Long, but good read: “The Rifle on the Wall: A Left Argument for Gun Rights”

The Fundamental Political Principle

“That rifle on the wall of the labourer’s cottage or working class flat is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.” — George Orwell

Let’s start with this: The citizen’s right to possess firearms is a fundamental political right. The political principle at stake is quite simple: to deny the state the monopoly of armed force.  This should perhaps be stated in the obverse: to empower the citizenry, to distribute the power of armed force among the citizenry as a whole. The history of arguments and struggles over this principle, throughout the world, is long and clear. Instituted in the context of a revolutionary struggle based on the most democratic concepts of its day, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution is perhaps the clearest legal/constitutional expression of this principle, and as such, I think, is one of the most radical statutes in the world.

The question of gun rights is a political question, in the broad sense that it touches on the distribution of power in a polity.  Thus, although it incorporates all these perfectly legitimate “sub-political” activities, it is not fundamentally about hunting, or collecting, or target practice; it is about empowering the citizen relative to the state. Denying the importance of, or even refusing to understand, this fundamental point of the Second Amendment right, and sneering at people who do, symptomizes a politics of paternalist statism – not (actually the opposite of) a politics of revolutionary liberation.

I’ll pause right here.  For me, and for most supporters of gun rights, however inartfully they may put it, this is the core issue.  To have an honest discussion of what’s at stake when we talk about “gun rights,” “gun control,” etc., everyone has to know, and acknowledge, his/her position on this fundamental political principle.  Do you hold that the right to possess firearms is a fundamental political right?

If you do, then you are ascribing it a strong positive value, you will be predisposed to favor its extension to all citizens, you will consider whatever “regulations” you think are necessary (because some might be) with the greatest circumspection (because those “regulations” are limitations on a right, and rights, though never as absolute as we may like, are to be cherished), you will never seek, overtly or surreptitiously, to eliminate that right entirely – and your discourse will reflect all of that. If you understand gun ownership as a political right, then, for you, if there weren’t a second amendment, there should be.

If, on the other hand, you do not hold that the right to possess firearms is a fundamental political right, if you think it is some kind of luxury or peculiarity or special prerogative, then, of course, you really won’t give a damn about how restricted that non-right is, or whether it is ignored or eliminated altogether.  If you reject, or don’t understand, gun ownership as a political right, then you probably think the Second Amendment should never have been.

Source: Long, but good read: “The Rifle on the Wall: A Left Argument for Gun Rights”

6 thoughts on “Long, but good read: “The Rifle on the Wall: A Left Argument for Gun Rights”

  1. I am commenting without finishing your post, which I will.
    You say: “The citizen’s right to possess firearms is a fundamental political right. ”
    We disagree about the Divine often, but the Framers said it was a human right, bestowed by our Creator, which guarantees it’s inalienability.
    Political rights can be removed by a political process. As has been done.
    My DNA says I have Human Right to a gun.
    Now back to reading.


    • Good points; the area I would quibble is that whether divinely bestowed or a natural right, I say that we have a human right to defend ourselves with means commensurate with the threat. We couldn’t easily have a human right to a firearm, during the era before firearms were invented…..and we’ll have a human right to defend ourselves in future era’s where firearms are long obsolete [presuming we last that long]. I’d say our only divergence is semantic.

      I hope you’ve been able to finish the piece over at the Polemicist. It’s one of the better treatises I’ve read in quite some time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree. The right to bear arms is a political right, and the framers of our constituition made sure we have that right. Note that that right is ensconced in the 2nd Amendment. They amended the original document to include that right. The right to bear arms was added because the framers had gone through about six years of war against a ruling class that was abusing their power.

    We must always give ourselves a chance to set our rulers straight.


    I really don’t want to see everybody carrying guns on the street. There are thousands of crazy people out there, and who knows what it takes to set them off. Even if I am armed, I cannot protect myself and my family all the time.

    Good article.


  3. This one jumped out at me:

    In the current gun rights debate, one does not have to think too hard to catch the tiny little fact that anti-gun-rights liberals, besides not really being pacifists, are not really proposing to eliminate guns at all. Is there one liberal gun-control proposal being put forward that makes the teensiest move toward diminishing the use of guns, including military-style assault weapons, by the police? Is there one that addresses, in the weensiest way, the continuing, massive militarization of the police that has been taking place in this country? Is there one that will take away one gun, one bullet, one armed personnel carrier, one drone, or one dollar from the bloated internal security apparatus (let’s not even mention the foreign war machine) of the American nouveau police state? From its corporate militia comrades?

    No. What all liberal gun-control proposals seek to do, and all they seek to do, is to reduce and eventually eliminate the right of ordinary citizens to possess firearms.

    It is amazing how many self-described “liberals” (I use the term loosely because they are not) completely miss this fact. Even the BlackLivesMatter supporters who hate the police, in a bizarre case of doublethink, believe only the police and military should have guns. “Left versus Right” is just division theater for a regime that combines the worst elements of both.


  4. Yes indeed, but alas, there is a dedicated core of people who do not believe in fundamental rights. They will never get it until some right that they cherish is stripped away from them.

    George Orwell is one of my favorite socialist writers and thinkers. I have books filled with his essays.


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