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Back in 1929, in The Thing: Why I Am a Catholic, G.K. Chesterton introduced a decision-making principle that came to be known as Chesterton’s fence:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

This is often interpreted as a defense of conservatism in the Edmund Burke sense: evolve institutions gradually, don’t rip-and-replace, because they contain a lot of accumulated wisdom.

Chesterton’s point isn’t so hidebound. The parable of the fence isn’t an argument to fight progress, it’s an argument to seek knowledge. “Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.” I.e. tear up the old stuff, but only once you know what you’re talking about. Essentially, Chesterton was warning about the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The case for gun rights is pretty simple: if someone’s trying to hurt you, you have the right to stop them. And by extension, you’re the person who’s in the best position to say how to stop them. We described it this way in OSD 117:

… the nature of gun ownership — the point of it, really — is that it decentralizes decision-making about self-defense. Who’s allowed to defend themselves, and how they should do so, becomes a loose emergent consensus rather than a top-down decision.

That’s the sort of illegible local knowledge that Chesterton warns would-be fence destroyers not to miss. The nature of top-down plans is to run roughshod over the actual needs and actual experience of the people closest to the ground. And not necessarily because that’s even the intent. It’s just a knowledge problem — even for an all-powerful, perfectly benevolent central decision-maker, there isn’t a way to gather all the local, on-the-ground facts to make the right decision. …

So it’s not that a gun control law even needs to deliberately tear down that people have a right to defend themselves. It’s that the law sees a fence in a field labeled “gun rights”, bulldozes it with good intentions to be replaced with a new fence called “gun control”, and lacks real knowledge of why the old fence performs better at safeguarding people’s ability to defend themselves.

— Open Source Defense in Osd 226: Chesterton’s Fence

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  1. “…bulldozes it with good intentions…”

    I no longer believe many, if not most, proponents of gun control argue or legislate in good faith, with good intentions and intending to increase people’s safety. Particularly at the state level and above.

    • The pig ignorant voters that quietly support it because their trusted tv personalities told them to maybe. Anyone who is doing the attention whoring look at me support of gun control fully agree with you. They either know what they are doing or don’t care and seek to profit (even if only with likes) off of the process so no claim of good intentions can be taken seriously.

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    • I agree. The data hads been in for a long time. To borrow a phrase more guns = less crime. It also equals less tyranny and oppression.

      In 2020 as the plandemic was underway and St. Floyd the patron Saint of poorly timed overdoses was being ‘celebrated’ everyone who didn’t have a gun rushed out and bought one at almost any price. That was the ultimate voting; when people feel unsafe they want a gun to defend themselves.

      So at this point anyone who is still advocating gun control is a dishonest, evil, lying sack of tyrannical communist sh!t.

    • “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
      ― C.S. Lewis

    • No one, I will go you one better, I don’t believe in the good intentions of most people on the left. When I see the support for various types of criminal activity supported by the left it becomes clear that they lack good intentions. That is why I don’t respect leftists at all.

  2. The road to Hell is paved with” good intentions“.

    The Democrats, as a Party, corrupt everything they touch…some individual Democrats can be reasoned with…to some degree. The Progressive mentality is a whole different matter…they are so convinced of the superiority of their emotional stance that no amount of logic, facts or reasoning will move them from their “feelz”.

    • Well that’s precious. My answer:I ain’t giving up my gats. Shall NOT be infringed.

      • Not sure what you find that’s “precious” in my post.

        I agree with your sentiment about not giving up your (or my) firearms.

  3. Cut the omni directional chesterton crap. The way to Bulldoze Gun Control is to Define Gun Control According to its History.

      • @ .40 cal Booger, Thanks. I forwarded the link to a bunch of state legislators who may view it and may not, but they sure won’t see it if not given opportunity.

    • Debbie, that is correct; however, getting them to understand, accept and take the appropriate action relative to the definition is another story altogether which is the hard part and where the rubber meets the road so to speak.

  4. Ah shucks, I thought this was going to be an article about bulldozers and building a fence out of brush.
    And then somebody dudnt like it and tried to burn down the fence and they all got into a big ole gunm shootout and the bulldozers ran them over before digging a pit to shove the dead into.

