What Would Libertarian Gun Policy Look Like?
Elijah J. Henry
A libertarian gun policy would involve strict application of the zero aggression principle, and little to no government involvement. How would these concepts affect current gun laws, if properly implemented? Let’s take a look.
What does a libertarian policy for firearms possession look like? Many jurisdictions require registration of some or all firearms. Other jurisdictions prohibit ownership of certain classes of firearms, such as semiautomatic pistols, fully automatic weapons, or large bore rifles (above .50 caliber). Sometimes, a permit is required to own a firearm, and the permit can be a form of registration if the type of weapon or even the serial number is recorded in the permitting process. Often, membership in a shooting club is a prerequisite for firearms ownership. A libertarian policy on firearms possession would certainly not involve firearms registration, de facto or otherwise. That would be too much government interference, with little to no actual benefit. (To say nothing of the risk of democide under a less friendly administration, but that’s another matter.) The prohibitions on classes of firearms would be nil, per the zero aggression principle: if you’re not hurting anyone with the firearm, why shouldn’t you be free to own it? Club membership would never be a condition of firearms ownership, as that would violate the zero aggression principle in the course of violating freedom of association.
What does a libertarian policy for firearms transfer look like? Current laws and proposals often require a background check before transfer, or they require that transfers be made only by or through a licensed firearms dealer. Certain classes of people are prohibited from owning firearms, and thus from having them transferred to them. Some jurisdictions restrict firearms purchases to one gun per month, or impose a waiting period on the purchase process. A libertarian policy on firearms transfer would generally leave people free to buy, sell, or otherwise transfer firearms without government restrictions on spontaneous or frequent purchases. No license would be necessary to be in the business of selling firearms. Regarding individuals who may not be competent to own a firearm: children, criminals, and the mentally ill, there may be restrictions within a libertarian framework. Children would be allowed to purchase firearms with the approval of their parents. Criminals who are free to walk the streets, should be free to legally purchase a firearm for the lawful defense of themselves and their families, just like anyone else. If an individual has been adjudicated mentally incompetent or dangerous to themselves or others, they could be restricted from purchasing a firearm. A background check system could be made available to anyone who wishes to confirm that their potential buyer has not been legally determined mentally incompetent or dangerous.
What does a libertarian policy for firearms components look like? Firearms components can be anything from an AR-15 upper receiver, to a 100 round drum, to a full-auto drop sear. Under United States law, a full-auto drop sear is legal to own without restriction — unless you also own a rifle that it fits in, making possible a quick conversion to full-auto fire. Upper receivers are typically unrestricted, meaning you can buy them without paperwork, even having them shipped to your door. Magazines are often restricted based on their capacity, with 10 or 15 round limits being common. A libertarian policy on firearms components would be very hands-off, with little to no government interference. All firearms components would be legal to buy, sell, or use, without restrictions.
What does a libertarian policy for firearms accessories look like? Firearms accessories can be anything from an ammo carrier on a buttstock to an optic to a suppressor to a forward pistol grip. Different jurisdictions regulate these in various ways. Suppressors are often treated like firearms, or even as a special, restricted class of firearms, even though they are just a firearm muffler. Other firearm accessories are legal to own and easy to buy, but they can only be mounted on certain weapons without doing paperwork and paying a tax, or they can only be used in certain ways. For example, under U.S. law a forward pistol grip can be mounted on a rifle, but not on a pistol, and a wrist brace can be mounted on an AR pistol, unless you place it against your shoulder. Seriously. BATFE keeps vacillating on that one, so be sure to check the latest official letter if you want to avoid a SWAT raid. Of course, if you think Ruby Ridge or Waco were as good ways to go as any, then just enjoy pretending it’s still a free country. But, I digress. A libertarian policy on firearms accessories would involve little to no government involvement. Basically, there would be no policy on firearms accessories. Anybody would be free to buy, sell, or use them without restrictions.
What does a libertarian policy for firearms carry look like? Firearms carry is typically divided artificially into two classes: open carry, and concealed carry. Some jurisdictions (like Florida) restrict open carry, while leaving concealed carry more free; others (like Ohio) take the opposite tack by restricting concealed carry, and leaving open carry unregulated. Sometimes, open carry is further divided between open carry of long guns, and open carry of handguns. Typically, open carry of long guns is the least regulated method of carry, whether because it is the least common (and thus forgotten by legislators) or out of deference to hunting traditions. A libertarian policy on firearms carry would enforce the zero aggression principle on all sides. So, you would be free to carry either long guns or handguns, either openly or concealed, so long as you refrained from pointing them at other people, or otherwise actually threatening them. Owners of property would certainly be free to set policies restricting carry in whatever manner and to whatever degree they wished, but these restrictions would have very limited legal consequences. Violating such a policy would be the most minor of civil infractions, requiring you to leave the location immediately, with no fine, probation, or jail time.
We’ve seen how libertarian philosophy applies to firearms policies of possession, transfer, carry, components, and accessories. In short, government would take a hands off approach, minimizing interference, and refraining from criminalizing activities that don’t hurt other people.
© 2017 Elijah J. Henry
Elijah J. Henry is an American freelance writer with a passion for freedom. He graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. in Political Science from Pensacola Christian College in 2013, but he remains a lifelong learner. He can be reached for writing opportunities via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/elijahjhenry.