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Why I disagree with the the Libertarian Party UK's views on gun ownership

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One might believe, reading 'Toys for Peace' by Saki, that the British have a natural affinity to weapons. Within the short story, a well-meaning uncle attempts to sell to his nephews the idea that figurines of John Stuart Mill, and scenarios of pleasant and wholesome elections, are preferable to reenacting of battles and warfare.

Chaos quickly ensues when the children dip the respectable JS Mill in red ink and poke cannon holes in the toy municipal buildings in order to create a battle scene. With a poignant ending, the uncle rushes to tell the mother of the children, noting that his experiment in promoting peaceful toys failed because 'We have begun too late.' 

Some within the Libertarian Party of the UK see themselves, and others, as those precocious children: naturally drawn to guns. So much so that not only is it a natural inclination, but what they label as a 'natural right'. To understand the roots of this belief it is important to examine the party's own favourite source of evidence: history.  

In 1685 James II became the King of England and brought to his rule the belief that the King had absolute power. Contradicting centuries of the rule of law instigated by the Magna Carta of 1215, James II posed a palpable threat to the people.

In order to try and prevent an uprising, James II used the Militia Act of 1664 to confiscate the weapons of the unruly citizens for 'the Peace of the Kingdom'. His eventual overthrow in the Glorious Revolution saw the affirmation of the limitations on the monarch's power, and the creation of an English Bill of Rights.

This event in history is used to bolster the need to own guns and vilify the state that attempts to take them away. 

Gun laws in the UK today stem from the 1920 Firearms Act which gave the state power to restrict guns on the basis of certification under purposes laid out within the law. Following this, a series of legislative changes led to the complete ban on handguns and more detailed legislation on hunting and shooting activities. This evolution of law is decried by the Libertarian Party as an 'attrition of civil liberties'.

One of the many arguments made by most of the Libertarian philosophies argues individuals must counterbalance the state, and not allow it to dominate individuals. Guns provide a means by which the citizen can resist the state in extremis.

If a new James II were to rise to power the armed citizenry would beat him back. But what does this argument entail other than a disengagement from the real successes of the Glorious Revolution, namely our democratic system governed by the rule of law? 

In a presentation to the Libertarian Society last month, David Ewing attempted to show the 'fact vs. fiction' narrative of gun laws. The main thesis being that the banning of guns does not reduce homicide rates. Interestingly, however, he stated that crime is at its root a socio-economic problem, yet continues to advocate for guns to be used in preventing crime.

Admitting this point quite directly he reveals the fundamental weakness of his own position, namely that the best solution to crime is changing the root socio-economic realities.  

The Libertarian Party of the UK included within its 2015 manifesto a lengthy argument on gun ownership with special reference to self-defence. This section is conspicuously dropped in its 2017 manifesto, however, the previous position rested on the 'natural right' of gun ownership.

The support for its position is the statement that gun ownership should 'certify the person, not the object' because it is the person that is the danger 'not an inanimate, non-autonomous object'. This faulty reasoning leads to dangerous comparisons.

In his presentation David Ewing said the 2016 Nice attacks had caused more deaths than the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, therefore proving inconsistency in the principles of banning guns. As false equivalencies go, this was a bad one.

Vehicular license determines the competency of the individual because the benefits and uses of driving outweigh the possible dangers of it. We do not ban cars because some use it as a weapon, but we ban guns because all they can be is weapons.

Such comparisons abound on his groups' website which shows a picture of the Charlie Hebdo attacker with a gun being pointed at the attacker. Its caption reads 'the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun'.

Journeys into alternate realities and counterfactual statements are no trouble for Firearms-UK, regardless of the fact they have no evidence to make such claims. 

This position is however rooted in a deeper motivation, perhaps as innate as the children's passion for military toys.

Perusing the Libertarian Party's manifesto a collection of rather peculiar positions reveal themselves. As a corollary to gun ownership, the party supports the UK's nuclear capabilities, no doubt based on the principle of self-defence and deterrence.

Carrying its conflicted view of utility they wish for a strong army with the intention to rarely use it. In preparing for government they even devised a nonsensical phrase for this policy: 'armed neutrality'.

Politics of this kind focus on the extreme positions one can find themselves in and intends to base the law on that. They say, 'imagine yourself at knife-point', now you see why we need guns. Only when the fear of possible invasion is constant within your mind does nuclear deterrence seem necessary. This philosophy attempts to make the exceptions the rule and turns the rule of law into the rule of exceptions. 

 

 

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