Malum Prohibitum: Guns Are Immoral Because They Say “They” Are

Opinion by Liston Matthews

Corporate Tyranny Shameful Harassment
Corporate Tyranny Shameful Harassment

USA – -( Some years ago, before the smoking ban in Tennessee, my wife and I went to a new restaurant. We asked for a non-smoking table. After a while, the manager took us to a table to be seated. With a not-so-sleight-of-hand motion, he reached over and grabbed an ashtray and put it behind his back.

The ensuing dialog went something like this:

“I asked for non-smoking.”

“This is non-smoking.”

“But you just picked up the ashtray! That’s not a non-smoking table.”

His response!? “It’s non-smoking because I say it is.”

So it is with gun laws. Gun laws make guns bad because someone says guns are bad.

The problem with gun laws is that they are Malum Probibitum, which is defined at Cornell Law School as “An act which is immoral because it is illegal; not necessarily illegal because it is immoral.”

Malum Prohibitum contrasts with Malum in Se, defined as “An innately immoral act, regardless of whether it is forbidden by law.”

From ancient times, certain acts have been deemed crimes and have been accepted by most societies as innately immoral. The Ten Commandments (ca 1400 BC), for example, codified the prohibition against murder, theft, adultery, and lying, among other things. Each of these acts always has perpetrators and victims. Each has always been subject to punishment at various levels, depending on the severity of the crime. These innately immoral acts (crimes) are malum in se.

We see, also since ancient times, that governments and potentates have in one manner or other sought to disarm those under their rule. The Philistines, for example, would not allow blacksmiths in Israel “…for fear they would make swords and spears for the Hebrews.” These, of course, would fall in the Malum Prohibitum category.

The list of malum in se crimes has, for the most part, remained constant historically. But, malum prohibitum crimes have ebbed and flowed throughout history, depending on the whim of the times. Many of these have dealt directly with weapons. The Nashville Slave Code, ca 1863, stated:

‘It Is Unlawful For Slaves To go off the premises of their masters without leave. To carry arms. “Sell liquors. “Sell articles not manufactured by himself.”’ Another Tennessee law forbade the slave to go about armed unless he was the huntsman of the plantation.

Not to be outdone, Democrat Tim Sullivan sponsored the 1911 Sullivan Act in New York, which “mandated police-issued licenses for handguns and made it a felony to carry an unlicensed concealed weapon.”

I wrote in AmmoLand News a few years ago, “The problem with many of the elite who are in power these days is that they, like tyrants and petty potentates of old, think power should reside only in the hands of the ruling class.”

Two means they have of consolidating that power is banning certain guns, and/or banning people from owning/carrying guns.

The banning of firearms carry or taxing it falls in the malum prohibitum category. Although many states have enacted laws that have removed the permitting requirement for carrying a handgun, other states still require permits [IE: New Jersey]. Hawaii is a may-issue state, which in reality means they will not issue permits – “Concealed carry and open carry are felonies without a permit… Although allowed by law… Private citizens are denied.

SilenceCo Maxim 50 Suppressed Muzzleloader Banned
Banning certain types of firearms also fits in the malum prohibitum category.: SilenceCo Maxim 50 Suppressed Muzzleloader.

Banning certain types of firearms also fits in the malum prohibitum category.

  • This gun is too big!
  • This gun is too small!
  • This gun is a sniper rifle!
  • This gun shoots too many bullets!
  • This gun has the wrong accessories!

These Goldilocks gun laws do nothing to deter crime, and only impede peaceable citizens from exercising their rights.

So next time you hear a politician trying to pass another gun law, remember guns are neither good nor bad, but the evil lies in the hearts and minds of the evildoers. Just say no to any of these attempts to deprive you of your rights or property. Remember one of their ultimate goals is the consolidation of power.


Liston Matthews

About Liston Matthews

Liston Matthews has been involved in the gun rights movement since 1971. He was involved in the passage of the Tennessee carry law, and its improvements. He has testified before local legislative bodies. He has contacted politicians and had numerous editorial letters published. He believes that politicians must be carefully vetted at the local level because few change their positions when they move to higher office.

Liston writes his own blog Good Hill Press is an AmmoLand News contributor, and formerly wrote at

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Deplorable Bill

Experience tells us that when we are told “Mr and Mrs. American citizen, you don’t need that, turn them all in” we are about to need that…….. badly. Surrender your firearms at your own peril.

Arm up, carry on.


When it comes to surrendering arms… “I” will not be the one in peril !!


Very well stated. I recommend that all of you blog posters print this and keep it handy and use it as a reference to deflate progressive magical thinking. You see, declaring any object inherently evil or dangerous is magical thinking. Crimes require intent and human agency. Criminals compose a small but consequential proportion of our population. Public policy based upon evidence and reason can easily deal with this minority without a generalized prohibition applied to the peaceful majority. So when leftists and progressives resort to generalized bans and prohibitions it is never about safety. It is simply about power.


“Because I said so”, is what you tell a child ,when you have totalitarian control over their life.
I am not a child, I am your equal.

Shame on every Gunowner who votes Democrat.


“These Goldilocks gun laws do nothing to deter crime, and only impede peaceable citizens from exercising their rights…” <<< While true, indignant self righteous individuals (ANY political party) remain the problem and ever will as long as they're in a position of power. Unfortunately for those that care to keep & exorcise their rights, there remains given individuals that ride the coat tails of those in power and relish the restrictions imposed on others. Frankly, I've yet to understand what happened to common sense in America. In the meantime, I'll continue to write, speak and hopefully educate, those individuals that… Read more »


Depending upon the strength of the attempt to impose restrictive measures, I will do far more that merely speak.

Dean Weingarten

Good job, Liston.

Sam in New Hampshire

Good, well-written article. Too bad the editors messed up the title by putting the quote marks around the wrong “they.”

Divino Vocamen

A citizen …has a servant in government …A subject is a servant of a government ….when the government has weapons and does not allow the citizens to have weapons …the citizens have become subjects and all the other inherent freedoms exist at the will of the government .


The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the individual right to keep and bear arms. It was ratified on December 15, 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. Criminal liberal Socialist/Communist/Marxists in Congress & the public sector are endangering the rest of the law-abiding American public, Anti-Constitutionalist’s=Anti-Americans=Enemies of the United States. They have no place in a Free Constitutional Republic. In which… Read more »


I don’t care why guns are illegal in any language, the Constitution speaks for me.


Although I agree, most gun laws are Malum Prohibitum, because we, in the gun rights movement, view guns as inanimate tools. A large swath of the public, by contrast, view guns themselves as Malum in Se, because of their deadly potential. How to overcome this mind set is what the gun rights movement is all about.


Good article, politicians – give a little and they will take a lot!!


Very informative and interesting article. I never knew this information, and found your writing really helpful and interesting. And in this time, especially relevant.
Thanks,and best wishes.


Hmm, just say no to these laws. Yeah, that will work. Why were we not privy to this knowledge before this fine artical?