Josh Horwitz, the executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun
Ownership Violence, wrote an article that demonstrates the difference between advocates of gun control and advocates of gun rights. The primary difference is that advocates of gun rights are generally distrusting of the state while advocates of gun control believe the state is a magical unicorn-like creature that can and will save everybody from ill. Put another way advocates of gun rights are realists while advocates of gun control are delusional.
Horwitz’s current article is worth a read because he claims that advocates of gun rights entirely disregard the Constitution. I find this to generally not be the case as most advocates of gun rights are well versed in the Constitution and believe, if followed, it would ensure a society where tyranny was all but entire nonexistent. I’m not part of this camp, I think the Constitution is a horrible document that exists solely to centralize power in one large federal government. It was written to replace the Articles of Confederation, which left almost all governing matters to the individual states. Under the Articles of Confederation the federal government wasn’t even allowed to tax and had to rely on money given to it by the individual states more or less voluntarily.
Since I’m a rare bird that promotes gun rights and opposes the Constitution I thought it would be fun to address Horwitz’s article. Where else are you going to get an anarchist’s point of view regarding both gun rights and the Constitution (seriously, if there are any other anarchist gun bloggers out there let me know because I’d like to get in touch)?
Pro-gun leaders like NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre would have us believe that “the guys with the guns make the rules” in our democracy. But nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, our Founders ratified the Constitution to obviate the need for political violence.
Horwitz is off to bad start by claiming that the Constitution obviates the need for violence regarding political matters. This is a symptom of gun control advocates’ delusion that the state is wholly good, they can’t even see the state’s gun pointed at their head. The Constitution grants the federal government the power to both create and enforce laws. All laws, whether they’re passed by a dictator or democratically, are ultimately enforced by the threat and use of violence.
Consider the consequences of violating a posted speed limit. If an officer catches you speeding they’re likely to flip on their seizure inducing lights and chase you down. Most people pull over because they know the consequences of not doing so involve the officer pursuing them and using every increasing amounts of force. Officers may attempt to use a PIT maneuver to send the speeder’s car into an uncontrolled spin, they may deploy a spike strip to puncture the speeder’s tires, or they may escalate to the use of firearms. Since most people understand the implied threat of violence they pull over. At that point the officer will likely issue you a citation, which you will either pay or face state violence. Failing to pay a speeding ticket isn’t merely ignored by the state. The state has no problem sending officers to your residence to kidnap you and lock you in a cage and won’t hesitate to kill you if you resist the attempted kidnapping.
Horwitz’s claim that the Constitution obviates the need for violence is laughable and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of how the political means works.
The very first line of the document reads as follows: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
While the fist line of the document says all those warm and fuzzy things it goes downhill from there. Buried under the cuddly opening statement are clauses that grant the federal government the power to tax and establishes a Supreme Court that has a monopoly on interpreting the Constitution. Since the federal government has a complete monopoly on interpreting the Constitution everything written within is meaningless. If the Supreme Court determines the interstate commerce clause allows the federal government to prohibit individual from growing wheat for their personal consumption then growing wheat for personal consumption is illegal. Because of this monopoly the Constitution should be rewritten to say “This document means whatever the fuck the Supreme Court says it means.”
The Founders were telling the world that this brilliant new system of government — this social compact — would secure individual rights on a scale previously unknown in the civilized world. They protected liberty not by creating a libertarian society where every citizen was in it solely for himself, but by establishing a strong, energetic government and stressing civic responsibility.
Let me get this straight, the Founding Fathers wanted to protect individual rights so they established a strong government that had a monopoly on deciding what rights individuals have? How can you protect individual rights if somebody can decide, on a whim, what those rights are? Let’s consider the Fifth Amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Yet Anwar al-Awalki and his 16 year-old son were assassinated by their government. According to the Constitution the United States isn’t at war since Congress never declared one so it can’t be claimed the assassination was legal due to war time circumstances. The Constitution doesn’t seem to be doing a very good job of protecting individual rights since the executive branch decided it was perfectly find to skip the whole grand jury requirement in the Fifth Amendment and execute two citizens by hellfire missile.
