All posts by Boris Karpa

Guns, Cars, and Airplanes: The Wisdom of American Gun Owners

There is a certain anti-gun meme making the rounds on the Internet – and in some broad sense, it no doubt predates the Internet. You have no doubt heard it before: “Why can’t we license guns like cars?”  It doesn’t necessarily have to refer to cars – the most modern iteration, put out by left-wing media darling John Oliver, refers to airplanes: “One failed attempt at a shoe bomb and we all take off our shoes at the airport. Thirty-one school shootings since Columbine and no change in our regulation of guns.” Other versions of this meme refer to various consumer products – even teddy bears have been invoked – that are ostensibly regulated tighter than firearms. The point is the same: “We have accepted extensive government oversight of this aspect of our lives, but why not guns then?”

Of course, it’s possible – and quite reasonable – to make references to Constitutional law. One can point out, for instance, that driving a car on public roads is not considered a Constitutional right, unlike the right to bear arms. One can point out – reasonably enough – that in many ways cars are actually regulated far less than gun controllers would like us to regulate guns. One can point out that cars are far harder to use safely than guns. These will all be true. One can make many of the same points about air travel as well – that air travel is a privilege, for instance. And those will all be salient and possibly even be technically true. However they will all be missing the main point – and it is the wit of John Oliver that has finally brought home that main fallacy of those approaches.

The thing is, taking off shoes at the airport is actually an example of the worst in political decisionmaking. It is the epitome in the sort of worst-first thinking that has plagued the Western body politic for decades now – take a scary, freakish, rare occurrence (such as the shoe bombing), freak out about it beyond all measure, and then make decisions that both invade people’s freedom and take away their basic dignity based on that. It’s exactly this sort of decisionmaking that has turned the automobile from a wondrous invention that had made people freer, gave them both privacy and mobility, into an endless milking cow for police state intrusions – rolling “checkpoints” that easily turn a ‘seatbelt inspection’ into a search of your car, drunk-driving laws that set the BAC limits for ‘drunknenness’ so low they are below the margin of error of police breathalyzers, mandatory GPS devices in cars, and so forth.

Yet – we are told – we are to adopt the same kind of thinking in terms of guns. Why? Has forcing people to take their shoes off at airports stopped a single terrorist? This is the same sort of thinking that has led to the destruction of Buckyballs because several children ingested them (and apparently one child has died). John Oliver knows – and hopefully his fans know – that this thinking is flawed as applied to shoes and airports. It is flawed when it is applied to cars, or buckyballs. American gun owners are wise to not want the same sort of thinking applied to their guns.

Maybe the next time there’s a freak accident, or a terrorist attack, the American public will be able to react to it as wisely as the gun rights movement reacts to a school shooting. But I won’t be holding my breath.

 

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The Post-Pessimist Era In Gun Rights Advocacy

For many years, gun rights advocacy groups in the US – and, to some extent, elsewhere – built their fundraising and outreach efforts, and their entire public stance, on combatting threats to gun rights. On a regular basis, money would be requested, and activists roused from their slumber, on the idea that the anti-gun lobby had contrived a new threat to rights and liberties – a handgun ban, an “assault weapons” ban, a gun registration scheme or a gun buyback. For many years the tone of gun rights advocacy was the tone of alarm.

But, even as the rhetoric of fear has still been used effectively time and time again, gun rights in America (and to some extent, in Canada and some other nations) have gradually started taking back lost ground, and even capturing ground that had never before been held by the freedom movement. By now there are seven states within the Union that do not require a permit of any kind to carry a concealed weapon (and many more states allow one to carry a weapons without a permit if one does so openly). Public attitudes in America have swung wildly towards the pro-gun worldview, and gun rights groups have sprung up around the world – in Russia, Australia, the Czech Republic, Israel, and so on – places that have ten years ago not even had a gun rights movement at all.

As I type those words, bills and lawsuits are winding their way through the legislatures and courts of the United States to expand gun rights in the United States in ways in which our movement could not have been considered possible only ten years ago. In Australia, a recent attempt at panic-induced gun control has just gotten derailed by a small group of liberty-minded legislators. Canada’s legislature is moving another bill to protect gun owners from its overreaching bureaucracy and take back some fraction of the freedoms that have been lost in the moral panics of the 90s.

At least in America – and arguably in several other countries – the gun rights movement no longer inhabits that era where the slightest lapse could lead to an extinction of liberty. Instead, an era has come where a serious and well-planned effort can lead to an expansion of liberty. It is time for us to come for a recognition that it is not gun rights that are under threat by now – it is gun control that is under threat.

And with this recognition, we should move to have a more truthful discussion with the freedom-loving public. Our message should now be a post-pessimist one – one when we rouse our friends and supporters not to fight a last-ditch, defensive fight against a collapse into the dark ages, but rather to fight an advance. We are winning, and we should act like it. We are now in a position of strength, and we should talk like it. Our tone should be now not one of fear – it should now, both in the legislatures, the gun periodicals, and the fundraising mailers, be one of optimism and strength.

Should we do so, we would be able to talk less and less about stopping anti-gun measures, and talk more – and take more haste in – implementing pro-gun ones. To speak from a position strength will reflect reality – and help us progress faster towards liberty.

We’re the winning team.

Let’s act like it.

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The Victims’ Mothers

Carolyn Loughton with a photograph of her daughter, Sarah Loughton

 

(Carolyn Loughton, who lost her 15-year-old daughter Sarah at Port Arthur, is petitioning against the sale of the Adler A110 shotgun in Australia.)

Citizen, remember!

