Systems Theory and Gun Control, or: It’s the Extremism, Stupid

Seth_godin_do_the_work_critique
Greetings, all-
The current dialogue (if one can call it that) between those who advocate and those who oppose efforts to regulate firearms in the United States has demonstrated what appears to be some fundamental misunderstandings, either of words or (worse) concepts. The first is the apparently-common conflation of “regulation” with “confiscation.” These two concepts occupy quite different parts of the societal machine, and in fact exist in direct opposition to one another. Unlike confiscation, the regulation of a paradigm implicitly accepts that paradigm’s right to exist.

So let’s look at regulation, and its relationship to systems of all sorts. In fact, let’s start there: a system, any system, physical or imagined, is nothing but a set of regulations that govern the efforts of a given group of individual pieces working in harmony to channel energy into producing a desired result (cooperative action). A lack of regulation is not a system: consider the behavior of unregulated energy expanding in all directions. It’s called an explosion.

The best example of effective firearms regulation that leaps to mind is the world of unregulated firearms that existed before the 1934 National Firearms Act: let’s consider the Thompson submachine gun, then available for $29.95 from Sears. The use of this weapon, the notorious “Chicago typewriter,” by criminals and gangsters is legendary, even iconic of the times. We all still recognize one today, even if we’ve never seen one in person. Yet after the NFA, the criminal use of these weapons drops off to practically nothing, and remains there into the present, even though the weapons remain available to anyone willing to simply go through the process. The result? A functional system of careful regulation which protects both gun owners and the larger public.

So let us accept, then, the need for a functional system of gun control, because this is where the fun starts. Many  progressives would prefer a society without guns, and it’s difficult to cogently argue that that wouldn’t be a safer society; but that’s not what is being suggested under a regulation regime. Nor do the specifics have to be worked out to see what kind of a culture would result from the development of an effective regulatory system: the same kind of culture that always operates when it is governed by a well-designed, loosely-coupled system of regulation, and uncompromised by narrow provincial or corporate interests. A healthy, thriving gun culture, in which there is both wide latitude for the exercise of Second Amendment rights and robust protection for the rights and safety of all would be the result. See the difference? Regulation protects the Second Amendment rights of individuals. The logical conclusion is that, contrary to the overheated ravings of gundamentalist fetishists, if regulation protects the right, then it is not those demanding firearms regulation that will destroy the Second Amendment; it’s those extremists that refuse any regulation who will ultimately destroy it, by insisting on a system guaranteed to explode, and leaving society no alternative to confiscation. If you’re a gun owner, is that what you want?

Confiscation is a draconian measure, that would probably only be attempted by someone who has already lost control of the situation. To be even moderately successful, it would require a pre-emptive, nationwide, surprise, NKVD-style cordon-and-search action, which is (not coincidentally) exacty the kind of counterinsurgency operation our almost fully-militarized police forces are designed for. So, first, to everyone that thinks it couldn’t be done-you’re wrong. It would be bloody and unnecessary; but it could be done. The NKVD could hit a million households in a single pre-dawn raid using 1930s technology, and the US is exponentially more capable now than the Soviets were then. Don’t kid yourself-if Uncle Sam decides he wants your guns…he’ll have them. And the people to blame will not be those who tried to create a system in which the right could be preserved, but those who refused to govern themselves, and insisted on having it done for them.

Those paramilitaries you built to crush the drug culture…you mean you never thought they could be turned on you?

Regulation is not infringement, nor is it confiscation. Regulation protects rights, by creating a system in which rights are acknowledged and can be safely exercised. Every system is a body of regulations. Lack of regulation is not freedom, it’s anarchy-Somalia as a should-be Libertarian paradise is a sad cliche. The freedom of the masses to travel in automobiles depends upon a system of careful regulation; otherwise,mass travel would very rapidly become a bloody impossibility. By supporting traffic regulations, one supports the freedom to travel. Likewise, the freedom of the masses to keep and bear arms, as in any other system, requires regulation if it is to be protected from the extremists who will otherwise, eventually, make the loss of the right inevitable. The interaction of firearms with larger society is a system-and subject to the same laws that govern the operation of every other system. Build the system well-or it will destroy itself.

The best of all possible tomorrows to you-

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