Ask a political science professor what constitutes a government and he’ll likely tell describe it along the lines of an organized monopoly on the legitimate use of force. There are some permutations, but this is the basic thrust of the idea of what a government is. Except it’s not true. Those of you who read my earlier article may see where this is going. . .
Governments are most free when they don’t have that monopoly. I mentioned Athens, Britain, Florence and America, all states which achieved great political freedom with a well-armed populace. Now, we could get into a hair-splitting contest over the word “legitimate” but I doubt there’s a legion of PS profs to take me to task here. When a government encourages/allows an armed citizenry, it legitimizes their access to the tools of violence.
Firearms represent the ultimate democratization of violence. They’re the great leveler. What is the old saying? “God created man, but Sam Colt made them equal.” A gun is of the greatest benefit to the weakest in society.
A sword is deadly, but requires a fair amount of strength, skill and training to use one. A bow requires upper body strength and a lot of practice. A gun…well, one needs training to use one properly, but the basics are easily attainable with a quick lesson. I’ve seen this process a hundred times and I can tell you this, I can take a person who has never touched a firearm and get them handling a weapon properly and hitting their targets in one short session. Sure, a shooter needs a minimal amount of hand strength but even a heavy trigger is usually under ten pounds. Virtually any human being who can drive a car or ride a bike can use a firearm. Even those with severe disabilities can usually manage one.
Of course, with any tool there are risks, small though it may be. Democracy isn’t always pretty, and it doesn’t always follow the course we’d like. The evidence is undeniable that gun owners – as a group – are a remarkably peaceful and law abiding lot. There will always be the small minority who can’t manage their freedoms responsibly. But much of our position today is due to the emphasis put on training and safety in the gun rights community.
I put it to you thus: Even counting the risk, even with the most apocalyptic predictions our opponents can dream up, the democratization of violence is am almost unqualified human good. It’s a basic question of equality. All men and women may be equal before the law, but how are people to be equal in the face of violence?
It’s men who would have the advantage, and younger men in particular. I say this as one whose position would be least improved by the addition of a firearm. Were all society to be disarmed, my relative position in this continuum would be improved. I am relatively young, fit and have the advantage of military training.
I don’t hold this position out of fear of other people. I’ve seen the elephant in the room. I believe that the broad public ownership of firearms is a positive societal good, for my sisters, the service men who came back short an arm or leg, the minorities threatened with violence by the intolerant and the urbanites dealing with the meltdown of inner city society (I live in Michigan, I know of which I speak). A firearm is literally the power of life and death, and while some may fear having that power distributed to the furthest reaches of society, I do not. I fear the concentration of that power.