The fact I have been hurt in a horrifying atrocity makes me entitled to all of your rights and liberties, for all of eternity, claimable by myself. Should you not agree with the above statement, then you are, in fact, guilty of compassion.

It does not matter that bills have already been passed to enable the darkest dystopian dreams of sci-fi writers – mass gun confiscation, a registry of all gun owners, etc. It does not matter that the government has been empowered to rule, in secret, on what future regulations to pass and what liberties you will be allowed to retain.

I am The Victim’s Mother. I can come at any time and demand more and you are totally defenseless against me, because I am the The Poor Innocent Victim’s Mother. Because your friends and neighbors are human, and because compassion towards a woman holding her dead child’s photograph in her hands is what most people will feel, this will empower my political masters to do anything we want.

The history of this practice – of rounding up victims’ mothers to protest for the political cause in question – dates back at least to the Prohibition. There are are more comical episodes – few people today remember Patricia Pulling and Kathleen Staples, for instance.

Sometimes I state that the True Revolutionary should be fearless, ruthless, and shameless. Incidents such as this one are examples why. The natural compassion we feel towards people like Staples, Pulling, and Loughton is essentially a tool in the hands of endless well-motivated do-gooders who seek to gnaw at the foundations of free society.

Some people in the liberty movement have taken to outright rudely mocking the endless throng of Victim’s Mothers which come out every time something tragic happens in our society. While this is something that’s hard to recommend to the mainstream politician, these acts of rude mockery exist because some of us have come to understand that the compassion that Victim’s Mothers elicit is such a powerful tool to bleed us dry.

I don’t need to turn to the experience of other people to discuss this. I have lost a loved one to a drug overdose, and for a while this did turn me to be anti-drug. This was fundamentally wrong. I realize now that the pain I’ve felt is not a hold over the humanity of others, nor over their dignity and freedom. Sadly the Loughtons and Pullings of this world never will.

 

 

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What the Right to Bear Arms is All About

decision

One of the issues that repeats itself in practically any gun argument is the trope wherein the anti-gun party commences its argument by stating: “We are not here to take your hunting shotgun. We are here to ban some extremely dangerous firearm that is only useful for killing other people.” Many times the people who are trying to defend their gun rights are lured into attempting to argue that their firearm of choice is actually meant for sports, and not actually meant for combat or self-defense. The extent to which this line is bought by gun rights advocates is quite fearsome – I have had numerous discussions with European gun owners who told me they actually feared discussing the concept of armed self-defense in public for fear of reprisals from the government.

It is important to understand that in these cases, the antis are often not deliberately lying. They do not intend to abolish the ownership outright – and there is no European country where gun ownership has been totally abolished. Even in the United Kingdom, individuals can buy shotguns and rifles if they prostrate themselves before the state sufficiently. That said, the right to bear arms in those countries has been extinguished completely as a social institution. (While a right of course is innate, and cannot be abolished by government fiat, the practice of defensive gun ownership has been de-facto eradicated in most of Europe).

To be clear, what the anti-gunners oppose is not guns as such. They are not lying, in that sense. What they oppose is the notion of people owning weapons. To an anti-gunner, there is no legitimate application, in modern society, of private armed force. He intends to take it from you, either by outright banning the ownership of weapons, or by making it as bothersome and complicated as possible. Nobody believes, of course, that introducing ‘universal background checks’ will prevent criminals from buying guns – but it might reduce gun ownership by, say, 1%, just by making it as bothersome and irritating as possible. Nibble a bit there, a bit there, and eventually the amount of gun owners decreases – like that of smokers – until it becomes politically tenable to do anything to restrain their rights and freedoms.

At first it might appear – and millions of gun owners the world around believe this – that you can compromise with these people, after all not all of us personally own guns as weapons, if we but explain to them rationally that our guns are not weapons, we can preserve our hobby…

Every gun rights organization around the world that tried to have this as their driving strategy has been utterly crushed. The reason is simple: once you’ve accepted the narrative that the only legitimate reason to own firearms is to use them in the shooting sports, most people do not empathize with your desire to participate in shooting sports. When the average person – who does not have the shooting sports as their hobby – is offered the chance to choose between some gun control measure that is peddled as increasing the security of his children, and the right of some person he doesn’t know to engage in a strange hobby, he will only naturally choose his children’s security. (Obviously, in real life, these measures won’t make him safer,  but he doesn’t have any way to know that).

Sadly, while the more advanced and knowledgeable segments of the RKBA movement have already understood this, there are still millions of people – especially outside the US – that haven’t quite grasped this concept. The lesson of the past few decades of gun rights activism is one that needs to be spread far and wide, beyond the core of the RKBA faithful.

The only meaningful strategy to defend the right to bear arms is to recognize what the Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution have meant it as: a right to have weapons, implements of self-defense with which you will fight and kill people who intend to do you harm. Self-defense is a concern that all human beings share, and if you can poise an alternate narrative – telling the listener, in effect, that the right to bear arms is the mechanism by which you mean to enhance your own safety (a desire everyone shares), and that it arguably also enhances his safety, you will be able to forge a universalist argument.

The truth is, we support the right to bear arms – and we own various guns and other implements of combat – because we recognize that there is evil in the world, and because we hope we are prepared to face it with guns in hand. If we attempt to cede our opponents’ argument, to try and haggle with them based on the false notion that our firearms are not tools of self-defense, we will end up humiliated and vanquished – as gun rights advocates around the world have been.

Only digging in on the position of the truth – yes, I defend guns because guns are useful for killing criminals and tyrants – is going to be successful. Only the truth shall set you free.

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