Monday, September 13, 2004

The 'Assault Weapons' Ban and the Patriot Act

The ‘assault weapons’ ban expires today, and liberals are exploiting the occasion to mouth a lot of nonsense. The increasingly fatuous John Kerry warns that it is now easier for terrorists to acquire their weapons. Unlike his opponent, Kerry is articulate. But it is no good being articulate if you have nothing sensible to articulate. The notion that terrorists would arm themselves with semi-automatic rifles – which is what these supposed ‘assault weapons’ are – is ludicrous given the availability to them of fully automatic weapons – not to mention fully loaded jumbo jets. It is worth recalling that terrorists are criminals, and criminals by definition have no respect for laws.

What Kerry, Sarah Brady, Diane Feinstein, and the rest of the Brady Bunch won’t tell you is that the ban that expires today pertains to semi-automatic long guns. Fully automatic rifles, ‘machine guns,’ were made illegal in the 1930's in the USA and remain illegal. A semi-auto fires one round with each pull of the trigger until the clip is exhausted, unlike a fully-automatic which does not require a separate trigger-pull for each round fired. Bear in mind that semi-automatic pistols have been legal all along.

Why would anybody need such a weapon? Any conservative can answer this question, but the best strategy for a conservative is to reject the question altogether. The right question is not: Why does the citizen need to be armed? The right question is: By what right does the government violate the liberty of the law-abiding citizen? Gun-ownership is a liberty issue similarly as taxation is a liberty issue. With respect to taxation, the right question is not: Why should citizens be allowed to keep their wealth? The right question is: What justifies the government in taking their wealth? The onus justificandi is not on the citizen to defend his keeping of his money; the onus justificandi is on the government to justify its taking of his money. The same goes for guns. The burden is on the government to justify its curtailment of individual liberties, not on the citizen to justify his keeping of his liberties. This is because governments exist for the sake of their citizens, and not the other way around.

You might think that liberals would understand all of this. After all, to a man and to a woman they have been decrying the Patriot Act and its supposed threats to our civil liberties. George McGovern began his interview on C-Span’s Book Notes last night on this note. Pick up any book by any liberal these days and you are likely to find this theme. (E.g, Lewis H. Lapham, Gag Rule: On the Suppression of Dissent and the Stifling of Democracy, New York, Penguin, 2004).

Although liberals are absurdly sensitive about First Amendment rights, nary a peep will you hear from them concerning Second Amendment rights. And yet, it is the Second Amendment that backs up the First. Chairman Mao was right about one thing, namely, that power emanates from the barrel of a gun.

There is a curious inconsistency here, is there not? If liberals believe that our civil liberties are under serious assault from Ashcroft & Co., then why are they so unwilling to ensure that real power remain in the hands of the people?

There is something schizophrenic about contemporary liberals. They have a libertarian streak: they want to be able to spout any kind of nonsense, no matter how offensive and irresponsible, and have it protected as ‘dissent.’ Fair enough. Though I find Michael Moore contemptible, I would defend his right to pollute the air waves with his ideological flatulence. But when it comes to gun rights, liberals become as collectivist as Hitler or Fidel Castro. It’s curious, and a worthy theme of further rumination.