Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Guns Chasten Speech"

This NYT opinion is the most clearly stated rebuttal of the rhetoric flying around that we are free because of our guns.  This never made much sense to me; it didn't strike me as wrong, per se, just superfluous to the debate.  Well, it turns out I just needed a guiding hand from Mr. DeBrabander: we are free in spite of our guns.

The idea that a populace armed with civilian (or even sub-military grade) weaponry could stave off the most powerful military in all of history has always seemed...farfetched to me.  And not just to me.  Someone else was feeling demotivated:

But back to free speech and the limits placed on it by public carry permits.  It reminds me of a lunch I once had with an old friend.  He's of Italian stock, and had friends who had gone into organized crime.  He himself is a writer, but he still carried around some of that "old neighborhood" swagger.  For whatever reason, we found ourselves discussing RICO prosecutors, and how they must view the mafia as a bunch of thugs.  After conceding that they are indeed thugs, a cloud of pride crossed my friend's face.  "Yeah," he said dismissively, "but those lawyers wouldn't say that if a guido was standing right behind them."  No, they probably wouldn't--anymore than anyone else would--because they know that chances are they'd end up as the red sauce on top of some kid's spaghetti-all-covered-with-cheese.  

And that is the exact effect that guns have on our discourse too.  The fact that said guido is indeed a thug does not change based on his proximity to a prosecutor's turned back.  What changes is the prosecutor's willingness to openly state the truth when confronted with violent consequences.  He has been silenced by an implied threat.  The same way he likely would be if someone he had a dispute with were carrying a gun.

The NRA likes to say that an armed society is a polite society.  But that's just a polite way of saying a self-censored society.  These are not the same thing.

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