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Why Did it Have to be … Guns? by L. Neil Smith

by L. Neil Smith

Over the past 30 years, I’ve been paid to write almost two million words, every one of which, sooner or later, came back to the issue of guns and gun-ownership. Naturally, I’ve thought about the issue a lot, and it has always determined the way I vote.

People accuse me of being a single-issue writer, a single-issue thinker, and a single-issue voter, but it isn’t true. What I’ve chosen, in a world where there’s never enough time and energy, is to focus on the one political issue which most clearly and unmistakably demonstrates what any politician — or political philosophy — is made of, right down to the creamy liquid center.

Make no mistake: all politicians — even those ostensibly on the side of guns and gun ownership — hate the issue and anyone, like me, who insists on bringing it up. They hate it because it’s an X-ray machine. It’s a Vulcan mind-meld. It’s the ultimate test to which any politician — or political philosophy — can be put.

If a politician isn’t perfectly comfortable with the idea of his average constituent, any man, woman, or responsible child, walking into a hardware store and paying cash — for any rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything — without producing ID or signing one scrap of paper, he isn’t your friend no matter what he tells you.

If he isn’t genuinely enthusiastic about his average constituent stuffing that weapon into a purse or pocket or tucking it under a coat and walking home without asking anybody’s permission, he’s a four-flusher, no matter what he claims.

What his attitude — toward your ownership and use of weapons — conveys is his real attitude about you. And if he doesn’t trust you, then why in the name of John Moses Browning should you trust him?

If he doesn’t want you to have the means of defending your life, do you want him in a position to control it?

If he makes excuses about obeying a law he’s sworn to uphold and defend — the highest law of the land, the Bill of Rights — do you want to entrust him with anything?

If he ignores you, sneers at you, complains about you, or defames you, if he calls you names only he thinks are evil — like “Constitutionalist” — when you insist that he account for himself, hasn’t he betrayed his oath, isn’t he unfit to hold office, and doesn’t he really belong in jail?

Sure, these are all leading questions. They’re the questions that led me to the issue of guns and gun ownership as the clearest and most unmistakable demonstration of what any given politician — or political philosophy — is really made of.

He may lecture you about the dangerous weirdos out there who shouldn’t have a gun — but what does that have to do with you? Why in the name of John Moses Browning should you be made to suffer for the misdeeds of others? Didn’t you lay aside the infantile notion of group punishment when you left public school — or the military? Isn’t it an essentially European notion, anyway — Prussian, maybe — and certainly not what America was supposed to be all about?

And if there are dangerous weirdos out there, does it make sense to deprive you of the means of protecting yourself from them? Forget about those other people, those dangerous weirdos, this is about you, and it has been, all along.

Try it yourself: if a politician won’t trust you, why should you trust him? If he’s a man — and you’re not — what does his lack of trust tell you about his real attitude toward women? If “he” happens to be a woman, what makes her so perverse that she’s eager to render her fellow women helpless on the mean and seedy streets her policies helped create? Should you believe her when she says she wants to help you by imposing some infantile group health care program on you at the point of the kind of gun she doesn’t want you to have?

On the other hand — or the other party — should you believe anything politicians say who claim they stand for freedom, but drag their feet and make excuses about repealing limits on your right to own and carry weapons? What does this tell you about their real motives for ignoring voters and ramming through one infantile group trade agreement after another with other countries?

Makes voting simpler, doesn’t it? You don’t have to study every issue — health care, international trade — all you have to do is use this X-ray machine, this Vulcan mind-meld, to get beyond their empty words and find out how politicians really feel. About you. And that, of course, is why they hate it.

And that’s why I’m accused of being a single-issue writer, thinker, and voter.

But it isn’t true, is it?

Permission to redistribute this article is herewith granted by the author — provided that it is reproduced unedited, in its entirety, and appropriate credit given. lneil@lneilsmith.org

[This above is back because the election season is back. — GV]

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sisu October 15, 2020, 8:16 AM

    Thank you for sharing this essay and introducing L Neil Smith.

  • Donny Bear October 15, 2020, 8:17 AM

    I love the books L. Neil Smith wrote. One of my favorite authors next to Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein.

  • Anonymous October 15, 2020, 8:59 AM

    I second Sisu’s gratitude and thank DB for pointing out that Smith is/was also a novelist. If the above essay is a representative sampling of his writing, I greatly look forward to reading more of his work!

