Progressives and the Phony Gun Debate
William L. Anderson
by William L. Anderson: Understanding
the Progressive Mind
sees the word "debate" in the New York Times or
any other Progressive Mainstream Media source, one should substitute
the word "monologue," which is a much more accurate assessment
of what actually is happening. Progressives and the MSM allies do
not want a "debate" over gun control; what they want are
laws banning private ownership of firearms, period, and anything
else is only a way-station to the final destination: total private
In the wake
of the Sandy Hook shootings, the
sister of one of the murdered children wrote a well-publicized letter
to President Barack Obama, imploring him to ban all weapons
except those held by the police and government agencies. Now, one
can excuse a grief-stricken 10-year-old child for demanding that
the USA adopt what essentially was the gun standard for the former
Soviet Union and other communist countries, although I doubt seriously
that the child herself actually came up with the idea for the letter
at all, or at least its contents.
the child pretty much has stated what is the ultimate agenda for
American Progressives, and until that ban is complete, we will not
hear the end of terms such as "sensible gun control."
To Progressives, "sensible gun control" is not simple
registration or even a ban on so-called assault weapons and handguns.
No, it is total and absolute prohibition for private citizens,
while at the same time, government authorities are going to be armed
to the teeth.
doubt my point that Progressives want to ban private firearm ownership,
this article posted on the Progressive
Daily Kos website lays out a plan for banning private weapons.
The police, of course, would remain heavily armed. Not surprisingly,
this website, which is one of the most influential Democratic Party
sites, claims that most gun crime is committed by "NRA members."
So, when Progressives don’t have the data to back up claims, they
just make up things as they go.)
In trying to
"dialog" with Progressives on this issue, Libertarians
have cited facts, appealed to the U.S. Constitution, and pretty
much have acted as though Progressives can be convinced with an
argument based upon reason and logic. Unfortunately, they forget
that Progressives create their logical propositions based upon very
different assumptions than do Libertarians. A Libertarian syllogism
might go something like this:
have rights, and one of those rights is the right to self-defense;
provide a very effective way for individuals to defend themselves
against those who would seek to invade their property and harm
them and their families;
individuals should not be impeded by the State from owning firearms.
syllogism, however, is much differently-constructed:
- All individual
"rights" really are created and given by the State;
- No private
individual has a "right" to self-defense unless granted
so by the State:
private individuals have no right to firearm ownership.
Progressive syllogism would be constructed as such:
- An all-powerful
and unlimited State is necessary for the functioning of a good
- All individuals
employed in occupations that defend the State have the right to
those individuals should be equipped with firearms to ensure "officer
safety" and the safety of other government officials.
This is not
a caricature of Progressive thinking (although I wish it were).
Progressives, government is the very essence of life, and anyone
who is not directly employed by government or who has been given
police powers by the State stands in the way of the State providing
life and happiness.
believe that denial of individual self-defense is a top agenda for
Progressives, think again. Both Canada and Great Britain essentially
have outlawed individual self-defense, and should any individual
use any kind of "offensive weapon" in self-defense, then
that person faces extremely harsh punishments. Joyce
Lee Malcolm writes:
(in Great Britain) who discovered two robbers in his home held
them with a toy gun while he telephoned the police. When the police
arrived they arrested the two men, and also the homeowner, who
was charged with putting someone in fear with a toy gun. An elderly
woman who scared off a gang of youths by firing a cap pistol was
charged with the same offense.
The BBC offers
this advice for anyone in Britain who is attacked on the street:
You are permitted to protect yourself with a briefcase, a handbag,
or keys. You should shout "Call the Police" rather than
"Help." Bystanders are not to help. They have been
taught to leave such matters to the professionals. If you
manage to knock your attacker down, you must not hit him again
or you risk being charged with assault. (Emphasis mine)
This is quite
instructive if one wishes to understand the mentality of Progressives.
To the typical Progressives, the elderly lady and the homeowner
mentioned above were a threat to the monopoly power and the primacy
of the State and deserved harsh punishment – even imprisonment –
for exercising "privileges" not granted to them by the
State. Keep in mind that Progressives have permitted the police
to use deadly force against unarmed people, and that police officers
regularly beat people brutally, and even the worst of these actions
generally are excused or legally "justified" altogether,
or the offending officer receives a wrist slap for punishment.
