THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 712, March 17, 2013
"Sure, guns are dangerous. Like books."
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
I am, sadly speaking, the inhabitant of a country which has—by every sensible measure—absolutely draconian gun control. I am not eligible for a permit, and if I were, the mightiest weapon I could get would be a single pistol and 50 rounds of ammunition (rifles are restricted to sportsmen who train for two years). I have written extensively—in American and Israeli media—on the subject on gun control, and am even now making an effort to set up a gun rights organization in Israel.
From this experience I would like to speak out on an issue that annoys me. Indeed it is an issue that angers me. I am sick and tired to hear Europeans, Israelis, Australians and so on who complain about their country's gun laws and do nothing about it. If you are anti-gun, I can't really expect you to support me—but if you're talking about how great and awesome America's freedoms are, I expect you to help.
I have seen particularly despicable examples of this—where people do not merely surrender preemptively, but stab their fellow man in the back. Dutch gun groups have backed a ban on IPSC. In Israel, there are gun owners who support taking guns away from security guards—that is, taking away about half of the privately-held guns in this country.
History has borne out simple incontrovertible truth: every gun rights movement that betrays its own gets destroyed. Every gun rights movement that only fights a holding action, opposing new laws but not existing ones, gets destroyed. Every gun rights movement that insists guns exist not for self-defense, but for 'sports' or 'hunting', gets destroyed. Worse, these movements deserve nothing but their own destruction.
America's gun rights movement has experienced moderate success so far because it did three things right. It has refused to betray its own, subscribing to a 'NATO principle'—'an attack on one of us is an attack of all of us'. It had pushed back—repealing gun laws and passing better ones, challenging gun laws in court, engaging in activism. And it focused on firearm rights as a subset of the right of individual self-defense.
Yes, I am a libertarian. I believe you have the right to do anything that doesn't harm me—and if you want to own a firearm for sport, or for painting it pink, that's your sacred right. But the sad fact is, for most of the public sports shooting is just a disturbing hobby. The public, in nearly any country, has been propagandized that it faces a choice between individual liberty and safety—and when a man is told he faces a choice between the safety of his children and your disturbing hobby, that is unlikely to go well for you.
The only way in which our cause can prevail is through positing a moral principle that applies to all—including those who choose to own no arms. This is the moral principle: every human being has a right to self-defense, and every human being has a sacred right to be trusted with arms unless he shows otherwise by his actions—a 'presumption of liberty, rather than a presumption that we are all evil and incompetent.
Most of the Old World (with a few exceptions, such as Russia and Canada, which do have pro-active, self-defense oriented, gun rights movements) has no serious debate on the right to bear arms. A public consensus has emerged, in particular on the European continent, that civilian firearms are an evil to be mitigated, tolerated only for the purpose of sports. In some countries, gun owners now fear bringing up the issue of self-defense in public, for fear their gun license may be taken away (on allegations that they are owning a firearm for purposes other than sport).
Back in March last year, when the Netherlands banned practical shooting, it was announced that the Royal Netherlands Shooters Association had agreed and acquiesced to this ban. I had then made a simple prediction:
One day, there will be only two legal gun owners in Europe. A hunter and a trap shooter. And the Eurocomission will require the hunter to choke the trap shooter with his hands if he wants to keep his permit. And he will.
Ladies and gentlemen in the Old World: stop whining already. You want to stop that from happening? Let's start at least talking about working on something better. Better yet, let's get to work. We are not condemned to live in disarmed paradises—we are only condemned to them if we surrender preemptively. If we protest, if we write, if we speak out—we can reopen a true debate on this issue. Our opponents do not see this coming. We can win.
In the past decades, it would be difficult for us to talk to each other. Today, technology has turned. I do not even need to explain its power—it had already toppled hardier tyrannies than gun control.
Let us begin plotting its demise. Let's get to work.
To paraphrase something that L. Neil Smith, writer and philosopher, wrote more than a decade ago, instead of concentrating the horrible things the powers that be have done to us already, the horrible things they are doing to us now; let us concentrate on doing it back.
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