In the face of this history and the plain terms of the Constitution itself, it is amazing to see modern insurrectionists like Judge Roy Moore, the controversial former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, write things like, “Liberty and freedom are gifts of God, and not the government. The means by which we secure those gifts are ultimately in the hands and the ‘arms’ of the people.” It’s as if Moore is totally unaware of all the robust protections for individual rights spelled out in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Protections so robust that they’re entirely nonexistent. What Horwitz doesn’t understand is that rights can’t be given by another person, they can only be taken. I enjoy the right to free speech until another person decides to use violence to prohibit my exercise of that right. Even if the Constitution said “Individuals only have the right to say what the state approves of.” I would enjoy the right to free speech until some state goon decide to enforce that clause. While I don’t argue the existence of rights by citing deities the claim that rights are God given is accurate if one believes God created the universe. If God did create the universe he created a natural state where individuals were free to do whatever they wanted unless coerced by another. I can choose to take a leak on a tree and will suffer no consequences until another person decides he doesn’t like me pissing on that tree and attempts to stop me by initiating force.
The statement, “The means by which we secure those gifts are ultimately in the hands and the ‘arms’ of the people.” is entirely true. What if you really want to piss on the previously mentioned tree? Unless you can defend yourself from the other person you’re basically at his mercy. Arms give individuals the ability to better resist an aggressor and therefore allow individuals to protect their rights from third-party infringement. If somebody is willing to use violence to prohibit you from acting then the use of defensive force is the only option an individual has to guarantee their ability to act.
The idea of liberty may be a “gift of God,” but the Framers knew it could only be safeguarded if a robust government was in place to arbitrate private disputes and guarantee that each citizen has an equal voice in the affairs of the nation.
I’m sure the people of medieval Iceland would have loved to know that their history of successful private arbitration without an existing state was impossible. History shows that a robust government is not necessary to arbitrate private disputes.
Furthermore, what spurred the drafting of the Constitution was a fear that “licentiousness” — freedom taken to excess — was the greatest threat to individual liberty!
No, the Constitution was drafted because advocates of powerful central governments were unhappy with the almost powerless federal government that existed under the Articles of Confederation. Wikipedia has a very short summary of the historical context of the Constitutional Convention that spawned the United States Constitution. The primary issues had by the drafters of the Constitution was the federal government’s inability to tax (and thus pay for governmental programs), the inability to enforce states payment of federal taxes, and the fact that any single state could veto changes to the Articles of Confederation. In short the Founders wanted more centralized taxing authority.
In LaPierre’s world, it’s as if the U.S. government never fostered the most powerful economy in the world, or put Neil Armstrong on the moon, or won two world wars, or built a national system of highways, or prevented generations of senior citizens from living out their final years in poverty, etc., etc.
The Soviet Union also spawned a powerful economy, put people into space, won a World War, and built a national transportation system. Nazi Germany developed a powerful economy and built the national highway system that inspired the United State’s national highway system. A nation can achieve great things even without the supposed protections of the United States Constitution. In fact a nation can achieve many great things since it can simply raise the capital required to achieve those things by stealing it from the people through taxation.
I’ll also argue against Horwitz’s claim that the United States government prevented generations of senior citizens from living out their final years in poverty because I know many senior citizens currently living out their final years in poverty.
Perhaps most disturbing are the endless attempts to conflate our constitutional republic with some of the most brutal and inhumane dictatorships in human history (try Googling “gun control Hitler” sometime).
When a certain gun law in the United States is almost direct translations of a Nazi gun control law it’s impossible to avoid the comparison without ignoring reality.
Recently, when my organization, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, asked National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) General Counsel Larry Keane if he felt that individual Americans had a right to shoot and kill government officials in response to what they personally perceived as “tyranny,” Keane tweeted back at us plaintively, “Just like the Jews in the ghettos of Warsaw? The South Sudanese? Kurds? The American colonists?”
Keane makes an important, but unintended, point. Countries that kill their own citizens are not democracies. As political scientist R.J. Rummel noted in his 1997 book, Power Kills: Democracy as a Method of Nonviolence, nations with strong democratic institutions do not murder their own citizens.
Horwitz is misrepresenting what R.J. Rummel has stated. He hasn’t said democracies don’t kill their own citizens, he said the more totalitarian a state is the more of its own citizens it kills. That is to say the more decentralized a state is the less dangerous it tends to be for its citizens. As I stated above the United States government killed two of its citizens not too terribly long ago, which invalidates Horwitz’s claim.
It’s easy to see how gun control advocates come to their conclusions. They believe the state is good and that the state will protect its citizens from all ills. Reality is harsh and people often use escapism to avoid facing it. When you realize that bad people exist you have two options: face that fact and prepare accordingly or refuse to accept that fact and escape to a fantasy land where you can control everything. Advocates of gun control have chosen the latter option while advocates of gun rights have chosen the former. This is why advocates of gun control need to lie, cheap, and misrepresent facts; they are trying to escape to a fantasy land that requires reality be ignored entirely.