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“The Great Equaliser”
by Mike Fuller
At a recent Senate inquiry concerning possible amendments to the gun-ownership laws, the most vociferous member of the pro-firearms lobby was Elmer T. Keen, respected rancher from Monroe County, Montana, four times pistol champion of the United States, firearms adviser to the Montana State Police, and special deputy to Sheriff Pink Timms of Monroe County. Mr. Keen’s testimony is here reproduced in full.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am a good American. When I say that, I mean by it that I am a passionate believer in the freedom of the individual, and in the right of every American to protect that freedom by every means within the law and within the Constitution.
The Constitution guarantees every American citizen the right to bear arms. But this constitutional right is at variance with the actual laws of many states of the union, which, if they do not actually deny citizens their constitutional right to bear arms, at least impose so many restrictions on this constitutional right that the owning of weaponry for personal protection and pleasure has in many states become a practical impossibility. I have always deplored this tendency to undermine the right of the individual citizen to bear arms as insidious, unhealthy, and frankly un- American. I would like at this point to marshal some arguments in support of my point of view.
Firstly, why does the Constitution include the right to bear arms? It does not take a genius or a philosopher to figure out the answer. The right to bear arms is simply a logical implication from the right to individual liberty. The right of every American to bear arms is, quite simply, the ultimate guarantor of that liberty. The right to bear arms is, quite simply, the final defence of the individual against intrusion into his or her freedom by the enemy without and the enemy within.
No real American is in any doubt concerning the identity of the enemy without: it is the Communist bloc which, while masquerading its real intentions under the slogan of “true liberty for all”, seeks only to undermine that individual liberty which we as Americans hold most dear. It is useless to protest, as many have tried to do, that, in an age of intercontinental missiles, a handgun or a hunting rifle is of no more use in fending off the Soviets than a packet of potato chips. America is the richest country on earth; what the Soviets desire is not its extinction but its occupation. And to occupy or to infiltrate a nation whose citizenry is armed to the teeth is one tough cookie to bite upon, as the evidence of that great little country Switzerland testifies to. Why has Switzerland never been invaded in living memory? Because its citizens comprise a militia, a body which keeps its weaponry at home, and knows how to use it!
Next, I want to refer to the enemy within against which every American has the constitutional right to defend himself. Who is the enemy within? The first and most obvious answer is the criminal element within our own society. But here the argument of the anti-gun lobby runs as follows: in the days of frontier justice, when we were still opening up this great country of ours, citizens needed arms in order to defend themselves, for in those days Colonel Sam Colt’s “Great Equaliser” was the “only law west of the Pecos River.” But today we have fine and called “deterrence policy”. When two guys both know that the other has Colonel Colt’s “Great Equaliser” in his back-pocket, that’s called “healthy respect”.
Against these arguments, I want to reply as follows: it is not obvious to me, or to many Americans, that the frontier days have disappeared; they have only changed location. Today, especially in the inner areas of our great cities, there are more squalid criminals, degenerates, and “loony-tunes” to the square mile than at any other time in our nation’s history. And this criminal element has no difficulty in obtaining weapons illegally. So it is only the lawabiding citizen who is harmed by the gunrestriction laws. And in connection with this I’d like to tell you the following story.
A few years ago, my sister Charlene moved to New York City. Within the space of three months she was molested four times. But Sis was from a frontier tradition, and she had the good sense to carry a .38 in her purse, even though she had no permit for it. Sis swears that each time she pulled her “equaliser” the dude in question gulped so hard that he just about swallowed his stomach! It is claimed that more guns mean more violence, but I dispute that. When two guys both know that the other has a nuclear missile in his backyard, that’s called “deterrence policy”. When two guys both know that the other has Colonel Colt’s “Great Equaliser” in his back-pocket, that’s called “healthy respect”.
In conclusion, I want to say one more word about the enemy within. The Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to bear arms as a precaution also against possible tyranny from his own government, as an insurance policy against that government’s intrusions on individual liberty in the name of some abstract “societal liberty” or the “liberty of the whole” – in other words, against the insidious intrusions on personal freedoms in the name of some abstract totalitarian liberty. Because the only genuine meaning that I can ascribe to restrictions imposed in the name of abstractions like “societal liberty” and “the greater good of the whole” is that they’re fancy names for “Communist plot” – proposed by so-called Americans who, if they’re not Red, are so damned pink that it’s hard to tell the difference!
Ladies and gentlemen, I submit that restrictions on our constitutional right to bear arms erode the very foundations of our belief in individual freedom.”
© Mike Fuller 1991
Mike Fuller lectures in philosophy at Manchester Polytechnic.