[NOTE: There will be a comprehension test after this post]
On Sunday I took a field trip to Red’s South in West Austin to sit in a concealed carry instruction class with seven fellow citizens. After wandering to a clapboard classroom at 7:45 am, I began an eight-hour triathlon of cram-school instruction and practical and written examination. We broke for lunch and a clever commercial intermission sponsored by Texas Law Shield. Oh, and along the way I confronted the schizophrenic foundations of the gun community’s civil personality . . .
Now, I could be considered an absolutist on the question of popular access to arms. And that could be an understatement. But let’s begin with moral economics. Recently I discovered an original 1698 printing of John Toland’s The Militia Reform’d at UT’s Harry Ransom Center. Toland edited the works of John Harrington, perhaps the most influential of the English neo-republican radicals, and was himself quite the rebel.
His Militia Reform’d is a tract published at the height of the English “standing army controversy,” a political discourse that later informed early American republicanism and the concept of the Militia in its revolutionary imagination. The militia’s role in the operative clause of the Second Amendment is not quite my object today, but if you’re interested, here is an excellent treatment on it as structural feature of the American republic.
My interest is Toland’s civic humanism which begins with the “Sword in the hands of the People.” As Toland writes, as opposed to an army of mercenaries or servants, who will show up to fight for bread, a militia of freeholders will fight for Liberty – a condition they would prefer to life, riches, and honors which, without Liberty, “are of no other use except to prolong a miserable and infamous Slavery.” [This should sound familiar. Our friend Patrick Henry had similar views.]
Toland’s tract is Country party propaganda for English freeholders, but his thesis of the Militia as a school of civic virtue is still useful. This virtue was understood in contradistinction to the corruption of allowing Parliament to raise and pay for a standing army. The corruption was born from the preference, because of the luxury that commercial life provides, to neglect the responsibilities of self-government and self-defense to mercenaries. Let Parliament and the Sovereign raise their select militias and soon enough you find yourself under an absolute government, living at discretion. And that doesn’t sound familiar, does it?
The cult of the professional is a cornerstone of modern political fantasy, and its precepts run a road right through military and police worship. When it comes to use of arms, there’s a toleration, no celebration, of its professional (and therefore political) specialization from red-state conservatives.
In my CHL class, a representative from Texas Law Shield introduced himself by naming his every NRA, police, and ATF credential. He closed his eyes and rattled his chains for us. As I stopped listening, the words began to clink like guineas. Yes, current and former police and military are a large and knowledgeable part of the gun owning public. Yes, our CHL instructor was retired police and certainly didn’t fail to mention it. And, but for the uneven treatment of the Fourth Amendment, I found his instruction and experience valuable and civic-minded. But our friends in the military, police, the legislatures and the NRA, are all to some degree agents of Toland’s civic corruption.
There is almost zero fear of the military class and its industrial complex among red-staters. Zero problem with handing over a massive slice of our property to the Congress to sustain these. It is the same with embracing the NRA as a lobby. Fundraising machine, yes, but could that organization be a more uncertain trumpet?
Drafted, promoted, or endorsed the ’24 Uniform Revolver Act, the ’34 National Firearms Act, the ’37 Federal Firearms Act, the ’64 Dodd Bill and ’68 Gun Control Act, the ’83 McClure Amendments, the ’86 Bullet Ban, and the ’86 FOPA! Oh, so they got religion in ’94 and I’m supposed to drop to my knees that nothing passed in 2013? (Nothing but regulations on my line of work, right?)
We prefer the illusion of a larger and entrenched advocate to actually being one. We would rather glory in the trappings of Empire than see to the Public Liberty. Oh, am I sounding “isolationist?” Again, our friend Patrick Henry. We secretly find the duties of liberty a chore and an embarrassment. Desperate, we rush to abdicate our power to that Potomac circus, ten miles square, where miserable fools will jockey to out-debase each other with it. This to our barely disguised relief!
You see, Toland and Harrington’s civic humanism relied on the ballot and bullet together. Now, compare your zeal for your Second Amendment with the liberal jealousy for the franchise. Where you line up for your plastic ticket to some checkered Second Amendment zone; where you purchase your right’s abridgment from your State legislator and count it a victory, the progressive cabal files suit against every possible qualification for the franchise.
Eric Holder, last week: “I’m attorney general of the United States. … I will not allow people to take away that which people gave their lives to give, and that is the ability for the American people to vote.” You won’t hold your masters in awe with arms, but you can sure as hell anonymously vote for them!
