After the congressional spasms following the shooting in Florida, a friend who knows I oppose gun control emailed me and asked me why I feel that way.  She is very smart, and she honestly wanted to understand why anyone would feel as I do.  I was struck by her sincerity, and after I wrote a response, I decided to share it here.


Hi ________!

First, thank you for “I’m genuinely interested in trying to understand your point of view on this issue” — I’m honored.

Before I launch into this, I should warn you that I do not represent a mainstream “gun rights” point of view. I’m more anarchist, less conservative.  More Cody Wilson (that’s him, above), and less NRA.  I oppose all laws regarding possession of objects. I only support laws that protect victims that can be named… and only then, with caveats.

If I run over someone’s foot with my car, there is a victim who can be named. Arguably, a crime has been committed (though we could debate it). But if I exceed the speed limit, or drive without insurance or a license, or own a car, or own ten cars, no victim can be named. Laws that do not protect identifiable victims are folly. There is no one to report the crime, and enforcement can only be achieved with surveillance.

Actually, it’s worse than that. All laws are enforced with violence or the threat of violence: fines, imprisonment, execution (that is, robbery, kidnapping and murder). It is unethical, it is obscene, to use robbery, kidnapping, and murder to enforce laws in which a victim cannot be named. This is sick and grotesque in the extreme. I can’t express enough my horror at this.

(An aside on the moral authority of democratic government: there is none. A large mob is not more ethical than a small mob, and democratically established laws and leaders carry no moral authority. So yes, imprisonment = kidnapping, etc. I realize this is extreme and most gun rights advocates do not believe this.)

But what about safety? This is the one thing gun control advocates come to again and again.  Don’t laws against the possession or sale of heroin, decongestants, guns, prescription pain killers, and wifi jammers make us safer?

No. And more importantly, I just don’t care. “SAFETY” is a catch-all, an argument that can be used to justify any oppression you can think of. There’s no objective boundary between “sensible” laws meant to make us safer and laws that go too far. Today we have laws that mandate (through robbery and kidnapping!) seat belts and health insurance. This will never stop. The only way out is to reject “safety law” for the oxymoron it is.

Which brings us to the first important metaphor for gun laws: The War on Drugs. All of the arguments against the brutal, expensive, ineffective enforcement of laws against the sale and possession of drugs apply to current and future laws against the sale and possession of guns. You will destroy people’s lives. You will pack prisons with innocent people. You will create a vibrant black market. You will make smugglers fabulously rich. You will not stop the guns.

So the gun control debate is playing out, right now, in discussions of recreational drug laws. It is exactly the same debate.

Next: I don’t talk about the second amendment, because I consider it an “argument from authority” and therefore unpersuasive. People will always cite or ignore the Constitution as they choose. But the founders had one interesting insight, and it’s much more mainstream than a lot of what I wrote above.

A well-armed populace is a pretty good insurance policy against tyranny and genocide. You simply can’t liquidate a million people if they are heavily armed. It’s never been done. A targeted population must be disarmed first. The Warsaw ghetto scenarios we’ve discussed is one example, but the American founders had the oppression of the British Crown in mind, and that might be a more relevant example for us in the US. So what about the American Revolution? Was it ethical? Were the founders right to use arms to resist the king? Why or why not? And what does that say about today? Would revolution ever be tolerable or ethical again? And deterrence: in what way is the effect on government of a heavily-armed populace similar the effect of a heavily-voting populace? These are great questions.

Gun control advocates never answer these questions. This rubs their opponents the wrong way. Why work so hard to disarm innocent people? What do you have in mind? The sentiment among many gun rights advocates (including me) is:

Gun control makes genocide possible.

You might need to read that again. It will help you to see how gun control advocates appear to their opponents. More broadly, it brings us to our second metaphor. Just as “guns = drugs” in terms of the brutality and folly of enforcing laws against them, “guns = votes” in terms of their deterrence against oppressive government.

I could go on about the difference between mass shooters (who need not obey gun laws) and their victims (who will), but I have rambled on enough. If you see weak spots in anything that I’ve written here, please let me know. If something’s unclear, please ask. And thanks again for inviting me to explain — I enjoyed writing this.

— Steve