August 30, 2014

Gun statistics are irrelevant to the 2nd Amendment

640px-Weapons_confiscated_from_the_Kosovo_Liberation_Army_(1999)TAMPA, December 13, 2013 – The Washington Post is at it again. Days before the one year anniversary of the murders at Sandy Hook, the Post is running another piece asking readers “What’s your gun number? Share your gun story.”

Citing statistics is a central plank in the liberal war on private gun ownership. CNN host Piers Morgan began several televised “debates” with gun ownership proponents by asking them if they knew statistics on gun violence or gun-related deaths. It was partly just a ploy to try to catch his opponent without an answer and make him seem uninformed. Sometimes he was successful, sometimes not, but nobody gave him the right answer.

Statistics are irrelevant to the 2nd Amendment.

The 2nd Amendment protects each individual’s right to keep and bear arms. Even the Supreme Court agrees, its abysmal record protecting individual rights notwithstanding. An individual’s right cannot be infringed as a result of what someone else did. It can only be infringed as a result of what that individual did. That’s why we don’t choose people at random for prosecution when a robbery is committed. An investigation is made to determine the specific individual who committed the crime, so he or she can be tried and sentenced.

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Why conservatives lost the gun control debate

TAMPA, March 18, 2013 – Conservatives believe they’ve won the gun control debate because they expect any new restrictions on gun ownership to be relatively minor. That doesn’t really jibe with their position that gun ownership was already too restricted before the Sandy Hook shootings, but that is the way things go in America. Both sides declare victory, the government gets a little bigger and more intrusive, and the next debate starts from there.

The underlying problem is that neither conservatives nor liberals truly believe in inherent, inalienable rights. Americans think conservatives do, but that doesn’t jibe with any of their arguments on gun control (or anything else). Conservatives believe that rights come from the government or long tradition, not from nature.

No one who believes that the right to defend one’s own life is inherent and inalienable would rely so heavily on the existence of the 2nd Amendment. The right to keep and bear arms exists regardless of whether there ever was a 2ndAmendment to the U.S. Constitution. It exists regardless of the American Revolution or the 800 or so years of British tradition that preceded it.

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Obama outmaneuvers Republicans again on gun control

TAMPA, January 20, 2013 — One day before his second inauguration ceremony, President Obama has plenty of reasons to smile. Despite a persistently weak economy, he was reelected by a comfortable margin in November and then completely outmaneuvered his Republican opponents in the tax hike standoff. That ended with Republicans breaking a decades-old pledge never to raise taxes.

Following the usual calls for more gun control following a widely publicized shooting, it looks as if Obama has outmaneuvered the GOP again. After appointing Vice President Joe Biden to head a gun violence task force, Obama made an ominous-sounding statement.

“Well, my understanding is the Vice President is going to provide a range of steps that we can take to reduce gun violence. Some of them will require legislation. Some of them I can accomplish through executive action. And so I’ll be reviewing those today. And as I said, I’ll speak in more detail to what we’re going to go ahead and propose later in the week.”

The Republican response was predictable. Cries of constitutional crisis and calls for impeachment exploded from Republican politicians and conservative-leaning media.

Whether because of the Republican reaction or by design, Obama’s executive orders were remarkably uncontroversial. Despite rumors that the president had written 23 new executive orders restricting gun ownership, Obama actually didn’t write any. Instead, he wrote 3 “presidential memoranda” directing existing federal agencies to do a better job at what they are already doing.

This leaves Republicans who yelled “impeachment” before even hearing what the president proposed looking like “extremists” again, not to mention somewhat silly. It sets up the Democrats perfectly for the upcoming congressional fight over new gun legislation. Republicans will be under pressure to compromise to undo the political damage done by this latest gaffe.

There are certainly constitutional arguments against Obama’s actions, but Republicans are in no position to make them. Strict constitutionalists have long argued that the mere existence of agencies like the ATF and the CDC is unconstitutional, but the Republican Party, which created one and greatly expanded the other, has no grounds upon which to make this argument.

