Tools and ideas

Although there are still lots of votes to count no one I know has any realistic hope the outcome is going to change on I-591 or I-594 in Washington state. Washington State gun owners got stomped on pretty hard last night.

What our opponents don’t seem to realize is that both the Second Amendment and the Washington State Constitution protect the very right they are intent upon infringing. If it were a law infringing upon the right to free speech or freedom of religion nearly everyone would get it. Requiring a background check before someone can loan you their religious book and another when you give it back is ridiculous and would clearly be unconstitutional. It would create an incredible chilling effect upon the legitimate exercise of a natural and legal right by the threat of a legal sanction.

Somehow our opponents don’t or can’t understand this. I’ve had people tell me, “It’s not the same.” “Books don’t kill people!”, they say.

Wrong.

Ideas are far more dangerous than tools. The Communist Manifesto, Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, and many religious books enabled the murders of over 100 million in the 20th century and millions more in the previous centuries. And I’m betting many millions more in this century will be murdered because the exercise of these rights propagates and enables very dangerous ideas. Yet we still recognize that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are more important that the dark side of infringing upon these natural rights.

Books, speech, and firearms are all the tools of ideas. Those ideas can been evil or they can be good. The tool is amoral and can be used for good or evil. Restrictions on a tool used for good enables evil. It doesn’t matter which of these tools you restrict. You enable evil because you disable the expression of the good more than the expression of evil.

This concept is very clear in the context of the First Amendment. But somehow the general population has a delusion that the right to keep and bear arms is different. The correction of their delusion can’t be accomplished in a sentence or two on a ballot initiative so now we have to attempt correcting it in the courts. The courts aren’t as influenced by sound bites as the general public but delusions can be deadly in their persistence even in courts of law.

Update: As I was reminded of in the comments by Windy Wilson there is a somewhat famous U.S. Supreme Court case that says:

If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.

Which, as Windy points out:

This is tremendously close to the concept articulated by the head of the NRA, that the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

The connections between the First and Second Amendment are easy to make and very strong.

14 thoughts on “Tools and ideas

  1. “What our opponents don’t seem to realize is that both the Second Amendment and the Washington State Constitution protect the very right they are intent upon infringing.” — maybe. Then again, quite possibly they understand perfectly well, and they very intentionally stomp on the Constitution. Why not, after all? Stomping on the Constitution has been the foundation of progressive politics for over a century, and they’ve always gotten away with it before.

    • In general they seem to recognize the First Amendment. But perhaps that is only when it is convenient for them and I mistake their support as an acknowledgement of the existence of principles.

      • Neil Smith has said that journalists only understand one amendment, and only to the extent that it applies to them. There’s some truth to that.
        The whole point of the PC movement is to trample on the 1st Amendment. It says that only speech sanctioned by the left thought police is permitted, all else is forbidden. That includes most religious speech. Consider the recent attack by the mayor of Houston for a particularly clear example. So no, they absolutely do NOT understand the first amendment any better than they understand, or honor, any other part of the Constitution.

      • They demand that THEY be able to speak freely and have a loud megaphone, but they often shout down people they disagree with. It’s not the principle they support, but the utility to them to push their ideas and narrative.

  2. There was a US Supreme Court case (that I am unable to look up right now) on the First Amendment that famously said that the antidote for bad speech was more [good] speech. Without delving into the concept of how one can define good speech, a problem Paul Koning describes above, this is tremendously close to the concept articulated by the head of the NRA, that the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

    • Perhaps a boxed set of the writings of Marx, Engels, Hitler, Mao (I don’t think Stalin wrote anything for publication) and Pol Pot, entitled something on the order of “The Murderous Books”, or “Books That Have Killed Millions” would be in order. I anticipate Leftists getting their panties in a twist as they did when President Reagan called the USSR “the Evil Empire.”

  3. This law strikes me as being similar to California’s background check laws. Is it different somehow? How has California’s law survived court challenges?

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