Snyder’s arguments are compelling: they hinge on several easy-to-swallow propositions.
First, he asserts that we have rights, and first amongst those is our right to life. From that right, he infers a right to self defense, without which the right to life is rendered meaningless. Thus, with a right to self defense, one has the right to posess the means with which to render such defense effective – ergo, the right to own and use a firearm.
Second, he asserts that classical liberal theories of government hinge on the notion of “government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed.” Sound familiar? This is the idea of government by consent set forth in the Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson. Snyder argues that consent is meaningless without the ability to object, and to enforce such a negative vote. Thus, firearms allow the citizenry to collectively enforce their will on their subject, and any infringement upon their rights (already established above) to own and use them violates the principle of consensual government.
The arguments hardly stop there – Snyder continues to logically follow the arguments of gun control to their conclusions, thus demonstrating the grounds on which he calls them self-contradictory and immoral.
Amongst other topics, Snyder launches attacks against irresponsibility, instrumentalism (denier of will), and utilitarianism (the destroyer of rights). While many of the same arguments are repeated throughout the text, one must remember that the chapters are merely a collection of columns, speeches, and articles written throughout the years. While this does detract from the cogency of the text as a whole, it is undeniably admirable as a purely ethical defense of arms-bearing.
If there’s only one book you buy about gun control, make it this one.
July 26, 2002
Amazon review of Nation of Cowards: Essays on the Ethics of Gun Control