right to be left alone to live one’s life how s/he sees fit. Despite many firearms opponents’ collective culture of fear, I posit that this is precisely why virtually all law abiding gun owners are the least of our worries in society. The man or woman who simply wishes to be left alone rarely harms another or their rights in this self-determinant pursuit. It is nearly always the forceful do-gooders that, in their zealously misguided attempts at making people fit some subjectively rationalized definition of the Greater Good, wind up suppressing, oppressing, and many times even killing them en masse in the process. Historically, tyranny can almost always be found to originate from those who think they know what is best for others in contrast to those that only presume to know what is best for themselves (e.g., historical incidences of religious persecution/zealotry, extreme nationalism, slavery apologetics, eugenics, communism/socialism, radical environmentalism, etc.). The majoritarian tyranny so often rationalized by the do-gooders in society is the truly dangerous element at play here.
To that end I would suggest that while undoubtedly some gun owners exercise their rights irresponsibly, as all rights are irresponsibly wielded by some along the way, this reality pales in comparison to the collective irresponsibility represented by modern gun control advocates who support forcefully infringing the rights of law abiding citizens en masse for the illegal individual actions of criminal actors and belligerents. Simply being associated with or having sympathy for a victim(s) of senseless crime does not automatically lend one’s justifiably emotional perspective ethical or practical authority. For example, when two people who are intimately associated in similar ways with victims of mass murdering lunatics have diametrically opposed views on this subject, such as Neil Heslin and Dr. Suzanne Gratia-Hupp, whose opinion reigns superior? Who, if either, can righteously claim the moral high ground? I would argue that neither can based solely on the happenstance of their tragic associations and loss. Only substantive analysis, principle, and reason can discriminate between their respective viewpoints, and only an environment that protects individual rights can ultimately foster enlightenment in this regard. A nation of sheeple, on the other hand, will not require much individual responsibility or intellect, I am quite sure.
But most of what is presented thus far relates to a philosophical idea of ethics as it relates to individual liberty – specifically the notion that the State has no legitimate authority to tell folks how to live their lives provided they are not violating the commensurate rights of others. This has said nothing of the constitutional requirement for the federal and state governments to apply equal protection to all citizens – individual civilians and government representatives alike. While ethics demand at the least that law abiding citizens retain the right to arm themselves consistently with the potential means that the bad guys have at their disposal, the oath of allegiance and deference to the principles and explicit protections set forth in the Constitution that the president and the Congress take prior to assuming their respective offices renders any infringements upon these principles state-sponsored criminal acts in and of themselves. If nothing else resonates, the very nature of the social compact demands that all parties to it honor and adhere to its provisions faithfully and dutifully.
In the end, this specific political issue is just one of a growing laundry list of seemingly unrelated issues facing modern America that fundamentally represent the pitfalls associated with the State that acts unilaterally for the benefit of one group of citizens at the expense of another, and will continue to grow indefinitely fiercer until (unless) we, the people, can foster an environment that allows for true equal protection of all policies and laws for all of its citizens. If we ignore the fact that chasing a special interest in one instance invariably results in our victimhood to a different special interest in another, then the words of Faust are especially relevant even today: “No man deserves his freedom or his life Who does not daily win them anew.”