A friend of mine recently shared a blog post by a friend of his on liberty and guns in the Republic of Georgia. In the post, the author, Neal Zupancic, argues that people who need to be armed in order to feel safe cannot be said to be free or safe, and by implication that widespread firearms ownership ought not to be a part of a free society. Further, he argues that calls for women to arm themselves in order to resist violence are an aspect of rape culture, and that a gun culture is a failed culture, a culture in which individuals are unfree because of their fear and because they bear undue responsibility for their own safety.
Needless to say, as an anarchist, I entirely disagree, and think Zupancic is putting the cart before the horse. Zupancic is right when he argues that a widespread perceived need for firearms in a given culture is a sign of dysfunction in that culture, but he is wrong when he assumes that treating the symptom will effect a cure. A world in which we need not fear deadly violence from oppressors would be a wonderful world indeed, and one in which I long to live. Unfortunately, we emphatically do not live in such a world today. In our world today cops and soldiers in countries the world over routinely murder our brothers and sisters. In our world today rape is still something to be feared. I would love a world where my female coworkers felt comfortable and safe walking to their cars alone at night, but we do not live in that world, and it is dangerous folly to pretend we do, madness to imagine we can create such a world by pretending amongst ourselves that it already exists.
Further, I would argue that assuming responsibility for one’s own safety is liberating. Knowing that one can defend oneself in any situation, against any likely attacker, is liberating knowledge, especially for those who belong to commonly victimized groups. Zupancic longs for society to assume responsibility for each individual’s safety, but here he commits a basic error — “society” can do nothing without individuals acting; for “society” to be responsible for something means that some individuals are going to be responsible for that thing. No one will ever be able to react more swiftly to something that happens to you than you will. Delegating responsibility for your safety to others means rendering yourself defenseless for however long it takes “society” to respond. Or as they say in firearms circles, when seconds count, help is only minutes away.
Firearms are of course weapons, implements of violence, and the victims of violence have a natural tendency to fear and hate that which has harmed them in the past. I maintain, however, that the proper response of the oppressed to guns is not to fear them but to seize them, to master them and to learn to meet violence with violence. Rather than fetishizing guns as evil objects to be feared, let’s identify our real enemies and learn to turn their violence back upon them. I share Zupancic’s longing for a peaceful society in which no one feels the need to carry a firearm, but we aren’t there yet. To imagine the rapist will abandon violence if we encourage women to do so is madness. To disarm before the ruling class does is simply suicide. I would love my children to live in a world without guns, but I won’t disarm until the cops do.