In Locke’s account, we have inalienable rights in a state of nature, but our rights are not secure, because a state of war can break out at any time between any two individuals or groups, in which everything can be taken from us, including our lives. Guns cannot help us in this state — nothing can. We must leave the state of nature to be secure in our rights. Government secures our rights — imperfectly, to be sure. But it establishes a framework of secure rights to be built up and improved on over time.
Locke’s argument is quite clear, as is his vast influence as a political philosopher. But it’s generally irrelevant in today’s propaganda-drenched political environment — until a bunch of guys brandishing weapons amble into your local eatery and start scaring the bejesus out of folks, particularly if they have kids. Suddenly, the fundamental illogic of their premises — that gun rights form the foundation of civil order and liberty — is no longer abstract, it is visceral. Parents, in particular, feel it in their bones as a direct threat to the safety of their children. In sharp contrast to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, the gun-toters come across as threats to civilization, not its foundation. This is what Reid was insistently trying to get at: the basic experiential truth of what’s been going on when Texas open carry activists bring their assault rifles into retail stores and restaurants to preen before their own cameras.
From the very beginning, Reid tried to bring Henderson into a reality-based dialogue — reality-based in a simple, down-to-earth, everyday sense, no science required. No evolution. No global warming. Just everyday folks trying to get something to drink, or a bite to eat.
“So Tov, what would be your argument against what the NRA has said?” Reid began, referring to the since retracted statement, “Because it is unusual to be standing in line, let’s say, at the coffee shop, and have one, two or a hundred people walk up behind you, all with guns strapped to their backs. That is unusual, right? And you understand that that frightens people?”
And Henderson immediately went off on evasive maneuvers:
“Well, I … to explain here, what a lot of people do not understand is there are already 44 states that allow open carry handguns. Texas, unfortunately, is not one of those. That’s what we’re trying to achieve. As the law’s written right now, we’re only permitted to open carry our long guns, and pre-1899 black powder pistols. So the reason for this, because, and the reason for us walking with them, is because we have no other option.”No other options? How about leave your guns at home, and write your representative? That’s what everyone else does in a representative democracy. But for the open carry folks, that’s not good enough, because they are so oppressed, I guess. They “have no other option.”
But Reid wasn’t buying his attempt at evasion:
“Well, sir, that’s what you say it is, and you know that in your own mind, and you and your group say that to each other. But if I’m at, you know, the Quiznos with my kids and having a meal, and I’m not read up on your Facebook page, or I’m not a member of your circle of friends, and I don’t know you and haven’t talked to you, all I see is a bunch of guys walking in with big huge guns strapped to them. Do you understand that that scares people?”Of course he understood. He had to — even if he couldn’t admit it, not even to himself. And so he went off into evasive maneuvers once again:
You have to understand, in the past, what we’ve actually done is, we were actually invited into these establishments by the managers or ownership.But Reid jumped in, again:
That’s not what these guys are saying. These restaurants are saying they don’t want you doing this because it scares folks. I still need you to answer that fundamental question. Do you understand that it scares people to see a bunch of guys with huge guns walking in, when you are sitting there, unawares, with your kids?”