Someone smart — maybe it was Epictetus, or Mark Twain — said that what matters isn’t what happens to you, but what you learn from what happens to you.
So, what’s happening to us now?
Well, we have a truckload of anti-gun bills moving towards passage by the legislature, and we’re depending on a pseudo-Republican governor to veto them, and hoping that his vetoes won’t be over-ridden.
And what should we be learning from this?
Well, in some stories about vampires, a vampire can’t come into your house unless you invite him. It turns out that the same is true about anti-gun bills. And we need to learn to stop inviting them.
What do I mean by that?
For years, I’ve cringed whenever I’ve heard pro-gun advocates talk about ‘the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms’ — something I heard several times at yesterday’s Hold the Line Rally in Concord.
But the state constitution doesn’t say that the right to keep and bear arms belongs to ‘law abiding citizens’. It says that the right belongs to ‘all persons’.
Not ‘persons we approve of’. Not ‘persons who don’t scare us’. Not ‘persons who are not prohibited’. Just ‘all persons’.
Every time we pretend that ‘all’ means ‘some’, so that we can keep guns away from certain kinds of people — the ones who scare us — we create a line where one doesn’t exist in our constitutions. And if the history of legislation tells us anything, it’s that any line, once drawn, will inevitably move, and nearly always in the direction of greater government power.
The reason we have to keep coming back to Concord to ‘hold the line’ against anti-gun legislation, is that pro-gun advocates helped create a line where there wasn’t one, and shouldn’t have been one.
That is, pro-gun advocates routinely say that they are in favor of keeping guns away from convicted felons. (And not even violent felons — just anyone whose crime is serious enough to warrant at least a year in jail. Committed computer fraud? Stolen property worth more than $500? No guns for you!)
They are saying: Regardless of what our constitutions say, some persons shouldn’t be allowed to have guns, because we are scared that if they have guns, they might misuse them. And it’s the legislature’s job to pass laws to keep guns away from them.
Now compare that to the justification for a so-called Red Flag Law: Regardless of what our constitutions say, some persons shouldn’t be allowed to have guns, because we are scared that if they have guns, they might misuse them . And it’s the legislature’s job to pass laws to keep guns away from them.
It’s exactly the same. Any differences between the two are differences of degree, not differences of kind.
Ultimately, the game being played by advocates of Red Flag laws — and universal background check laws, and laws barring guns from schools, and every other piece of ‘common sense’ gun control legislation — is to claim that the words of the state and federal constitutions don’t really mean what they say, but rather have other meanings (e.g., ‘all’ really means ‘some’, and ‘right’ really means ‘permission’) that allow us to interpret them in ways that harmonize more comfortably with our prejudices.
But they’re just playing a game that we showed them how to play. We played it in order to take guns from people who scare us. And now they’re playing it in order to take guns from people who scare them. They’re just continuing what we started.
So if we’re looking for someone to blame, it’s not Michael Bloomberg, or Shannon Watts, or even Democrats in the legislature. We made this mess. And it’s up to us to un-make it, if we ever get the chance, by accepting that words have meanings, even when we don’t like them.