Guns and Libertarianismby David S. D'Amato
Jan. 09, 2013
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The tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, has expectedly renewed interest in the “gun debate,” animating the worst inclinations of both the left and right halves of the statist conversation. Some conservative quarters are calling for something like armed-to-the-teeth military police to be stationed in the country’s schools. Progressives have naturally fallen back on all of the stock bilge in adjuring for stricter gun laws. It would thus seem to be as good a time as any for libertarians to interpose with some much-needed nuance, with a sane rejoinder to the constant insistence for more state intervention in our lives.
Libertarians assess the gun question quite differently than do those in the statist mainstream, evaluating it not in isolation, on an ad hoc basis, but in terms of general principles. Libertarianism, by definition, is not something that can be enacted from on high, declared by fiat to be the governing rule. Rather, it is a benchmark, allowing us to scrutinize society and government as they are now and to imagine them as they should and could be. As applied to the question of guns and gun violence, the libertarian ethic demonstrates forthwith that instead of actually removing guns and attending savagery from society, the state merely chooses who is allowed to hold firearms and engage in such savagery. More-stringent control of firearms never impedes the madman or common criminal, never dissuades the miscreant for whom law and order are regarded as worthless anyway. Further, such control is decidedly not applied to the agents of the state itself, which at the present moment must be considered the most aggressive and abusive criminal actor currently operating.