Gun Control is addressed by Article I. Section 5 of the Libertarian Party of Michigan (LPM) Platform which reads: “Individuals have the right to defend themselves and others. Article I, Section 6 of the Michigan Constitution states: ‘Every person has a right to keep and bear arms for the defense of himself and the state.’ We oppose any law that dilutes the right of a law-abiding person to own a firearm or other means of self-defense.” The specific analysis here reflects the opinions of the author, and does not necessarily represent the view of the LPM.
By Ben Carr MA
Readers will have little doubt that those who identify as Libertarian or libertarian are not fond of gun control, nor should they be. Firearm ownership is a necessity for equitable self-defense in a world in which guns exist. This is despite the fanciful belief, on the part of statists, that the genie can be put back in the bottle. It can also hardly be doubted that many opportunists use tragedy to push the agenda of a disarmed populace. They do this not out of a misguided desire to foster safety, but to make resistance to government action more difficult, by ensuring that meaningful violence can only be exercised by the state. It is largely on this uncomfortable reality that those who advocate for individual rights make the argument for gun ownership and reject the notion that the state may arbitrarily deny citizens access to firearms.
The insistence that the state, as realized by its enforcers, be the sole holders of meaningful firearm access, has been traditionally linked to the progressive left, those who advocate for the illusory promise of safety and equitability through a powerful state constrained by the voices of “moral collectivists” such as themselves. This is certainly true in 21st century America, but historically gun and weapon control has often been the tool of right-wing regimes who, like their extremist left-wing counterparts, seek to minimize resistance to their power.
Within the history of the United States, we see examples of gun and weapon control used for right-leaning causes. These include restrictions on weapon ownership for former slaves, or the seizure of weapons from indigenous people, even after being confined to designated regions (reservations). This is not to diminish the dangers of left-wing regimes who have enacted such rules, such as Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia in the 20th century, but to illustrate that restricting access to firearms is not a left or right-wing tactic, but an authoritarian tactic. Regardless of motive, it is merely the siren call of false safety made by those who wish to see a populace made impotent to resist the state’s demands.
Gun Control and Horseshoe Theory
This understanding, that regardless of the wing being right or left, of the reality that extremists use force to constrain individual rights is commonly referred to as Horseshoe theory, that the more intolerant and extreme an ideology is, the more apt it is to justify and utilize violence to coerce the unwilling. While the goals may be different the leftist and right-winger resemble each other in methodology, coercive actions in which the ends justify the means. Libertarians, existing in a different political binary, that of freedom as opposed to control, by nature reject violent coercion. This means that while those in the left and right binary tend to reject Horseshoe theory out of hand (domination is their goal after all), while to Libertarians extremism is clearly measured by willingness to violate and suppress. The upshot of this is that while the liberty minded tend to be consistent in their morals and philosophy, the Right and Left often find themselves keeping strange company, depending on the issue. Which brings us back to gun control.
Racist Origins of the Mulford Gun Control Act
In a recent Slate article, by left-wing pundit Thom Hartmann, the author lauds California’s racist Mulford Act, which was a direct response to the presence of armed members of the Black Panthers at the California State Capitol. Hartmann ignores the motive of its passage in preference of its impact on his own agenda, diminished gun fatalities, though he notes that California ranks number two in the nation for gun deaths and has always been a leader in that regard (Hartmann, 2022). Hartmann further speculates that this is meaningful in a per capita comparison to states with fewer gun laws, though he shows no causal connection between the Mulford Act and California’s own numbers. The argument is ultimately grounded in the fallacy that such laws prevent gun deaths, even as states like Illinois, with strict gun laws, are statistically equitable to Texas, which has comparatively few such laws, both at just over 14% (Centers for Disease Control, 2022).
This is certainly not the first time, nor will it be the last, a journalist with a left-authoritarian agenda has misrepresented firearm data, but it is more unique in that it excuses the clearly racially oppressive nature of a law. Hartmann seems at least moderately aware of this and seeks to half-heartedly excuse his own condonement of the racist origins of the Mulford Act, by claiming that current gun’s rights supporters are white supremacists. He cannot point to any particular individual, group, or instance, but maintains that as most gun owners are white, ipso facto it is associated with white supremacy. The current population of the United States identified as white is just under 60%, but apparently being a majority and therefore likely to lead many statistics, such as weapon ownership, in not a meaningful factor (US population by year, race, age, ethnicity, & more 2022).
Again, the assumption that being white and not supporting gun control makes one racist is certainly intellectually lazy, but expected given the agenda in his narrative. That he disregards those who identify as some type of minority and own guns is certainly more suspect, especially since over 24% of those who identify as Black own guns, a group that makes up roughly 14% of the population, whereas 36% of those who identify as White own guns and compose around 60% of the population (Spencer, 2021). It is also notable that gun ownership amongst Black Americans increased by 58% in the last two years, yet his supposed white supremacists have resisted gun control, not embraced it as Reagan and California did in 1967 (Spencer, 2021).
What becomes evident is that the left will support racism, and even applaud racists (if not their motive) when it suits their agenda. Much in the same manner being a Nazi is verboten unless one is a Nazi in the service of anti-Russian action in the Ukraine, in which case it become admirable. As we can see Horseshoe theory can easily be applied, because the ends justify the means. Extremists, regardless of motive, are identical in the lengths to which they go and the hypocrisy they will overlook. We must remember, as libertarians, that unlike the Right and Left, we cannot compromise and be true to what we espouse. We must stand for freedom and choice in every instance and never given in to the temptation to use force except in self-defense. Such an ideology might not be perfect but it is morally and philosophically more consistent than the ends of the political horseshoe.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, March 1). Stats of the States – Firearm Mortality. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/sosmap/firearm_mortality/firearm.htm
- Christian Spencer| April 5, 2021. (2021, April 5). Gun ownership among Black Americans is soaring. The Hill. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://thehill.com/changing-america/respect/diversity-inclusion/546454-gun-ownership-among-black-americans-is-soaring/
- Hartmann, T. (2022, June 8). Ronald Reagan’s moment of massive historical irony: How armed black men led to gun control. Salon. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://www.salon.com/2022/06/08/when-ronald-reagans-saved-lives-armed-black-men-meant-immediate-control_partner/
- US population by year, race, age, ethnicity, & more. USAFacts. (2022, June 8). Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://usafacts.org/data/topics/people-society/population-and-demographics/our-changing-population?gclid=CjwKCAjwkYGVBhArEiwA4sZLuBV_tQiDAPfUm1HaEtBNN19J2iZYXbkDpCwWbd-HPFHqH8MGq98RnRoCHPkQAvD_BwE