  • EX-Californian Pete October 15, 2020, 9:14 AM

    Excellent article. Just another reason to love this website.

    One of the (many, many) reasons I left California was the ever-increasing amount of unconstitutional gun laws and restrictions there. I’ve been a firearm collector for over 4 decades, and used to joke about “well, I wonder which ones in my collection that were perfectly LEGAL yesterday became ILLEGAL while I slept?”

    One of the most ridiculous CA laws is the “10 day cooling off period.”
    So– I legally purchase a firearm from an FFL, pay cash for it, go through the NICS check, pass it with flying colors (as I have over 140 times), and then have to wait TEN DAYS before I can LEGALLY come back to the FFL and pick the firearm up.

    Because the Liberal/Socialist Democrats that run California are pretty sure that I probably bought that firearm out of ANGER or HATRED or SPITE, and need 10 days to “cool down” because otherwise, they are positive that I would immediately take that gun, run out and MURDER someone, or commit some horrible mass incident that would cause unimaginable amounts of loss of human lives!
    Obviously, they ignore the fact that after passing the NICS check dozens of times, and ALREADY possessing dozens of firearms, no “10 day cooling off period” needs to be applied.

    Meanwhile, CA. Governor Newsom passed a law that reduces the penalty for WILLFULLY infecting someone with the AIDS virus from a FELONY down to a MISDEMEANOR.

    Go figure…….

  • Jake October 15, 2020, 9:45 AM


  • ghostsniper October 15, 2020, 10:22 AM

    Remember folks, the 2nd amendment does not convey rights, but it does describe restrictions. On them. The gov’t employees. No man can issue rights, nor can any gov’t of men. It is not physically possible. You have right because you were born with them. Just as you were born with your eyes and ears and brain. No one gave them to you, but perhaps god if you so believe. Certainly no gov’t gave them to you. Read the 2nd amendment. Right out of the gate it mentions a “right”. To what right is it referring? The inherent right you were born with, to defend yourself. That inherent, natural right to protect yourself any way you see fit was already existing BEFORE and gov’t was created. So in the absence of the 2nd amendment your rights are not erased. No indeed. Your natural rights exist even if there is no gov’t to pretend to protect them.

    While we are on the subject of rights, take a look at the Roe v Wade “right”. It is not a right at all. It is a declaration of a privilege created by the gov’t of me. Just like the drivers license privilege created by the same body of men. Men create privileges and men take them away.

    Never mistake privileges for rights nor confuse rights with privileges. Politicians cleverly or ignorantly do so all the time.

    If you doubt any of this go read the constitution from the beginning. Right away it describes the inherent nature of rights. That parchment is a blueprint on how to build a nation and maintain it in what is believed to be the best way in order to cause freedom to ring true for as many people as possible. But that is all it is, a blueprint. A guide. A suggestion. And it’s been proven to work. And it has been used as a guide for the blueprints of many other nations.

    But since the constitution is “just a goddamed piece of paper” it is easily avoided by criminals hiding at distance behind phalanx’s of lesser “public servants”. It has been said that nationwide there are over 50,000 laws pertaining to firearms but as the plain reading of the plainly written 2nd amendment demands such a thing is prohibitied. How can this be? 50,000 direct violations to the highest law in all the land? And nobody is in jail because of this? It’s not being screamed about continuously by the media? Millions of concerned citizens have not stormed DC with torches and pitchforks? At this stage in this nations history it is too dangerous and too costly money wise to mount such a thing. My guess is, that unless some anomaly occurs this whole thing will continue to erode at an increasing pace to where ALL the restrictions on the gov’t are ignored. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but certainly at some point in the future. It’s destiny. Nothing lives forever.

  • James ONeil October 15, 2020, 10:42 AM

    Smith make some great points but to do so he highly over simplifies. I suspect his over two million words written don’t always come back to gun ownership, -that they come back to individual freedom would, perhaps, be closer to the truth.

    If pro gun ownership always determines the way he votes, I imagine he sits out a lot of elections.

    Me, I support our whole Constitution including the second amendment and I try to vote for candidates that get us closer to that document, as written rather than as interpreted by the ‘woke’.

    Gun ownership alone does not define freedom. If you carry, open or concealed, but wear the mask, not by your choice, but because it’s mandated by your betters how free are you?

