Essential Liberty: They Came for Your Guns

What if the federal government decided to confiscate all civilian firearms? Would you surrender your guns? Would your friends and neighbors turn you in? Do enough Americans remain who are willing to risk their lives resisting disarmament? Would the military support the government, or the people, or both?

What if the Supreme Court rules disarmament is constitutional? Would sheriffs who previously swore to resist unconstitutional firearms laws decide to support disarmament after such a ruling?

The issue these days isn’t that the Supreme Court affirmed Second Amendment principles in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago, but that four of nine justices dissented. Similarly, the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks didn’t advance -- but 54 senators voted for it. If those opposing the civil right of self-defense elect just a few more representatives and senators, or replace one more Supreme Court justice, the Second Amendment’s “official” interpretation could drastically change; the questions above would no longer be academic.

The novel Essential Liberty serves as scenario training, just like tactical pistol classes help people acquire the skills to survive a potentially lethal attack. Like tactical training, Essential Liberty takes today’s news and political climate and moves them just a little farther into a possible future.

Author Rob Olive understands the basic problem with today’s debate:

Facts and logic mattered not at all, as many firearms rights supporters quickly discovered. When emotions ran as high as they did on this issue, there could be no true debate. (Page 8, Kindle Edition.)

Olive accurately portrays a likely scenario, including a series of actions by the federal government, justice system, and media that have been in play for years, though perhaps more so since the Newtown tragedy. There are deeper, darker aspects to Olive’s story that may have happened in fact, but haven’t been exposed yet. An example: we assume background-check records get destroyed as required by federal law, per below:

In cases of NICS Audit Log records relating to allowed transactions, all identifying information submitted by or on behalf of the transferee will be destroyed within 24 hours after the FFL receives communication of the determination that the transfer may proceed. All other information, except the NTN and date, will be destroyed after not more than 90 days from the date of inquiry.

But consider current events, such as the Benghazi attack on our consulate, the IRS targeting “conservative groups,” and Fast & Furious. Is it reasonable to assume the feds always destroy all copies and backups of legal firearms purchases? Wikileaks is an example of how computer records show up unexpectedly.

Then there’s the latest revelation that the National Security Agency can “intercept almost everything” sent electronically. According to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: “Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.” Is it reasonable to believe that NICS transactions over a government network are secured against another government agency tracking everything it can in the name of national security?

Having been published before all these recent government scandals, Essential Liberty becomes prophetic. When interviewed recently, Olive said: “I have NO confidence whatsoever that some sort of gun registry doesn't already exist, in light of the NSA revelation, IRS revelation, AP wiretap revelation, etc.”

Essential Liberty opens somewhat heavily, but the reality of disarmament needs explanation. The story is informative enough to keep it interesting. There are a few other detractions, at least for some readers. Olive uses a lot of acronyms, though he initially defines them. Some readers may need to slow down to track who’s doing what. Olive’s characters speak in similar voices, exhibiting a lack of character development. He uses a lot of dialogue to set up plotlines. Great stories show.

For example, the novel contains a bar scene where Marshall Keller and Agent Myers “come clean” with their thoughts about confiscation. It comes off as forced -- a device to convey how some government agents don’t want to enforce it. Cops often speak in code, and Keller’s first short answer would have revealed his perspective, making further dialogue unnecessary. According to Olive:

I had in mind for this scene to really illustrate Bobby's anguish over the whole thing. Keller’s surprise that Bobby would open up, especially to the degree that he did, sort of alludes to the “code” you speak of having been broken in this case. I really wanted to convey more than these two law enforcement officers “coming clean.” I wanted to show how literally torn up Bobby was, as I believe many law enforcement officers would be if this ever came to pass.