The Libertarian Impulse on Guns (and Most Everything Else)

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Ta-Nehisi and I have been exchanging e-mails on the matter of gun control for the past few days, and he has posted our dialogue on his blog. You can read it here, but be warned: We don't insult each other, so you might be bored (on the other hand, some of his commenters hurl invective in my direction), and also, it's pretty long. But for me, at least, it was a revelatory and interesting conversation with a good friend I respect very much.

I'm writing not only to highlight our dialogue, but to mention something that didn't make it in. At one point, in a side conversation, I told Ta-Nehisi that my feelings about gun ownership actually track with my feelings on a range of social and political issues. This is what I wrote to Ta-Nehisi after he said he would rather not own a gun for self-protection: "You don't want a gun to defend yourself, fine. That's your right. But denying someone else that right -- someone who is screened and vetted and trained and feels that he needs a gun to defend himself or his home -- is that right?"

I went on to write that my feeling about gun-ownership tracked with my feelings about pot-smoking (people should do it if they want to do it and not be punished for it); gay marriage (pro); and abortion (I don't like it, but I'm not going to tell a woman what to do with her body). I suppose my loathing for privacy-invading airport security procedures tracks with these beliefs. On guns, I believe that that people who are screened and vetted should be allowed to participate in their own defense. I think people should be treated like adults, and be allowed, within reason, to make their choices about who they want to be with, how they want to organize their lives, what they ingest and how they protect themselves.

After I wrote this, it struck me that I might be a libertarian. I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with this feeling. I don't even know anyone at Reason magazine.

P.S. Yes, I know that some libertarian purists believe that the government should not have any role to play in the regulation of gun-ownership, per their reading of the 2nd Amendment. I just can't go there, however.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/12/the-libertarian-impulse-on-guns-and-most-everything-else/266649/