  • Fletcher Christian October 15, 2020, 11:16 AM

    And how about criminals and the insane?
    Do you really want convicted violent criminals and/or people who have conversations with voices in their heads to be carrying weapons anywhere near you?

  • Vanderleun October 15, 2020, 11:18 AM

    Who says they aren’t already?

  • James ONeil October 15, 2020, 11:31 AM

    & the score is;
    Fletcher 0
    Gerard 10

  • John Venlet October 15, 2020, 11:40 AM

    And how about criminals and the insane?
    Do you really want convicted violent criminals and/or people who have conversations with voices in their heads to be carrying weapons anywhere near you?

    Fletcher, do you honestly believe that criminals and the insane who are in want of a gun stop in at Dave’s Gun Shop to purchase one? If you do honestly believe that, you are at the epitome of naivety.

  • ghostsniper October 15, 2020, 11:51 AM

    Nobody has any right to chain me to their fears or satisfy their greed at my involuntary expense and anyone who thinks otherwise can just go fuck right off and there’s simply no kind way to put that.

  • Cynyr October 15, 2020, 12:15 PM

    “The freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right – subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.”


    I have to give Mr Smith another chance. I have read two of his books. One was sublime, the other was utter garbage.

  • Fletcher Christian October 15, 2020, 12:24 PM


    Very few guns carried by convicted criminals and the violently insane in the UK. Maybe because we don’t have three guns for every adult.

    • ghostsniper September 21, 2022, 12:33 PM

      You’re lying again Fletcher. Knock it off.

  • Jack October 15, 2020, 1:20 PM

    Fletcher, don’t compare apples and oranges and look for equality. The fiery Brits who once ruled the seas and the world gave up their guns and then bent over, grabbed their ankles and let the muslims come in to stink the great old UK up, like a Persian market. From what I understand you poor cats can’t even legitimately carry a knife for protection….but you can damned sure bet the mussies are packing ’em and one day, they are very likely to use them en masse’ against you. So keep letting them in and electing them to public office.

    At one time long ago America tried to play nice with the Brits and have their freedom but it took a stack of rifles and guys who knew how to use them to close the deal. We know what guns and knowing how to use them means to national and individual freedom and protection and most of us, if we have to, will die with an AR or other weapon in our hands if push comes to shove. We don’t want it that way and very likely we will not start it but anyone who does had better know where they want to be buried. It’s just the way we are and we, along with the Brits, gave Adolph Hitler a one-way stamped ticket to Hell with our guns and determination to get rid of him.

    We are a nation of around 325MM people and many more guns and it goes without saying that we have some seriously nutty MF’s in our lovely land. Some of those nuts want to kill people and because we are a Republic, we allow them to walk the streets and live among us until they FU.

    We adjudicate the ones we can and we will kill the remainder of them if they take up arms against our citizens but we don’t shut down the liberty and God given rights of the good, the law abiding and the non-criminal or non-crazy population just because we have a few that occasionally go off the reservation. We hate and lament the loss of life when some deranged case kills another but we cannot control every soul in our nation or force the remainder of the citizenry into subjugation because of those people.

    We prefer to stay armed and ready and with the un-Godly and animalistic behavior and situations that are being created by our fine young communists, if the SHTF we will deal with them if the nation cannot. Would you really rather live in a nation that deprives you of the right to protect yourself and your family if you weren’t already stuck there?

  • ghostsniper October 15, 2020, 1:55 PM

    You’re on a roll Jack!

  • ghostsniper October 15, 2020, 1:59 PM

    Fletcher sed: “…convicted criminals and the violently insane in the UK.”
    How would you protect yourself and your wife if one or more of them kicked your door in at 3am?
    I really hope you won’t say you’ll cower and call.

  • Eric Brown October 15, 2020, 3:01 PM

    Fletcher – no, you don’t have 3 guns/person. Which is why the UK suffers from a surfeit of knife and acid attacks, not to mention a country-wide problem of the police turning a blind eye to “Asian” gangs grooming underage women for sexual exploitation. Might be “racist” to notice that. I mean, really, those young women were just asking to be sexually exploited, right? Right?

  • Neuday October 15, 2020, 3:02 PM

    If the government interpreted the 2nd Amendment the way the interpret the Commerce Clause, I’d have crew-served and indirect fire weapons available to me. If “emanations from a penumbra” were included as part of the “shall not be infringed”, me and my boys would have TOW missles mounted on our trucks towing Russian TSVs.

