Guns, Paranoia And A Tradition of Freedom

Stand Your Ground

Stand Your Ground (Photo credit: The National Guard)

With guns, guns, guns, dominating the news media how can one avoid the topic? Gun rights is becoming as divisive as any social issue has been in recent memory. Wyoming was getting ready to pass legislation to make it a felony for any federal agent to attempt the confiscation of legally owned fire arms in the state. A Minnesota Sheriff is refusing to enforce gun regulations created by executive order. Two congressman are proposing that the President be impeached for the issuance of executive orders relating to firearms. A grass roots movement supporting second ammendment rights as opposed to federal regulations is growing in 47 states. The country is split with a roughly 5% majority favoring greater regulation of firearms according to a CNN poll. So how do we get some perspective on this heated public debate?

In April of 1775 British troops deployed from Boston to secure and destroy munitions of the colonial militias in and around Concord. Colonial militia confronted the British troops at Lexington, shots were fired and the American revolution began with the running battle of Lexington and Concord. Since that time, the ideal of an armed citizenry capable of standing up against a tyrannical government has been part of our national DNA. This ideal is really the heart of the matter in the current debate about the regulation and place of firearms in our society and the meaning of the second ammendment.

People outside of the U.S., and many inside, can’t understand the attraction of firearms for a large segment of the population in the light of mass murders. But personal fire arms, especially the more powerful types, are a deeply held symbol of freedom for many law-abiding Americans. A gun represents self-reliance, the means to defend one’s family and property, and in the last resort, a means to defend oneself from government oppression. In short, guns are a powerful symbol of a classic strain of our American traditions involving patriotism, a distrust of power, and individualism.

What makes the debate over gun regulation so volatile are these deeper currents beneath the arguments over safety and where to draw the line on ammo capacity. All the turmoil around the second ammendment is really a deeply rooted question about the relationship between us, the people, and our government. One segment of our society sees national government as the engine of progressive, social transformation shaping society and culture through “enlightened” law and regulation, overriding when necessary state and local government impediments to progressivism. The other segment sees national government as a corrupted, insatiable leviathan, dangerously parasitic with a constant need to garner ever more control over the individual in order to secure its privilege and power. These two visions of the nature of our national government are entirely incompatible and define much of the fault line between the political views of right and left. The controversies over the second ammendment are at a central point on this fault line. Those on the left see the “paranoia driven gun wackos” as an armed threat to their peaceful, progressivist aspirations and public safety. Those on the right see progressivism as a threat to economic stability and individual liberty with the second ammendment as a bulwark against that threat. Never the twain shall meet.

Unfortunately the tension between these two emotional poles is a necessary aspect of a system of government such as ours. Both sides of the spectrum serve as correctives to a national government that could be either too weak or too oppressive. Of course distrust of power can reach a form of paranoia as seen in some extremist militias. On the other hand, investing the government with too much power in order to achieve a vision for society can lead to terminal political corruption. The success or failure of our republic rests on the balance we strike between these extremes.

The upshot is that the development of an American society without personal firearms, or with severely limited access to them, would require a profound, fundamental shift in the accumulation of hundreds of years of political tradition going back to our English political roots. At this point, almost half the country sees the unrestricted possession of firearms as a fundamental human right. A majority of the country sees access to firearms within a framework of reasonable regulation as an American right. Despite the horror of mass murders I don’t see serious restrictions on firearms succeeding nationwide any time soon.

The danger is that both sides in this political debate, as in others, demonize each other. I fear that as citizens feel their rights threatened the threat of violent resistance could increase with the heat of the debate. I pray it doesn’t come to that.

Do I own firearms? No. But I’m in the market. I live in earthquake country and the danger of a massive 8.0 earthquake increases yearly. Such an earthquake would disrupt transportation, communications, utilities, emergency services and law enforcement for weeks. Civil society would break down pretty rapidly under those conditions. Besides stored water and food, firearms could be the margin of survival for one’s family. I hate to think about such extreme circumstances but denial of the dangers could be disastrous. So I will purchase firearms, practice with them and keep them securely stored in a safe until such time as a major disaster occurs. For the time being, I have that right as an American citizen.


10 Comments on “Guns, Paranoia And A Tradition of Freedom”

  1. John January 18, 2013 at 10:38 PM #

    Lock and load. Great article sir.

    • Robert-preneur January 27, 2013 at 8:38 PM #

      Thank you brother. Hope all is well in Michigan.

      • John January 27, 2013 at 9:12 PM #

        Indeed it is! Just came in from the back yard and firing the 9mm, I like to discharge it twice a month to retain the feel of it doing so and to keep the gun ready to go. 😉

  2. Malcolm Greenhill January 23, 2013 at 6:17 AM #

    Robert, well done. This is an excellent, well-researched discussion of the meta issues surrounding the gun control debate.

    • Robert-preneur January 27, 2013 at 8:43 PM #

      Thanks Malcolm. For those of us who distrust people with power we have the small comfort of knowing that all of history supports our realism.

  3. Purnimodo January 27, 2013 at 4:16 PM #

    I found this post so interesting. Because I didn’t grew up with guns/riffles they have little to no importance to me. I have been reading some (yours is the best) posts here on WordPress on gun control and had to alter my original view significantly.

    Thank you for sharing!!

    • Robert-preneur January 27, 2013 at 8:51 PM #

      Thanks Purni. It is a difficult and painful issue and I have a great deal of ambivalence about guns. I appreciate your understanding. How does Foil Man feel about the issue?

      • Purnimodo January 28, 2013 at 9:34 PM #

        I asked Foil Man but he told me his head is too tiny for matter such as these but when in doubt one can always consult Isaac Asimov.

        “Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what’s is right”

        Foil man was wondering if you are doing alright. He misses you greatly and sends you a big ol’ Foil hug! 🙂

      • Robert-preneur February 3, 2013 at 8:58 PM #

        Foil man is so modest and humble.
        Are you a science fiction fan Purni?
        I’m doing fine. Just a bit overwhelmed right now. There’s so much going on but it’s all good. What’s happening over there across the Atlantic in Purnimodo’s world?

  4. breisebreiseleighgoleire1969 February 5, 2013 at 12:53 PM #

    Great perspective from both sides. I can understand why some people own guns, we owned a shot gun in Ireland for house protection, it never was used. We need to address the issue of who should own a gun and assess mental health of gun owners too I think. Great post Robert.

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