Third Open Letter to the Gun Owners of the United Kingdom (1996), by Sean Gabb

Third Open Letter
to the Gunowners of the United Kingdom

by Sean Gabb
Published in London
on Sunday the 15th September 1996

Note: This is one of my Open Letters to the Gunowners of the United Kingdom. The titles make them sound very pretentious. Perhaps they are. However, you need to bear in mind that they were written in the early days of the Internet, when audiences were small, and any piece of connected prose was likely to be read and discussed. And these letters did have a radicalising effect on the British debate on guns – indeed, they caused a sensation in all the newsgroups and distribution lists where they were published. Of course, they were completely ignored by the newspapers – though ignoring uncontrolled debates is partly what newspapers are for nowadays.


This letter is largely a repetition of what I have said already. Even so, there are truths that do bear being repeated, and so I make no apologies if anyone thinks I am starting to sound like a cracked gramophone record. I will say the following:

1. There is little more that can be done to influence the new gungrabbing law that will be made in the next session of Parliament. A deal has already been struck between the authorities and what passes for the gun lobby in this country. There will be a further tightening of the licensing system. There will be further regulations to govern how firearms may be kept at home. But there will not be a ban.

2. This, however, is no reason to feel relieved. The new law will reduce the number of gunowners. Many will take one look at the new licensing requirements and sell their guns. Every time this happens, there is one fewer gunowner in the country, and a correspondingly smaller and weaker minority to push round the next time the gungrabbers start their clamour. And, I must repeat, there will be another clamour. Whatever law emerges in the coming session will not be a final settlement. It will be simply another step on the road to a total ban on the civilian ownership of guns.

3. Moreover, though attention is mostly focussed on direct legislative threats to the right to keep and bear arms, this is not the only threat – nor need it be the most important in the next few years. Look at smokers. These are a much larger minority than shooters. Their taxes contibute billions to the Treasury. They are persecuted even so. The social workers are quietly defining smoking as a form of child abuse. Smokers are sometimes prevented from adopting if their habit is known. They are sometimes threatened with having their natural children taken away. I am surprised that this has not yet happened to gunowners. Those of you who went on television during the debate over Dunblane, and spoke about your feelings as parents, may soon have good cause to regret that you stuck your necks out even as ineffectually as I believe you did. The British State is now so large and powerful – and increasingly totalitarian – that there are dozens of informal pressures that can be turned on gunowners without any further tightening of the existing laws.

4. You must, therefore, look to a long term campaign of education and resistance. As said, there is very little more to be done in the present debate. But there is plenty to be done in the coming years. You need a permanent body to put the case against the gungrabbers and for guns. You cannot do this yourselves, because you are all too open to the obvious pressures. This body must be formally independent of the existing shooting organisations, and must be run by people who do not own guns. Its functions must include the following:

5. It must counter the gungrabbers whenever and wherever they open their mouths. It must expose each and every lie. To do this, it will need to create a huge database of accurate information. I emphasise the need for accuracy. If you look through talk.politics.guns, you will see long discussions of whether Hitler said this or that, or what was decided in a particular law case. Every quote, every statistic, every claim of whatever nature, must be properly checked and referenced. Lies and half-truths must be shown over and again to be the province of the gungrabbers.

6. It must go beyond reacting to the gungrabbers, and have its own agenda of education. There should be regular publications. Some of these will be short and propagandistic. One series – suggested title "Saved by a Gun" – will publicise cases in which guns have been successfully used in self-defence. Another series – suggested title "If Only There Had Been a Gun" – will publicise crimes against women, the old, and other defenceless people who might have been able to fight off or deter their attackers had they been armed. There are dozens of such stories in the British press every year. At the moment, they are noted by gunowners, used as anecdotal evidence for a few weeks, and then they are forgotten as other news stories become prominent. They need to be gathered up and kept permanently on record.

7. Other publications will be longer and more scholarly. They will be reprints of articles from journals or original work commissioned from experts in the field. Some will be published by the body I am discussing. Others will be placed elsewhere.

8. Short or long, the reason for these publications will be to provide ammunition for anyone who wants to argue the case for guns in the media. I hear endless complaints about the media from gunowners. Some journalists and researchers, I grant, are just beasts. Most, however, are looking for a story and will respond well to any group that can provide them with information in a competent and reasonable manner. There are speakers from the Libertarian Alliance in the broadcast media almost every day not because we have friends there – but because we have something to say, and also know how to present ourselves when the researchers call. We have hundreds of publications available for posting or faxing, and we have a reputation for accuracy and courtesy.

9. Apart from this, there must be a coordination of less intellectual activity. Imagine the effect in a newspaper office or a television station if every untrue item about guns were followed by a couple of hundred similar letters of complaint – only similar, mind you: form letters go in the bin – or a formal complaint to the relevant media standards body. I dislike these bodies on principle, but accept that there are benefits to be had from using them while they exist.

10. And there must be an overall agenda of liberation. I am astonished at the naivety and ignorance of those gunowners who assume that the gungrabbers are just ordinary people who have read the wrong statistics about guns and crime. They are part of a much broader movement. We are living through a reaction against the Enlightenment – a reaction comparable in its force and likely effect to the collapse of rationality in the Ancient World during the 3rd century. We are facing an enemy that has a comprehensive horror of freedom. It is unable or disinclined to understand how individuals, by pursuing their self-interest within a framework of laws to protect life and property, create a spontaneous, self-regulating order. These people see themselves as Platonic guardians. Never mind that the system they are pushing is making them vastly rich and powerful – they really do believe that, without them around to rule it, the world would drift into chaos. In this country, they are more often interested in drugs and porn and kinky sex, or any other form of enjoyment not approved by them. But they are also naturally against the private ownership of guns. They are frightened of it in itself. They also fear it for the opposing ideal it represents. I may despair at your lack of moral fibre. But for all this, however faintly, you represent the old liberal ideal of responsible, autonomous beings. Your existence carries the mind back to a world in which people had both the right and the means to defend themselves against aggression – a world in which people were not expected to cry out for state protection as sheep bleat for their shepherd.

11. As such, your fight to keep your guns is a fight for freedom in the wider sense. And that fight requires alliances with other groups of people whose struggles are remote from yours only in the sense of taking place on different fronts. It is necessary to have a movement that, while concentrating on the argument over guns, is able to place itself in the general struggle against the New World Order.

There is much more that I could say. But I think you can understand what I am suggesting. You can probably also understand that what I am suggesting will cost money. It will cost more than the food and drink that the National Pistol Association poured down Sebastian Coe's throat. It will cost less than the vast fees paid by some other organisations to PR companies. It will have much more effect than either.

But is there anyone out there willing or able to make any of this happen?

Sean Gabb
The Libertarian Alliance
September 1996

© 1996 – 2017, seangabb.

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