    Our “elites” would have a different attitude toward the people and be perhaps less insouciant about ramming things down our throats.

  • Cynyr October 15, 2020, 3:12 PM

    “We hate and lament the loss of life when some deranged case kills another but we cannot control every soul in our nation or force the remainder of the citizenry into subjugation because of those people.”

    This. Read and understand this, and you are qualified to live in this country.

  • ambiguousfrog October 15, 2020, 5:33 PM

    Music to my ears:

    Facts are a bitch.

    “… the number of U.S. guns at 393 million in 2017. That dwarfed the next highest totals of 71 million in India and nearly 50 million in China – countries that both have populations four times the size of the United States…”

    Why listen to a fool from the U.K. that’s already lost his country to the EU and Angela “stasi” Merkel thanks to their love of open borders and endless migration. Tell it to all the young Swedish women who lost their lives to young horny African men. Because, wait for it, the criminals and insane might get guns so no one else should have them to defend themselves from roving animals.

  • Terry October 15, 2020, 6:41 PM

    @ Jack & ambiguousfrog

    Thank you both for writing what you both individually did.

    You saved me a bunch of time. You men are dead nuts on. I saw with my own eyes the results of a Communist government after seizing the guns of their citizens. Piles of sun bleached human skulls stacked fifteen meters high.

    I am not going down easy. I am prepared to defend myself and my family against any fake “authorities” that come for my guns.

  • ghostsniper October 16, 2020, 4:41 AM

    Terry sed: “…that come for my guns.”
    They won’t have to do that.
    You’ll gladly turn them in.

    Maybe next year, after Biden is elected, and it’s time to renew your vehicle and/or house insurance.
    You’ll get a notice from the insurance company requiring you to give them a list of all the firearms in your possession, otherwise they will drop your policy. You’ll seek another insurer only to find they all require the same thing. So you relent and give them the list and they tell you that your policy has doubled in cost due to the inherent dangerousness of your lifestyle because you own firearms.

    Your medical insurance will do the same thing. Double.
    When renewing your drivers license, if you possess firearms you must put up a $1000 cash bond, or else your license will not be renewed.

    Same with enrolling your kids in a public school. Cash bond of $5000. in case your kid takes one of your guns to school.

    And on and on and on.

    One of these days an event will occur to where you people suddenly realize that you are not free at all. You are owned, lock stock and barrel, like so many cattle. Free range cattle in a fenced in area. You are criminals that have not yet been targeted by the system that controls you and holds your life in it’s hands. I have mentioned so many times my ears are bleeding but nobody at all has the capacity to see 3 moves ahead.

  • Anonymous October 16, 2020, 6:58 AM

    “If “emanations from a penumbra” were included as part of the “shall not be infringed”, me and my boys would have TOW missles mounted on our trucks towing Russian TSVs.”
    Well put !
    Today’s “enlightened” leftists ignore what they don’t like about the Constitution, such as the second amendment, and make up things that aren’t in it, such as the “Constitutional Right” to have an abortion or to same sex marriage.

  • Anonymous October 16, 2020, 6:59 AM

    “If “emanations from a penumbra” were included as part of the “shall not be infringed”, me and my boys would have TOW missles mounted on our trucks towing Russian TSVs.”
    Well put !
    Today’s “enlightened” leftists ignore what they don’t like about the Constitution, such as the second amendment, and make up things that aren’t in it, such as the “Constitutional Right” to have an abortion or to same sex marriage.

  • ghostsniper October 16, 2020, 7:47 AM

    In the late 18th century the flintlock musket was the assault weapon of the time.

  • James ONeil October 16, 2020, 1:37 PM

    Guns are humane. They reduce collateral damage.

    Anyone with a 1960’s or earlier high school chemistry class under their belt knows enough to take materials found in every kitchen and garage in the nation & mix up a devil’s brew or bomb that would destroy far more in a crowd than 5 or 10 nuts with guns.

    Which, now that I think about it, may well be one of the reasons why the powers that be have replaced education with indoctrination.

  • Boat Guy October 17, 2020, 3:00 AM

    That’s probably why they want coal-powered cars so badly. Who needs chemistry when you’ve got gasoline?

  • Anonymous September 21, 2022, 1:12 PM

    I’ve always said “this is no time to restrict firearm possession.”