I know. This is a story about my CHL class. Well I took a practical exam where I was required to shoot 50 rounds in rapid little segments—“Fire two shots in three seconds, go!”—that at the very least disadvantaged the disabled and infirm. My instruction was more expensive in lost time alone than any of the old Southern poll taxes when adjusted for inflation (and most CHL classes are not free, dear hearts). The written exam disadvantaged the illiterate and uneducated at the very least, and, even if I was going to apply for the license, when I arrived at DPS I’d have to slap down $140 for the fee.
Are you familiar with Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections? In 1966 the Supreme Court said fees and wealth were unrelated to a citizen’s ability to participate intelligently in electoral process. It said poll taxes violated the Equal Protection Clause of Fourteenth Amendment. When voter literacy tests were taken to the Court in Lassiter v. Northampton County Board of Elections, it found no violation of the Fifteenth Amendment only because the right to vote as established in the Constitution came subject to the imposition of state standards.
But the Second Amendment is articulated without the imposition of state standards. And I submit that the many CHL laws are by that reason alone impeachable on their face. Regardless, the Court has in Heller and McDonald construed your Second Amendment as the right to carry arms for any lawful purpose, and that this right is incorporated through the Fourteenth Amendment against the states. Well the state CHL processes are invidiously discriminatory and their costs easily violate the Equal Protection clause. I’m not just talking about the joke that is may issue.
So why don’t we tear it down? Why live in this domestic image fashioned for us by police and generals and lobbyists? Documentary processes like applications and examinations follow a disciplinary desire in the work of Foucault. There is today a general nostalgia for the sites of concentration and enclosure, which, though losing their specific materiality, have become the general framework of social space and each moment of our daily lives.
Every CHL act and legislative gimmick is still an expansion of the bureaucratic classes, the means of our surveillance, and a deepening of the deep state. And because we know a CHL makes our interactions with the police even more fraught with peril, there may be even darker drives at work. But that’s for another time.
All this talk about the Palladium of Liberty: “The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible.” Mere watchwords. Churches litter the streets to hide the death of God, prisons to hide that we are the prisoners, and licenses multiply to hide that we are slaves. Yes, I suspect we enjoy the restriction represented by the CHL. If we were serious about it, this hallowed right to carry a handgun, we’d at least skip the DPS and file in the Fifth Circuit.
Please do not scroll up to check answers, which are posted on TTAG’s Facebook Page.
1. In Militia Reform’d, John Toland writes that “Mercenaries prove extremely tedious and burdensome, they never end till the Country that employs them . . .
A) takes away their MRAPs
B) is exhausted of all its treasure
C) instructs Darrell Issa to launch a Congressional investigation
2. Cody Wilson says the cult of what is a “cornerstone of modern political fantasy”?
A) Ronald Reagan
D) Reverend Sun Myong Moon
3. Which of these does Cody Wilson consider “to some degree agents of Toland’s civic corruption”?
C) the legislatures
D) the NRA
E) Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
F) All of the above except for E
4. Which of these Acts has the wrong date?
A) 1924 Uniform Revolver Act
B) 1934 National Firearms Act
C) 1937 Federal Firearms Act
D) 1965 Dodd Bill
E) 1968 Gun Control Act
F) 1983 McClure Amendments
G) 1986 Bullet Ban
H) 1986 FOPA
5. Cody writes: “We prefer the illusion of a larger and entrenched advocate to actually being one. We would rather glory in the trappings of Empire than see to the Public Liberty. Oh, am I sounding ______?”
6. What number is on the case of Cody’s FNS-9 (i.e. packed by)?
7. Cody says the Texas CHL class disadvantages whom?
A) disabled and infirm
B) illiterate and uneducated
C) 1911 owners shooting hand reloads
D) A & B
E) All of the above
8. Who is Michel Foucault?
A) Who is John Galt?
B) The author of The History of Sexuality
C) The inventor of Foucault’s Pendulum
D) Some random dude
9. Is this the most obtuse sentence in Cody’s article: “There is today a general nostalgia for the sites of concentration and enclosure, which, though losing their specific materiality, have become the general framework of social space and each moment of our daily lives”? [Bonus points for translating it into plain English in the comments.]
10. Cody says that if we were serious about “this hallowed right to carry a handgun” we’d skip the Texas Department of Public Safety and do what?
A) Go to Schmidt’s Barbecue in Bee Caves for a quarter poind of lean
B) File a lawsuit at the Fifth Circuit Court
C) Carry without a permit