The Conscience And Trustworthiness Of Government


Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit recently did a short article for The New York Times:

In 2012, Room for Debate asked ‘Is the Gun Lobby Invincible?’ Since then, the answer has turned out to be ‘yeah, pretty much.’ And the reason is trust.

According to a recent Pew poll, more Americans support gun rights than gun control. That represents a significant shift over the situation a few decades ago. And I believe the reason is that people don’t trust the government to protect them anymore, and, in fact, that they don’t trust the government in general.

To feel safe in a society where only the police have guns, you have to trust the police. But in post-Ferguson America, trust in police is at a 22-year low. (Paradoxically, many of those criticizing police for brutality and abuse also support gun control, and appear oblivious to the inherent contradictions.)

And, if you’re at all a gun rights supporter, to support “reasonable” gun control measures you have to trust politicians who say they only want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and crazies, not confiscate guns from everyone. That’s hard to do when President Obama — who said in 2008 ‘I won’t take your gun away’ — now says that Australia, with its draconian program of gun confiscation, is a good model.

So if you want more gun control, you need more trust. And if you want more trust, police and politicians must be more trustworthy. Good luck with that!


Reynolds is quite correct, but perhaps I can add just a bit more useful insight.

The “gun lobby,” mostly represented by the NRA owes its “invincibility”—which really isn’t—to several factors: it focuses on defending an unalienable, fundamental human, constitutional right. It also does consistently good work in training and safety. Its current membership of more then five million is also a significant factor, made even more so by the fact that those five million tend to be informed, involved, and willing to put their money and time where their Second Amendment rights are.

The NRA is also non-partisan. Surely, the NRA is closest to, and receives the most Congressional support from Republicans, but it does not shy away from supporting Democrats that support the Second Amendment.

When the NRA lobbies, politicians understand all of these factors, and they also understand the dramatic shift in American views on these issues that have taken place in recent decades. They’ve seen majorities change more than once, and watched Al Gore lose the presidency over his strident anti-gun rhetoric. And Barack Obama, the greatest inadvertent firearm salesman in American history, has also made life easier for the NRA and law-abiding gun owners. All he need do is open his mouth about guns, and people run—they don’t walk—to the nearest gun store to purchase guns, magazines and ammunition.


Mr. Obama’s success in this endeavor can be acutely felt when any gun owner tries to buy .22LR ammunition virtually anywhere in America.

There is also no doubt that Americans don’t trust the government. Democrats tend to be more trusting, but only of progressive-dominated governments. Republicans tend to distrust them all. They also distrust the Supreme Court, understanding that a shift from 5-4 justices willing to follow the Constitution, to 5-4 dedicated to social justice, progressive outcomes will see the Second Amendment interpreted to have no actual application in the lives of individuals.

credit: tulane.ed
credit: tulane.ed

I suspect the lazy suggestion that the public absolutely mistrusts “the police,” is mistaken. The police are not a monolithic, corrupt, lazy and stupid organization like the TSA, IRS, or other federal monstrosities. In most places, local police and sheriff’s departments are well run, professional, and work very hard to earn the trust of citizens. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but lumping all police officers into the ranks of agencies like the Las Vegas Metropolitan police is irrational and wrong.

What is more important, and more telling, is that people correctly understand that the police can’t protect them. To be sure, the police love to catch bad guys doing bad things, but there are very few police officers, many bad guys, and hundreds of millions of honest citizens. In an emergency, the police will get there as soon as they can. For most people, it won’t be nearly soon enough.


One additional factor deserves mention: Barack Obama’s integrity. Most Americans know that the most accurate way to tell when he is lying is to observe if his lips are moving. If they are, he is. When Mr. Obama says he supports the Second Amendment, and will not take away people’s guns, rational people know he’s lying, and so do his followers. They’re just delighted to pretend he’s telling the truth.

It’s also interesting to note that a great many Democrats have become first-time gun owners in the last six years, a trend that continues apace.

As much as many of us worry about the deterioration of our nation and culture, accelerated dramatically during the age of Obama, it appears to be reminding more and more Americans of an essential fact of the American character, and of life: when our lives, and the lives of our families, are on the line, we’re on our own; we always were. We can’t rely on anyone else to be our saviors, and particularly not government, which has no conscience, and knows no empathy or love.

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