Perspective on Guns and Freedom

I just did a quick online search, and found exactly what I expected to find. In Ukraine, gun ownership is not regulated by statute, the country enjoys high rates of private gun ownership, and “Citizens are permitted to own non-fully automatic rifles and shotguns as long as they are stored properly when not in use.” 

Meanwhile, Ukraine is the only country on the planet right now that has displayed a full commitment to defending its sovereignty and self-determination against aggressive tyranny. Likewise, it is the only country on the planet right now in which the civilian population has proven itself capable, on very short notice and under the most extreme duress, of recasting itself as a brilliant and courageous fighting force for freedom. 

In The United States of America, the country the world loves to hate for its absurd and unconscionable permissiveness regarding gun ownership, there is once again a tremendous demand for “gun control,” i.e., statutory regulation of guns, severe limits on the right to own firearms, and in principle the gradual disarming of the civilian population. Advocates of this disarming are keen to scoff at defenders of gun rights who cite the original moral premise behind the constitutional protection of the right to bear arms, namely that the Founding Fathers saw the essential importance of protecting the citizenry’s freedom to defend itself at all times against tyrannical expansions of government power. Knowing as they did that human nature is corrupted by power, and that political history may be represented as nothing but the serial failures of men’s efforts to liberate themselves from authoritarian states, the American founders determined that one necessary practical limit on the same corruption occurring in their newly founded republic would be the explicit denial, in founding law, of the government’s authority to disarm the citizenry.

To restate the point upon which I began: There is only one country on Earth today about which we may say without reservation that its citizens were ready, willing, and able, both materially and morally, to stand up collectively and effectively against the well-armed behemoth of a vast authoritarian state seeking to swallow their country whole. That country also happens to be one of the few remaining in the advanced world outside of North America in which private gun ownership is widespread and (more importantly) not generally frowned upon.

One final point. What restrictions Ukraine had imposed on private gun ownership were immediately lifted when Russia invaded this February. Any citizen could acquire a gun simply by presenting valid identification. It was suddenly, urgently understood how important it was for private citizens to be not only allowed but encouraged to be prepared to defend their families and communities against tyranny. The principle that motivated the Ukrainian government to initiate that new policy is the same principle that motivated the American founders, the only difference being that the latter understood that if a country were to maintain its freedom over the long term, private weapons ownership was just as necessary — and perhaps more so — as a defense or warning against the excesses of one’s own government as against those of a foreign government. The reason for the constitutional protection of this right is obvious from a simple observation of the current situation in Ukraine, in which the government lifted all restrictions on private gun acquisition in the face of an external threat. Needless to say, no government would do the same in response to an internal threat to the citizenry — that is, against a threat instigated by that government itself. Hence the need to entrench the right to bear arms in founding law, thereby permanently fencing off the citizenry’s right to protect itself from the arbitrary control of this or that government faction.

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