Many of you may already be familiar with the poem “First they came…”, by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, about the apathy of intellectual stakeholders during the damage caused by the Nazis. Slightly disputed regarding its exact original wording, the poem reads as such:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Regardless of the exact wording, or Niemöller’s exact politics and philosophy, what’s abundantly clear from these words is the sentiment – one of a collective responsibility in fighting for the protection of freedom overall, and not just the particular right that’s most directly desirable in your own life at present.
To better understand why that responsibility exists, we need to look far below the superficial face of the rights in question and see what ties them all together. While there are countless arguments regarding the nature of rights, let me offer a recipe for the handling of rights to apply here that I feel to be as fair as is humanly possible:
a.) Rights are not to be suppressed on the basis of their potential for harm. If we dig deep enough, we can see that every right presently accepted in the world could offer potential for harm. Even something as basic as freedom of movement.
b.) Rights are only to be limited once an individual has demonstrated an abuse of such that results in the infringement of somebody else’s rights. Importantly though, this must be limited to the individual who actually abused the right. We don’t, after all, preemptively imprison people because somebody else abused their right to freedom of movement.
How many disputed rights can we apply this recipe to? If you’re a GOSA member, you’re probably already thinking about firearms. But what about the other contested rights of today? Gay rights? The right to identify within the realm of a gender different to the one you’re born with, or indeed none at all? Euthanasia? Prostitution? The right to put chemicals of your choosing in your own body? The list goes on...
Not standing in the way of those rights would perhaps eradicate hypocrisy among us – never a bad thing. But what would happen if we as the firearm community actually starting showing some form of solidarity with the people fighting for them? A solidarity not based on necessarily sharing the superficial desire in question, but instead a respect for the underlying element of freedom. Sharing the idea that as long as others don’t infringe on your consent, you won’t infringe on their consent. I believe that once this idea is fully understood and embraced, we will see the next step in the evolution of firearm rights, through a far broader network of support – based purely on fighting for the right to personal freedom.
By: Bernard Allen