by J. Neil Schulman
Copyright © 2000 by J. Neil Schulman. All
As the author of two books on the "gun rights" issue, I must
conclude that I have been less successful than I had hoped in making my feelings
clear about the NRA, the Second Amendment, and even guns themselves.
When all is said and done, I really don't care all that much about the NRA,
the Second Amendment, or even guns.
The NRA could cease to exist tomorrow, and my political activities would be
unaltered. As a matter of fact, I have been embarrassed in the past by the NRA
publicists' apparent inability to convey my beliefs to the media, American
intellectuals, and most urban professionals.
The Second Amendment could be repealed tomorrow, and it would make no change
whatsoever in my political beliefs. I believe that Americans have no greater
right to keep and bear arms than anyone in any other country that doesn't have
such a right written into its constitution. The Second Amendment is irrelevant
to the existence of the right to keep and bear arms.
Tomorrow, all the privately-owned guns in America could be grabbed by the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, then melted down into a mountain of
slag, and my ultimate political goals would be unchanged. The absence of guns
would not stop me from pursuing the same personal and political goals that I do
Those who want to ban guns think I care about the NRA, the Second Amendment,
and guns. They think if they can marginalize the NRA, so that it is regarded as
an extremist organization such as the Ku Klux Klan, they will be free to repeal
the Second Amendment. They think if they repeal the Second Amendment, they will
be free to pass all the laws they like banning the private ownership and
possession of guns. They think that if they actually succeeded in collecting all
the privately held guns in America, they will be free from violence, free from
fear, free from extremists who oppose their oh-so-benevolent plans to remake
society in their image.
I'm here to tell them that not only do they not have a good sense of reality,
they don't even have a good sense of what motivates the people they think of as
I am personally motivated by my belief in inherent human rights. I'm an
advocate of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I believe people have
the right to pursue their own lives free from tyranny, regardless of whether the
tyrant is a schoolyard bully, a street thug, a violent family member, nosy
neighbors, or armed bureaucrats.
I'm seeking a society where property rights enable people who disagree with
each other's lifestyles to live in peace with each other. I want a society where
a gay bar can peacefully coexist next door to a Seventh Day Adventist church --
and as long as the blow-jobs are kept behind the closed doors of the gay bar,
and the Seventh Day Adventists keep their prayers for the souls of the gay men
on their side of the property line, they can live as neighbors. I want a society
where channel 44 is Jimmy Swaggart and Channel 45 is Baptist Babes in
Bondage--and I can unsubscribe to whichever channel I find offensive. I want
restaurants and bars to be free to cordon off smokers' sections and non-smokers'
sections -- and saloon keepers are free to make a rule that in the smokers'
section you have to smoke. It is only respect for the demarcations of private
property that enables people who despise each other to coexist. For many people,
it is only the fear of retaliation for violating someone else's rights that
motivate respect for them. In the real world, there is no respect without
Each of us has the right to defend the rights of life, liberty, and private
property, if necessary applying violence against those who threaten or first use
violence to violate those rights. A right that cannot be exercised is no right
at all. A right which is not yours to defend belongs to no one.
These are fundamental principles. The problem with those who want to ban guns
is that they do not have the ability to think in principles. They think not in
syllogisms but in what I've termed sillygisms. A syllygism is a sequence of
statements which appear logical but which produce nonsense. For example: People
who die after jumping out of airplanes are almost always wearing parachutes.
Therefore, if people jump out of airplanes without parachutes, they will be
safer. That's a sillygism.
This may seem obviously ludicrous to you. But I can point out to you studies
conducted by people with doctorates and medical degrees, and published in the
Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of
Medicine, where the logic is just as silly: People who die from a gunshot wound
more often keep a gun for protection than people who don't. Therefore, if people
don't keep guns for protection, they will be safer.
The sillygism is the same for both parachutes and guns. People who jump out
of airplanes need parachutes far more often than people who don't. The failure
of a parachute to save a jumper's life in a few cases doesn't mean that jumping
out of a plane without a parachute is safer. Most of the time parachutes save
the jumper's life. Likewise, the failure of a gun to save a victim's life in a
few cases doesn't mean that living in a dangerous world without keeping a gun
for protection a gun is safer. Most of the time, the availability of a gun will
save the victim of a criminal attack.
It is a love of life, liberty, and the property rights that protect pursuit
of one's own concept of happiness that motivates me politically. It is an
historical study of what has been necessary to secure fundamental human rights
that dictates where I devote my energy to shape the future. It is an
understanding of the usefulness of guns in defending the rights of the
individual that causes me to defend the Second Amendment as a political barrier
to the unilateral disarmament of the private individual. And the NRA being the
only well-funded, popular institution that defends the Second Amendment is what
causes me to support that organization, despite its failure to convey my beliefs
to the media, American intellectuals, and most urban professionals.
Destroy the NRA, and I will be no less enthusiastic about preserving human
liberty. I will merely see it as necessary to organize fresh grass-roots support
to preserve the Second Amendment.
Repeal the Second Amendment, and I will be no less committed to the right of
the people to keep and bear arms. That right precedes the Constitution of the
United States, and the Constitution is merely a contract among the American
people in an attempt to secure this and other rights. If that contract is
broken, it may be assumed that I am no longer bound by the terms of that
contract -- and I will start renegotiating until I secure acceptable terms. The
American Revolution which began on April 19, 1775 at the old North Bridge in
Concord, Massachusetts was such a renegotiation.
Ban private guns -- send armed bureaucrats house-to-house to collect them all
-- and my right to self defense will be lessened in no way. There are weapons
other than guns that can be effective in combating even the best-armed and most
tyrannical government. In countries where guns are few, home-made bombs are
many. There are chemical propellants other than gunpowder that can be effective
in aiming and accelerating small objects at a target, and drilling holes in it.
In an America with common household objects including aerosol oven cleaners,
laser pointers, microwave ovens, spread-spectrum cordless phones, and laptop
computers, you seriously don't want to piss off millions of Americans who
believe they own guns to keep the government under the people's control. We're
peaceful and law-abiding now because our right to defend ourselves with guns is
politically secure. Make those rights insecure and I, for one, promise those who
use the force of the state to destroy our rights that I will find other ways to
make their offices a living hell until we have once again secured our liberties.
Here's a syllygism for them: They think gun owners are dangerous. But they
also think it is safe for them to try taking away guns from millions of gun
Maybe they should try thinking that one through again.
J. Neil Schulman is the author of several books available at Amazon.com.
He is the webmaster of http://www.Pulpless.com,
the creator of The
World Wide Web Gun Defense Clock, author of The
World According to J. Neil Schulman, and creator of the Petition calling for
news media to Report
Defenses Gun Uses.