Gays, Guns, and Bigotry

The Colorado Freedom Report:  A libertarian journal of politics and culture.

The Colorado Freedom

Gays, Guns, and Bigotry

by Ari Armstrong, February 16, 2000

According to Jim Bryan, the 710 KNUS radio talk show host, the homosexual lifestyle is "disgusting." That was the theme of his show on Monday, February 14.

Jim Bryan is a bigot. The Oxford dictionary defines a bigot as "a person obstinately and unreasonably wedded to a particular religious creed, opinion, or ritual." As a variation, "bigoted" is defined as "obstinately and blindly attached to some creed, opinion, or party; unreasonably devoted to a system or party, and intolerant towards others."

A bigot, then, is a person who is intolerant towards others because of unreasonable beliefs. Intolerance per se is not a sign of bigotry: for instance, one can rightly be intolerant of the Nazis because they were objectively evil. Similarly, one can rightly be intolerant of racists. That is, bigotry is unjustified intolerance, and intolerance of bigotry can be a virtue. (In fairness to Bryan, he has also railed against racial bigotry on his show.)

Rosie O'Donnell is also a bigot. She's bigoted against gun owners. On her television show, she called for all guns to be confiscated and for civilly disobedient gun owners to be rounded up and herded into concentration camps. That's her "final solution" to the gun-owner problem.

There are degrees of bigotry. Bryan, for instance, said he doesn't believe homosexuals should be legally prohibited from practicing their lifestyle. He was upset only that Denver Mayor Wellington Webb had conducted a ceremony recognizing gay couples. O'Donnell, on the other hand, wants to oppress gun owners completely. Sometimes bigotry against gun owners is more restrained. For instance, popular media often refer to the National Rifle Association in pejorative terms in supposedly objective news stories.

Bigotry against gun owners is carefully developed by gun restriction lobbies like Hand Gun Control, Inc. Legal gun sales become "gun trafficking," semiautomatic rifles become "assault weapons," small, economical pistols become "Saturday night specials." And stereotypes of gun owners as ignorant and backwards are encouraged.

A century ago, pseudo-science supposedly showed that African blacks were inherently inferior to whites as indicated by skull shape. American whites widely believed that blacks (not to mention Native Americans) were inherently less intelligent and more violent than whites. Today, pseudo-scientific statistical studies purport to show that guns turn people into violent, suicidal maniacs.

Why is bigotry against gun owners rampant today? Economist Bruce Yandle came up with a theory which can be applied to the situation. Yandle called his idea the "bootlegger and baptist" theory. He generalized this theory from alcohol prohibition from the 1920s. As Yandle points out, two main groups advocated prohibition: the moral do-gooders and the bootleggers who made a fortune from the black-market in alcohol.

Today, two similar groups advocate restrictions on gun owners. The do-gooders, such as Tom Mauser, seem to sincerely believe the laws they advocate will make society better. Then there are those who seek personal gain from the advocacy of such laws. In this category is Mayor Webb, who is transparently sucking up to leftist white elites such as Al Gore, in hopes of landing a position in Gore's administration. (Bryan pointed out that Webb's ceremony for homosexual couples was also an effort to secure a position with Gore.)

The "bootlegger and baptist" theory can also be applied to bigotry against blacks in the United States. Misguided do-gooders believed blacks had to be suppressed for the benefit of moral white Christian society. Slave owners advocated bigotry because they made their fortunes on the backs of blacks.

There's not so obvious an application of Yandle's theory to bigotry against homosexuals. Instead, such bigotry seems to be rooted primarily in Christian texts. Leviticus 20:13 is explicit: "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them" (Oxford Annotated). In his letter to the Christian Romans, Paul expresses a similar sentiment about homosexuals: "[T]he men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another... and receiv[ed] in their own persons the due penalty for their error" (1:27).

The tension, then, lies in reconciling religious freedom with sexual freedom. Obviously, in a pluralistic society rooted in individual rights, the execution or oppression of homosexuals is unacceptable. Bryan clearly realizes this. He readily grants political tolerance to homosexuals -- that is, he doesn't want to use the legal system to oppress homosexuals -- but he's not willing to grant social tolerance to them.

Is a toleration of Bryan's minor bigotry warranted, then? I believe it is. That is, while I criticize his bigotry on a social level, I am eager to extend to him political tolerance, as he is ready to extend political tolerance to homosexuals.

If only gun owners could fare as well! Leftists don't believe the law should legislate sex in the bedroom, but they want to legislate gun storage in the bedroom. It's bad enough that many are socially intolerant of gun owners; they want to politically oppress gun owners, as well. Hundreds if not thousands of gun owners rot in prison because they violated some arcane gun law technicality in the eyes of ATF goons (that is, if they weren't shot or burned to death first).

In a system of individual rights, social intolerance must be politically tolerated. That is, those who are bigoted against gun owners, homosexuals, or other minorities must be granted the freedom to express their beliefs. What must be outlawed is political oppression. That is, Christians may not justifiably use the law to execute, harm, or in any other way oppress homosexuals, even if they believe their religious texts warrant such behavior. Racists must not be allowed to harm or oppress blacks or other racial minorities. And bigots against gun owners must not be allowed to infringe the right to keep and bear arms.

Political favoritism can be as damaging as political oppression. When a Christian is forced to interact with a homosexual, it violates the rights of the Christian and it engenders anger against homosexuals. For instance, current discrimination laws can force a Christian to hire a homosexual, even though homosexuality is seen by the Christian as an "abomination." Social bigotry cannot justly be overcome by political means, but only by social means. That is, the appropriate means to counter social bigotry are rational persuasion, and perhaps even more extreme measures such as ostracism and boycott. Nothing which involves the initiation of force.

By the way, I agree with Jim Bryan that homosexual partnerships should not be recognized by the state. But my motivation for making that statement is radically different from Bryan's, and therein lies all the difference, from a moral perspective. I don't believe any type of romantic relationship should be recognized or in any way regulated by the state. Indeed, signing a marriage "license" is one of my major regrets, precisely because my relationship with my wife is too important to subject to the approval of politicians and bureaucrats.

I have a number of homosexual friends. Not only am I tolerant of their lifestyle, I am openly accepting of it. The term "toleration" implies a putting up with something considered bad. That doesn't apply when a behavior or condition is seen as healthy. As an aside, a number of my homosexual friends are staunch advocates of free markets and human liberty. I am also accepting of gun owners; indeed, I am one. I find moral pride in having overcome the bigotry of my ancestors and, in some cases, of my own youth.

I hope that people can develop a society in which bigotry is a relic of the past. Until then, I would be satisfied with a society in which bigotry is restrained to the social level, never manifest in political oppression.

The Colorado Freedom