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L. Neil Smith's
Number 523, June 14, 2009

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Nukes and the Second Amendment
by Mike Blessing

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

I'm sure that we've all heard it before when discussing the right to own and carry weapons (especially handguns) with hoplophobes and fence-sitters—

C'mon now, let's be reasonable here—when they wrote the Second Amendment, they weren't talking about nuclear weapons. Why would anyone want one of those?
FIRST, this argument is a way for the prosepctive hoplophobe to hook you, the ROCW advocate, over to his side. After all, who doesn't want to be "reasonable," right?

NOW for the purposes of discussion, let's assume that my next-door neighbor actually has a fully-functional 20-kiloton fission device in his garage.

SECOND, if he doesn't set it off, who is harmed? If he does decide to detonate, I won't even know it if I'm home—the fireball will vaporize the nerves before the signal has time to register in the brain, and I'll never feel it. And who will the survivors prosecute and/or sue? Certainly not him!

THIRD, I'd like to know who his investment broker is—nukes aren't something you pick up at the flea market for Ø4.99, or at a gun show, despite Brady Campaign agitprop—they generally run a few million FRNs a pop on the black market, and that's for the fully-assembled ones. If you can afford to blow that much cash on a one-use item like that, more power to you.

FOURTH, assuming he decided to go the DIY route to building his membership card in the Don't Fuck With Me Club, it's true that you can get the general theory and some of the specifics from the internet. Still, assembling the parts will be rather expensive—plutonium or yellowcake isn't something that you pick up at Home Depot for pocket change—it's in short supply, as it has peaceful uses in the power-generation field as well as being useful in making nuclear explosives. The deuterium and tritium used in fusion devices is likewise quite rare. Add to this the fact that there's quite a bit of electronics and chemical explosives needed to make the thing work right, as well. Not only does the prospective protege to Dr. Khan need to acquire this stuff, but he also has to know how to handle the yellowcake or plutonium safely (from what I understand, it's rather toxic stuff, chemically speaking, in addition to any radioactivity), as well as making the electronics and chemical explosives all WORK TOGETHER PROPERLY—you'll need at least a bachelor's degree in physics to make this happen—a masters is more likely. If the chemical explosives aren't PRECISELY aligned and centered, they might still go off and vaporize the radioactive core, but you won't get the fireball, flash, shock wave and distinctive mushroom cloud—and that's what the Suburbian Mad Bomber wants, right?

FIFTH, even with just the "physics package" (the part that goes "BOOM!"), you're looking at something at least the size of a basketball, if not a beach ball. This isn't something that you'll fit in your pocket or on your belt, like a handgun that the hoplophobe is trying to talk you out of carrying and owning.

FINALLY, who says that there are not PEACEFUL uses for nuclear explosives? We've had chemical explosives used for over a century for peaceful purposes in these fields—

  • mining
  • road-building
  • tunnel-building
  • demolition to remove old buildings, bridges, etc.

In fact, there HAVE been efforts to use nukes for peaceful purposes—


  1. Micah 4:3—And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
  2. A FAR BETTER use of the name "Orion" than George Worthless' attempt to rebuild the Apollo program—"Long live Nixon!" and all that.
  3. This article was, in part, inspired by an article in The Libertarian EnterpriseRadically Decentralized Defense, by L. Neil Smith

First published at


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