ISSUES IN FOCUS
Week of May 17, 1999
Last week, a certain talk radio show featured a lengthy discussion of Senate Republicans flip-flopping on gun legislation. The Senate defeated a Democratic bill that would require background checks for the buyers of guns at gun shows. The very next day, Republicans anxiously presented their own watered-down version of the very bill that had been defeated on the previous day, a bill that would require background checks, in a less severe form, at gun shows.
The radio show host, as well as listeners who called in, expressed dismay and bafflement: why would Republicans cave so quickly and so easily? Perhaps they succumbed to pressure from their constituents or from opinion polls, they speculated. Why don’t Republicans stand on principle? And why do statists, particularly the liberal variety, continue to press for more legislation regulating guns, when they do not stringently enforce existing laws? No one seemed to know the answers.
The collapse of the Republicans on the matter of guns is a microcosm of a process that has been playing itself out for several decades. It is a textbook illustration of the manner in which statism has steadily advanced, consuming more and more freedom, with each passing year.
What we are witnessing, and have seen for years, is a process of conservative statists
being gradually drawn into a more consistent adherence to their basic premises. And
those basic premises are the premises of their opponents, liberal statists.
The battle between liberals and most conservatives is a feud between rival members of the same philosophic family: statism. Both agree that your life, money and property are not yours (this agreement is implicit, in most cases)—and these ideas are the essence of statism. And when it comes to guns, both have sanctioned the notion that guns must be regulated and background checks for buyers of guns is proper. Liberal statists are more consistent in their espousal of these ideas. Conservative statists are the more inconsistent. Under pressure from liberals, and their own inconsistencies, conservatives slowly become more and more liberal as they become more consistently statist. This is why most of today’s conservative Republicans are now as liberal, or more liberal, than the liberals of the 60’s.
Having long since endorsed the basic premises of their opponents, Republicans had that endorsement used against them by Democrats. Clinton easily administered a public relations whipping to Republicans by declaring that if background checks are required for buyers at gun shops, then they should be required for buyers at gun shows. The simple logic of this argument helped sway public opinion and it highlighted the inconsistency of Republicans.
If two opposing groups, such as liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, share the same fundamental premises, even if only by implication, then the more consistent group eventually wins. The more inconsistent group is…well…inconsistent. Liberal Democrats and their media allies have a field day putting a spotlight on those inconsistencies. Conservative Republicans squirm under the glaring lights of television as they try to wiggle out of their seemingly unreasonable stance—and voters chastise them for not supporting what appears to be a common-sense proposal.
Why does the more consistent side win? Because of the logic of their argument. Given the basic idea accepted by both sides, the more consistent side makes the most sense. If it is right to have background checks for some gun purchases, then it is right to have background checks for any gun purchase. And this is precisely the idea, the principle, that had already been sanctioned by most Republican senators in their previous votes on legislation already on the books.
As to the lax enforcement of existing gun laws, liberal statists are, once again, more consistent than conservatives. Loose enforcement of such laws actually is more in line with the ultimate goal of statists: total power. They have no interest in reducing crime. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The more crime we have, the better it is for statists. Each new, violent outburst, such as Littleton, is a gift to statists. It provides them with a new opportunity to pass even more laws constricting freedom.
And all of this talk about guns being a problem in America is only for public consumption. Statists do not really believe this. The proof? When one of their own hired guns, such as agents from the DEA, FBI and so on, use guns to kill innocent individuals, there is no talk about guns being the problem. None.
No, statists do not believe guns are the problem. They believe that guns, government guns, are the solution to the achievement of their political goal: absolute tyranny. In the fight over guns, statists are attempting to consolidate their power. They are seeking to establish a monopoly on the ownership of guns. The goal: guns will only be owned and used by statists in control of our various governments—and by criminals, their spiritual and de facto political allies, operating outside the law. Private citizens will be disarmed.
Liberals, on the offense, aggressively escalate their demands for more limitations on freedom, moving relentlessly toward their goal line. Conservatives, on the defensive, undercut by their own contradictions, cede yardage every year, surrendering a little bit of freedom with each legislative play. Until conservative Republicans reject the ideas of statism, they will continue to lose ground and, eventually, the game.
May 17, 1999
© Copyright 1999 Fulton Huxtable
SEND THIS ARTICLE TO A FRIEND