  5. Good fences make good neighbors.
    Tearing down the fence simply because you can is not constructive. Destroying or ignoring the past/history only makes you ignorant. It does not change history, nor make anything better.
    Many of those promoting gun control fail to consider both the history of gun control, and basic human nature. Humans are, always have been, and likely will always be, violent predators.
    While we humans have put on a veneer of civilization, we are still very much the violent, vicious creature that took on the wild and somehow, with no natural weapons, limited speed, and limited strength, managed to outsmart the competition and not just survive, but become both the most dominate, and the most destructive critter on the planet.
    We are also still a very tribal/group-oriented creature. We are also lazy and greedy.
    No matter how high minded some may be. No matter how passive, or peaceful some may be. There will always be those who will take what they want from others. There will always be those who want to dominate, or destroy others. Being dependent upon the good graces of government, or dependent on someone who may have no allegiance to me or mine is not a risk I wish to take. Personally, I have no desire to dominate or destroy anyone. But, I will not allow anyone to do either to me or mine. Whether they be those with evil or criminal intent. Or they be those with good intended, or evil intended tyranny in mind.
    In short, I’ll use the best tools I can acquire, legal or not, to defend myself, my family, my land, my community and my country. To do otherwise takes you from predator to prey. I refuse to be lunch for the wolves.

    • Humans were not violent in the violence your referring too until they discovered agriculture.

  6. The veneer of civilization is very thin and fragile and the left is working hard to break it into small fragments.

    They have long sought to have a violent revolution so they can reduce the population to number of their choosing.

    When (not if) they get complete control of the federal government (POTUS, House & Senate) they will take the final steps to destroy America and all the “white extremist terrorists” so they can have their communist utopia.

    Be Prepared!!! they are coming.

  7. I firmly believe that most Gun Owners, are familiar with the History of Gun Control. They might not be able to quote chapter and verse, or point out specifics, but basically understand that it’s all about Control, by those who mistakenly believe they are our Betters.
    Everything those “Betters” push is about Control. What you drive, eat,and how you prepare it, down to How you will be allowed to spend your earnings, and on what you’ll be allowed to spend it on. The unstated Threat is “Comply or Die.” Sometimes, they’re so full of Hubris, they don’t bother with denying the Comply or Die threat.

    I’m a firm believer that we’re at the brink of Civil War. The country’s more divided now, than we were in 1860, an the brink of the last Civil War, and I no longer have faith that Elections can defuse the IED we’re all sitting on.
    The “Long Train of Abuses and Ursurpations” ends when we decide to end it, but we’ll only succeed if we’re all on the same page.

    Good Job Gracie in applying “Chesterfield’s Fence” to the Gun Control Debate. It applies to a lot of the crap we’re being force fed by the Left.

    • I would add that today’s United States in 2023 (compared to 1860) has the added malady of entire subcultures taking money from other subcultures by force of tax and law. E.g., the industrious producers having the earnings taxed by Government, which then passes it to the lazy non-producers in the form of welfare and subsidies. The former becomes distrustful of the latter, and the latter becomes evermore envious of the former.

  8. Ignorance: lack of information/knowledge

    Stupidity: having information/knowledge, and failing to act on its imperatives (i.e. Dims, etc)

    • Sam,

      You missed the (obvious) third option: ignoranus (an uneducated, stupid person (c.f., MajorLiar and dacian the demented)).

      Just tryin’ to be helpful.

      • “You missed the (obvious) third option: ignoranus…)

        Thanx; was trying to be succinct. Apparently not very good at it.

    • gun control is a virulent factor factor fort the left…and a ho-hum factor for the right…[we’ll deal with it when we have to]….

  9. quote—— It’s that the law sees a fence in a field labeled “gun rights”, bulldozes it with good intentions to be replaced with a new fence called “gun control”, and lacks real knowledge of why the old fence performs better at safeguarding people’s ability to defend themselves.——quote

    If that were true the U.S. would be the safest nation on earth to live in with over 400 million guns on the loose but in reality, it is the most dangerous of all the industrialized nations to live in because of the out of control gun problem. When you let anyone buy a second hand gun with no paperwork you arm all the criminals and lunatics with all the firepower they could ever want.

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