In the debate around gun rights, how much can you say about your intentions without violating the law with your speech?
As I've said almost continually for years... "Liberals are cowards." They will happily knuckle under to anyone who threatens to use force to support their political position. That's why they've maintained a policy of preemptive surrender in all international conflict, and will happily bully non violent Christians domestically while they cower in fear of violence from a tiny Muslim minority.
Which is what makes this piece from Charles Blow so interesting. He's basically talking about the 'extreme language' of the gun rights debate and how it is getting in the way of the liberal goal of disarming the citizenry. But the best part is how he's so certain of his perspective that it never occurs to him that any rational person could hold another view. The media always talks about gun rights groups and their spokesmen as being 'crazy', because they resist the incrementalism that is so common in liberal policy initiatives. But Mr. Blow calls attention to one specific spokesman who I think it's important to listen to.
Near the end of his piece he links to this story about a man from Tennessee named James Yeager. Mr. Yeager made a video where he asserts that he won't be pushed any further where gun control is concerned, and in the civil war that further efforts would inspire, he'd be happy to "fire the first shot".
Like Mr. Blow and the rest of the coastal media, the people at rawstory.com refer to this as 'unhinged'. I and many of the gun rights activists I know would characterize it differently. But however you may feel about it, Mr. Yeager's comments are certainly at the extreme end of the public debate about gun control.
Here's the thing though. Few people will say so publicly, but there are a great many people in the firearms community who feel exactly as Mr. Yeager does. I know many of them. But they avoid stating their feelings in a public forum because it can, in the most extreme cases, be interpreted as language which is no longer protected as political speech, and could be interpreted as sedition. That's criminal speech in and of itself, and since the firearms community is more law abiding than average, they would prefer not to break that law either.
Let me put it another way. In much of the firearms community, killing a congressman is viewed as a rational and patriotic act if the congressman is an active part of a tyrannical government and is no longer acting lawfully. It's viewed as an attempt to assert the public will over its servant using the only means the public has left. Once the government has slipped over that legal line, this is considered not just OK, but a good thing.
But until the government crosses that line, even stating your potential future acts when they do so, isn't considered OK - at least not in any forum that it can be proved you have said it. And although members of the press are first amendment absolutists for themselves, when it comes to voicing your intent to resist government will by force, they're as happy as anyone to see you locked away indefinitely.
So I was hoping I could make an appeal to brother Frithguild, and any of you others out there who might have some insight to offer.
How much can you say about the violence you intend in this debate? Can you say "If the government does X then I will do Y!" if Y constitutes armed resistance to what you view as a tyrannical government? Because it seems to me that it would be in our interest to make it clear to liberals exactly how close they are to provoking a large scale violent response, but we don't want to have to break the law just to say so.
I know at some point on this continuum it comes back down to Benjamin Franklin's old quote about Revolutions. "They are never legal in the third person as in their revolution. They are only ever legal in the first person such as " our revolution." The prevailing view depends on who inevitably get's to tell the story.
But surely there is some clear line here between free political speech and the crimes of "inciting violence" or sedition. We know that if we were all minorities like the New Black Panther's or some other such group, we could say what we like without fear of government action. But being who we are, we must be more careful than that.
The justice department has made it plain that they intend to represent the interests of white, male, heterosexual Americans less vigorously than other groups. And it's not out of line to see the government as being "against" the interests of law abiding firearms owners. So having some sort of legal guidelines about what can and can't be said, would be to the great advantage of the entire firearms owning community.
The people who want to ban all guns are cowards, so we want them to be scared because it means they appreciate the reality of the situation. But we don't want to give them the excuse to round us all up for sedition before a single shot is ever fired.
James Yeager (pictured above) has lost his pistol permit over what he said.
%%%%%%%%%% UPDATE For LIBERALS %%%%%%%%%%
This piece has been linked to a source of liberal comments (Charles Blow tweeted it) but was written for conservatives, so I thought I'd explain something a little more clearly so the liberals reading it will understand.
Depending on whose estimate you use, there are something north of 100 million homes in America with firearms in them. Now you liberals have made it clear that you'd like to use the force of government to eliminate a large number of those firearms at the very least - to many of you eliminating all of them would be better. So would you pass a law to do that if you could? Would you say... repeal the second amendment?
Suppose you could only do it like Obamacare, by using a parliamentary trick to usurp popular support. That wouldn't exactly be straightforward, but it would certainly be legal. (The process at least.) Would you still do it then? How about by presidential edict? Is it an important enough issue to you to allow the president to override a constitutional right directly, even though such an act would be pushing the limits of legality at the very least?
If you said yes to this last part let me ask you this. Would you still do it by presidential edict if you knew that the act of doing so would be viewed as an illegal act by some tiny portion of the population - say 1%? OK... how about if that 1% was heavily armed and actually represented something like 1 million men who would resist your presidential edict with force? That means that your (at least arguably illegal) act would result in hundreds of thousands of deaths at a the very least - would you do it then?
Maybe you're saying yes right now and maybe no. But either way, understanding the consequences of an act is important. And you can only understand those consequences if people are allowed to state them. 1 million people is certainly a minority, but it's a lot of people. And if my sampling of the sport shooting and hunting community is typical (and I truly think it is) then there are a lot more people out there than that who feel that strongly about it. Charles Blow isn't just right about the extreme language out there. Given his circle, I think he's VASTLY underestimating it.
The second amendment was put in place to arm the populace against a tyrannical government. But like speed limits, here in the US anyway, the threat of force is almost always enough to prevent the requirement of actually using force. So when I say that I want those in government to be scared of us, what I mean is that I hope they fear the threat of force enough so that actual force never need be used.
I am not James Yeager. I'm a middle aged banker who makes his way in the world through commerce. I have no illusions about personally shedding the blood of tyrants. I'm prepared to use force to protect myself and my family, and to put myself in harm's way on their behalf. But I'm not one of the people out there demanding a politician's head on a pike. I know many of those people, but I don't personally think it's gone anywhere near that far.
But in spite of that, I think it serves everyone's interests for us all to be able to speak frankly about how we see this issue and I think James Yeager's view and those of the people who share it, should be included in that conversation. In fact, I think it's the more extreme views like his that are the most important.
In that respect I take the opposite view of Mr. Blow. I don't think extreme language stands in the way of rational debate, I think it's the most important part of it. If there are a million people out there (and in my opinion there are at least that many) who take such an extreme view, then I definitely want to hear what they have to say. And I want to hear it while 'talking about it' is all we're doing.
I think to fully understand this issue, you need to understand the limits of how far people will go. If some plurality votes to disarm those people at the extreme end of the discussion, they won't care. And I'm afraid the day that liberals finally step over this line will be a day when they believe that gun owners "don't really mean it" and they actually do.
The first American revolution was sparked by an attempt to disarm the populace. (What do you think the redcoats were doing in Lexington and Concord? Look it up.) At the moment it looks like the second one will be caused by the same exact thing. And if scaring a few congressmen with strong words is enough to prevent that, then I would like to hear them.