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L. Neil Smith's

Number 830, July 19, 2015

A weapon in every hand;
freedom on every side.
—F. Paul Wilson

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At The Gate
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

There is an old Air Force fable my father liked to tell, possibly apocryphal, about a young Air Policeman, standing duty at the entrance to his Strategic Air Command base when a jeep came blasting through the gate. He hesitated only a moment, then fired a shot at the jeep from his 1911A1 or his M-1 Carbine. The jeep, 100 yards inside the base, slammed to a halt, then backed up to the gate. The sergeant was afraid he was in trouble for firing on the jeep. Out stepped General Curtis Lemay, later of Strategic Air Command, and ripped a stripe off of the Air Policeman's uniform. "That's for missing!" growled Gen. Lemay.

It's a great story, but it never could have happened on any Air Force base I grew up on or near. In the 50s, Air Police were issued .45s, but required to carry the magazines in an odd little recess between the holster and the belt. In the 60s, when public relations were the priority of the day, they were issued .38 revolvers and no ammunition.

Now allow me to present you with two conflicting principles, and see what we can do with them. The first is that a soldier is a man who has a gun. In fact, that's roughly 90% of the basic definition of a soldier.

The equal but opposite principle is that today, the military will do absolutely anything to keep guns and ammunition out of the hands of its personnel. Privately owned firearms must be registered and locked up on base. Guards are gunless or issued empty guns, The Marines guarding the Tehran embassy were required to store their M-16s across the street. There wasn't even any mention that I heard of where the Military Police were at Fort Hood when that evil Islamoshrink shot so many people with his ,357 Wesson revolver and and his Flash Gordon FNH .22.

Ironically, I learned to "aim small, miss small" at Pepperrell Air Force Base, in a cozy basement shooting range, in a competition program sponsored by the National Rifle Association and Boy Scouts of America.

One reason, of course, for military gun-free killing zones is the dire need the military experienced during the 1960s for conscriptees—for which read military slaves. Almost any scum were gratefully-accepted. Judges regularly sentenced car thieves and other such criminals with "go to jail or join the Army". Would you really like to issue guns to society's dregs like that? My dad, who ran Vehicle Maintenance Departments in Newfoundland and in Florida, was always having to get his younger men out of jail on various charges. Sometimes, in Florida, it was simply because the Sheriff's deputies were moronic redneck thugs and many of Dad's men were black. The uniform made them "uppity." Sometimes it resembled the Jerry Springer show, one of his Airmen got his wife and mother-in-law pregnant simultaneously. And they say incest is a game the whole family can enjoy.

As a teenager,I was taught to throw a knife and an axe to good effect by a youngish Lieutenant Colonel in the First Air Commando Group who'd remarkably earned his Master's degree in Anthropology by making and learning to use primitive weapons. He spent his spare time in Vietnam teaching airplane mechanics on the maintenance line to throw a two-foot screwdriver like a knife whenever the Viet Cong came marauding around. But when your enemy is armed with an AK-47 and half a dozen hand grenades, a screwdriver must seem like a pretty frail reed. If possible, it's even worse than bringing a knife to a gun fight.

So, am I saying that Air Police and Military Police (and Shore Patrols) should be fully armed at all times? Not at all. I'm saying that all military personnel should be armed at all times. A soldier is a guy (or a gal) with a gun. You can't have it two ways. An unarmed soldier is a joke—and potentially a corpse. Officers should wear their sidearms publicly and proudly; a democratic republic should issue equally-effective sidearms to all of its enlisted personnel as well.

Pentagon officials and other military bigwigs who oppose this principle, which would put an immediate stop to base-shootings like the one in Chattanooga that happened today are criminally negligent. A very big part of the problem is corruption or stupidity in high places. Shamefully, the U.S.government treats its soldiers very badly and without respect. The lower ranks are forced to go on welfare to feed their families, and seek food stamps. The sleazy, sloppy treatment they receive in Veterans' Administration hospitals closely resembles being sentenced to a Third World prison. Incompetent, uncaring doctors don't listen and have to be argued into doing what is required of them.

Years ago, I prescribed, in an article for Reason/Frontlines that the raw numbers of American military personnel be reduced, that it should become very difficult to join the military, and that military personnel receive a tenfold raise in wages. Now I say, arm them, as well, and allow them to defend themselves as they defend our country.

The alternative is more death.

Celebrated and award-winning author of over 30 books and countless shorter pieces, L. Neil Smith is available, at professional rates, to write articles and speeches for you or your organization, providing that our principles are compatible. Contact him at

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