Those few GOP legislators who can do so with any credibility, like Senator Rand Paul or Rep. Justin Amash, are considered outsiders by the party elite.

There is a fundamental problem here that the GOP has to resolve if it does not wish to fade into irrelevance. It has to define some fundamental philosophical differences between it and the Democratic Party. Despite rhetoric about small government and free markets, there just isn’t any meat on the GOP bones for opponents of the Democratic Party to sink their teeth into.

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Even convicted felons have a right to bear arms

TAMPA, January 11, 2013 ― Supposedly, a philosophical debate is going on between “right and left” over the natural right to keep and bear arms. As usual, both sides are wrong.

The right to keep and bear arms is inseparable from the right to life. Here in the real world, arming oneself is the only practical way to exercise the right to life, which is properly defined as the right not to be killed by another human being.

Banning guns removes an individual’s ability to exercise the right to life. It places his life at the discretion of anyone who would take it away. Life is no longer a right, but a privilege, exercised at the discretion of criminals. Sometimes, the criminals wear government costumes.

When is this ever justified?

The only reasonable answer would be when an individual has wrongfully taken the life of another person. Even then there is room for an argument. If manslaughter does not carry a lifetime prison sentence, why does the perpetrator permanently surrender his right to life?

There is no justification for prohibiting gun ownership for virtually any other crime. Perhaps egregious assaults or child molestation also qualify, but that is still a tiny percentage of the population.

Even conservatives cast the net far wider. Standard conservative talking points go something like this. “We defend the 2nd Amendment rights of law abiding citizens who are not mentally ill to keep and bear arms.”

Virtually every word of this statement is wrong. And this is the “pro-gun” side.

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Every law is a threat of violence

TAMPA, December 29, 2012 – The new U.S. Congress will convene on January 3rd with two high profile issues to consider. There is zero chance that they will get either one of them right. The debates on both are already framed into a lose-lose proposition for the American people, as are virtually all “debates” on Capitol Hill.

One issue is “How should the right to keep and bear arms be further infringed?” The other is “How much less of their own money should Americans be allowed to keep?”

With a more enlightened populace, there is always some chance that pressure on the legislators could produce a more positive result. However, the gullible American public has already taken the bait that “something must be done” on both issues. “Something” means Congress passing a law, which means the perceived problem will be solved with violence.

Every law is a threat of violence. Americans used to understand that. In their present condition, they are aware of little beyond football on Sunday and Dancing with the Stars during the week. Fat, progressive and stupid is no way to go through life, son.

Government itself is an institution of violence. That’s not an opinion. That’s what it is. That’s all it is. Governments are constituted for the express purpose of pooling the capacity for violence of every member of the community.

Every law promulgates human behavior that is mandated under the threat of violence. It either prohibits certain activity or requires certain activity. Failure to behave as the law proscribes results in violence against the transgressor. He is kidnapped at best, killed resisting at worst.

Putting aside the question of whether this power should ever be invested in a regional monopoly, every society must first answer the question of whether this power should be exercised by anyone at all. Is violence ever justified?

In a free society, there is only one circumstance under which it is. Violence is only justified as a reaction to aggression committed in the past. Murder, assault, and theft are all examples. These justify the use of force against the perpetrator. Consider this statement.

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The Newtown tragedy should not prompt a “national discussion”

TAMPA, Fl, December 26, 2012 ― Perhaps 21st century Americans are not worthy of liberty. Reason is a prequalification of liberty, and Americans don’t demonstrate the ability to exercise it at all, at least not in a political context. It may be time to admit that a century of “progressive” education has transformed Americans into a herd of dependent, unthinking sheep.

Any person capable of even the most elementary reasoning would immediately conclude that not only shouldn’t the Newtown tragedy prompt a national discussion, but that there is no such thing as a “national discussion” in the first place.