  • Matt Burchett September 21, 2022, 1:13 PM

    If I were king, it would be a misdemeanor to appear in public without one’s firearm, fully loaded and in good working order, open or concealed at the owner’s discretion. To not overburden the poor, I’d issue every citizen a personal sidearm etched with their SSN. My kingdom would be the most peaceable society in the history of the world.

    • Mike Austin September 21, 2022, 1:44 PM

      My thoughts exactly. I would add that citizenship—thus voting—and the right to own land would require gun ownership.

  • Mike Austin September 21, 2022, 1:48 PM

    There is no more important issue. Guns take priority even over abortion. A gun controller is my enemy for life and will be treated as such.

    • Terry September 21, 2022, 6:05 PM

      “There is no more important issue. Guns take priority even over abortion. A gun controller is my enemy for life and will be treated as such.”

      Yes. I cannot for the life of me understand why even some people here in the AD club do not fully understand this fact.

      If you allow some tyrant to take your means of self defense, someone will later take your life easily. This is a fact of life in this world.

      No. I will not hand my weapons over. I saw the consequence’s with my own eyes in Cambodia.

      • Mike Austin September 22, 2022, 5:04 AM

        French President and über beta sexual degenerate weakling Macron recently said that no Frenchman has the right to defend himself. And there it is, Ladies and Gentlemen, spelled out in crystal clarity for everyone to understand, the inner-most thoughts of every world elite concerning guns. And Macron said this while surrounded by men with guns. For those with ears, hear. For those with eyes, see.

        Look upon the devastation being wreaked upon this nation by the Left—and all of this while we possess 500,000,000 firearms. For the love of God, think what it would do if we had no guns.

        • ghostsniper September 22, 2022, 2:20 PM

          Mike sed: “…Macron recently said that no Frenchman has the right to defend himself.”
          That right there should cause any person that says that to be wiped right on the spot.
          Can you imagine the pacific gall of such a person?

          • Mike Austin September 23, 2022, 7:03 AM

            True that. Their evil is no longer hidden because they believe that it no longer needs to be hidden. What was once an oily subtlety has become a straight razor pressed against the neck of all that is decent, of all that is clean, of all that is honorable.

            There is something else—there is always something else: The Left reveals itself in all its Luciferian glory in order to strike fear, to threaten, to show what it is capable of doing. What this actually does is cause hatred in its most red-hot form. From this there is no possible retreat, no possible compromise, no possible standing down. It will be all or nothing—which is how I would like things to be.

            We are now in the “Alea iacta est!” phase. One day we will be in the “Veni, vidi, vici!” phase.

  • Dirk September 21, 2022, 5:51 PM

    2 million words to say. “Fuck You Govt”,,,,,,,Not much chance anyone in govt will not understand my position.

    I waffle between our guys saying to much, vs a simple NO! I seem to think when WE go into long drawn out reviews and rants, we just feed the govt, In power them to wordsmith redefine what the Constitution clearly spells out.

    My gums are not their business.


  • Flannelputz September 21, 2022, 7:13 PM

    To me, the nation of Iran is the penultimate case study on gun rights. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, The government told the citizens they had 3 weeks to turn in all guns. Penalty for possession after that was 25 years in Evan prison, where medieval tortures are the norm. Most everyone complied.
    Now, 40 years later, the restive population lives at the will of the despised Mullahs, and any dissent is instantly punished. It is said that in order to voice their displeasure, Iranian citizens are reduced to going up to the rooftops in the dead of night , yelling “Death to the dictator!” and quickly scurrying back to their bed, and hiding under the covers, hoping no one finds out.
    Someone once said ” Without the second amendment, the bill of rights may as well not exist”.

    • Mike Austin September 22, 2022, 4:38 AM

      Every freedom, every right, every scrap of dignity rests upon the 2nd Amendment. To surrender your guns is to step into the Gulag. A man without a gun is a slave. And slaves are exactly what the Iranians are—and the Canadians, and the Australians, and the Europeans, and on and on.

  • Horatio September 22, 2022, 4:42 AM

    R.I.P. L. Neil Smith 1946-2021

  • Tom Hyland September 22, 2022, 7:37 AM

    I like very much what Gerard Van der Leun wrote a few years back…
    “When the First Amendment fails the Second Amendment becomes the First Amendment.”