Recently by William L. Anderson: Understanding the ProgressiveMind
Whenever one 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 gun bans.
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.
Nonetheless, 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.
(Lest someone 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:
- Individuals have rights, and one of those rights is the right to self-defense;
- Firearms 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;
- Therefore, individuals should not be impeded by the State from owning firearms.
The Progressive 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:
- Therefore, private individuals have no right to firearm ownership.
A parallel Progressive syllogism would be constructed as such:
- An all-powerful and unlimited State is necessary for the functioning of a good society;
- All individuals employed in occupations that defend the State have the right to self-defense;
- Therefore, 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). To typical 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.
Lest anyone 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:
A homeowner (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.
Several years 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 possible.
Thus, 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:
Published 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.
Other Progressives 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.
Unfortunately, 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.
Likewise, Progressives 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.)
Furthermore, 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. Malcolm writes about a spree shooting in Great Britain by a man carrying a banned semi-automatic rifle:
In 1987, Michael 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)
British 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 be it.
One cannot "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.
Unfortunately, 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."
William 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 his blog.