A candidate possibly too Libertarian even for the Libertarian Party
In the wake of the recent school shooting in Florida, the debate around the 2nd Amendment (the right to bear arms) is hotter than it’s ever been. But that hasn’t deterred one political candidate, who is so pro-2A that he makes Ted Nugent look like a wishy-washy liberal.
Brian Ellison is a Libertarian Party candidate in Michigan, who is trying to start an initiative to arm the homeless residents of his home state with pump-action shotguns. However, his intention isn’t to start some kind of underclass revolution – he just wants them to be able to protect themselves, as he explained in a recent interview.
“Not only are they constantly under threat from would-be criminals, but they are also under threat from governments at various levels that criminalize activities that homeless people rely on for survival,” says Mr Ellison. “I believe it is time we take a stand against the injustice and victimization of the homeless.”
It’s a move which most would consider to be politically toxic in the extreme. While left-leaning voters will no doubt applaud the sentiment of helping the homeless, be opposed to Ellison’s steadfast support of the second amendment. Conservatives will support the latter, but will be uncomfortable with the social implications of arming homeless citizens. Aside from the staunch Libertarian base, who make up a tiny percentage of the electorate, it’s hard to see which voters this drive will appeal to.
Putting the political ramifications to one side, Ellison will certainly have his work cut out if he plans to arm all, or even most of the homeless population in the state of Michigan, which is estimated to be around 55,000.With that in mind, the father-of-two has started a crowdfunding campaign to raise $10,000 (£7,000) to purchase pump-style shotguns for 20 homeless citizens.
All recipients would be required to pass a background check, be of legal age to own a firearm, and receive training on safety and operation of the firearm.
“Get us a group of 20 homeless people that we could train, help them understand how the shotgun works, how to maintain it, how to fire it,” Ellison said. “And equip them with a shotgun, a sling and some shells so they can protect themselves.”
He is hoping to run for senate in November’s midterm election, and believes the his proposed initiative would help reduce violent offences against the homeless. As you might expect, reaction to his proposed initiative has not been entirely positive. A drive to arm the most vulnerable and destitute in society is seen as pretty radical, even for those with pro-2A views.
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Mr Ellison added he has been “extremely disheartened” by criticism of the campaign and the “complete lack of respect and dignity” shown towards the state’s rough sleepers.
“Aside from the name calling, many people seem to think that if given a means to protect themselves, these people would instantly become violent criminals,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
“If your immediate reaction to this initiative was shock and horror, please take a moment to think about why. Is it because you see the homeless as unworthy of protection? Is it because you see the homeless as less than human?
“Vulnerable people need to be afforded the same opportunity to protect themselves as people who live in gated communities or have private (or public) security forces.”
So why shotguns? Well, Mr Ellison told The Guardian that the ideal weapon for such an initiative would be a pistol, but that a registered address is needed under US gun laws, while no permit is required to openly carry a rifle or shotgun.
To clarify, Ellison is not suggesting that the taxpayer foot the bill for the shotguns – he proposes a 100% voluntary private initiative, which is ideologically consistent with the principles of libertarianism. And therein lies the problem with the Libertarian Party – a time-honoured tradition of obsessing over ideological purity, rather than winning elections.