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by Michael Mitchell

“The sanction of the victim” is a phrase which I first heard while reading Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. The book focuses on Ms. Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, which holds that the products of an individual human mind are the rightful property of that mind alone, and no other. She draws a distinction between two classes of people: Thinkers, those responsible for creating the wealth and prosperity in the world, and looters, those who raid that wealth by force of law or intimidation. As is typical of most thieves, the looters offered a steady stream of justifications such as fairness (it was unfair for the industrialist to keep the wealth he earned when there were poor people in the world), nobility (it was selfish for an industrialist not to destroy his company by giving away its entire asset base), or the collective good (the good of the society as a whole was more important than the good of any individual). For years, this strategy succeeded, with the thinkers continuing to labor away under increasingly oppressive policies, policies which made it more and more difficult for them to operate, while simultaneously being condemned by the looters at every turn as the cause of all economic and social woes.

The thinkers were able to achieve victory over the looters when they realized that, in order for the looters’ philosophy to succeed, the cooperation of the thinkers was absolutely required. The thinkers, led by a man named John Galt, simply withdrew their support from the society which claimed to hate them, causing its eventual collapse. In Rand’s words, the success of the looter philosophy was dependent upon the sanction of the victim.

The same tactics are being used against gun owners today. The proponents of disarmament bombard the American public with a constant stream of vitriol directed at guns and gun owners. We constantly hear in the media that gun deaths are out of control, that children are at risk, and that the “gun culture” is to blame. The United Methodist Church passed a resolution recently stating, in part, “No appeals to individual autonomy are sufficient for the church to ignore the threat of gun violence.” The large number of guns present in America is juxtaposed with statistics claiming “13 children a day die from gun violence.” (Note: That statistic is only true if you include everyone under age 20 as a “child”.) The National Rifle Association is depicted as a band of violence-prone kooks, vigorously defending criminals who commit gun violence. The city leaders of New York City are in apoplectic fits over the possibility that NRA might open a shooting sports store and restaurant in Times Square, while simultaneously ignoring the violence-peddling WWF restaurant just down the street.

The intent is that the whole of society - including gun owners - accept that the presence of guns in the society is a contributor to violence, that the only reason anyone owns a gun is to commit violence, and that our rights to own property are secondary to the need to protect the innocent victims of gun violence. However, the key weakness of this strategy is this: In order for any disarmament strategy or anti-gun-owner public relations effort to succeed, the cooperation of gun owners - in other words, the sanction of the victims - is absolutely required. We can only be demonized with our cooperation.

Now, you may object that you have never endorsed or supported any gun control idea. You may object that you are a member of this gun rights group or that gun rights group. However, I would submit that, if you’ve done nothing more active than send the NRA $35 this year to defend your gun rights, you are sanctioning their removal. Your sanction is provided in several ways:

When you hide the fact that you are a gun owner, you encourage the perception that gun owners are a minority.

When you fail to challenge crime facilitation (i.e. ‘gun control’) editorials or articles in your local newspaper, you are allowing them to stand as the truth.

When you fail to identify and vote for pro-freedom representatives, you are allowing the anti-freedom forces to win the election.

When you fail to talk about your hobby and take non-shooting friends with you to the range, you are allowing the media perception of gun owners to take the forefront in their minds.

When you fail to demonstrate yourself as a sane, thinking, peaceable person, you allow the media’s picture of gun owners as dangerous, violence-prone individuals to remain in the minds of those who witness you.

When you fail to educate yourself about pending legislative or legal attempts to strip your rights away, you allow those attempts to succeed unchallenged.

When you fail to publicize the facts about gun ownership among your circle of friends and acquaintances, you allow the media’s distortions and lies to stand as truth.

When you say it’s okay to ban semi-auto rifles or low-cost handguns because you don’t own one, you are cooperating with the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy employed by the crime facilitators.

In short, your inaction as a gun owner provides the enemies of freedom with all the sanction they require. Their vilification of peaceable gun owners goes unchallenged, and, therefore, is accepted as truth by the general uneducated masses.

I’ve heard many gun owners complain that the weight of the mass media is too great, that the free publicity given to the “evils” of gun ownership is simply too powerful for us to oppose. There’s a sense of helplessness or even despair
that the general public can ever be educated in the facts regarding guns. In other words, we’re doomed. Well, to be honest, I’ve felt those pangs myself. Then, like Ayn Rand’s thinkers, I came to a realization: Since the demonization
of gun owners, and the abridgment of gun rights, cannot succeed without our cooperation, we are the ones who hold the real power.

By most estimates, there are 80 million lawful gun owners in the United States. Folks, that’s power. Even simple civil disobedience in the face of unconstitutional anti-gun policies can have an incredible impact. What would happen if 80 million Americans suddenly decided that they would no longer cooperate with illegal, unconstitutional gun laws? What could the “authorities” do about it? Witness Canada, where that exact scenario is being acted out, as millions of Canadian citizens refuse to comply with the government’s gun registration program.

Imagine if even half that number joined the NRA. What congresscritter would dare cross gun owners, faced with that kind of organized voting power?

“But I don’t agree with the NRA on some of their policies,” you might say. Well, neither do I. It’s inevitable that any organization of any size will suffer some internal disagreements. So what? The NRA is still the largest, best financed, and best organized gun rights organization out there. The smaller organizations like JPFO or GOA are good organizations, don’t get me wrong. I’ve supported several of them myself. But they’re not seen as a threat by the crime facilitators because they’re too small to galvanize a large number of voters to action. Why do you think the crime facilitators work so hard to discredit the NRA? Because it’s the only pro-freedom organization large enough to threaten the legislative careers of the gun grabbers.

But, just for the sake of argument, let’s say you so vehemently disagree with the NRA’s policies that you’ll never join. Fine. There’s still plenty more you can do. Become an ambassador for firearms ownership. Write letters to the editor and to your representatives. Join mailing lists dedicated to news on firearms-related issues. Take your non-shooting friends to the range and show them how much fun shooting can be. Be a peaceable citizen, opposed to violence, and demonstrate it in your speech and actions. In short, be active and aggressive in your support of firearms ownership. Seize the power that is yours, and refuse to give your sanction to your own victimization. And don’t ever allow yourself to feel helpless or guilty about exercising your rights.

Copyright 2000 Michael A. Mitchell. Permission is hereby granted to reproduce
this article in its entirety, including this copyright notice and attribution to
this website. Mike writes for http://www.KeepAndBearArms.com; you can contact
him at mmitch6121@aol.com.

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