Do Americans really believe that the 300 million people occupying this nation are actually participating in a discussion?

During the Republican primaries, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich often referred to “having a conversation with the country.” I assumed that I was not alone in rolling my eyes. Any lucid person would assume that Gingrich was either delusional, insincere or both to even suggest that any “conversation” he could participate in actually involved the wishes or interests of every individual in the country.

If most Americans believe there is a “national conversation” going on about guns, a reason to have one or even the possibility that one could be had, we’re in deep trouble. This is all just a well-orchestrated show to herd Americans to a place where they will accept being disarmed without raising too much fuss.

The debate is already framed. “Something must be done.” Now “we’re” just bickering about what that will be.

Think for a moment how idiotic this is. It is suggested that we pass a law that affects 300 million people because of the actions of a solitary lunatic. It’s happened before? So what? You could fit every person that has committed a similar crime during the past fifty years into the kitchen of a Greenwich Village apartment. Somehow we’re to believe that the actions of these few have some relevance to the rights of hundreds of millions.

The math doesn’t work.

Yet, this is only a secondary and utilitarian argument for rejecting gun control. The most important is that keeping and bearing whatever arms one wishes is a right, not a privilege. It is not granted by the 2nd Amendment. That amendment merely attempts to ensure that the right it refers to is not violated by the government.

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The rights to life and to keep and bear arms are inseparable

TAMPA, December 16, 2012 ― The right to keep and bear arms is not granted to Americans in the U.S. Constitution, nor in the “Bill of Rights.” The right to keep and bear arms is a natural right, inextricably linked to the right to life.

The 2nd Amendment recognizes this. It does not say that the right “shall be granted” to anyone. It assumes the right already exists and says it “shall not be infringed.”

All rights are negative. We do not have a positive right to anything. Rights merely prohibit other people from aggressing against us. If someone is struck by lightning and killed, we do not say that his right to life has been violated. Neither do we say so if he is eaten by a lion.

No, the right to life is very narrowly defined as the right not to be killed by another human being, other than in self-defense. Obviously, the only way to exercise this right is to defend oneself if attacked. There is no other circumstance in which the “right to life” has any meaning.

Given that an aggressor may have weapons or may simply be a more capable fighter, individuals must be able to arm themselves sufficiently to overcome these disadvantages. That is how they exercise their right to life.

These rights pre-exist government. They exist in what Enlightenment philosophers called “the state of nature,” which is the state without government. These thinkers had different ideas about nature and society, but all agreed on one thing. Self-preservation is the first law of nature.

John Locke’s “Essay Concerning the true origin, extent and end of Civil Government (1690)” inspired the entire American philosophy, according to Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson thought it so important that posterity understand this that he had a resolution passed to proclaim it.

This was due to the important differences between Locke’s philosophy and others. Unlike Rousseau, who claimed that when joining society man had to agree to “the total alienation of all of his natural rights,” Locke said that man entered society to preserve those rights. That’s why the Declaration of Independence says that certain rights are inalienable.

The only rights that man gives up upon entering society is the right to judge his own case in a dispute and to enforce that judgment. These he gives up to the government in return for the superior protection of his life, liberty and property that the government supposedly provides.

However, these powers only pertain to crimes that occurred in the past. The government has no power over the future or the present. It cannot prosecute someone for a crime that he will commit tomorrow and it cannot protect the individual from a crime occurring right now.

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You’re On Your Own

There are no end of commentaries on the recent murders in Arizona, resulting in the usual debates.  Pundits argue over whether there should be stricter gun laws, whether talk radio, the movies, or “extremism” contributed to the tragedy, and, most obtusely, what the government should do to prevent a similar incident from occurring again. What is lost is the fact that this tragedy provides yet more proof of something that has been demonstrated to Americans repeatedly over the past decade. The government cannot protect you from the harsh realities of life.

