AN OPEN LETTER TO THE
GUNOWNERS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM
by Sean Gabb Monday 26th August 1996

INTRODUCTION

Last week, I started the avalanche that buried SAGE (Society Against Guns in Europe). I did none of the hard work in this. Nor had I any idea what I was starting when I faxed out my 150 news releases early on the 20th. In calling for a media investigation, I thought at best there might be evidence of a seepage of funds between SAGE the registered charity and SAGE the campaigning pressure group. However, it was my action that jogged The Daily Mail into publishing a story that it had been sitting on for weeks, and that it might have sat on for months. I am responsible for the avalanche. And I think this gives me a right to be heard when I discuss what needs to be done next.

THE LIMITED VALUE OF SMEAR CAMPAIGNS

Looking at some of the postings to the Cybershooters List, I have the impression that some think the battle is being won. "We have destroyed SAGE", the message goes - "now let's dig up some dirt on the Snowdrop people." I have seen articles extracted from The Scottish Sunday Mail, and far worse things sent as private e-mail, about some of the other anti-gun campaigners. I have no evidence that these latter things are true - but it would not surprise me if they were. In my experience, moral entrepreneurs are often compensating for what they see as an impurity within themselves. I know, for example, that many of the most rabid anti-smokers in this country are closet homosexuals. Indeed, many of the most prominent anti- homosexuals in politics are actually gay. It is possible that among the anti-gun campaigners are people who do not trust others with guns because they have never been able to trust themselves. As "Dr Bernstein" asked me on air last week, "If you cannot trust your politicians, and you cannot trust your police, can you really trust yourself?" It is now plain why this question occurred to him; and it may be that it occurs to many others for very similar reasons.

Yet, this being said, smears are of limited value. They have their place, to be sure. We only have to look at how the SAGE scandal has thrown the anti-gun campaign into chaos to see useful they can be. Nevertheless, anyone who thinks that such campaigns can be defeated simply by throwing dirt is at least naive. Even if half the anti-gun people are frauds - and this is most unlikely - the other half are not. They have no criminal records, no odd magazines in their dustbins, no strange deposits in their bank accounts. There is nothing that can be extracted from their private lives and used against them. When the frauds have been driven out, and order has been restored, the honest people will remain, still putting their arguments, and perhaps made all the stronger by the public knowledge of their honesty. These people and their arguments can only be dealt with at the level of ideas.

THE CENTRAL IDEA

And what ideas are important? Not the ones, I must say, that I have seen most often put by the various shooting lobbies. You can put on nice suits. You can call yourself sportsmen. You can deny that your target guns were designed with killing people in mind. You can talk about Gold Medals at the Olympics, and how many people are given employment by allowing you to keep your guns. You can hire expensive PR companies to buy you lunches with politicians. You will be wasting your time and money. The argument against you, that none of this addresses, is that your right to possess guns is a potential hazard to others, and that if only one life can be saved by disarming you, there is no more to be said.

This is what you must counter. You know that the claims about the correlation between legal gun ownership and armed crime are so much nonsense. You know that an armed people is a secure people - secure against both private and public enemies. You have read Colin Greenwood, and read the NRA factsheets. You must ensure that these arguments are put.

You must also be aware of the wider issues. I have spoken to gunowners who have no understanding of why they are so hated. The truth is that guns are only part of story. Here in the West, we are faced with ruling classes that no longer believe in the traditional Western values of freedom and democracy. To them, we are little people who must be controlled in every aspect of our lives if order is to be maintained. I am not alleging some vast international conspiracy, directed by Jews or Freemasons or bankers. Our present state of affairs can be very well explained by looking at the progress of false ideas during this century, and by applying the insights of Adam Smith and the public choice economists - according to which public servants are guided as if by an invisible hand to delude and oppress the public.

But, whatever the cause, the fact is that there is a comprehensive attack on our free traditions. This is advanced by the manufacture of problems that only State action can solve. Look at the "War on Drugs" - a scandalous attack on free choice that justifies every horror from invading foreign countries to abolishing financial privacy. Look at the calls for identity cards - things that will have no effect on real crime, but will eventually give us all the freedom and dignity of caged exhibits in a zoo. Look at the rage against paedophilia and child pornography - nasty things, I agree, but really too unusual to worry about, and for the most part a smokescreen to regulate sex and pornography for everyone. Look at the panic over Nazis on the Internet - another smokescreen for censorship. Look at the health fascist campaigns against tobacco and alcohol. Look at the "Devil Dogs" scare of 1991, at the fuss about salmonella in eggs, and hundreds of other things. They are all part of the same agenda of total control.

I am not saying that you should dilute your efforts by crying out against the food safety laws or the Money Laundering Directive. But you must be aware of the war in which your battle is just one among many. And you must be prepared to swallow certain prejudices and to support certain positions that you as respectable members of the public are supposed to abhor. Though you are fighting against a ban on handguns, you must never forget that you are fighting the enemies of freedom; and that a victory against them on any other front is a victory for you also.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

The problem, of course, is that most of you dare not do this. You have too much to lose. I appreciate that you are easy targets for the authorities. You go into a television studio and speak the truth, and you may be visited at home a few days later by the police - just coming round to check that you are obeying all the hundreds of regulations on the home storage of guns and ammunition. Needless to say, you will lose your licences, or be harassed in other ways. I know this from my homosexual friends - you campaign too effectively against censorship and persecution, and some constable will claim you tried to touch him up in a lavatory, or Inspector Plod will say he found a stash of child pornography under your bed.

The truth about guns can only be told by people like me who have no guns to take away. Only we can go into television and radio studios and say everything against the gungrabbers that needs to be said. I have been doing this for months now, in dozens of studios up and down the country. I began this letter by boasting about my destruction of SAGE. I am far less proud of this than I am of the arguments I have won against people like Anne Pearston and Rosemary Hunter, and about the small but perceptible change in the intellectual climate of this debate.

Now, here is where I say what I want. I will not ask for money - some would be nice, but no one will send any. Instead, I ask for information. I want to know about British examples of the successful use of guns for self-defence. I want to know if people really have been bullied into signing the Snowdrop Petition. I want to know about the persecution of gunowners by the police. I want, in short, to know anything that will strengthen the often abstract arguments that I put in the media.

Do this, and let us see if the campaign against guns is quite the pushover it was after Hungerford.

Sean Gabb
Monday 26th August 1996

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