Gun Ownership Is Political Violence

Gun Ownership Is Political Violence

Let’s call the 2nd Amendment what it is—the codification of a grave reality. Minuteman statue in Lexington, Massachusetts. One of my neighbors has a bumper sticker: “The 2nd Amendment isn’t for hunting.” He’s correct as a matter of constitutional law—the Bill of Rights affirms the right to private gun ownership and, in effect, creates a form of distributed sovereignty that prevents the state from having a monopoly on force. In case after case, the Supreme Court has struck down attempts to limit this right, and seems poised to further expand gun rights next year. But pretending gun ownership is a privilege granted by government cedes too much ground. The right must unapologetically embrace the substance of the left’s complaint that the 2nd Amendment endorses violence as pillar of American politics. In the Politics , Aristotle explains how “heavily armed men” (hoplites) form the foundation of political order. Their violent coercion, even in the form of bloodless potency, overrides both the wealth of shiftless plutocrats and the inheritance claims of the gentry. Americans will recognize the colonial minutemen as our hoplites—not an inconvenient anomaly from America’s past, but the politically necessary foundation for America’s present and future. Aristotle is being descriptive, not prescriptive: he observes that while the liberties of landowners and craftsmen should be protected, the liberties of the hoplite are protected by definition. While reason must precede law, violence always precedes order. The American right must acknowledge the association of guns with violence, while rejecting the fallacy that […]

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