Most people are good people, most of the time. Under normal circumstances, most people would rather cooperate with their fellow human beings in order to achieve their goals rather than steal from them or kill them.  However, some people, at least some of the time, do not “live and let live.” During every moment that we are alive, someone somewhere is committing a crime. Someone is experiencing hardship, whether due to their own bad judgment, laziness, or just plain bad luck. Worst of all, someone is planning to commit an act of violence.  These truths are confirmed by all of human history.

What is unique about the time that we live in now is the extent to which people believe that the government can shield them from these challenges. Never has a society had such high expectations of their government to ensure their security – both personal and economic security. The early 21st century is truly a high-water mark in terms of belief in government to eliminate all risk from the game of life. Over and over, we are offered proof of how foolish this misplaced faith is.

On 9/11/2001, a group of insane fanatics defeated what was at the time the most sophisticated security apparatus in human history and perpetrated heinous crimes against thousands of innocent civilians. The government failed to prevent this crime. The one set of murderers that was not successful was thwarted by private citizens acting on their own. They did not save their own lives, but saved the lives of hundreds, possibly thousands, of others. Our response to this outcome was to give the government more power and private citizens less liberty and privacy.

A few years later, another unbalanced individual tried to blow up a plane with explosives concealed in his shoes. He, too, had defeated the by that time even more powerful government security apparatus and was thwarted by private citizens. Our reaction to that incident was identical.

Last year, the pattern repeated with the so-called “underwear bomber.” The government failed and private citizens thwarted the killer. Again, more power was given to the government and more liberty stolen from the people. We are now allowing ourselves to be photographed naked and physically violated by the government in the hopes that the next time the results will be different.

In 2002, a deranged man walked into the Appalachian School of Law and began shooting students and faculty. There were no police on hand when the shooting started. This is not meant as a criticism of the police. It is unreasonable to expect that there will be an officer present whenever a random act of violence occurs.  In any case, when the shooting started, two private citizens ran to their cars and retrieved their firearms. They confronted the shooter, forced him to drop his weapon, and tackled him to the ground. He was eventually arrested and prosecuted.

However, the fact that private citizens bearing firearms had prevented further bloodshed was omitted in the media coverage of the incident. Following the familiar pattern, the government was given more power and private citizens lost more of their liberty. Stricter gun controls were enacted in Virginia. A few years later, with campuses forced by law to be “gun free zones,” the victims at Virginia Tech were powerless to resist.

Luckily, this latest incident in Arizona did not take place on a college campus, an army base, or any other “gun free zone.” The brave man who tackled the shooter in Arizona said that he was not afraid to do so “because I was armed.” More importantly, this was another example of private citizens defending themselves and their neighbors. The police arrived after the shooter was subdued and fulfilled their proper function in a free society – to arrest the person who had committed the crime.

The repeated failure of government to protect us from the uncertainties of life is not limited to violent crimes. Over and over again, we have looked to government to provide us with economic security and have been similarly disappointed. We sanctioned its war on poverty and got more poverty. We allowed its central bank to loot our wealth in the hopes that it would prevent recessions and inflation and we got more severe recessions and more rampant inflation. We let the government bail out corporations to save jobs and restore economic growth and we got higher unemployment and less new businesses.

As with personal security, our reaction is to reward these failures with more power for the government. More wealth redistribution. More power to the central bank (but I repeat myself). More bailouts. Consistent with the pattern, the only economic security we get comes from private individuals cooperating voluntarily with each other to create new products, new industries, and new opportunities for those seeking work.

In a free society, the government should never be charged with preventing anything. The very definition of the word “prevent,” when used in relation to government, is a repudiation of liberty. Since government is nothing more than the societal use of force, it cannot prevent anything without initiating force against the innocent. The whole idea that someone is “innocent until proven guilty” assumes that the government is not allowed to act until after a crime is committed. Force must be initiated by one party or the other. Until a criminal commits his crime, he is innocent. To apply force against him at that point is a crime itself. Moreover, since we do not know who will commit the next crime, the government can only attempt to prevent it by initiating force against everyone. This is the trap we fall into by relying on government to prevent hardship in our lives.

