What Would Machiavelli Say About Modern Gun Control?


A statue of Niccolò Machiavelli in Florence, Italy

According to The Prince, "when you disarm them, you at once offend them by showing that you distrust them…"
(Image credit: Bigstock/boggy)

An Unconventional Military Man

Niccolò Machiavelli's name may have become synonymous with self-interest, personal gain and a myriad of other negative personality traits, but his writing, especially "The Prince," shows the complexity that lay behind his most famous treatises. Machiavelli, born on May 3, 1469, was an Italian diplomat, statesman, and military commander during the Republic period in Florence. His surviving political correspondence shows both a keen military mind and a determination to keep his city safe.

Machiavelli was not a traditional military man, but when Florence finally subdued Pisa at the end of a fifteen-year war, he was instrumental in their victory. He directed the land and sea blockade that finally ended the war, and in doing so, he proved that a citizen army--not Conderotti mercenaries--would be the key to winning wars.

Three years later, in 1511-12, the Florentine Republic fell when the untried citizen militia failed to repel a Spanish and Holy League army. Two days later the Republic ended, the Medici family regained power, and in another six weeks Machiavelli was exiled from his beloved city. In 1513, Machiavelli was briefly arrested and tortured by the Medici family until they were convinced that he was innocent of plotting against them.

Exile from Florence

During his continued exile, restless and irritated at the tedium of farming and poverty, Machiavelli penned "The Prince." He desperately wanted to return to Florence and political power, even if that meant getting back into the Medici's good graces by any means necessary. Even as he penned it, opportunistically, however, he also wrote out of sheer love for his country.

The first part of the book is a general discussion of principalities, how they are organized, conquered, and administered. In the second part, he covers the different types of armies and soldiers that such a prince can pick from, including mercenaries, foreign auxiliaries, and citizen militias. In describing mercenaries and auxiliaries, he was blunt, calling them "useless," "dangerous" and "cowards." According to Machiavelli, only citizen soldiers, when both armed and trained, were trustworthy and reliable fighters.

The ideal principalities, he thought, are those such as Rome and Sparta of old, or his modern-day Switzerland, where men were both armed and free. There had to be a level of trust between the prince who led the army and the men who fought for him. Respect flowed best between a leader and a follower when both sides were armed. His central argument was that a militia fought best when it had both love and fear for their leader.

Today, at the heart of the modern gun control movement is the belief that ordinary people shouldn't have access to military grade weapons. It further believes that weaopns perceived to be "too dangerous" for ordinary citizens kept somewhere else, with official armies, troops, and police and they should not be allowed in public hands.

Such an argument runs against the core theme of "The Prince" and Machiavelli's other writings. When a citizenry is armed, an inherent trust is established between the rulers and the ruled. When the government denies the people their right to bear arms, a distrust is thus created; the government is essentially communicating to the people that they are not to be trusted. Feelings of disrespect and distrust creates instability in any principality.

A handgun with bullets symbolizing gun rights framed against the US constitution

The Second Amendment does not grant the right of U.S. citizens to be armed; it prevents the U.S. government from taking away the right to bear arms.
(Image credit: Bigstock/Kelpfish)

Many wrongly claim that the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution gives citizens the right to keep and bear arms, but an important yet subtle distinction must be made. According to America's founding fathers, the right to bear arms to protect and defend oneself is a God-given right. The Second Amendment merely forbids the government to take away that right.

The Fallacy of Modern Gun Control Policies

Gun control, along with many other "progressive" policies, are becoming increasingly popular, particularly among today's horribly misguided and impressionable youth. There are many variables that have manifested that our founding fathers could not have forseen. The rise of mental illness due to severe economic and social stress, the deluge of pharmaceuticals, oversocialization thanks to social media and smartphones, desensitation of violence from the magic of movies, TV shows and video games, the secularization of society and the loss of respect for life, and the moral fabric ripped to shreds thanks to the glamorization of filth and degeneracy promoted and instigated by today's left provides ample support for the belief that increased gun control measures should be taken.

Ironically, it is owing to the liberal left's ideologies and policies that have created many of these conditions in the first place. It's almost as if they've created a number of social and economic problems, and now the solutions they propose are increases in government power and less rights for the citizenry. At the end of the day, however, the the best argument against gun control is the glaringly obvious reality that liberals seem to be afraid to acknowledge: someone will always have guns, whether they are banned or not; criminals won't stop using guns just because they're use is "against the law." That's why they're called criminals in the first place--they don't obey the law.

No, the most trustworthy defense against tyranny and despotism in all its forms is a heavily armed citizenry that is thorouhgly knowledgeable in the use of those weapons. As Niccolò Machiavelli famously wrote, "Before all else, be armed."
 

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