Joe Biden has released a new statement on gun control and it’s about as concise and coherent as you would expect. Here’s an excerpt per a White House transcript:
‘Those who say the blood of lib- — “the blood of patriots,” you know, and all the stuff about how we’re going to have to move against the government. Well, the tree of liberty is not watered with the blood of patriots. What’s happened is that there have never been — if you wanted or if you think you need to have weapons to take on the government, you need F-15s and maybe some nuclear weapons.’
There’s the silver-tongued devil we all know and love. To be sure, the idea that the United States government can only be defeated by jets and nukes will come as news to the Taliban, which pulled it off mostly with small arms and IEDs. But let’s also not dismiss too hastily Biden’s contribution to the field of guerilla war theory. (Conversely, I wonder if somewhere al-Shabaab militants are now practicing how to hide in a fridge.)
Everyone thought Biden would bring some stability to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Instead, just as under Trump, we keep waking up with no idea what spit-dribbling nonsense we’ll find on the news next. It’s true that Biden didn’t technically threaten to nuke American gun owners, as some conservatives have claimed. Yet the argument he was trying to make is in a sense even more radical than that.
Most gun control proponents at least try to assert that their policies are compatible with the Second Amendment. That or they mumble something about a ‘well-regulated militia’, insinuating that the 2A is obsolete in an age of standing armies. What Biden is saying is that technology has made the Second Amendment irrelevant. Because people can’t stop at Cabela’s on the way home from work and pick up two-for-the-price-of-one hydrogen bombs, they’re no longer capable of keeping their rulers in check.
This is not only inaccurate — the angry mob that broke into the Capitol building was armed with such high-tech super-weapons as flagpoles — it’s a serious rewriting of our political calculus. The American project is chiefly concerned with balancing concentrations of power. And whether we want to admit it or not, an armed populace has long been regarded as a check on an abusive state. In Federalist No. 46, James Madison cheered ‘the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation’ as ‘a barrier against the enterprises of ambition’. George Tucker’s commentary on the Second Amendment in 1803 declared that ‘the right of self defense is the first law of nature’.
A citizenry bristling with guns forces an imperialistic government to think twice before imposing its will. It offers victims of state-sanctioned bullying — i.e. blacks in the Reconstruction South — a degree of protection. It maintains the republican principle that power originates from below. This holds as true today as it did 240 years ago. Yet because there’s no longer technological parity between the people and the feds, Biden thinks this doesn’t matter. He says his administration stands ready to ‘rationally limit the type of weapon that can be owned and who can own it’. It’s as though we don’t already do that, as though Tommy guns and RPGs are floating freely through the streets.
Yet let’s take what Biden said seriously for a moment. If blunting government is the purpose of the Second Amendment, and if that’s now impossible because of the Pentagon, then why should there be any private gun ownership at all? You’re no more likely to stave off a nuclear attack with a .22 handgun than you are with a Kalashnikov. What limiting principle remains? And sure enough, here comes Biden to announce a ‘major crackdown’ on guns to ‘prevent death and mayhem on our streets’. Coming from a federal government that’s the biggest arms dealer on earth, that regularly exports slaughter to Yemen and Africa and beyond, it’s all a bit much.
Biden’s views on this subject can seem…schizophrenic. Back in 2013 when he was vice president, he advised people to stop purchasing assault rifles. Instead? ‘Get a double-barreled shotgun!’ he shouted, before boasting that he’d authorized his wife to blow away anyone who entered their front yard at night. Biden’s worldview is actually fairly bleak, menaced by ‘predators’ and the ‘racial jungle’, with cops and federal agents frantically struggling to keep the peace. This is the man who bragged about having written the PATRIOT Act, not in response to 9/11 but to the Oklahoma City bombing. The need for self-defense accords quite well with his dark view of the natural order.
That is, I suppose, until the military starts lobbing thermonuclear warheads into the Idaho hills. In which case, we can only carry Biden’s logic to its natural end with a modest proposal: it’s time for private ownership of nukes too. Imagine how much more accountable Washington would be if, like the Yemenis, they lived under constant threat of annihilation. Imagine how much Twitter would improve if trolls knew one wrong word could get their entire block vaporized. There’s only one thing that can bring together this fractured nation of ours and it’s bipartisan terror over mutually assured destruction.
Just don’t go sneaking a dirty bomb past the Biden house. You’ll get both barrels.
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