Those of you who saw NRA president Wayne LaPierre’s bizarre, borderline hallucinatory press conference on Friday may have noticed a common theme in his policy proposals: The only way to reduce gun violence, according to the National Rifle Association, is through enforcing a perpetual state of martial law in the public education system and civil society at large.
The state, according to LaPierre, should permanently deploy an armed security guard to every public school in America. Furthermore, it should create a national database to keep tabs on the mentally ill (and note here that he doesn’t distinguish between the mentally ill population at large and the handful of people within that category who are potentially violent).
So to clarify: Regulation is too hasty, and there’s no point in tackling systemic background issues like structural inequality or inadequate mental health treatment. The sensible, moderate solution is to transform America into a something close to a neo-Spartan military state.
It should now be basically obvious to everyone that the NRA, for all of its pious genuflecting in the direction of the Second Amendment, is not a civil liberties organization. Civil liberties organizations support neither preemptive surveillance on the sick nor perpetual pseudo-paramilitary lockdown in elementary schools. While the NRA and its allies may oppose gun control on the grounds that it inhibits liberty, their “solution” requires far greater government intrusion and coercion.
Such is the case with much “small government” anti-regulationism. The minimal state which the right so often fetishizes is, in fact, anything but. Any government which sees its essential function as security will inevitably have to continually escalate security in order to enforce its anti-regulatory position. To put it another way: the only way the so-called night-watchman state can function is with ever-increasing numbers of night-watchmen, armed with ever-larger guns.
Gun control is becoming ever more popular, but the National Rifle Association and its corporate backers find the idea of stricter regulation intolerable. So their solution is top-down coercion and security-statism. The fact that this proposal is couched in the language of individual liberties should only cause us to reflect on how thin the right wing’s conception of liberty really is.