This has come up in the comments here before but Alan Korwin expresses it better than most people:

We have reached a point where so many laws are immoral or infringements, or can no longer be legitimately obeyed by anyone dedicated to constitutional governance, the phrase “law-abiding” has become arcane and a relic. “Law-abiding gun owners” are reduced to shivering vestiges of their former selves, dependent on government travel papers, expiration dates, qualification tests, violations based on ammunition types and amounts, infringements so vast and immane it defies the average person’s ability to even know them all, let alone obey them and not step into violation.

In place of the olden standard “law-abiding gun owners” we now find ourselves in need of better and more accurate phrases such as:

good gun owners
honest gun owners
decent gun owners
honorable gun owners
righteous gun owners
innocent gun owners


10 thoughts on “Law-abiding

  1. How about “free citizens”, or does that sound too subversive? Maybe that would attract too much scrutiny by the Feds? The fact that I might even ask the question says a lot about how far we have fallen as a Republic based on the consent of the governed.

    • I like “peaceable, honest”, which just about covers it all.

      We could add “loving” which would be better but most people would take it as weird and/or disingenuous, and it’s not required.

  2. I have the government’s permission to exercise that right! {shows card}

    In this case, more precisely, I paid for the permission to exercise that right.

    Oh goodness, does this make me a dissident??

    • Unless you are one of ‘the King’s men’. Then you get ‘qualified immunity’…which is just legalese for “Oops…I didn’t know that was illegal to do. Sorry.”

    • I read the book, and even though he mentioned a few anecdotes where people unknowingly broke the law, there was no real evidence presented to support his “three felonies a day” estimate.

      The number of federal crimes you could commit as of 2007 (the last year they were tallied) was about 4,450, a 50% increase since just 1980. A comparative handful of those crimes are “malum in se”—bad in themselves, which include things like rape, murder, or theft. The rest are “malum prohibitum”—crimes because the government disapproves, such as owning a machine gun made after 1986, when owning one made in 1985 is perfectly legal.

      In 1982, the Justice Department tried to determine the total number of criminal laws. In a project that lasted two years, the Department compiled a list of approximately 3,000 criminal offenses. This effort, headed by Ronald Gainer, a Justice Department official, is considered the most exhaustive attempt to count the number of federal criminal laws. In a Wall Street Journal article about this project, “this effort came as part of a long and ultimately failed campaign to persuade Congress to revise the criminal code, which by the 1980s was scattered among 50 titles and 23,000 pages of federal law.” Or as Mr. Gainer characterized this fruitless project: “[y]ou will have died and [been] resurrected three times,” and still not have an answer to this question.

      So you see, even the Justice Department of the US government is not sure of how many laws there are, yet each and every one of us is responsible for knowing every one of them, along with the court cases that modify and define them, upon penalty of prison.

      With that being said, it is easy to break the law and commit a felony. Here are some examples:

      1 If you are using a household cleaner, and the label tells you to mix a cap full of the cleaner with a gallon of water, and you only mix it with 3.5 quarts of water, you have just used a labeled product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. Felony.

      2 In Texas, it is a felony to own more than 4 sex toys (chapter 43). 11 of the 2,324 acts that the Texas Legislature thinks are worthy of being called felonies, have to do with acts that you can commit with or to an oyster. Urinating on a public building is a misdemeanor, unless that building is the Alamo, then it is a felony.

      3 In Montana It is a felony for a wife to open her husband’s mail.

      4 In Florida, it is a felony to access WiFi without permission. There was a man who was convicted in 2005 of using the WiFi of a restaurant that advertised free WiFi for customers, because he was using the access from the parking lot while the establishment was closed. Since it was advertised as free WiFi for customers, and he could not be a customer while the business was closed, hello felony.

      5 It’s a felony to have a raffle in Georgia, unless you are registered as a non-profit organization with the state.

      6 In Michigan, it is a felony for a man to seduce an unmarried woman, punishable by 5 years in prison. Adultery is also a felony in Michigan, but only if the spouse being cheated on is the one who complained.

      7 In Mississippi, if you promise to marry a woman, have sex with her, and then decide not to marry, you are guilty of a felony punishable by ten years in prison.

      The result of all of this is that each and every one of us is responsible for reading, understanding and following over 750,000 pages of laws, regulations, and court decisions- with complete understanding. If one were to begin studying these laws at age 12, and you read 50 pages per day, by age 53, you would have read all of them. The only problem is that, at the current rate, the government would have added another 500,000 pages of laws, and 28 years of reading to your quest.

      Remember, though: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. If you are spraying insect killer on some ants, and the can label says spray from 6 inches away, and you spray from 8 inches, you are a Federal criminal. If you are buying a gun, and you live in Florida, you had better use the abbreviation of FL as your address, because using the old abbreviation of FLA is a felony and can land you in prison.

      Why is this happening? Ayn Rand gives us an insight into this:

      “The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

      Truer words were never spoken.

  3. Pingback: In my perfect world, “law-abiding citizen” would be at least a mild insult. | The Ultimate Answer to Kings

  4. Ayn Rand’s comment is important because it states not just the fact, but the motivation.

    It’s likely that everyone has violated the law. But it is absolutely clear that no one can know. “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” But in fact, knowledge of the law is impossible, given that the Federal government publishes 200-300 pages of Federal Register PER DAY.

    For a nice exercise, download some random day’s worth of Federal Register. Read it. Now determine (a) how long it took to do that (b) how much of what you read actually applies to you, (c) how much — if any — of what you read is sanctioned by Article 1 Section 8 or one of the additional powers granted in amendments to the Constitution.

    Now imagine doing this every day, while also trying to hold down an actual job. Or imagine discussing this thought experiment with fellow jurors.

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