A Gun Ownership Primer: The Philosophy Of Gun Ownership

TIMES HAVE CHANGED, and not for the better. Wide-open borders admit terrorists, but even when jihadists are captured, the Secretary of Homeland Security denies it, and then denies they’re jihadists. What is apparently a justified shooting of a robber by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer sparks massive rioting, reminding Americans of how fragile race relations have become. On top of this, the very real threat of governmental tyranny, compounded by the serial lying of the President and virtually everyone in his administration is a stark reminder that we are, in every way that matters, on our own.

AR-15 Variant
Smith & Wesson M&P15, AR-15 Variant

Barack Obama wants several legacies, but the legacy he absolutely does not want, yet the legacy that will, ironically, stay with him, is the title of best firearm salesman in history. The age of Obama has seen an unprecedented increase in the sales of firearms and ammunition by Americans not previously noted as likely gun owners.

When Americans can no longer trust their government, they realize they have to trust themselves. Fast and Furious, Benghzi, Obamacare, the IRS, the EPA, the CDC, all scandals, all covered in lies, but only a few of the scandals that pop up around President Obama like dandelions in a neglected lawn.

Even progressives have begun to understand that the government doesn’t actually want to provide for all their needs, and that even if it did, it couldn’t. They have begun to understand that this extends to protecting their lives, and they too have begun buying guns—even though only a short time ago they demonized them and their owners—for the first time in their lives.

With this in mind, I’ve produced a series of articles that will be posted over the upcoming weeks and months. These articles are a sort of primer, a set of basic questions and answers about the philosophy, practical issues and effects, the law, and the reality of gun ownership.

Among the issues one must consider with care is summed up by two questions:

(1) Does evil exist?

(2) What must be the honorable man’s—and woman’s—response to evil?

If you deny the existence of evil, you can reasonably stop reading at the end of this sentence, and hope—you’re likely not comfortable with or practiced at prayer—that you’re right.  If you admit to at least the possibility evil exists, by all means, read on.

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Before we get to my scribblings, however, it would be worth your while to read three related articles, two relatively recent, one now 21 years old.  My friend and fellow blogger Bookworm has written two articles on the subject of evil and how rational, moral people should respond to it.

The first is here and the second, here.

In 1993, Jeffrey R. Snyder wrote a seminal article titled A Nation of Cowards, in which he explored issues of good and evil and provided sound logic on the moral man’s response to evil, which unquestionably exists.  Unlike the moanings of intellectual and moral lightweights like soon-to-be-ex-Attorney General Eric Holder–when he’s not violating the Freedom of Information Act, fanning the flames or racial grievance and resentment, stonewalling the Congress or the American people, or persecuting political enemies of the president–-it is one of those bits of reasoning with which all well read people should be familiar.

I would hope you might feel similarly disposed to my writings when you’ve taken the time to consider them.

THIS IS THE FIRST in a series of articles exploring the primary issues revolving around gun ownership.  Whether you have never considered owning a gun, are thinking about it, or own all you need but not as many as you would prefer, this series may provide some ideas, or possibly provoke the latest round in a lively debate that has been raging for millennia.

THE PHILOSOPHY OF GUN OWNERSHIP

Do human beings have an unalienable right to self-defense?  If you do not accept this, now would be a good time to be sure you have 911 on your speed dial.  However, tragically, that will be cold comfort, as this series will reveal.  Truisms are true for good reason, and few are more revealing of reality than this old saw:

When seconds count, the police are minutes away.

The Detroit Police, for example, now have a 58 minute emergency call response time, when they answer 911 calls at all.  Since that’s what they admit, I suspect the reality is much worse.  This is the nature of police emergency response in much of the United States. In some places it’s a simple matter of distance, in others, lack of money and manpower, in others crime is so rampant, response to even true emergencies is rationed, and in others, incompetence plays a role. In some places, many of these factors are involved. Even in places with excellent and professional police agencies and response times, one fact remains: even if one can call the police, they cannot possibly respond in time to save lives when lives are being threatened.

