What Would Machiavelli Say About Modern Gun Control?

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.

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. During this time, 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.

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.

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 states that weapons perceived to be "too dangerous" for ordinary citizens should be 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. According to The Prince, "when you disarm them, you at once offend them by showing that you distrust them…" In other words, 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.

Many people today wrongly believe 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 an inalienable, God-given right. The Second Amendment merely forbids the government to take away that right.

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 in our society 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 being ripped to shreds thanks to the glamorization of filth and degeneracy provides ample support for the naive belief that increased gun control measures should be taken.

Ironically, it is owing to many "progressive" ideologies and attitudes that have created many of these depraved conditions in the first place. It's almost as if the same powers have created a number of social and economic problems, and now these same powers are offering solutions by way of 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 gun control advocates 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.

The most trustworthy defense against tyranny and despotism in all its forms is a heavily armed citizenry that is thoroughly knowledgeable in the use of those weapons. As Niccolò Machiavelli famously wrote, "Before all else, be armed."