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Guns, Privacy, & Clear Backpacks


David Hogg

571 words

The activism of the curiously well-covered David Hogg, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has resulted in exactly what he wanted: the school is taking action, and will be requiring all students to carry clear backpacks come spring.

Hogg, however, didn’t realize that this was what he’d been asking for. Now he and his fellow students are complaining that the backpacks will violate their right to privacy.

Here’s an odd question: Why on Earth would we want to have a “right” to privacy? After all, you’ve got nothing to fear if you’ve got nothing to hide, right?

While saying we have nothing to hide is a nice way of putting people’s minds at ease, we all should have things that we hide. Having nothing to hide only makes sense in a world where we can trust everyone, and there are a lot of people who we should not trust, most of all the government.

Information is power, and the more information someone has about you, the more power they have over you. If you’re an anonymous member of the Dissident Right, and someone knows where you live and they have your phone number, they can blackmail you, or send that information to religious or political radicals and inform them that you’re an enemy. If you have a security system at home and someone knows where your cameras are, they can break into your house without being identified. We maintain secrets as a safeguard against untrustworthy people. This is why we treat stalking – an essentially predatory behavior – as an act of aggression.

Clear backpacks feel offensive and creepy because they open you up to the aggression of observation. They expose your secrets – or lack thereof, which can be just as harmful. If you have an ordinary backpack, a would-be predator has to at least consider that you might have something hidden inside. Taking away our privacy makes us vulnerable, and we are right not to trust strangers with unnecessary power over us.

Guns and secrets are two sides of the same coin. They are both forms of power, and are protections against would-be predators of all varieties. The fact that guns can also be used by predators can also be said of secrets: predators keep their very nature a secret. Predators, above all others, are exactly the sort you’d expect to quietly and thoughtfully suggest that perhaps you’ve got nothing to fear if you’ve got nothing to hide . . .

The best we can hope for is an equilibrium of power that deters predation and encourages negotiation. We demand “transparency” from our government precisely because they have been entrusted with so much power, and it is because of the power that the citizenry holds over the government – like a Damoclean AR-15 – that our government can be trusted.

I am sure that the “March for Our Lives” activists are sincere when they claim to support the Second Amendment, and that they genuinely do just want “common sense gun control,” whatever that happens to entail (and which isn’t already in law). But they should not be surprised when the reasonable regulations they ask for affect them, too. Students, after all, make up a large portion of mass shooters. They also constitute a more readily-controlled demographic than the mentally ill, which is a broad and vaguely-defined group.

Where civics are involved, high school students may be the more dangerous ones, after all.