THE SANCTION OF THE VICTIM
by Michael Mitchell
“The sanction of the victim” is a phrase which I first
heard while reading Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand. The book
focuses on Ms. Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, which holds
that the products of an individual human mind are the rightful
property of that mind alone, and no other. She draws a
distinction between two classes of people: Thinkers, those
responsible for creating the wealth and prosperity in the world,
and looters, those who raid that wealth by force of law or
intimidation. As is typical of most thieves, the looters offered
a steady stream of justifications such as fairness (it was unfair
for the industrialist to keep the wealth he earned when there
were poor people in the world), nobility (it was selfish for an
industrialist not to destroy his company by giving away its
entire asset base), or the collective good (the good of the
society as a whole was more important than the good of any
individual). For years, this strategy succeeded, with the
thinkers continuing to labor away under increasingly oppressive
policies, policies which made it more and more difficult for them
to operate, while simultaneously being condemned by the looters
at every turn as the cause of all economic and social woes.
The thinkers were able to achieve victory over the looters
when they realized that, in order for the looters’
philosophy to succeed, the cooperation of the thinkers was
absolutely required. The thinkers, led by a man named John Galt,
simply withdrew their support from the society which claimed to
hate them, causing its eventual collapse. In Rand’s words,
the success of the looter philosophy was dependent upon the
sanction of the victim.
The same tactics are being
used against gun owners today. The proponents of disarmament
bombard the American public with a constant stream of vitriol
directed at guns and gun owners. We constantly hear in the media
that gun deaths are out of control, that children are at risk,
and that the “gun culture” is to blame. The United
Methodist Church passed a resolution recently stating, in part,
“No appeals to individual autonomy are sufficient for the
church to ignore the threat of gun violence.” The large
number of guns present in America is juxtaposed with statistics
claiming “13 children a day die from gun violence.”
(Note: That statistic is only true if you include everyone under
age 20 as a “child”.) The National Rifle Association is
depicted as a band of violence-prone kooks, vigorously defending
criminals who commit gun violence. The city leaders of New York
City are in apoplectic fits over the possibility that NRA might
open a shooting sports store and restaurant in Times Square,
while simultaneously ignoring the violence-peddling WWF
restaurant just down the street.
The intent is that the
whole of society - including gun owners - accept that the
presence of guns in the society is a contributor to violence,
that the only reason anyone owns a gun is to commit violence, and
that our rights to own property are secondary to the need to
protect the innocent victims of gun violence. However, the key
weakness of this strategy is this: In order for any
disarmament strategy or anti-gun-owner public relations effort to
succeed, the cooperation of gun owners - in other words, the
sanction of the victims - is absolutely required. We can only
be demonized with our cooperation.
Now, you may
object that you have never endorsed or supported any gun control
idea. You may object that you are a member of this gun rights
group or that gun rights group. However, I would submit that, if
you’ve done nothing more active than send the NRA $35 this
year to defend your gun rights, you are sanctioning their
removal. Your sanction is provided in several ways:
When you hide the fact that you are a gun owner, you encourage
the perception that gun owners are a minority.
fail to challenge crime facilitation (i.e. ‘gun
control’) editorials or articles in your local newspaper,
you are allowing them to stand as the truth.
When you fail
to identify and vote for pro-freedom representatives, you are
allowing the anti-freedom forces to win the election.
you fail to talk about your hobby and take non-shooting friends
with you to the range, you are allowing the media perception of
gun owners to take the forefront in their minds.
fail to demonstrate yourself as a sane, thinking, peaceable
person, you allow the media’s picture of gun owners as
dangerous, violence-prone individuals to remain in the minds of
those who witness you.
When you fail to educate yourself
about pending legislative or legal attempts to strip your rights
away, you allow those attempts to succeed unchallenged.
When you fail to publicize the facts about gun ownership among
your circle of friends and acquaintances, you allow the
media’s distortions and lies to stand as truth.
you say it’s okay to ban semi-auto rifles or low-cost
handguns because you don’t own one, you are cooperating with
the ‘divide and conquer’ strategy employed by the crime
In short, your inaction as a gun owner
provides the enemies of freedom with all the sanction they
require. Their vilification of peaceable gun owners goes
unchallenged, and, therefore, is accepted as truth by the general
I’ve heard many gun owners
complain that the weight of the mass media is too great, that the
free publicity given to the “evils” of gun ownership is
simply too powerful for us to oppose. There’s a sense of
helplessness or even despair that the general public can ever be
educated in the facts regarding guns. In other words, we’re
doomed. Well, to be honest, I’ve felt those pangs myself.
Then, like Ayn Rand’s thinkers, I came to a realization:
Since the demonization of gun owners, and the abridgment of
gun rights, cannot succeed without our cooperation, we are the
ones who hold the real power.
By most estimates,
there are 80 million lawful gun owners in the United States.
Folks, that’s power. Even simple civil disobedience in the
face of unconstitutional anti-gun policies can have an incredible
impact. What would happen if 80 million Americans suddenly
decided that they would no longer cooperate with illegal,
unconstitutional gun laws? What could the “authorities”
do about it? Witness Canada, where that exact scenario is being
acted out, as millions of Canadian citizens refuse to comply with
the government’s gun registration program.
if even half that number joined the NRA. What congresscritter
would dare cross gun owners, faced with that kind of organized
“But I don’t agree with the NRA
on some of their policies,” you might say. Well, neither do
I. It’s inevitable that any organization of any size will
suffer some internal disagreements. So what? The NRA is still the
largest, best financed, and best organized gun rights
organization out there. The smaller organizations like JPFO or
GOA are good organizations, don’t get me wrong. I’ve
supported several of them myself. But they’re not seen as a
threat by the crime facilitators because they’re too small
to galvanize a large number of voters to action. Why do you think
the crime facilitators work so hard to discredit the NRA? Because
it’s the only pro-freedom organization large enough to
threaten the legislative careers of the gun grabbers.
But, just for the sake of argument, let’s say you so
vehemently disagree with the NRA’s policies that you’ll
never join. Fine. There’s still plenty more you can do.
Become an ambassador for firearms ownership. Write letters to the
editor and to your representatives. Join mailing lists dedicated
to news on firearms-related issues. Take your non-shooting
friends to the range and show them how much fun shooting can be.
Be a peaceable citizen, opposed to violence, and demonstrate it
in your speech and actions. In short, be active and aggressive
in your support of firearms ownership. Seize the power that
is yours, and refuse to give your sanction to your own
victimization. And don’t ever allow yourself to feel
helpless or guilty about exercising your rights.
Copyright 2000 Michael A. Mitchell. Permission is hereby
granted to reproduce this article in its entirety, including this
copyright notice and attribution to this website. Mike writes for http://www.KeepAndBearArms.com; you
can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KABA NOTE: This
article is a fantastic addition to our growing collection of essays, and having
a writer of such quality as Michael A. Mitchell on board is wonderful. We only
contend with one sentiment expressed above and must make a statement in the
interest of clarity on the part of this organization.
The NRA continues to support GUN
CONTROL and thus does not get our support any more than HCI's NRA-supported
gun control gets our support. If you think
the NRA is worth sending money to, read
these articles before you write the check.