President Obama’s recent gun control efforts exemplify the ableism and general discrimination inherent in progressive paternalism. In his latest attempt at gun control, Obama seeks to bar individuals who collect Social Security benefits and whose resources are overseen by “representative payees” due to “marked subnormal intelligence, or mental illness, incompetence, condition, or disease” from owning or purchasing a firearm. Under the terms of the proposal, the Social Security Administration would be required to report the identities of four million plus disabled and neurodivergent individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This is the same system that identifies and prevents sales of weapons to members of a number of other marginalized groups, including undocumented immigrants, felons, and known drug users.
The mistreatment of differently abled and neurodivergent individuals by the state is an insufferable fact of life in America, a nation where over fifteen percent of all incarcerated people suffer from a severe mental illness. Attempts to further smother the already oppressed are always high on the priority list of do-gooder bureaucrats who see anyone with even a hint of a problem as a potential client. While it is indeed critical that society offers support to those in need of physical, mental, and emotional assistance, bodily autonomy and independent agency are of paramount importance. Freedom does not exist without those elements. Involuntary institutionalization and other forms of coercive psychology are all too common in our neoliberal welfare state.
Criminalizing firearm possession for anyone who fails to meet the federal government’s arbitrary definition of “competency” forces millions of already vulnerable individuals to rely on third parties for protection, further stripping them of their independence. It seems to be the state’s goal that it never be rendered irrelevant. And that is precisely why the anarchist supports illegal ownership of firearms, outside the purview of the state, where individuals feel it necessary.
The same government that has systematically imprisoned, maimed, murdered, and labeled deviant for two centuries those who don’t fit snuggly into the box of societal acceptability is now demanding that its victims sit back and accept its “benevolence.” Your right to self-defense be damned. We simply cannot have “crazies” running around with guns, they say. It may lead to innocent people being injured or killed. Gun control, especially this variety of it, is intrinsically ableist. It privileges neurotypicality by preventing neurodivergent individuals from acquiring the means to practically and effectively defend themselves. Given that rights do not exist in a vacuum, the right to defend oneself is meaningless when those in power make it illegal to both obtain and keep the only tools realistically useful in exercising that right.
Not only would this measure strip millions of marginalized individuals of their ability to defend themselves, it would inevitably lead to an uptick in the imprisonment and institutionalization of the very people whom the state claims deserve protection. As radical social critics have pointed out, gun control laws naturally target disenfranchised groups and contribute to the perpetuation of a vicious cycle of poverty. No matter how much lip service Obama pays to criminal justice reform, his dedication to gun-grabbing reveals that he has no intention of putting an end to mass incarceration and marginalization.
Regardless of what the statist left may assert, neurodivergent individuals and other stigmatized groups having access to firearms is not the problem; government- mandated abelism is.