American in Transition: Why I’m Not Worried About the Biden/Harris “Gun Control” Talk

Gun photo from RGBStock

A few weeks before the 2020 election, I visited a local gun shop. It was a madhouse. Weapons flew off the shelves as fast as customers could get their wallets out. Ammunition was in short supply too. Why? Well, on the front door, a flyer warned that, if elected, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would act quickly push to “gun control” legislation through Congress.

“Panic buying” before a big election, just in case, is the norm. That means booming business for gun dealers, but there’s just not much reason for gun owners or would-be gun owners to worry. Other than some ineffectual tinkering around the edges for propaganda purposes, “gun control” just ain’t gonna happen in America.

Not because the right to self-defense (and the corollary right to possess the means of self-defense) is an unalienable and non-negotiable human right, though it is.

Nor because the US Constitution clearly and unambiguously forbids government infringement on the right to keep and bear arms, though it does.

While I love the philosophical and constitutional arguments on the subject, it’s the facts on the ground that really settle the question.

As of 2018, the global Small Arms Survey estimated the number of firearms in civilian hands in the US at 393 million. If evenly distributed, that would be 1.2 guns for each man, woman and child in the country.

They’re not evenly distributed, of course. Per the Pew Research Center, “only” about 30% of Americans own a gun. Call it 110 million.

Here’s how any real public discussion of “gun control” in America is going to go:

Government: Give us your guns.

Gun Owners: No.

Government: No, really,  give us your guns. We passed a law!

Gun owners: Come try to take them and see what happens.

Government: Well, when you put it THAT way …

More than 100 million Americans own nearly 400 million guns, and have no intention of surrendering those guns. Furthermore, Americans can build relatively sophisticated weapons with relatively inexpensive machine tools and/or 3D printers, and very basic firearms with items found in most homes.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris don’t have to like those facts. They’re facts  whether Joe Biden and Kamala Harris like them or not.

And if they decide to get pushy about it? As few as 1% of those gun owners could, and almost certainly would, make the Civil War look like a day at the children’s petting zoo.

Yes, politicians will make impassioned speeches to roust votes and campaign donations out of the ignorant and fearful. They might even get some token legislation passed for gun owners to ignore and for politicians to ignore gun owners ignoring.

But they know any attempt to impose real “gun control” would be political, and possibly literal, suicide.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


No Body for President? Pay Mind.

Photo by US Food and Drug Administration, 1988. Public Domain.
Part of a 1988 poster of Jesse Ventura by the US Food and Drug Administration. Public domain.

A celebrity who unleashed a frenzy of media attention with an unexpected attainment of a term in political office, despite being famed more for an outlandish personal style and uninhibited public statements than governmental experience, garnered insufficient ballots to win the 2020 US presidential election.

The slightly over 1,500 votes on the Green Party of Alaska line for former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura may seem a mere footnote to the failed re-election bid of Donald Trump, whose level of support for Ventura’s rerun was much less than the “one hundred percent” promised at WrestleMania in 2004. Yet the success of referendum initiatives for drug decriminalization, two decades after Ventura’s endorsement of such measures was viewed as no less outrageous than his feathered boas, hints that he may have had more to offer than a coincidental foreshadowing of the paths from performance to politics of Trump or Ventura’s movie costar Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In his 1999 book I Ain’t Got Time to Bleed: Reworking the Body Politic from the Bottom Up, Ventura argued against drug prohibition not only on pragmatic grounds that it would be ineffective and counterproductive, but that “the government has no business telling us what we can and can’t use for pain relief and in matters of our own health.” Despite bragging to Reason magazine that year about how “I’ve taken the libertarian exam and scored perfect on it,” his record in office was less consistent, and he failed to sustain an alliance with libertarians.

However, Ventura was right to note that “we’ve gotten into the bad habit of looking to the government to solve every personal and social crisis that comes along” and that “there are a lot of good causes out there, but they can’t possibly all be served by government.”

Ventura’s proposed remedies, such as legislatures spending one year in four pruning old laws rather than passing new ones, may not have been the most practical ways to achieve that ideal. But such a healthy skepticism of the status quo could boost efforts to rebuild voluntary civil society and mutual aid. And despite his Green Party of Alaska nod being unsought, and at odds with the national party’s backing of longtime Green New Dealer Howie Hawkins, it should inspire the Greens to return to their own roots in proclaimed key values of grassroots democracy and decentralization.

In the 1987 movie The Running Man, Ventura portrayed “America’s own Captain Freedom” as a foe of Schwarzenegger’s freedom fighter. Its tagline predicted that 2019 would be a time when “America’s finest men don’t run for President.” Ironically, the finest ideas of the man who played Captain Freedom in the movies might help the USA of the 2020s escape from the ideological confines of previous decades.

New Yorker Joel Schlosberg is a contributing editor at The William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.


America in Transition: Two Things Donald Trump Can Do to Burnish His Legacy

Donald Trump signing the SUPPORT Act. Public Domain.
Donald Trump signing the SUPPORT Act. Public Domain.

This column assumes that Joe Biden has won the 2020 US presidential election. While that SEEMS like a safe assumption — it would take successful legal challenges in several states to change the outcome — it IS an assumption. I could be writing for naught.

But if Joe Biden is locked in as the next president of the United States, Donald Trump has more than two months remaining in office. During that time, there are several steps he can and should take to burnish his legacy and set himself up to be remembered more kindly than his first four years and ten months in office might otherwise merit. Here are two of them.

First: Trump ran on, and has frequently talked about, “ending the forever wars.” He could deliver on a big chunk of that promise by ordering the US armed forces to withdraw all US troops (other than embassy guard) from Afghanistan and Syria by Christmas.

That order should be accompanied by an explicit warning that generals who drag their feet, comment to the press that they don’t think he “really means it,” etc., will be promptly relieved of duty and replaced by generals who enthusiastically tackle the tasks their commander in chief assigns them. We’ve had four years of resistance from the generals and excuses from bureaucrats. It’s time to get the job done.

Second: Trump has the power to pardon. He should use that power in unprecedented fashion, emptying the federal prisons of non-violent drug offenders and other assorted victims of a “justice” system gone haywire.

In particular, he should pardon (in alphabetical order) Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, and Ross Ulbricht.

Assange and Snowden have been charged, but not yet tried, with telling the American people the truth about their government’s crimes. Manning has been convicted for the same heroic acts. President Obama commuted her sentence, but it’s time to restore her rights and recognize her service to her country.

Ross Ulbricht is serving two life terms without the possibility of parole for the “crime” of running a web site (Silk Road) that saved countless lives by allowing sellers and customers to circumvent the US government’s evil restrictions on the sale and possession of drugs. He’s a political prisoner, full stop. The prosecutors and judge who railroaded him belong in prison. He doesn’t.

President Trump could do a America a huge favor by partially dismantling the war machine and the carceral state with these actions.

Whistleblowers and entrepreneurs should be congratulated, not caged. Non-violent breakers of “victimless crime” laws should be, at a bare minimum, freed. And American troops who signed up to defend America should be withdrawn from places where that’s not what they’re doing and where they have no legitimate business being.

No matter President Trump’s failings, no matter what he may have to answer for, a grateful nation will owe him if he uses his last days in office to leave America freer and more at peace than he found it four years ago.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.