Henry Rymer: Harry Potter’s real lesson is guns and libertarianism

In the Wizarding World, everyone carries a weapon and nobody can trust the government.

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth film in the series.

When one thinks of Harry Potter, at least in the context of modern American culture, it is undeniable that the political left has cited this series of child-fantasy novels on a relatively frequent basis for use as a sort of literary cudgel against their partisan opponents.

One need only look at 2016-era think pieces from relatively large publications to know that this is truism in American politics. (For example, see Time Magazine’s “Harry Potter Readers More Likely to Dislike Donald Trump: Study”; Fortune’s “Guess What Harry Potter Fans Are Calling Donald Trump?”) When cited, proponents of Harry Potter often refer to the series’ themes of “love being the most powerful magic” and “light overcoming darkness.” Fine and dandy motifs, no doubt.

However, given the often ethereal and intangible nature of these themes, combined with the overutilization of Harry Potter fans to cite these novels for political points, the real tangible lessons of the literary series are too often overlooked: the right to keep and bear arms, as well as maintaining a small-L libertarian perspective towards government.

One doesn’t need to dig deep into the lore of Harry Potter to know that these two concepts are not only prevalent throughout the book series, but also are easily transferred to a real-world context. For the uninitiated, Harry Potter is set in a universe wherein everyone and their mums are packing heat in the form of a magic wand. These magical apparatuses serve as a locus to channel a witch or wizard’s magical powers, which allow the user to do everything from simple tasks to straight up murdering people with a whisper of a few words and a flick of their wrist.

Given the obvious dangers present within the Wizarding World, children the age of an elementary school student are not only given these incredibly powerful tools as a matter of course, but are also taught from the get-go to use them against those who would seek to do them harm (the so-called “Defense Against the Dark Arts”). If one doesn’t see an obvious parallel (and potential policy prescriptions) to our robust Second Amendment culture, then may I make the recommendation that a stop at the optometrist may be in order.

In a similar vein, the Harry Potter universe is replete with example after example of abject governmental failures. At the local level, the administrative body running Hogwarts (the school where our protagonists find their instruction) constantly and consistently fail not only to protect their pupils for existential threats, but actually encourage their underaged students to seek out threats that place these pupils is situations where significant bodily harm or death is expected.

In parallel fashion, the government responsible for the entire wizarding community is stocked with career bureaucrats who fill needless roles and accomplish little. The whole fifth novel in the series punches this point home by developing a narrative that demonstrates that even a trusted government is prone to use propaganda, stifle free speech and even put a teenage boy on trial for his “lies” so long as they never have to address a real and persistent threat to their constituents. Familiarities abound.

Without a doubt, Harry Potter stands as one of the most pro-gun pieces of fiction written in the last half a century. That it took over 20 years for someone to point out is the real surprise. Similarly, the series demonstrates to the reader that a healthy skepticism of those in power is not only a nicety, but a necessity.

Guns and libertarianism. These are the true lessons of the Harry Potter franchise.

Henry Rymer

Henry Rymer, a graduate from the University of Minnesota Law School (’19), currently practices law in Utah and often argues that Gandalf is the most powerful wizard in existence.