Thursday, June 26, 2008


Sam Smith

I don't own a gun. I was never any good at shooting a gun. I was educated by Quakers and avoid violence every chance I get. Still, I was delighted by the Supreme Court's Second Amendment ruling. Not simply because it upheld the Constitution, but because, in a land whose leaders are increasingly contemptuous of democracy and its people and where the specter of dictatorship has loomed as never before, an armed citizenry is one of the last defenses - both symbolic and practical - left to us.

My view of guns has also been affected by spending time in Maine, one of the best armed and least violent places in America, and having had a wonderful hunting father-in-law. While I never went hunting myself, whenever liberals would rail against gun ownership, I would think of him sitting in a blind in northern Wisconsin waiting for the ducks to appear.

It turned out that there was another advantage for a peace loving progressive to oppose taking away other people's guns. Once some of these folks found I wasn't after their guns, they were more willing to listen to my ideas on other subjects. It was something many liberals have never learned: don't mess around too much with the other person's culture. Stick to the big things that can bring us together.

Some people think I'm paranoid for imagining a time when the people might have to choose between their freedom and their government. I hope the day never comes but I know it's happened elsewhere and I know that one of the things that slows potential dictators down is knowing that the people they are trying to suppress are also armed.

Besides, I've stopped worrying about worrying. About a decade and a half ago I began writing about the creeping coup that was infiltrating American government and thought. When I go back and read that stuff, the main thing that strikes me is that I didn't worry enough. For all intents and purposes, the First American Rrepublic is over. We now live under an adhocracy in a post constitutional era of uncertain future.

That's why the Supreme Court decision was so important. Old conservatives would have easily stood up for the Second Amendment, but the new authoritarians driven by a political puritanism - and who thrive in both major parties - could easily have said more control was necessary. For the court, it was a close call.

There are piles of practical arguments to support the court's decision - beginning with the fact that murders soared after the contested DC law was passed - but most of all it means that guns will not be the sole property of a government disloyal to its citizens and their rights or of those individuals who see them as a weapon of personal abuse. Good guys can own them, too, and keep them in their homes. And that little fact may make us all a bit saner and safer.


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