If you truly do not accept that human beings have an inherent, unalienable right to self-defense, and you wish to live your conviction, it’s possible you’re not around to read this, survival of the fittest being a rather inescapable and final proposition.

What, by the way, does “unalienable” mean?  Most dictionaries would indicate that it means something like: “not transferrable to another,” or “cannot be repudiated,” but in the language of the Founders and of our founding documents, the word is most often coupled with an equally important word and is rendered as “unalienable rights.”  Unalienable rights are rights that are the inheritance of each human being by virtue of being born a human being. They are bestowed by the Creator.  Because they are not established and granted by governments, they can’t be taken away by governments.  The Declaration of Independence makes explicit three “unalienable” rights:  “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” but makes clear these are not the only unalienable rights.

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

Notice that “life” is the first of the three Thomas Jefferson chose to make explicit.  This is important in that if there is no unalienable right to life, your life is forfeit to any person, to any government that chooses to take it, for it is such a government’s whims that dictate who is worthy of continued existence.  It should also be noted that even if the laws and legal traditions of the state do recognize a right to self-defense, if the state denies citizens the most effective means to exercise that right, or so restricts its exercise as to make it impractical in application—as is currently the case in Washington D.C. and California, there is little difference to the individual between that state and one that recognizes no right at all. Chicago and Illinois have been dragged, kicking and screaming, by the courts into recognition of the Second Amendment, though complete recognition is still very much in-process. Chicago city government, knowing it is violating court orders and the Constitution, is writing laws that will inevitably, and at great cost—in an attempt to make gun ownership as expensive and difficult as possible—be overturned.

If there is no right to self-defense, no right to mere survival, your life is forfeit to the whims of those cruel and strong enough to take it.  This may not be a concern if you are a young, strong, physically imposing male well schooled and practiced in the martial arts.  However, even the strongest may be overcome by force of numbers or trickery (ask Samson about that), and no one is young forever, as Edmond Rostand made plain in Cyrano De Bergerac. If you are not young, strong and physically capable, things are rather different.  

In this understanding we can find the ultimate women’s issue, for women are nearly universally and undeniably in trouble where physical size, strength and aggression are the primary determinants of mere survival.  

Some–primarily Progressives–would have us believe that refusing to pay with tax dollars for every woman’s contraception–which is cheap and available at every pharmacy in the nation–constitutes a “war on women.”  The real war on women is continually seeking to deny women the most effective means to preserve their very lives.

If there is no right to self defense—no right that government may grant or rescind–-can any other right, unalienable or otherwise, truly be said to matter?

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It may reasonably be argued that if a right is not unalienable, it is merely a privilege to be granted and rescinded by the state, but do we really want the state to treat our lives with the caring, efficiency and humanity employed by the EPA, the IRS and the TSA, as it body searches three-year old girls, with spina bifida, in wheelchairs (oh yes: they seized her stuffed animal too), or in the regulation of our privilege to drive?

One of the most important political understandings any free man can have is that government has no conscience; it cares nothing for any individual.  No matter how much a given politician claims to care deeply for the welfare of “the people,” “the people” are at best an abstraction, as any one of “the people” may discover when they demand that government recognize and vindicate their individual rights.  This understanding is the necessary beginning of personal autonomy.  Without it, one will always be a vassal of the state, the state the worth of whose vassals is measured always only in their utility to the transient goals of the state.

These ideas did not originate with Jefferson and other founders in the late 1700’s.  Thomas Cahill, in his insightful book The Gifts of the Jews, suggests that the paramount gift of the Jews, dating back to the time of Abraham, was the profound and original idea that each individual life has value and that each human being is precious and worthy of salvation, of an exalted existence after mortal existence ends.  This idea is easily recognizable as one of the foundations of Christianity.  However, ultimately all such discussions are about power and the proper balance of power between the individual and the state.

