Why The Sex Positive Community Should Care About Gun Rights
Many of the rights that protect our sexual freedom come from a broad reading of the Constitution. The right to abortion and privacy in the bedroom are not explicitly set out; they spring from interpreting the Constitution expansively.
When the news is full of shootings there is a cry, mostly from liberals like myself, for stricter gun control laws. This is a bad idea. To understand why, you need to read the Second Amendment to the US Constitution:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Intelligent people differ over the meaning of those 27 words. You can argue about the wisdom of including it in the first place, but that's not the point. The point is that it's there and we should read it with the same expansive interpretation we apply to the other amendments.
Somehow, we liberals have been convinced that there was a kinder, gentler time when the country wasn’t as violent as it is today. In that mythical time, owning a musket was fine, but owning the equivalent semi-automatic today is wrong. We’re effectively saying that we must return to traditional values and not allow people to own modern guns. We’re also saying that the mere fact of owning a gun somehow makes a law-abiding citizen into a danger to the rest of society. We demonize guns and those who stand up in support of their constitutional right to own them. We argue that the framers could not have anticipated semi-automatic handguns in the days of muskets, could not have known of drug violence in inner cities as if this somehow makes the taking of a right okay.
What does that have to do with sexual freedom, abortion and free speech, I hear you asking. The First Amendment says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
We fight long and hard against those who would have us believe in a mythical 1950s America free of pornography and noisy radicals. They say that reading erotica or the Anarchist Cookbook or the theory of evolution will somehow corrupt otherwise normal, law abiding citizens and turn them into rapists or terrorists. They say that being critical of an unpopular war is akin to treason. They say the framers never heard of Internet porn or cable TV as if this somehow makes the taking of a right okay.
The arguments are the same—it’s no different to assume that a consenting adult watching legal pornography will suddenly become a rapist than it is to assume that a legal gun owner will suddenly become a murderer. There have always been murderers and rapists and restricting speech or banning guns won’t change that.
When the government seeks to regulate what consenting adults can do in their own bedrooms we cry foul. Yet we fail to see that seeking to regulate what consenting adults do in their leisure time with legally-owned guns is just as insidious.
Similar parallels—perhaps even closer—can be drawn with the issue of abortion rights. The anti-gun forces who paint gun owners as murderers and the anti-choice forces who paint the the pro-choice community as baby-killers use the very same brush.
To interpret the Bill of Rights one way for speech, abortion, privacy and the right to own a vibrator but then suddenly want a strict constructionist view of the Second Amendment is hypocritical.
Worse, every time we argue that a ordinary citizen is corrupted by an idea or an object, we give ammunition to those who seek to restrict our access to ideas or objects because they disagree with their worldview.
[photo by Oleg Volk, used with permission]