“Your actions speak so loudly, I can not hear what you are saying.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here’s what I want to say to you today, in a nutshell:
If we are for peace, then we have to put away the guns. If we keep the guns as part of our activism, then stop sounding like hypocrites by talking about peace.
We have a message. There is an audience out there. We need to tailor our message – not our principles but our message – to that audience. It is really quite simple. It’s called marketing, which is finding a market for your product, service or, in our case, message. We can repeat the same old talking points from Murray Rothbard and Lysander Spooner or we can actually practice what we preach and bring an innovative message and product to the marketplace of ideas in a way that will meet with success.
Many people are scared of guns. It doesn’t matter why. Bringing a gun to a political conversation makes them suspect your motives. Your action of carrying a firearm speaks to them so loudly that they’re not hearing anything else that you say.
Here are some objections to “If we are for peace, then we have to put away the guns. If we keep the guns as part of our activism, then stop sounding like hypocrites by talking about peace.”
- Unilateral Disarmament. No, I’m not suggesting unilateral disarmament. Just stop flashing your AKs and your 1911s. Calling for Armed Revolution? Cover yourself in firearms. Rambo up. But don’t talk about peace at the same time. You sound like Stalin. I’m not saying you shouldn’t keep and bear arms for self-defense.
- Liberty First. “Give me my liberty and then I’ll stop flashing my AR-15.” This is a little obtuse. In order to achieve liberty, we have to get the people who grease the state’s machinery to understand that we have something better to offer them. We can’t do that if we’re always talking about guns, for reasons I have already explained. So if you can’t engage in political conversation without bringing a gun into it, you’re not on a solid path to achieving liberty.
- No Peace with Oppressors. “There can be no peace between us and those that would enslave us.” This objection has also missed the point. I don’t believe it’s us vs them, not to even mention that to say that is an example of collectivist thought. It’s just not that simple. Not even the “us” is a cohesive whole. We are just a bunch of individuals sharing this really cool spaceship for a short time on our journey through the cosmos. If you really think it impossible to make peace with oppressors, I don’t envy the choices that you have left yourself. I think anything is possible.
- A Gun is Nothing Special. “A gun is a tool like any other. There is nothing inherently violent or un-peaceful about a gun.” As someone who open-carried for 9 months in the Philadelphia area, I would really like to be able to agree with that. But the purpose of a firearm is to put a piece of metal into a living body, thus putting it at great risk of harm, even death. Is it a tool? Sure. Is it a tool for harmless ends? Not necessarily. Individuals absolutely must be respected when they decide to keep and bear arms, and it is an undeniable fact that most individuals use them for purely self-defensive purposes. But, as libertarians, when some of you go around talking about when it’s ok to kill cops, that defensive violence is justified against government agents and that people who part of the state’s machinery are just subhuman “sheeple,” then you are creating the impression that you are willing to use your firearms against others to causing them bodily harm. That’s a credible threat of aggression, from their point of view. To say that a gun is just a tool like a fork or a wrench is cognitive dissonance if at the same time you talk about using guns to kill cops and “sheeple.” Guns are, indeed, tools of violence.
- Attention. “No one pays attention if you are unarmed.” There is an implicit admission here that you want attention. Speaking for myself, I don’t want attention. I want to help myself and other people. Any attention that is required for me to achieve that will flow naturally when I have earned it. But this statement is also false. There are plenty of news stories every day about things that take place without firearms, even activism. See, for example, the We Won’t Fly campaign for traveler dignity against the TSA in 2010. If the bearing of firearms is the only way that you know how to get attention, then you have something fundamentally wrong in your approach. If you have something valuable to contribute to the world, then you don’t need to flash a gun in order to achieve it.
- Change Message. “Are you saying we should change our message to conform to the sheeple?” I’m saying we must tailor our marketing to the market. That’s marketing 101! If the market wants to buy tuna, I don’t push canned spam on them and expect them to thank me for it. So, YES.
- Slavery. “If the price of peace is slavery, I’ll take violence any day.” Guess what, the price of peace is reason, patience, diligence and determination. This is a false dichotomy saying that it’s either slavery or violence. There is a third way. It’s called nonviolence.
I hope you enjoyed the video. I look forward to your reaction in the comments below.