Gun-Ownership is Self-Ownership

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In the wake of the New Zealand shooting, familiar rhetoric has resurfaced on both sides of the gun debate. With the left’s shift from “common sense gun laws” to praise for New Zealand’s abrupt resolution to ban all “military-style semi-automatic weapons” it’s clear their advocacy was always about a gun ban.

One refrain I find particularly irritating is the claim that, “Americans care more about guns than they do the lives of X.” The ridiculous implication here is that every gun owner is a potential mass shooter, because no gun owner is a risk to X who is not intent on killing X. Leaving aside that obvious response to that idiotic assertion, I stopped for a moment to consider another aspect of the statement. Why do Americans, or more specifically I, as a libertarian, care about guns?

Aside from the obvious, that guns are really cool, and fun to shoot, the most basic use for a firearm is the defense of one’s property and their life. Individuals have a right to protect their belongings, and the ownership of their own lives is chief among them.

The right to protect property is inherent in the right to any and all property. If you deny the right to ensure that no one takes your property without your consent, then you are denying ownership of your property.

Stemming from that logic, if you have a right to protect your property and life, then you too are the only one with a right to destroy that property unchallenged. So, to deny the right to protect property is to cede the right of property ownership/destruction to another.

By relinquishing the right to bear arms to the state citizens are implicitly granting ownership rights, to the state, of their lives and property, and implicitly the right to destroy that property or life. If property and life protection rights are exclusive to the state then it follows that the state has exclusive ownership rights of all property and people under its protection.

I’m not implying here that the use of force to take property, or failure to protect property, is a rightful transfer of ownership. What I am implying is that to relinquish the right to protect property is to relinquish ownership. Therefore, paying taxes because you don’t want to be fined, imprisoned, or killed, is not relinquishing ownership of money, but paying taxes because you deny your right to keep your money is relinquishing ownership of money.

It is against this tyranny of ownership that the right to bear arms exists. Yes, we bear arms in self-defense, because we own ourselves, and our property. We can bear arms in defense of others, true, but that does not imply ownership of the other, as the other has not willingly relinquished the right to protect or own themselves.

This brings to mind the common progressive assertion that gun rights are rooted in a slave owner’s claim to ownership of slaves. Though I don’t know the history well enough to affirm or challenge the claim, that certainly bears out in this logic.

A slave owner bore the right to protect, keep, and destroy his property, his slaves, but he only bore that right because the slave was stripped of the right to protect his own property, and life, from the very slave owner who kept it.

Thus, the solution was not to remove gun rights from the slave owner, but to restore ownership rights to the slave; to allow them to challenge all claims to their property and life. The slave was not given rights but restored rights, because the slave had rights to their own life and property from birth. It was only stripping them of the right to protect what they own which made them slaves, to begin with. That the right to protect property was restored to the slaves, and not given, is also why the Second Amendment is irrelevant to my right to bear arms, and why the Bill of Rights are commonly regarded as negative rights, rather than positive ones.

The state, however, defending a people who are disarmed, and thus incapable of challenging a state’s assertion of ownership, has implicitly laid claim to all property under its own jurisdiction.

The assertion of the right to bear arms is far more than a fetish for weaponry, an insistence upon self-defense, or defense of property. It is a guard against tyranny, by any people or government that would challenge it, even our own, and a claim to the ownership of ourselves. Gun rights aren’t about gun ownership, they’re about self-ownership. They are a “fuck you” to anyone who’d attempt to use their power to infringe upon our inherent rights; a physical manifestation of those four words emblazoned on the Gadsden Flag, “Don’t tread on me.”

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Dustin Siebel has worked in the health information management field for ten years.