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Friday, December 20, 2013

Democratic Socialism, Guns, and the Failure of the Constitution

...whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain --- that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.”

--Lysander Spooner, 

This one was just too good to pass up. An acquaintance on the left sent me the Democratic Socialists of America article "There Is No Second Amendment Right To A Gun". It reinforces everything the anti-federalists said about the Constitution back when and everything libertarians like Lysander Spooner have been warning us about since then.

Early in the article the author, Steve Max, states, "Today, progressives must claim the legitimacy of the Constitution in advocating gun control, and not let it be further hijacked by the Right." He then goes on to tie the right to gun ownership to membership in a militia, "There have been no state militias since 1903, and there is no longer a constitutional right to gun ownership. It doesn’t exist! " Brilliant! Destroy our right to organize to defend ourselves and then use the fact that they've destroyed one right to claim that they can legitimately destroy another one, namely the right to bear arms. Read for yourself how Mr. Max quotes the Second Amendment to justify gun control:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
Clearly, the right to bear arms was connected to militia service. There were not the votes in either house to pass a stand-alone right to gun ownership.
This is all very interesting but only makes sense if one ignores the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. The Ninth Amendment reads, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Obviously, not every right has to be listed to be valid. The right to own guns apart from membership in a militia clearly falls into this category.

The real issue is the question, does the government have the legal power to take people's guns? One searches the Constitution in vain trying to find a clause that empowers it to do so. However, the Tenth Amendment reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This should be a great restriction on governmental power. Since the Constitution nowhere grants the government the power to take our guns the Tenth Amendment should stop them from doing so. Unfortunately, these amendments aren't working. The Constitution has failed just as the anti-federalists warned us it would. The dismal state of our rights today and Mr. Max's article attest to this failure. Patrick Henry spoke about the danger lurking in the document, “O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone...” He went on to explain how the Constitution takes the power to defend their liberty away from the people:
Let me here call your attention to that part which gives the Congress power "to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States — reserving to the states, respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress." By this, sir, you see that their control over our last and best defence is unlimited. If they neglect or refuse to discipline or arm our militia, they will be useless: the states can do neither — this power being exclusively given to Congress. The power of appointing officers over men not disciplined or armed is ridiculous; so that this pretended little remains of power left to the states may, at the pleasure of Congress, be rendered nugatory.
[From Patrick Henry's speech arguing against adoption of the Constitution titled "Shall Liberty or Empire Be Sought?"]
Another anti-federalist a issued similar warning which Mr. Max twists into this nonsense, “The Second Amendment was rooted in the then living memory of the militia-fought battles of Concord, Lexington and Bunker Hill. A modern day equivalent of those battles would turn America into Syria or worse.”
The idea that the people should be armed and organized to defend themselves is actually rooted in the fact that someone must have power. If the people have that power no one will try to attack or tyrannize them. If the people are disarmed a government will come to power that will tyrannize them. This has been extensively written about. That Mr. Max should pretend otherwise is inexcusable. For example, John Trenchard wrote:
...if a prince will rule us with a rod of iron, and invade our laws and liberties...we...must patiently submit to our bondage, or stand upon our own defense; which if we are enabled to do, we shall never be put upon it...

Contrary to Mr. Max's ranting, arming the people, rather than the government, and organizing them to defend themselves leads to peace not civil war. Matter of fact, it was an anti-federalist who correctly predicted that adopting the Constitution would lead to civil war.

All of the above is secondary. More important than law is morality. As I wrote in “Progressivism’s Violent World”:

It is immoral to initiate the use of force or the threat of force against peaceful people. In other words, a person has to be actually engaging in aggression or credibly threatening to do so before it is morally justifiable to use force in retaliation. What does that have to do with guns? The mere possession of an inanimate object such a gun aggresses against no one. There is no moral justification for taking guns away from people who adhere to the non-aggression principle since this involves initiating the use of force to separate them from their weapons.

This alone destroys the morality of gun control.

In the end Mr. Max's ideas are a nightmare. When he writes, "We need to start saying loudly and strongly that if you want a military gun, go join the National Guard..." he shows himself to be an enemy of liberty and a friend of militarism by advocating that people join the institution that directly destroyed what militias we had. When he writes, “...government at all levels has the right to limit guns just as it does drugs, tobacco, gambling, alcohol, tainted meat and a host of other evils.” Mr. Max shows that he sees no part of our lives that can't be forcibly controlled by the government. Hiding this tyranny behind a smiling democratic facade that allegedly wants to protect us doesn't change its evil nature. 
Mr. Max, we need to get out from under your failed Constitution and the tyrannical institutions it has created. Instead, we need to set up an institutional framework that will protect our lives and liberties. Guns and liberty are inseparable. It is past time to disarm and disband the government and set up independent militias and other private providers of security. We can only do that with military guns in civilian hands. ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ!

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