Do not let civilization die in the dark.
by J. Neil Schulman
Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise
Gun control isn’t about guns. It’s about control.
Neither is the word “gun” in the Second Amendment. It reads,
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The word “arms” as a category includes guns but projectile-throwing weapons are only a limited part of what in the past have been used as arms. Guns, like swords, may in the future be retired in favor of other technology used as arms. They might not even look like guns such as the phasers on Star Trek or earlier blasters in Forbidden Planet or be based on past bladed weapons such as the lightsabers in Star Wars. You want my speculations? Pay me to write more science fiction.
My last article here is titled “The Scope of the Second Amendment” and argues that arms protected by the Second Amendment is a category far more inclusive than guns.
So when I state that “gun control” isn’t about guns but about control, I’m arguing that who is armed is the defining question of all politics.
A country in which arms are the monopoly of the State and only the State’s favored few may be armed is a monarchy, empire, dictatorship, aristocracy, plutocracy, bureaucracy, junta, gang, or cult. Its anthems, television, and parades may represent itself as democratic but those of its people who are unarmed exist according to the decisions of bullies who are armed.
We see that in any complex political system, such as exists in the United States today, it’s relatively easy to complicate laws such that clearly stated constitutional limits can be negated by “well, they didn’t mean that.”
If the Second Amendment was written when the common soldier’s field weapon was a musket, “well, they weren’t thinking about high-capacity-magazine-fed semi-auto rifles such as the AR-15.” Never mind that this imaginative view of supposedly unimaginative founders would also mean that the First Amendment protections of journalists would only apply to those writing with quills, not on the Internet; and the Fourth Amendment mentioning “persons, houses, papers, and effects” wouldn’t cover Winnebagos or smartphones.
Certainly the Second Amendment doesn’t apply to non-citizens, drug-traffickers, ex-cons, and the mentally unstable—this last being a new omnibus classification for anyone who looks at you funny. Keep on going. I’m sure with just a bit more work you can remove rights from anyone not in your exclusive club.
It’s easy to use government—particularly local government—to control anyone who doesn’t meet the standards of the Chamber of Commerce.
That’s the point I’m making.
The Second Amendment was one of ten demands recent revolutionaries made if they were going to cooperate with the newly formed central government. As for local government—dealing with your neighbors—well, feuds were still legal back then.
The Second Amendment is, more than anything written since the Declaration of Independence itself, a reservation of the right to overthrow tyrants—and the arms potentially pointed at their heads are maintained to remind them that their exercise of power over the lives and livelihoods of their compatriots is sharply limited, defined, and temporary.
The purpose of the Second Amendment is to forestall the necessity of another revolution by reminding those who exercise political power that the government makes nothing, owns nothing, and makes use only of what the people allow it to control.
So trust me on this. Having spent some decades hanging around with gun owners—and I mean people not with a gun or two but with an arsenal or two—they know why they keep well-armed and if you try to control them another well-regulated revolution is what will be the result.
If you’re lucky.
J. Neil Schulman is a novelist, screenwriter, journalist, radio
personality, filmmaker, composer, and actor. His dozen books include
the novels Alongside Night and The Rainbow Cadenza,
both of which won the Libertarian Futurist Society’s Prometheus
Award for best libertarian novel, and the anthology Nasty, Brutish,
And Short Stories.
Read more about him.
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