by J.D. Tuccille
April 6, 1997

Gunning for Freedom

A large, well-funded American civil liberties group has taken its show on the road. Contending that freedom is an international issue that is under assault all around the world, this group has taken on an active role in lobbying the U.N. and supporting foreign sister organizations. You can imagine the reaction of U.S. editorialists. That’s right — they’re outraged.

What? Outraged that Americans are taking an active interest in freedom beyond the national borders?

Well, yeah. Ya see, the civil liberties group is the National Rifle Association and it’s giving aid and comfort to gun rights activists around the world. But respectable commentators — like tree-huggers who confine their efforts to cute animals and pretty plants — shy away from nasty, unpopular rights. And, if there’s one freedom that sticks in the craw of pundits who wear civil libertarian credentials like oh-so-trendy designer sunglasses, it’s the right to keep and bear arms.

The criticism of the NRA’s actions is a litany of people-who-miss-the-point. Other countries don’t have a Second Amendment. How dare Americans tell them that they have a right to bear arms!

Other countries don’t have a First Amendment protecting free speech, either, or an Eighth Amendment barring cruel and unusual punishment, yet still we protest when foreign brownshirts round-up political dissidents and hang ’em upside-down over a steaming latrine. How presumptuous of us.

The truth is, Americans don’t protect personal rights because they were codified in the Bill of Rights and now we’re stuck with them, we enumerated those rights in the Bill of Rights to give ’em extra protection. This country was founded on the principal that liberty is a natural right that no government can ever take away. That’s why we rarely feel ... errr ... culturally insensitive when Amnesty International representatives tap the Chinese ambassador on the shoulder to chat about the disappearance of protesting college students.

And so it is with gun ownership, which has always been the back-stop of liberty, an implied threat dangling over the heads of over-ambitious politicians and generalissimos. Even in the territory of the old Soviet Union, under a totalitarian government, the regions with a tradition of personal weapons — and the will to use them — retained the greatest degree of autonomy, reaching unspoken agreement with Moscow over the limits of central control. Tiny Chechnya was able to fight the Russian army to a standstill after the fall of the communists.

On the world scene, British commentators have been typically hysterical, attacking the NRA for “sticking their noses into British business.”

But Britain is the birthplace of the American concept of weapons ownership as a hedge against the state. We inherited the idea from them. Adding to irony is Britain’s status as a one-time beneficiary of the NRA: During Word War II, the NRA collected donations of thousands of private American firearms for the defense of the under-armed island from German invasion.

Come to think of it, how bright an idea is gun control on any land mass shared with Germany?

Happily, the British libertarian tradition is far from dead, and the British Shooting Sports Council may join the 11-country coalition that is constituting itself as the World Forum on the Future of Sports Shooting Activities. Prominent activist Sean Gabb has established himself as a powerful voice in the U.K. — in print, on the air, and over the Internet — for the traditional rights of Englishmen, which include the right to bear arms.

Thousands of miles from the one-time mother country, the Australian media has been as shrill as the British in denouncing the NRA. Australian gun owners, under attack, and with an antigovernment tradition of their own, have probably been the most enthusiastic about forging an international alliance. The Australians have also voiced a rare willingness to simply defy that country’s oppressive new gun laws. Based as they are in the Pacific, the Aussies are very conscious of the Japanese government’s strong support for world-wide gun control measures.

And that’s where we come back to How dare the NRA ... Ya see, the fight is already international, backed by the Japanese and Canadian governments, through the good graces of the United Nations. So gun rights advocates now find themselves in the same situation as free speech advocates of the early 1980s, who banded together against a third-world-despot-inspired call for international rules on better media treatment of ... well ... third-world despots. Then, as now, the offending countries cited their “different traditions” and peculiar local customs such as banning unfriendly newspapers and expelling foreign journalists. But western commentators stuck to their ... ummm ... guns and argued that free speech was a universal right. The free speech advocates were right then, and the NRA is right now. International assaults on personal liberty require international responses.

I’m looking forward to seeing the new World Forum in action, just as I welcome any effort that recognizes that Americans have no monopoly on the right to be free. In an odd way, I even welcome the screams of the editorialists and freedom-haters. As long as they’re upset, I know that somebody is doing something right.

Ah well, and so much for the power of argument. So back you go to Full Automatic or to my home page.

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Copyright (c) 1997 Jerome D. (Il Tooch) Tuccille. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Il Tooch is prohibited. Mess with me and I’ll use your polished skull as a beer mug.