Few issues highlight the gaping philosophical divide between libertarians and modern conservatives more starkly than the issue of guns. This might seem counterintuitive, because libertarians and modern conservatives often stand shoulder to shoulder against liberals and progressives to defend individual gun rights. The convenient alliance between modern conservatives and libertarians in the political trenches, however, conceals a fundamental and serious philosophical disagreement.
In order to fully grasp the division between libertarians and modern conservatives on this issue, it is important to understand why libertarians and conservatives think gun rights are so important. At the most general level, both libertarians and modern conservatives agree that all men have a natural right to defend themselves against aggression. More specifically, every man has a natural right to repel with violent force any unjust aggression against his life or his property.
Libertarians and modern conservatives do not defend individual gun rights out of some bizarre and loony obsession with a 200-year-old piece of parchment called “The Constitution.” On the contrary, they hold that the Constitution of the United States merely articulated something about man’s nature that has always been and always will be true.
The logical implication of this, both libertarians and modern conservatives agree, is that individuals have a natural right not just to defend their lives and their property against aggression from individual murderers and thieves, but that they have a natural right to defend themselves from unjust aggression by government. Hollow indeed would be the right to self-defense if it did not include the right to defend oneself against aggression by government – including one’s own government, because governments have killed and robbed exponentially more people than have private criminals.
Recognizing this fact, libertarians and modern conservatives agree that the natural right to self-defense must include a right to defend oneself against unjust government aggression, and that doing so usually requires more than simply a stick or a slingshot. A population armed with modern guns is not easily cowed, robbed, or massacred unless governments resort to wildly immoral and indiscriminate tactics or weapons of mass destruction.
So far so good. Libertarians and modern conservatives agree that…..
the right to keep and bear arms stems from the natural right to defend oneself against aggression, including unjust aggression by governments. From here on out, however, libertarians and modern conservatives scarcely agree at all, and the conservative position on guns becomes more and more self-contradictory and absurd.
Libertarians hold that armed individuals are indeed capable of effectively resisting and defending themselves from…………