The Need for Civil Disobedience

Sebastian at Shall Not Be Questioned has written up a post discussing what he believes is the best strategy to restore gun rights to the entirety of the United States. It’s an interesting read but I feel as though he left out a major point:

In nearly all other civil rights struggles in this country, it’s been a combination of Congress and the Courts acting to preserve liberties. The early Civil Rights Acts, authorized by Congress’ powers under the 14th Amendment, were intended to protect the rights of newly freed Blacks during Reconstruction. There have even been government agencies created for the protection of civil rights. Even today, under Congress’s enforcement powers found in the 15th Amendment, the Voting Rights Act provides for extensive federal oversight over state election matters and over state redistricting in states with a history of discriminatory behavior. There is ample precedent for Congressional involvement in the protection of civil liberties. I would propose that when the political environment improves for us, our focus ought to be on a comprehensive bill that restores Second Amendment rights to all Americans.

What precede those events? What has preceded every advancement cheered by civil liberty activists? Civil disobedience. The labor movement, civil rights movement, and gay rights movement all started off as massive acts of disobedience.

There is a reason all of those movements began as acts of civil disobedience, it’s the only effective strategy to gain or regain liberties under a state. As an entity that exists solely off of expropriated wealth, the state has a vested interest in increasing its power over the general population. Reducing the state’s power can only be achieved in one way, rendering it irrelevant. The state knows this, which is why civil disobedience has proven an effective strategy historically. Civil disobedience accomplishes two things: it allows the immediate exercise of desired liberties and it sows seeds of doubt in the minds of the general populace. One of those things directly leads to the other. By immediately exercising desired liberties it can be demonstrated that those liberties are not dangerous to the general populace. Fear is the state’s primary weapon and it uses it to gather popular support. During each of the above mentioned movements the state produced propaganda aimed at convincing the general populace that those movements were dangerous to society. When the propaganda was demonstrated to be false the general populace began supporting, or at least caring little one way or the other, about the movements.

It was upon that swing of popular opinion that the state realized it needed to begin damage control. Great swaths of the population no longer viewed the state’s power to regulate those liberties as legitimate and if the state didn’t perform damage control the population would soon begin to question the legitimacy of other state powers. What’s the best way to control such damage? Make people believe they control the state.

The only reason the state grants civil liberties is to convince the general population that they have some say in how the government works. When people began turning against the state’s implemented restrictions against blacks the state turned and passed legislation to undo its previous damage. By doing so the general populace became convinced that they controlled the actions of the state and the state way able to maintain its legitimacy.

If those of us in the gun rights community want to remove the state’s restrictions against gun ownership we need to start by performing acts of civil disobedience. The only way to win this fight is to demonstrate how ineffective the state’s power is. Until we have accomplished that no amount of begging, pleading, or petitioning is going to accomplish anything of value. Sure, we may gain an absolutely minor victory here or there but we’ll lose in the long run. The time for begging masters for scraps from the liberty table is over, if we want to feast on freedom we must ignore those masters, sit down at the table, and eat our fill.