"The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant." ~ John Stuart Mill
Defending the State?
Column by Alex R. Knight III.
Exclusive to STR
I have to admit I’m rather perplexed by something I’m witnessing of late within the gun ownership community, and I’m going to do my best to try and dissect it.
Here in Vermont, we’re fighting some proposed gun control laws, and one of the pillars of support for private gun ownership that is commonly deferred to is Article 16 of the Vermont Constitution, which reads, “The people have a right to bear arms for the defense of themselves and the state.”
Let’s eschew, for the time being, the distinction between natural “rights,” and legal (government) ones. There has, in fact, been some lively debate over this very subject on STR of late, both here, and here. It is enough for my present purposes to stick with the rest of the language contained in this article. That I have a “right” to defend myself – however one might want to interpret that; including “If I’m attacked, I’m going to defend myself with a weapon” -- should go without saying (and yes, I realize in some places and circumstances there are those who have the arrogant temerity to call something even this elemental into question). But regardless, why would I ever want to defend the state?
Perhaps we ought to define what “the state” is – at the very least, as it relates to the constitutional article in question. Does it refer to territory? Does, for example, The State of Vermont vs. John Doe signify that the ground itself has brought charges or some other form of legal action against Mr. Doe?
Oh, “The State of Vermont,” rather, means the general human population of the arbitrary geographical region known and referred to as Vermont? Well, if that’s true, then it renders the language of Article 16 somewhat redundant, doesn’t it? Why say the same thing twice, after all . . . unless “the state” signifies something other than the ground or the general human population?
In any action by a government court, the lawyer in a black robe (judge), opposing lawyer in a suit and tie (district attorney), and arresting or fine-issuing armed enforcer (cop), all claim to “represent the state.” Well, okay, who or what exactly do they claim to “represent” that in turn seems to have such a difficult time simply showing his, her, or itself?
I think it’s pretty clear at this juncture that “the state” is nothing but a fiction. A legal ruse used to justify initiating aggression against people who are doing nothing but living their lives in the name of allegedly attempting to orchestrate some kind of socio-economic outcome – one that shifts like the wind based on the whims of government employees, and perhaps their perception of popular opinion at any given point in time.
And why on earth would I, or any rational self-respecting person, want to lift so much as a finger to defend that?
Let’s have a look at Article 2-a of the New Hampshire Constitution (since that’s a Free State Project favorite – at least among the minarchists): “All persons have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves, their families, their property and the state.”
This is even marginally better, language-wise – except that we run into that reference to “the state” again (and, we should probably also reflect upon the fact that Vermont gun freedoms are currently more broad than those available in New Hampshire). Seems like the people who believe in using aggression against us to get what they want are awful eager for us to put our lives on the line for them as part of the justification for allowing us to remain armed, doesn’t it? Oh, what’s that? The various bills of rights (again, not going to engage the argument over that word here and now) simply enumerate those we have before governments are even (with abundant foolishness and arrogance) created? Well then, in that case, why the reference to “the state” if it has nothing to do with my supposedly pre-existing rights? Are you seeing any pattern of deception here yet, or is it just me?
Let’s now, just for fun, look south to the “Commonwealth” of Massachusetts, and Article XVII: “The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence.” Well, no mention of “the state” there, but no mention of individual self-defense, either. Only a “common defence.” Maybe given the difficulty of owning weapons imposed by those claiming to work for and represent “the state” in Massachusetts – who have no shortage of guns themselves – those same “state” employees figure they need no help with defense. Just a thought.
Final thought: Supporters of gun ownership – and there are few or none more fervent in that belief than myself – might want to look elsewhere in seeking justification for possessing and carrying weapons . . . like, maybe, you’re a human being who chooses to defend his or herself, without need of either permission or recognition from a gang of aggressors who can only limit or eliminate that ability by raw force.
And then expect to be revered, worshipped, respected – and even defended – in return.