John Locke (1632-1704) was a proponent of natural rights, which are rights established by nature—by nature’s God—and are therefore unalienable.  Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) tried to reconcile the inherent conflict between a society full of individuals possessed of competing, unalienable rights, and the need of humans beings to live together in communities, through the “Social Contract,” the proposition that in order to live together, individuals must surrender some degree of absolute autonomy while still retaining certain unalienable rights, the most important of these being life, liberty and property.

These three rights are the very foundation of democracy.  This is the balancing of power—for governments have powers; individuals have rights—that truly democratic republics perform each day, and that, until the age of Obama, when it took a sharp leftward turn toward totalitarian power, America performed far better than any other society.  To the degree that America retreats from full respect for and acknowledgment of any of these three, she retreats from democracy to an inevitable state of nature, well described by English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) in his masterwork Leviathan, published in 1651. While some romanticize nature, Hobbes saw it more clearly and wrote that the state of man in a state of nature is “…solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”  Indeed, how could it be otherwise?

How could America descend to a state of nature? Surely this is impossible! Imagine that all electrical power is lost in your community, that all running water and sewer service is gone, that your vehicle doesn’t run, and there are no gasoline deliveries. How long would it take for order to break down? If you wish to study further, consider this article  by Dr. William Forstchen.

An understanding of these concepts, even a subconscious understanding, is what is driving America’s current desire to be armed.  Americans understand–-or at least intuit–-that with financial collapse, tyranny, or any significant social disruption, society is essentially plunged into a state of nature. Even many of the political left—and their numbers are steadily growing—wisely do not actually trust Mr. Obama and his allies to protect and provide for them.  When Mr. Obama and the former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi deny that our government has a spending problem, people are not reassured. When Mr. Obama claims that Americans are better off than when he took office, they buy guns and stockpile ammunition.

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THE SOCIAL CONTRACT is part of the foundation of our government.  While we retain unalienable rights, they are not absolute, yet can only be infringed in limited fashion by due process of law under the rule of law.  Tragically, over the last six years, Americans have learned that when the so-called intellectual elite do not respect and honor the Constitution liberty is in jeopardy and every man’s life hangs in the balance. When the Founders made references to God, they were not merely expressing personal religious conviction, but participating in a debate millennia old over the nature of God and man and man’s natural rights.  They well knew the work of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau and were certainly influenced by them, as are we all whether we recognize those names or know a word of their thought.

My students are always amazed to learn of the existence of the Social Contract.  They are often stunned to learn that they inherit it as a condition of birth in America—or any nation—and need not read the fine print or sign on the dotted line.  They are equally surprised to learn that they may abandon it at will by moving to another nation with a social contract more pleasing to them.  Surprised, that is, until they understand all of the benefits the American contract provides while demanding of them little more than polite, law-abiding behavior.

Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin

At the conclusion of the first Constitutional Convention (1787) a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government the delegates had given Americans.  Franklin is reported to have replied: “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.” Whether we can keep it is still an open question, but there is no question that the Second Amendment is foremost in making its existence possible.

This has been, of necessity, a whirlwind tour of issues that have filled thousands of volumes over the centuries.  By all means, read Hobbes, Locke, Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, even Rostand (everyone should know Cyrano; much of drama follows its lead), and certainly The Declaration of Independence (Jefferson) and particularly The Constitution (primary author, James Madison—4th President of the US).  The Bill of Rights may be found here.  If you do, you’ll almost certainly be better read than the average Congressman or Senator.  But without the basic understanding provided by this admittedly sketchy overview, it’s difficult to appreciate the gravity of the question that began this essay: Do human beings have an unalienable right to self- defense?

The discussion of that question, and more, will be continued in the next installment of this series, next week. I hope to meet you there.

Mike’s Home blog is Stately McDaniel Manor.