Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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How They Could Confiscate Your AR-15


Anyone who thinks it would be difficult for U.S. officials to confiscate people’s AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons forgets how they confiscated everyone’s gold coins in the 1930s. It would be as easy to confiscate guns as it was to confiscate gold coins.

To get people’s gold coins, they didn’t send swarms of federal agents across the land to conduct warrantless searches of people’s homes, businesses, and safety deposit boxes. Instead, they simply made it a felony offense to own gold coins, notwithstanding the fact that under the U.S. Constitution gold coins had been the official money of the United States for more than a century. Once that law was enacted, American citizens had a choice to make: (1) continue holding the gold coins and risk getting caught and prosecuted for a felony offense, or (2) comply with the law by delivering their gold coins to the government as the law required.

Some Americans decided to take the risk and keep their gold, believing their coins would enable them to protect their wealth against the oncoming monetary debasement (i.e., inflation) at the hands of the Federal Reserve. Others decided that avoiding confiscation of their assets through inflation wasn’t worth the risk of serving several years in a federal penitentiary.

Given the right crisis environment, the same thing could happen with assault rifles and other semi-automatic weapons that are legal to own today. All that Congress would have to do is enact a law ordering all Americans to turn their high-powered weapons over to the government and making possession of all such guns a felony offense after the effective date of the law, without “grandfathering” current owners of such guns.

American gun owners would then be placed in the same position as gold owners back in the 1930s. Should a person keep his gun illegally and risk a felony conviction and long jail sentence for unlawful possession? Or should he turn in his gun and not have to worry about getting caught and suffering a felony conviction and jail time?

Why would federal officials enact such a law? To keep us safe, of course, from the enemies they are producing in the Middle East and Afghanistan with their interventionist policies.

What happens after a people are disarmed? They become compliant and obedient. Just ask people who lived in Chile under Pinochet, or those who are currently living in Egypt, or the people who have lived under any other regime that the U.S. national-security establishment has installed or supported. They will tell you why a disarmed citizenry meekly and passively complies with any and all orders issued by a regime’s national-security establishment, including orders to submit to arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention, torture, rape, or execution.

And don’t count on the Supreme Court to uphold your right to keep and bear arms. The justices will inevitably defer to the wishes of the national-security branch of the government, especially in the midst of a crisis.

Keep in mind a critically important point that Judge Alex Kozinski made in his dissent in Silveira v. Lockyer: A people who permit themselves to be disarmed will make that mistake only once. That’s because once they are disarmed, the government will never permit them to arm themselves again.

Freedom is precarious. Oftentimes, it depends on how willing people are to fight for it, including when it’s threatened by their own government. Just remember: It’s a lot more difficult to get freedom back than it is to keep it.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.