We must understand
that this is not a situation in which we see the "Law of Unintended
Consequences" in action; the authorities have fully intended
for these consequences to occur, and each time an innocent person
is beaten to death by thugs, or each time a person intending to
defend himself or herself from an unwarranted assault is charged
with a crime, the State and Progressives have won.
ago, while riding a bus in Vancouver, Canada, I conversed with a
local and asked him about the prohibition on self-defense. (Canada’s
laws on this subject are similar to those in Great Britain.) When
I asked him his thoughts on the law, he replied, "We Canadians
are quite proud of these laws." Incredulous, I asked him why
he believed it was wrong for an individual to defend himself against
an unwarranted assault. He replied, "It reduces violence, since
one has to act violently in self-defense."
I suspect that
he echoes a lot (though hardly all) Canadians and probably most
citizens of Great Britain. Once State authorities strip rights from
individuals, they make it very dangerous for people to try to reclaim
them, and ultimately, people just want to be protected from the
predations of the State as much as from attacks and assaults on
their own property. And since they cannot defend themselves effectively
from State agents fully intending to wreak violence upon others,
they realize that the best defense is just to be as invisible as
when they are burglarized or attacked by criminals, they call the
police, and then bear the costs. If a loved one is assaulted or
murdered, they bear those costs as well. They say nothing that would
anger the authorities and invite State-sponsored revenge upon themselves.
But what about
the Progressive canard, "The only protection you need is the
police"? Nicholas Kristof, in his recent anti-gun ownership
screed from the New York Times, writes:
research makes it clear that having a
gun in the home simply makes it more likely that you will be shot
– by your partner or by yourself. Americans are safer if they
rely on 911 for protection rather than on a gun.
have written that it is "grotesque" even to contemplate
having armed guards at school, yet they will not explain why it
is not "grotesque" that police officers carry automatic
weapons, and why government officials and other public figures are
surrounded by armed entourages that will gun down anyone on sight.
Progressives do have an answer, even to this question, and
it is: "We want children to feel safe, and they won’t
feel safe if someone with a gun is nearby. As for government officials,
they are necessary for our very well-being and if someone is permitted
to freely assault an official, then the attackers have assaulted
all of us.
There is another
lesson for everyone here, and that is the lesson of how socialism
really works. In the U.S.S.R., people who were politically-connected
received the best medical care, were able to be first in line to
receive decent housing, and were permitted to shop in "Yellow-Curtain"
shops that had goods unavailable in typical Soviet stores. Everyone
else was left more of left to fend for himself, receive substandard
medical care, and have to wait in long lines for food and other
essentials, and lived in ramshackle quarters.
believe that only state agents should be on the receiving
end of proper care and protection. As Glenn Reynolds
recently pointed out in a USA Today column, it took 20
minutes for police to respond to the initial 911 call when Adam
Lanza began his shooting spree. Yet, according to Kristof and the
editors of the NYT, 20 minutes is perfectly acceptable. (No doubt,
they would call for "more training" for police officers
to ensure better responses, but in the real world, police are under
no legal obligation to respond to any calls at all, and since
"officer safety" is the mantra of every police department,
it always is easier for officers to draw chalk lines around the
bodies than it is for a cop to be asked to defend little children
from a crazed shooter.)
Progressives don’t even believe that draconian gun laws actually
reduce spree shootings or other such crimes. Instead, they promote
such laws because it forces even more dependence upon State authorities.
writes about a spree shooting in Great Britain by a man carrying
a banned semi-automatic rifle:
Ryan went on a shooting spree in his small town of Hungerford,
England, killing 16 people (including his mother) and wounding
another 14 before shooting himself. Since the public was unarmed
– as were the police – Ryan wandered the streets for eight
hours with two semiautomatic rifles and a handgun before anyone
with a firearm was able to come to the rescue. (Emphasis mine)
law did not protect anyone. Instead, it made law-abiding
citizens even more vulnerable to the whims of others who did not
respect the law. Yet, I should add that Progressives believe wholeheartedly
that this is a perfectly-acceptable set of circumstances. If
some eggs are broken while a Utopian omelet is being created, so
"debate" people who construct their own sets of logical
premises and who see State-sponsored violence as the answer to "all
of our problems." Progressives do not want individuals disarmed
because they believe the result will be less violence and less danger;
no, they push disarmament because they believe that a "good
society" can come about only when individuals live in constant
fear of the State and when the State is so powerful that it can
do anything it wants to anyone.
Progressives view those of us who believe that individual rights
come from Natural Law and hold that State violence against the innocent
is unacceptable as "whack jobs" and "gun nuts."
There is no in-between, and there certainly is no dialogue, for
no Progressive will be satisfied until whole classes of people are
left totally vulnerable to the whims of State agents. In the end,
that is their "good society."
L. Anderson, Ph.D. [send him
mail], teaches economics at Frostburg State University in Maryland,
and is an adjunct scholar of the Ludwig
von Mises Institute. He
also is a consultant with American Economic Services. Visit
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