I detest litmus tests.
I always have. They’ve always struck me as a way to avoid needing to think too hard about things, especially politics; as a way to avoid having to deal with the nuances that are inevitable with a realistic appreciation of the world around you.
But over the last year years, Second Amendment voting has become, if not a litmus test, at least a key indicator about a politician’s, or group’s, or person’s attitude about the most important political question of all.
We’ll come back to that.
There are a lot of reasons I support the right to keep and bear arms, and am an activist on the issue. But there’s only one reason that it’s a litmus test to me.
Line Of Defense: Self-defense? Well, it’s important. The idea that people should be forced to rely on the attention span of the state for their safety is fantasy at best, a toxic delusion at worst.
The police are under no obligation to protect you, and even when they knock themselves out to try, it’s a fact – when seconds count, the cops are minutes away.
But self-defense isn’t why this is a litmus test issue to me.
Value: And even if they were obligated to protect you at all costs in all situations?
As Jeffrey Snyder asked 25 years ago in A Nation of Cowards – do you really think that your life is of immeasurable worth, but that of the cop we call when things get ugly is worth $50K (or whatever we pay a cop these days)? No – if your life is truly of immeasurable worth, then it’s truly your job to protect it – right?
If you truly believe that your life is of infinite value, while that of someone who risks their life for your is worth merely a salary and a life insurance settlement, I have to question your moral order. Not here, of course.
The real question is, is it morally right to demand, and expect, that someone risk their life to save yiours, even with aunion contract?
Deterrence: There is no rational doubt that armed citizens deter crime.
The number of crimes deterred in a year is hard to estimate, since most – including mine – are never reported. The FBI used to say 80,000/year; Kleck estimated two million a year in the early ’90s, 98% of them without a shot being fired.
Whichever is right, each of those is a victory of good over…evil? Decay? Collapse? Of right versus wrong. Each of those victories, morally, is of incalculable good.
But that’s not the reason either.
A Good Guy With A Gun: You know how you know that “a good guy with a gun” is an inherently good thing?
Because Big Gun Control spends so much time and effort trying to attack the idea. Not with facts – or at least, not by presenting facts in a way that can be debated (and, inevitably, debunked). “Shut up”, they explain.
There is a reason that mass shootings happen in places (schools, government buildings, posted property) or cities (New York, Chicago, San Francisco) or states (California) and not at NRA conventions or in Bozeman, Montana. Good citizens with the capacity to resist are a deterrent.
And as we’ve seen in a few mass shootings, when a good guy (or gal) with a gun interrupts the narcissistic fantasy, the fantasy implodes; the bad guy with the gun usually gives up, or kills himself. Exactly as law enforcement says – move in on the shooter to break their reverie -although they don’t generally circulate that for public consumption.
But no – that’s not the reason that the Second Amendment is my litmus test.
Fun Fun Fun (Til The Democrats Take The Garand Away): Let’s be frank, here – shooting is fun. No – it’s fun!
The focus and concentration are a poor man’s Zen meditation. A day of busting caps out on the range is about as much fun as one can have, by oneself, legally.
And for someone who always wanted to be one of those guys that could hot-rod a car, but never had the money or the mechanical aptitude? Modern guns, being the modular creations they are, lend themselves to extensive hot-rodding; a plain-Jane AR15, or even AK or SKS, is within reach of a whole lot of people, an outlet for mechanical creativity that’s do-able even for people of fairly unimpressive mechanical skills. Even Glocks have gotten “democratized”; it’s possible to buy aftermarket lower frames that allow one to soup up a humble Glock 19.
A vital policy point? No, but certainly a factor, if only personally .
So while I’ll throw it on the “yea” side of the scale, it’s hardly the reason the 2nd Amendment is a litmus test.
Being Necessary For The Security Of A Free State: Of course, none of the above were the proximate reason for the 2nd Amendment – which was to allow The People to defend their lives, families, property and communities against encroaching tyranny.
“What? You’re going to try to fight a tank with a gun? If government becomes tyrannical, you’ll have no chance!” the usual response goes – which strikes me as a bad attitude for a citizen of a free society to have even while they’re still “free”. But we’ll come back to that.
There are two answers to that old chestnut:
- Nobody fights tanks with rifles. You fight the truck that hauls the food, fuel and ammo to the tank.
- But think about it: what do we know about the average American serviceperfson? That they are the children of people with two masters degrees in Political Science from Carlton, who shop at Whole Foods and listen to NPR and have “Coesist” bumper stickers on their cars and voted for Hillary? No! They are overwhelmingly the children of the blue-collar and middle-to-lower-middle class people that own the guns today. If government, for whatever reason, decided to go door to door seizing guns, they’d be beating down the doors of the parents, brothers and sisters of people in the service. How do you suppose that’d work?
The right to keep and bear arms helps ensure that an attack on freedom will be an attack on the standing army. Which may be one of the best guarantors against the depredations of the “standing army” that our founding fathers so feared.
But important as that is, that’s not the reason, either.
Words Have Meanings: No, the reason is this: without the right to defend one’s home, family, property, community and freedom from both crime and tyranny, then “citizenship” is meaningless.
The word “citizen”, going back to its Latin roots, means someone who has the ability to govern oneself; one who is him/herself a microcosm of government – someone who has the means at hand to govern themselves, and to participate in and consent in their own government.
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights spell out the things that a citizen of a free society is endowed with by their creator; the right to participate and consent in their government via speaking, publishing, assembling, petitioning and voting; the right to not having their status as a citizen spuriously removed without due process, via jury trials, right to representation, freedom from unreasonable searches; the right to be fairly secure that their property won’t be arbitrarily seized…
…the right, means and power to defend one’s life, family, property, community and freedom. Just like the government in which one participates.
Words Have Opposites, Too: So being a “citizen” means having the ability to see to one’s own self-government – by oneself, as part of a small community, or a larger body that governns by consernt of the self-governing citizens.
And if you take away any of the means by which a “citizen” governs, what happens?
Are they a slightly lesser citizen? No – it’s like taking away a hydrogen atom and wondering why you don’t still have water.
When a citizen can’t govern him/her self, then they’re no longer a citizen. They are a subject of whomever took those rights away.
Observing the Second Amendment is one of the key differences between being a citizen – a consenting party to one’s own governance – and a subject, one whose life, liberty and property exist by the good graces of their ruler (or ceases to by the ruler’s bad graces, often enough).
And knowing that is why I will no more vote for someone who stands for abridging the Second Amendment than I will for someone who believes in speech rationing, or no-knock warrantless searches of people without meaningful due process, for that matter.
All three are non-negotiable. All three are essential. All three are reasons to go to the barricades. I will no more vote for someone who promises to abridge my role as a citizen – by turning me into a subject – than I’ll vote for someone who vows to send Jews to camps in Idaho.
Details: “What – you think citizens should own cannon? Tanks? Nuclear weapons?”
They’re kind of expensive, and I dont’ wanna think about what it’d cost to practice with any of ’em. But since we’re arguing out in loopdieland, I’ll bite. Sure – show me why I shouldn’t, in logical terms – meaning terms other than “It doesn’t seem right to me”.
Put another way: I’m a law-abiding citizen. I’ve never stolen so much as a candy bar in my life., If you put a gun in my hand, I’m still the same guy. I’m not overwhelmed by the urge to harm others. How is that different if you put a machine gun, cannon, flamethrower, tank, or submarine in my figurative hand? It’s not.
It’s also a pointless deflection. Very few people are pushing to buy tanks – and I don’t think the criminal market for them is especially big either.
Many people are pushing, constantly and with great ardor, to abridge my right to defend my life, family, property, community and freedom, though.