Letter to a Liberal Colleague

by L. Neil Smith

[Author's Note: "Adrian" -- name changed to protect the guilty -- and the author are science fiction novelists who once worked with the same editor at a famous New York publishing house.]

Dear Adrian:

         I'm way behind schedule on my current book again, so this reply to your note -- criticizing the recent magazine interview I gave and generally attacking gun ownership -- will necessarily consist mostly of assertions you're free to believe (or not) I can back with evidence and logic I've neither time nor energy to present now. I've written fully on this topic before and will again in the future. When I do, I'll make sure you get copies.
         There are many arguments I might make, from the futility and danger of delegating self-defense to the police (see Don Kates in the Jan. 10, 1985 Wall Street Journal) to the real effect of prohibition, shifting consumers from newly-outlawed handguns or semiautomatic rifles to items like sawed-off shotguns or homemade bombs, but I'll limit myself here to commenting on the newspaper clipping you sent with your note.
         First, the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right -- subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.
         Second, publication of some latter-day "scientific study" doesn't alter the fact that the gun prohibitionists I discussed in my interview -- annoying you so much in the process -- were lying.
         Third, the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right -- subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.
         Fourth, as often happens with these things, the "study" doesn't support the gun prohibitionists' original numerical contentions anyway, but simply adds a new layer of spurious claims to an older body of lies, omissions, and distortions.
         Fifth, the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right -- subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.
         Sixth, the fact that gun prohibitionists have been caught lying on countless occasions (Carl Bakal, author of No Right to Keep and Bear Arms, even confessed to it publicly) makes the value of this present "study" dubious, to say the least.
         Seventh, the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right -- subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.
         Eighth, given your own lifelong service as a federal bureaucrat (not to mention the cynical sophistication of your fiction), you should be better aware than most people how "progress" -- in designing "studies" to prove whatever you want -- outstrips our ability to collect meaningful data. A case in point we might agree on is the fact that it took another kind of prohibitionist 20 or 30 years to create "studies" "proving" that pornography causes crime. More naive (and probably more honest) efforts in the 50s and 60s clearly indicate the contrary.
         Ninth, the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right -- subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.
         Tenth, another reason to doubt all such "studies" is that human behavior (as the Austrian School of economics demonstrates) is far too complex and unpredictable to be meaningfully quantified. The attempt to do so -- and then create public policy based on the resulting pseudo-information -- is wrecking our civilization.
         Eleventh, the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right -- subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.
         Twelfth, the "study" is also worthless because it incorporates figures for suicide, which is not necessarily a tragedy but basically another individual right, sometimes with ancillary social benefits. If anything, perhaps suicide intervention should be a criminal offense.
         Thirteenth and finally, the National Rifle Association officials quoted in the article, whatever their shortcomings (and they are many), are correct in this instance: the "study" is meaningless because the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right -- subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.
         And because of that, Adrian, even if the "study" were valid, it wouldn't deter me from a lifelong personal objective of seeing that anyone can own any weapon he or she prefers and carry it however, whenever, and wherever he or she desires without asking anybody's permission. In this I'm ably assisted by gun prohibitionists themselves, whose yawping invariably moves previously unarmed people to go out and buy their first gun "while they still can". Before the '68 Gun Control Act, most of the "shooting fraternity" viewed handguns (incorrectly, as it turned out) as inaccurate, ineffective toys. There probably weren't six million of them in the whole country. Now, thanks to Kennedy, Metzenbaum, the Bradys, and their ilk -- America's Greatest Sporting Goods Sales Team -- we probably manufacture at least that many every year.
         The fascinating datum is that Handgun Control, et al. are perfectly aware of this -- so I guess you'll have to ask them yourself what their real motives are.
         Look: gun-making isn't an arcane or difficult art (and by the way, it's easier to make a fully automatic weapon than a semiautomatic; the fact that I can still obtain my own weapon of preference, the self-loading pistol, is the only thing which keeps me from pursuing this further). Even if it were difficult, there are already a quarter billion firearms in America, with an estimated "half life" of 1000 years -- possibly more for stainless steel. Guns are gonna be around a long time, Adrian, whether you like it or not.
         As for me, to paraphrase Elmer Keith, regardless of what the law provides or any court decides, I'm always going to be armed. And I will always work to see that others are, as well. The bad news is that there are thousands more -- perhaps even hundreds of thousands -- where I come from. We can't be stopped by passing laws, we can only be forced to arm ourselves and others secretly and -- given both the practical and alleged differences between full automatics and semiautomatics -- perhaps more efficiently.
         So what's the point?


L. Neil Smith is the award-winning author of 19 books including The Probability Broach, The Crystal Empire, Henry Martyn, The Lando Calrissian Adventures, Pallas, and (forthcoming) Bretta Martyn and Lever Action. An NRA Life Member and founder of the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, he has been active in the Libertarian movement for 34 years and is its most prolific and widely-published living novelist.

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