Thursday, October 26, 2006

Gun laws: Classic liberals vs libertarians

There is an interesting debate over at Thoughts on Freedom about gun legislation, with most people in favor of removing anti-gun laws in favor of personal liberty.

Which got me thinking - that classical liberal principles may not reach the same conclusion as libertarian principles.

The libertarian case is clear cut - personal liberty trumps all, especially the state, so there should be no anti-gun laws.

However, classical liberal principles, whilst they do have a strong emphasis on personal liberty, also agree on a core role for the state, which unarguably involves creating a monopoly of force, and having the state ultimately responsible for police, law enforcement and security.

Well, there may be a serious conflict here between individual liberty on one hand and the need for the state to create a monopoly of violence/force on the other hand.

I'd say that the need for the state to create a monopoly on violence means that you don't allow armed militias and gangs to form, with semi-automatic weapons or even worse.

One of the key failures in Iraq for example, has been the government's failure to create a monopoly on violence. But then again, perhaps its not an armed population that is the only problem, I suppose it is the culture that is willing to use that violence against individuals that is the root of the carnage and destruction ?

When guns are compared to speeding trucks or knives, to prove a point that anything can be used to kill people, then the thought of guns being banned seems like a nanny-state measure. But in the context of violent militias armed with rifles, it already seems like a huge challenge to the state's monopoly on violence, and it's very existence.

I guess the classical liberal principle is usually worded in the more precise language: The state shall create a monopoly on *the use* of violence, force and coercion.

Widespread gun ownership is not necessarily a violation of that principle... but would you still allow it if militias formed and challenged the police / army, or used terrorism against civilians ?