Failed Freedom Fighters

We hear two common refrains from gun enthusiasts: that citizens need to own guns in case the government tries to “take over”, and that gun-control legislation is (therefore) an attempt to disarm the public so that we cannot defend our freedoms. Given the fact that there are already hundreds of millions of weapons in the hands of American citizens, and given the realities of ¬†governance in America, it is apparent that the only freedom that gun enthusiasts have successfully defended is their self-centered freedom to own weapons.

Meanwhile, our government has been taken over by wealthy individuals and corporations. Working people have not had a fair share of their own rising productivity for forty years. The tax burden has been shifted from those who get the most out of American citizenship to those who get the least. Much of our social safety net is in jeopardy or already in tatters. Public education is under attack by corporate interests and anti-intellectualism. And blatant corporate malfeasance goes unchecked and unpunished.

At the same time, our government can fight expensive discretionary wars, putting the burden of payment on middle- and lower-class citizens, while undermining support for the veterans of those wars. The government can wire-tap anyone, can arrest and incarcerate anyone, and can target anyone for assassination.

Ironically, the conservatives who have undermined and distorted our government have always counted the larger proportion of gun enthusiasts among their ideological allies simply by catering to their monomania.

If the Second Amendment is intended to save us from a government takeover, it is of no use; it has not worked. So, what good is it? It is a rallying point for the financial interests of weapon makers. It is the wedge that keeps the door open to profit. For thousands of years weapon makers have known two obvious principles: first, that profits are greater when they sell to both sides of any conflict, and second, that profits are greater when conflicts escalate. Acting upon the first principle, weapon makers fight any legislation that would exclude sales to anyone, and acting upon the second principle, they fight any legislation intended to limit available firepower. Their broad interpretation of the Second Amendment blurs distinctions between competent and incompetent individuals, and between legitimate and black market sales.

The upshot is that the freedom to have and carry (and sell) guns has been preserved by Second Amendment activism, a government “takeover” has not been averted, and we live in an environment of rampant and widespread gun-augmented violence.

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