If liberty and the state can coexist, the state’s role must be a retrospective one. It must only be allowed to act when one human being has committed aggression against another. This applies to crime, economics, safety, and foreign policy. At one time, the United States did not go to war unless the president could convince Congress that direct aggression had already been committed against the United States. If you doubt that, read the requests for a declaration of war made by Madison, Polk, McKinley, Wilson, and Roosevelt.  Read the subsequent resolutions by Congress to declare war. In each case, those documents demonstrate the principle that military action by the government is not justified until aggression has been committed by the other nation.

This might prompt some to respond that in order to be free, we must relegate ourselves to being victims, or “sitting ducks,” able to act only after it is too late. This is a false assumption, rooted in a failure to recognize one undeniable fact of our existence. As far as the preservation and security of our lives is concerned, we are all on our own. No government, no matter how powerful, can assume the responsibility we each have to defend our lives and determine our own destinies. We can allow the government to rob us of our liberty, our property, and our privacy. We can create the kind of police state previously relegated to dystopian fantasies like 1984 or V for Vendetta. Even then, the government will fail - and then ask for more power as a reward for its failure. Must it come to that before we acknowledge the obvious?

Check out Tom Mullen’s book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!

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© Thomas Mullen 2011

>How Can Conservatives Support Sanctions Against Iran?

>Many have decried the fact that the so-called “liberal left” has abandoned its anti-war stance and thrown its support behind President Obama’s intent to impose sanctions upon Iran. However, given that the reason for the sanctions is Iran’s supposed pursuit of nuclear weapons, the left actually remains more consistent with their traditional philosophy than the right. Liberals have always attacked the natural right of self defense, usually as it manifests itself in the right of the individual to keep and bear arms. They have also traditionally supported large-scale warfare, as long as the war was started by a member of their party. Remember that U.S. involvement in WWI, WWII, the Korean War, and Viet Nam was initiated in each case by a liberal Democratic president with the support of a Democratic majority in Congress. There is nothing out-of-character about liberals supporting President Obama’s war agenda with Iran.

What is harder to understand is how conservatives can defend the 2nd Amendment and still support these sanctions, given the stated reason for their imposition. As a sovereign nation, Iran could make all of the same arguments regarding their right to develop nuclear weapons as conservatives make regarding the individual right to keep and bear arms. Iran lives in a world in which many of its neighbors possess nuclear weapons. In the event of a nuclear attack against Iran, there is nothing the “international community” can do until it is too late, just as there is nothing the police can do for an individual at the moment he is attacked by an aggressor. Like any potential mugging victim, Iran is much safer armed with a deterrent than at the mercy of those who wish her harm.

Liberals often argue for gun controls or bans based upon what an armed civilian might do with a weapon. Conservatives correctly argue that the principle of liberty doesn’t allow us to use government force against people because of “what they might do.” Until an individual actually commits some form of aggression against another human being, conservatives would argue that it is no one’s right to infringe upon another’s right to keep and bear arms. This principle certainly applies equally to nations in relation to one another. How can conservatives deny this right to Iran?

Liberals make the argument that the world is safer without handguns and so oppose them indiscriminately for everyone except government employees. Conservatives correctly argue that an armed citizenry is much safer against criminals than an unarmed one. They point out that every known statistic shows that neighborhoods under stricter gun controls have a higher incidence of violent crime, because the criminals still have guns and they know that the law abiding citizens are helpless. Conservatives understand this dynamic implicitly in terms of individuals, but it completely eludes them when applied to the relationships between nations. They also fail to recognize that history supports this argument: the only nuclear attack in human history was perpetrated by a nuclear-armed nation against a nation that did not possess nuclear weapons.

