Part 1 Professor Etzioni: No Speech, No Guns

Larry Pratt
Part I — No Speech, No Guns

The suggestion is so stupid, so outrageous, so intellectually dishonest, so off-the-wall, that when I heard about it I didn’t believe it. It had to be a joke, a satire, a spoof. But, then I read his proposal. And, sure enough, incredibly, well — I’m getting ahead of myself.

First, a little background. In recent years, a growing number of Liberal scholars have concluded that the so-called “Standard Model” is correct, that the Second Amendment does, indeed, protect an individual right to keep and bear arms. Among these individuals are: University of Texas Law Professor Sanford Levinson; Harvard Constitutional Law Professor Laurence Tribe; William Van Alstyne of Duke University; and Yale Law Professor Akhil Reed Amar.

Needless to say, the hard-core gun-grabbers — who could not care less about the truth or the Constitution — are going nuts over this development. And chief among these neo-Know Nothings is Amitai Etzioni, the former President of the American Sociological Association who now teaches sociology at George Washington University.

OK. So, how, exactly, is Prof. Etzioni dealing with his colleagues who have discovered the truth about the Second Amendment and are admitting it publicly? Is he doing his own research and refuting their scholarship? Not at all. Instead he is suggesting — that they shut up!

In an article on the web site of the Chronicle Of Higher Education (April 6, 2001), titled Are Liberal Scholars Acting Irresponsibly On Gun Control?, Etzioni asks: “Are revisionist, liberal legal scholars acting irresponsibly by handing rhetorical ammo to gun proponents? Are these scholars’ historical interpretations helping gun advocates take potshots at the Supreme Court’s longstanding support of state gun control?”

Referring to some who have noted that the private ownership of guns was advocated by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Mason, Etzioni says: “My response is that ours is a government by laws which cannot be trumped by quotations from even the most established patriotic icons.” In other words: The Founding Fathers be damned! To Etzioni, evidently, the views and intentions of these men who gave us the highest, man-made, positive law of our land — our Constitution — don’t matter!

Saying that the Liberal scholars who now believe in the “Standard Model” of the Second Amendment are “making the equivalent argument that the earth is flat after all,” Etzioni says: “But, in the case of gun control, although no one would contest the revisionist scholars’ right to engage in such research, I can’t help but wonder if they are right to engage in such research…. With so much at stake, should scholars refrain from conducting studies that might have grave unsettling social consequences?”

Proving, with a vengeance, that analogies are not his strong suit, Etzioni says the social consequences of actions cannot be ignored. Thus, he asks: “Would my colleagues put on their web site a study demonstrating how to make the Ebola virus in a kitchen sink? Would they publish ways to make nerve gas in one’s basement? As I see it, when the results of a publication may well be fatal on a large scale, great weight should be given to social prudence.”

Say what?!

Publishing research defending the “Standard Model” of the Second Amendment is like telling folks how to make a deadly virus and nerve gas?! And this Constitutional scholarship could be “fatal on a large scale?” I don’t know what Prof. Etzioni has been smoking. But, he definitely inhaled — many times!

Etzioni concludes his loony-tunes proposal by asking his pro-“Standard Model” colleagues in law schools to “consider whether they should devote themselves to an academic pursuit other than undermining the Supreme Court rulings that have rendered gun control possible and legitimate.” He insists, however, presumably with a straight face, that what he is suggesting “gives no offense to the ethos of science or scholarship.”

But, this assertion is preposterous. Putting aside the question of how often this is actually been followed, the stated ethos, the essence, of science, scholarship and academic freedom has been that the truth must be vigorously pursued regardless of where the truth leads and whatever the consequences of this truth. Thus, what Prof. Etzioni proposes is as offensive as one can imagine to the ethos of science and scholarship.

And Etzioni’s outrageous proposals do not, alas, end here. He is the author of a document titled The Case For Domestic Disarmament in which he advocates “legislation to remove guns from private hands.” Praising several countries for doing what he favors, Etzioni says:

    Domestic disarmament entails the removal of arms from private hands and, ultimately, from much of the police force. Once guns are hard to obtain and the very possession and sale of them are offenses, the level of violent crime will fall significantly.

Etzioni assures us that domestic disarmament can be “rapidly implemented.” But, “the initial cost may be high especially if one is to buy out all existing arms manufacturers and arms now in private hands at some publicly set price, rather than confiscate them. This is a one time cost.”

Etzioni says he would allow gun collectors to be “accommodated by provisions allowing them to keep their collection, but rendering them inoperative (cement in the barrel is my favorite technique).” And hunters “might be allowed… to use long guns that cannot be concealed, without sights or powerful bullets, making the event much more ‘sporting.'”

As for those Etzioni sneeringly refers to as “super-patriots, who still believe they need their right to bear arms to protect us from the Commies,” he says they “might be deputized and invited to participate in the National Guard, as long as the weapons with which they are trained are kept in state controlled armories. All this is acceptable, as long as all other guns and bullets are removed from private hands.”

Etzioni says that if nationwide domestic disarmament cannot be achieved immediately, the “best way” to proceed “is to introduce it in some major part of the country, say, the Northeast…. The rapid fall in violent crime sure to follow will make ever more states demand that domestic disarmament be extended to their region…. If domestic disarmament is ever implemented in some parts, it will soon become an irresistible, natural public policy.”

Truly these are the ravings of a dangerous, utopian totalitarian whose views would be more at home in Stalin’s Russia than in the United States of America. In the next few columns I will examine more of Etzioni’s views, in some detail, based on a lengthy interview we conducted with the “Nutty Professor.”

A footnote: At one time Etzioni’s “Communitarian Platform” listed among its signers Richard John Neuhaus who is now Editor-In-Chief of First Things magazine. But, in an interview, Neuhaus tells us that Etzioni’s call for domestic disarmament “doesn’t sound like anything I’d want to be associated with.” He says that he once did sign on to this Platform, “but then we had some unpleasantness because a number of other statements were issued… in which he used my name. And I made it very clear this was not acceptable.”