June 16, 2013

Guns and the Ultimate Decentralization of Power

By In Politics

In response to the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, Representative John Lewis (D-GA) allegedly said: “The British are not coming. … We don’t need all these guns to kill people.” Well then how do you explain Piers Morgan? (check out the stunning exchange between Piers Morgan and Carol Roth in the picture below).

The recent media-induced and predictable outcry against the private ownership of guns following the tragedies in Connecticut and Colorado, has sparked a debate as to whether or not the government should take away the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Let it be made crystal clear in this discussion that if -perhaps inevitably in the long-term -the government decides to give itself the power to disarm the people, it is necessarily breaching a right that existed long before the second amendment was ratified in 1791. In other words, the second amendment was written to protect a pre-existing right, not to create a right. Rights are created by God. The law of men only affirms (or denies) these rights.

If it is true that rights are inalienable, that is, they cannot be separated from the individual (except in enforcing justice) and they include life, liberty, and property, then it seems quite obvious to the individual that it is impossible to legally or morally separate a man from the ownership of his gun, that is, his property. As for the founders of the United States, immersed heavily in the “Jeffersonian” or “Lockean” principles of individualism and property, why is it that they went out of their way to make such a “right” plainly established in the document which established the Federal Government? I mean, why, in a time where firearms were as popular and widely dispersed as, say, forks and knives, did the Bill of Rights proponents express the legality of “gun rights?”

Answer: it has little to do with some grandfatherly-like blessing upon the citizens to protect themselves and their property against common criminals and petty thieves. For this was (and is) the plainly obvious use of a weapon. No, the Bill of Rights advocates had something else in mind.

The tyranny of the King, the monarch of the land who had, by nature of his self-described divine right to act as his own judiciary, legislature, and executive, was enforced largely because of his monopoly on weaponry and force. As far back as the 13th century, it was legal class that determined the right to carry and use weapons. Knights and barons and those who were “legally gifted” were allowed to wear the expensive, shiny armor and carry finely crafted spears and swords. The peasants stuck to their walking sticks as defense. To cry “no taxation without representation!” and charge, with sticks and stones, the king’s men, who rode horses and carried spears and shields, would have been downright cute in the eyes of the king (and his power-hungry servants).

It soon became quite useless for the warriors to focus aggression against the peasants of land. For they were professional soldiers of the king and therefore invested their primary energy on the armies of competing kings and kingdoms. It was a European knightly de facto agreement between officers: organized battles between armies are praiseworthy, leave the serfs alone. They aren’t worth the time and energy.

But then gunpowder and rifles became cheaply available on the market. The American colonists by the late 18th century realized that power had shifted with the shifting of the available weaponry. If one holds all the weaponry, he alone holds the power. If the weaponry is available to all, so is the power. This is the crux of the argument. Decentralized power is enforced when gun ownership too is decentralized.

“No taxation without representation!” What are you going to do about it? “I’ll shoot you.”

This is not something that is true only for the gun conversation. This is the entire thesis of liberty! Like guns, when economic activity is decided by individuals, not government, power is dispersed to the people. Gun ownership is about checks and balances. Gun ownership is about enforcing the theory that the government is a leech on society if society cannot protect themselves against it. Gun ownership ensures, as well as it can, that America is about a king-less political system where no one, not even the liberal opinion molders advocating majority rule (democracy), can steal the private property of the individual. The rise of gun ownership is about liberty.

The liberals ask, “what do you need a gun for?” The gun owner should cunningly respond to the statist: “without my guns, how will I protect myself against thieves who come to steal my property?” Upon the statist’s reply, the gun owner should point out: “the property that is being stolen is the gun itself and the thief is the State. I need my guns so that the government doesn’t steal my guns.”

How did a highly organized government army like the British army combat the scattered “shoot and run” militia men made up of half-trained colonists? They couldn’t. This was the secret to the American victory. The British army was the most powerful and skilled army at the time. And yet they were no match for the American militias. The British were experts in the cities and towns, but draw them out to the woods, and they were confused and lost. Couple that with the refusal of the independent American men to adhere to the European “rules of engagement” (such as, the officers on horses are off-limits), it was obvious that the English were no match for the skilled riflemen, passionate about their liberty.

Gary North finishes up this point well:

Americans fully understood this when the leaders wrote the Bill of Rights in 1790. This is why the Second Amendment was inserted into the Constitution. The voters understood that it was their ability to fight any organized army, through the organization of the militia, which was basic to their concept of citizenship. It was the citizen warrior, armed with a rifle that was every bit as good as that possessed by members of the Army, who was perceived as possessing final political sovereignty. The whole concept of “we the people,” which introduced the Constitution, rested on the well-known ability of the American citizen warrior to grab his rifle and fight.

The second amendment made it plain. The government does not have ultimate sovereignty. The individuals do. This must be reflected in ownership of the weapons. The old order of tyranny and despotism is marked, always and everywhere, by the centralized use of guns. This anti-liberty mentality, wherein only the state maintains and exercises the use of force is not only anti-American, it is also anti-progression. For when rulers like Obama (and the European Communist revolutionaries before him) use words like “Forward,” what they mean is “backward.” They are not truly advocates of “progression,” but rather, of “regression.”

Back to the old order. Of kings and queens and serfs and peasants. Where we look desperately to please the man on the throne, so that perhaps he may have the will to protect us and give us bread crumbs to eat. Casting aside the American experiment of self-government, risk, prosperity, and most of all, liberty. These things require the affirmation of private property, the right of the people to defend themselves, not from petty criminals, but from the biggest criminal of all time and history: the State and its leaders.

Will the people ever use the guns against the government? That is truly up to the government. The better question is, will the government leave the people alone? Perhaps the second amendment could be seen as a protection for the government with the implied warning: “You mess with the beehive, the bees will come out.”

And each bee has its own stinger. Good luck.

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com