Gun Control Even a Conservative Can Love (But Not a Libertarian)

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Recently by Joshua Katz: An Open Letter to the Police


The state of Connecticut can now congratulate itself on having gun laws that, if not the most restrictive in the nation, are at least very close to it. Legislators are to be thanked for their hard work discouraging gun ownership among the law abiding and making felons of the innocent. Rapists, home invaders, and murders will, I hope, put out a press release thanking our leaders for making their jobs safer and easier.

Oddly, though, the representatives and senators who worked so hard to pass this bill seemed not to want any credit. The passed the bill under cover of darkness, holding the final vote at 2:30 am. Debate, of course, did feature many comments from our Masters about just how hard they are working, just how proud they are of themselves and their colleagues for seeing through, in just one day, the entire process of disarming the citizens.

What's that, just one day? Indeed — the text was completed on the same day the bill went to a vote in both houses. No senator or representative, then, could make even a pretext of reading the bill they were voting on. There is no time for such wasteful activities as seeing what abuse they are heaping on the taxpayers. The bill was passed under a procedure known as Emergency Certification, invented for such situations as an on-going invasion or other situation requiring immediate action in response to a crisis. Using it in this situation simply reinforces the contempt those in Hartford feel for those who elect them. The procedure bypasses public hearings and committee referrals, bringing the bill immediately to the floors of both houses of the assembly. Our Masters do not want to hear from the irritating plebians they claim to represent.

The vote was almost party line, with an important exception. While most Republicans found the spine to vote no, almost the entire Republican leadership in both houses voted for it. This, while stunning, is not at all surprising. The higher one rises in government power, the more one comes to fear armed citizens and to embrace the power of the state.

Most frightening, though, is the attitude of those who found the strength to vote no. The bill combined three ideas: universal background checks, magazine restrictions, and mental health restrictions. The most commonly voiced complaint from those opposing the bill was not that the Constitutions of the US and the state of Connecticut explicitly recognize the right to keep and bear arms. Rather, the most common complaint was that the bill should really be three separate bills. Almost without exception, they told of their struggle to decide how to vote, since they opposed magazine restrictions but, of course, favored the mental health provisions. That is, among gun rights supporters, there is almost unanimous support for mental health restrictions.

We have finally found, then, a gun control method for conservatives to love! What could possibly be more popular than hating The Other? The liberal, of course, need only conjure a picture of hunters, Constitutionalists, preppers, and Nascar fans to find the hated Other. The conservative has long opposed gun control because he does not think of this type of person as the Other. That role, though, can be filled by the so-called mentally ill. Now the conservative, too, can join in the game of fearing those who differ from him and disarming those he fears.

The tactic, used by supporters of gun rights, of scapegoating others to save the right to keep and bear arms — of saying "no, no, it's not us — attack them over there!" — is not new. Sadly, those who stand up to fight for some particular right have, with few exceptions, been willing to throw others under the bus. Those who fought for the right to interracial marriage hastened to assure their listeners that they weren't interested in the rights of u2018perverts and deviants.' Today, gay marriage advocates rush to demonstrate that they are discussing only extending legal privileges to monogamous homosexuals — emphasizing that they love men through no fault of their own, certainly they would never choose to deviate from middle-class values — not endorsing polygamy or in any way wanting to protect the rights of others who deviate more than they do from the norm. Liberation movements, sadly, have almost exclusively been interested in bringing their members into the fold of privilege, not fighting for uniform rights for all. Their members are brought into this fold by targeting some other group as the real bad guys.

So too, we now see gun rights defenders struggling to identify the real bad guys who should be stripped of their rights. Rather than pointing out the obvious — that there is no epidemic of mass-shootings, that infrequent bad events do happen, are a byproduct of being human, and that even utter tyranny cannot prevent them — in fact, makes them more common — they look for other bad guys. The NRA first settled on children, calling for more armed policemen in schools — knowing full well that those officers would be used as enforcers against the children, keeping them more firmly enslaved in the system of mind control that we call education. The consensus now, though, is that rather than sacrificing our children to gun rights, we should sacrifice the mentally ill. This is a far better choice, as the mentally ill appear far more scary than children.

One problem with this approach is the obvious immorality of purchased your freedom at the cost of another's, who has done nothing to harm anyone. Another problem is that it won't work. Banning the mentally ill from owning guns is not a way around gun control, it is an end-run towards gun control. Mental illness is fundamentally undefined and indefinable. The word means nothing more or less than making others uncomfortable — and gun owners, it is well known, make many uncomfortable. Anyone wanting a gun is presumed either to be paranoid about crime or desirous of protecting himself from government tyranny — which, of course, marks him as crazy, hence not permitted to own a gun.

The face is, mental illness is a catch-all phrase for signifying that a person behaves in a way that is undesired, either by society at large or by the power structure. Children are routinely drugged for behaving like, well, like children — wanting to run and play, not sit and be instructed on abstract matters beyond their developmental level. Mental illness is an artifact of a system of social control in which no person should be discomforted by the actions of another, or by anything they find unpleasant. It is an artifact of a system of social control in which a person is judged by their adherence to the norms instituted by the powerful, for their own purposes. The schools are a perfect example of this. Children are expected to behave in a way that maximizes, not their own benefit, but the ease with which teachers and administrators can get through the day with a minimum of thought and difficulty.

Psychiatrists are simply one arm of our social control systems, working in tandem with police, courts, and prisons. This is the system to which conservatives are now comfortable turning over gun control. To them I ask — if you do not believe that government has the right to restrict access to weapons, as I do not — then how can government delegate this power to psychiatrists? As unaccountable as government is, are we to trust a medical monopoly more — especially a branch of medicine which explicitly disavows any objective means of verifying an illness, and insists that illness can be defined by committee and diagnosed by symptoms only — so long as the clinician has been duly accepted into the club?

The mentally ill are those who are out of step with society — an ever increasing group in this age of statism, in this age where the orthodoxy grows ever more demanding. It is expected that the statists, the control freaks among us, will want to deny the right of self-defense to those who are too different. It is a sad day, though, when the friends of freedom, liberty's only friends — the defenders of one of our most important rights, the ability to defend oneself against tyranny — when these, too, join in the crusade. It is a sad day when defenders of gun rights turn around and say "yes, well, except for Those people."

If it means anything to stand for freedom, it means to stand for unpopular freedoms. It means to stand for the rights of those whose actions you don't quite understand. It means to let your love of freedom overcome you fear of what others might do. The mental illness loophole might be a form of gun control that even a conservative can love, but the true defenders of freedom and of gun rights will not be fooled. Self defense and defense against tyrants for all — usual and unusual mental processes alike!

Joshua Katz, JP(L) [send him mail], Chair of the Mathematics Department at the Oxford Academy in Westbrook, CT. He is overseeing the overhaul of the mathematics curriculum and the creation of a new curriculum to use mathematics to develop the rational mind and moral character of students. A critic of traditional schooling, he works to ensure that his department is a place where diversity of opinion and pursuit of individual passions is welcomed and encouraged, and where groupthink is forbidden (except for those who like it.) He is Secretary of the Connecticut Libertarian Party and, as a member of the Westbrook Zoning Board of Appeals, the only current Libertarian officeholder (by party) in the state of Connecticut. He is a paramedic with the Westbrook Fire Department, and an avid participant in Crossfit. He was state co-director for Gary Johnson 2012, and is current state director for Our America Initiative..

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