"It seems foolhardy to assume that the armed state will necessarily be benevolent. The American political tradition is, for good or ill, based in large measure on a healthy mistrust of the state." ~ Sanford Levinson
Column by Jim Davies.
Exclusive to STR
Having undergone surgery this year following a stomach ache, that's a condition I will not wish upon anyone; but if stomachs do have to malfunction somewhere, the inside of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) is one of the least inappropriate places--and he confirmed, last week, that the inner turmoil has already begun: 'the ramifications of make-your-own untraceable and undetectable weapons are “stomach-churning.”' He was referring to the “Liberator”, the world's first gun printed at home from a PC and made of plastic.
With Democrats, it was not always so. An early prominent one was Thomas Jefferson, who had no problem at all with an armed populace: “No man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against the tyranny in government.” Seems Tom's tummy was totally untroubled.
Such contentment didn't outlast Reconstruction, however. Slavery was abolished by force, the Southern economy was deliberately ruined by the Republican victors, and the ruling white Democrats there did everything possible to subdue the liberated slaves and keep the best available jobs for white boys. Desperate to defend themselves against bitter prejudice, the burning of crosses and homes, and lynching, some former slaves bought cheap revolvers. This disturbed the Democrats and Klansmen every bit as much as the Liberator is disturbing Schumer and his friends, and so came a rash of anti-gun laws targeting Negroes. The story of the origins of these prohibitions is well told in Gun Control and Racism and by JFPO in The Racist Roots of Gun Control, which show they began even before the War to Prevent Secession. A neat example from the former is Tennessee, whose government in 1879 banned the sale of any pistols other than "army or navy" model revolvers; whites could afford the resulting higher prices, blacks could not.
So violation of Amendment Two had begun, and it has got steadily worse ever since, and now the “tyrants in government” are in a panic about how to prevent “the people” making their own plastic guns without reference to their long list of restrictions about purchasing a metal one in a store. Evidently they fear retribution just as the Southern repressors feared armed blacks; and little wonder. It's a dilemma possibly devastating to them, but delicious to us.
Alas, in my opinion they need not be so worried. The Liberator is a wonderful innovation and its inventor Cody Wilson richly deserves an honored place in the pantheon of libertarian heroes, but wider availability of guns will not end the obscenity of government. That will happen when, and only when, there is no longer anyone willing to work for it. Americans are already rather well armed, with something over 80 million guns in private hands, and that has not prevented the monstrous growth of the state; why therefore double that number?
The trouble is that a handgun (or even a future development of the Liberator such as a semi-automatic weapon) will not stop a home invasion by government goons. They specialize in concentrated surprise attacks with “SWAT” teams, and the most a defender can hope to do is to kill one or two of its members before he is himself, inevitably, shot dead. A poor exchange.
The Liberator is out there; reportedly its blueprint was downloaded 100,000 times before the FedGov closed the window, ludicrously using its laws against arms export. And anonymous ways of distributing the design will for sure soon be in play. Developments and improvements will follow, I hope; one criticism is that plastic is an inherently unsuitable material for a gun barrel because at high temperature and pressure, it wobbles like Jell-O for a few milliseconds while the cartridge is exploding, and hence tends to shatter and injure the user. But no doubt, a fix will be found. What then might be its effect?
It might make it easier to protect oneself from non-governmental criminals without first having to obtain the benefit of a government license. This could save valuable lives in states where licenses are hard to get, and in the case of felons (all too numerous) after release from government captivity, who are refused them regardless.
It might facilitate assassinations, being hard to detect. As John Ross suggested in his novel Unintended Consequences, revenge assassinations might bring the benefit of a government that is more polite and respectful, perhaps even obeying the Constitution from time to time. Revenge killings are of course clearly against anarchist principles, but there are also deterrent assassinations; that is, the killing of government leaders who are in the process of killing other people (waging an offensive war, for example) so as to cause a reduction or abandonment of that slaughter. Big subject, fraught with ethical problems – but not without some significant, potential benefit. The example of Claus von Stauffenberg comes to mind.
It might, thirdly, have a useful if roundabout effect in the so-called “war on terror.” Being hard to detect, the fanatical opponents of the FedGov's interference in the Middle East might bring some aboard an airliner and once again crash it into a tall building. They might do it more than once, so as to get close attention. At some point someone is going to state the obvious and abandon that interference. This would bring huge benefits for world peace.
Such benefits pale, however, beside the enormous one of eliminating government altogether, and guns whether built of plastic or metal just aren't going to achieve that. As Tandy noted, if people were aroused enough to grab their guns and wage a violent rebellion, they wouldn't need to; their mere withdrawal of support would bring about its implosion.
So I give the Liberator two and a half cheers. But not quite three.