Conservatives make the argument that to deny Iran the right to develop nuclear weapons is not the same as disarming them. They would still be “allowed” to retain a conventional military force. How ironic this argument would be coming from conservatives, who become red in the face when liberals argue that they are not violating the 2nd amendment by limiting the types of firearms that civilians can carry or by banning “assault weapons (is there another kind?).” Conservatives recognize that the word “allow” has no place in the same conversation when discussing a right – including the right to keep and bear arms.

From a more pragmatic perspective, denying one individual or group the right to keep weapons relatively equal to those possessed by their peers nullifies their ability to effectively defend themselves. Conservatives make this argument in terms of law abiding citizens needing weapons of comparable fire power to the average gang-banger. Otherwise, the poorly armed citizen is still at a disadvantage against the well-armed criminal. Their reasoning is sound on this point. However, why does it not apply to Iran? For all intents and purposes, to deny Iran’s right to possess weaponry equal to that of any other sovereign nation – especially those that habitually threaten her – is to deny their right to provide for their own defense.

Conservatives make the argument that Iran is a “rogue nation” and therefore cannot be trusted with nuclear weapons. This is nothing more than cultural bias which is flatly refuted by objective reality. During the past 50 years, Iran has never invaded another country or initiated military force against anyone. Beyond the 1979 hostage crisis, they have burned a few U.S. flags and said some very nasty things about the U.S. and Israel. Other than that, they have been content to screw up their own country and leave the rest of the world alone.

In contrast, the United States has invaded countless nations in the past 50 years and has committed direct acts of war against Iran, including overthrowing their democratically-elected government and installing an American puppet in its place. When Iran responded by deposing the Shah and taking U.S. hostages, the U.S. waged a decade-long proxy war against Iran through another of its puppets (at the time), Saddam Hussein.

I do not mean to condone Iran’s seizure of civilian hostages in 1979. Violence against civilians is never justified. However, given that the hostages were returned relatively unharmed just over a year after their capture, the U.S. government’s conduct at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and secret prisons throughout the world seems to overshadow Iran’s “rogueness” in this area rather considerably. Using the “rogue nation” standard, there is a long list of nations that should be sanctioned ahead of Iran, starting with our own.

Conservatives correctly recognize that the right of self defense is the foundation of freedom and equality. They understand that if all men are created equal, there is no justification for one person to deny to another the right to defend themselves, nor to deny another person the right to determine for themselves what weapons are necessary to that end. In order to defend themselves against aggression by other nations, individuals delegate that aspect of self defense to their government’s military force. This is as much their right as the individual right to keep and bear arms. As in the case of individuals, no nation has a right to decide for another what weapons it will keep for that purpose.

The people of Iran as a sovereign nation have all of the same rights that the people of the United States do. It is not for the United States to decide what weapons Iran possesses any more than it is Iran’s place to decide what weapons the United States possesses. One would have to employ the most convoluted logic imaginable to arrive at any other conclusion.

The United States was born defending the right to keep and bear arms. That fact is glossed over when American history is taught in public schools. Despite the “intolerable” taxes, quartering of troops, monetary manipulation, and a host of other offenses by their government, the American colonists did not fire upon their own troops until those troops attempted to disarm them (that was the reason that the British marched to Concord). The colonists recognized that if they were disarmed they were no longer free. Why would Iran think any differently?

The United States claims to be promoting freedom in the Middle East. These sanctions demonstrate how much we have forgotten about the true meaning of freedom. In order for Iraq, Iran, or any other Middle Eastern nation to truly be free, they must be recognized as equals by the other nations of the world, with all of the same rights that equals claim. The most important right is the right of self preservation, at one time known as the “first law of nature.” Until we recognize Iran in this way, we will be in a perpetual state of war with her, with nothing to gain and so much to lose. It is time to stop playing emperor with Iran and start practicing what we preach. Liberals have always been confused about the relationship between self defense and freedom, but conservatives should know better than to deny Iran’s right to keep and bear arms.

Check out Tom Mullen’s new book, A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America. Right Here!

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© Thomas Mullen 2009