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32


THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 32, August 1, 1997

Rights vs. Social Utility

By Sarah Thompson, M.D.
righter@therighter.com

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         I recently received an e-mail from some gun rights advocates which proposed the following:

1. The Constitution is the standard argument for the right to keep and bear arms.
2. "Joe and Jane Sixpack", not to mention "Joseph and Janet Champagne", don't think the Constitution matters.
3. Scholars such as Kleck, Kates, and Lott have demonstrated that firearms ownership has social utility.
4. Therefore, we should abandon the Second Amendment as the basis of our arguments and attempt to persuade the public to accept gun ownership on emotional terms as having "social utility".

         My response follows.
         It is true that "Joe and Jane Sixpack" don't care a bit about the Constitution. It is sad, but true, that most of the justices don't either. But think about what you're proposing. Do you really want to concede, a priori, that the Constitution is irrelevant, that all that matters is "social utility"? Do you want to change the rules of engagement so that pragmatism trumps rights? If you do so, I maintain that the battle, and the war, are irrevocably lost.
         Rights are unchanging and immutable, because they are of nature, or God, if you're so inclined. "Social utility" is so inconstant and capricious as to be virtually meaningless. If, someday, someone comes up with statistics that refute Kleck and Lott, will you then willingly turn in your firearms?
         And who gets to define "social utility" anyway? It was of tremendous social utility for the British to disarm the lawless and rebellious colonists. It was of equally great social utility for Hitler to disarm Jews and anyone else who didn't support him. The current administration thinks it is social utility to label any and all dissenters "terrorists", and then to deprive them of all rights, harass, disarm, and imprison them. Is that really what you want?
         Make no mistake: the argument is most assuredly not about the relative niceties of self-defense against muggers and rapists. I'm not discounting this aspect; as a woman, and former victim, I know how important it is. But ultimately the argument is about tyranny; not just the tyranny of one stronger person against one weaker person, but the tyranny of any government, state, church or group that wishes to inflict its will on any other individual or group by force.
         There's nothing wrong with Kates's, Kleck's or Lott's work. It's excellent, but it's totally irrelevant to rights. Its utility is in demonstrating conclusively that those who favor gun control are de facto supporting murder, rape and assault against innocent citizens. However, if you use social utility as your primary argument, you are playing the enemy's game. But the enemy, and its ministry of propaganda, the media, are infinitely better at playing it, and have infinitely more resources, than the right to keep and bear arms movement ever will. Never, ever agree to play by the enemy's rules!
         While it's true, as was stated in the letter, that the law rarely establishes norms but rather follows cultural norms, this is no argument for basing laws on opinion polls and then trying to influence the polls. It's bad enough that Congress operates that way.
         Perhaps I'm confused, but I thought the goal of all this was to create and preserve a culture where respect for the Constitution, respect for individual rights and liberties is the norm! If, instead, the goal is for us gunowners to be safe from "bad guys", while we ignore our neighbors being dragged off to prison in the middle of the night, maybe we all need to reevaluate what we're doing and why.
         Remember that Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted openly that the disarmament of British subjects had nothing to do with safety and everything to do with eliminating the influence of the "American gun culture". He was successful, and the vast majority of British "sheeple" happily agreed to be disarmed, foolishly believing that they were creating a "safer society".
         Expect no less here. We are living in a fascist state that is just beginning to consolidate its powers. I predict that genocide will be attempted against gun owners here as well. We will be declared "enemies of the state" and "social utility" will be defined as disarming, or exterminating, gunowners and anyone else misguided enough to take the Constitution literally. The reason we are being "allowed" "permits" is to drug us into forgetting about rights, and to lure us into putting our names and firearms and fingerprints into databases.
         Legislation is meaningless. The Constitution is all the "legislation" we need. What we must do is to reclaim our rights regardless of what Congress does or does not do. An unconstitutional law is no law at all.
         We do need to educate the people, but not to accept the social utility of firearms. Those who would be citizens of a free state must be educated to understand the concepts of individual rights, responsibilities and liberties. Any other path is tyranny. Any other path is doomed.


Sarah Thompson is a writer, physician, ex-activist and self-proclaimed pot-stirrer. She has written on topics including the Constitution (particularly the Second Amendment), activism, Waco, Jews and firearms, and is currently working on her first novel. Sarah is also Director of Women's Affairs for Doctors for Integrity in Policy Research and has testified and lectured on the social utility of firearms. She lives in Sandy, UT with her husband and two cats.


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