You wanna know what you need to make a basic 12-gauge shotgun? It’s pretty basic stuff. You need a metal tube, 18.5mm wide, and a screw will suffice as a firing pin. For further information go to YouTube and search for the word “slamfire”. I’m sorry to have done this to you but you are now a potential criminal.

In theory, you aren’t allowed to arrange some pipes so that they could direct some metal in a direction of your choosing. In practice, who would know? We don’t have enough Gardaí to run around checking under everyone’s floorboards. You wouldn’t be caught. If you were caught (which you wouldn’t be) you wouldn’t be punished, unless you had actually shot someone. You wouldn’t. I trust you.

It was once taken for granted that you could have a gun. But in 1920, Westminster decided that the local chief constable should be allowed to exclude anyone considered “…for any reason unfitted to be trusted with firearms”. Then, in an act of despicable treason against its own citizens, the Free State government locked that into Irish law in 1925. As if you needed another reason to dislike Fine Gael.

All of that said, I’m not about to make my own gun (really Garda I swear). The opinion that a law is unjust does not mean it should simply be ignored. The fact that a law is unenforceable does not necessarily mean it’s unjust. All laws are unenforceable if enough people refuse to co-operate.

Our Dear Leader Kevin Keane has sharply criticised the president of UCD’s Student Union for, on the face of it at least, following the law. In case you’ve been hanging out on Mars, Katie Ascough had some handbooks withdrawn because they contained what might have been illegal information about abortifacient drugs. “An unjust law is no law at all and this is not something we can stand over,” according to my fellow Kevin.

Abortion and free speech aside (if we can just set aside some of the most complex ethical questions in existence), why are we pretending to have laws? Why bother repealing anything if we can just ignore whatever we don’t like?

Is my failure to set up a little shotgun factory just a sign of my cowardice? Naïveté? Am I an overgrown child, failing to take responsibility for my own safety and property and hoping daddy government will take care of me? Or, is it our following of the law the reason Ireland isn’t an uninhabitable hellhole?

Things start to fall apart rather quickly if we casually throw the law in the bin. See Caracas, Cape Town, Acapulco, St. Louis MO. It’s extremely difficult to impose the law by brute force.  In Britain, the police took away everyone’s guns and then took away their knives. Now they’re actually discussing how to take away the industrial cleaning products that Her Majesty’s faithful subjects have taken to throwing at each other.

We don’t want to spend all our money on policing and get nowhere. If we want to do something which is now outside the law, we should show sufficient respect to convince our fellow citizens first.

The IRA, after all, was not a group of people who decided that Protestants should be killed because they’re stupid. They decided, rightly or wrongly, that the Westminster government was not the legitimate government of that part of the world and thus the law was invalid.

Once a group has made a decision like that, all bets are off. Why not drive around with your heavily-armed mates in a pickup truck that says “Mobile Patrol – Official I.R.A.” on the side?

If future leaders in Irish politics, the future 1%, the cognitive hyper-elite, i.e. the students and graduates of Trinity and the NUI colleges, can’t be expected to show enough self-discipline to follow the law, who the hell can? We’re looking at the most advantaged people in Ireland sending the message to their fellow citizens that the law only counts if you’re punished. How many ways can that go wrong?

They are not perfect and they don’t always do their job properly, but our laws have come together over thousands of years with the aim of protecting us and allowing us to co-operate on a large scale. If we care at all about maintaining a society that works, our threshold before we unilaterally dump those we don’t like should be extremely high.

Posted by Kevin O'Rourke