Guns

Most people I have met are in favour of gun control. Gun control ranges from a government monopoly on all weapons, to limiting assault weapons and heavier arms to government use, to only banning guns from certain people, such as the mentally ill. I used to agree with most gun control advocates that only government agents should carry guns, but no longer. Guns should be for almost everybody.

The reason that the Second Amendment to the American Constitution was written was because the founding fathers had experience with a government that attempted to disarm its citizens, thereby robbing them of their ability to rebel. Anti-gun Americans today may be right in thinking that they are not under imminent mortal danger from their government, but their house could still be broken into. There are plenty of criminals in the United States, just like everywhere else, and the idea that a gun could be in any or all houses is a good disincentive from breaking in. Gun control laws say not only that you are not allowed to defend yourself against the state, but also that you must put your faith in the police and military to defend you against everything from robbers to foreign invaders. If all houses have (or at least could have) a gun, not only could one protect one’s property against break ins, one could protect against government aggression. Many states have turned on their citizens after disarming them, killing countless numbers who cannot fight back. Imagine if Yugoslavs had been allowed to own guns. Had the same war taken place, the ethnic cleansing of large areas of the country might not have happened, as people would have been able to defend their homes. Perhaps no one would have died at Srebrenica, when some 8000 unarmed, innocent people were killed because only a select group, duty-bound to defend, had access to firearms, and they were nowhere to be found.

We thus need to consider the moral case for gun ownership. What could happen when another state invades our gun-restricted country where only the government has arms? If the opposing military broke through our government’s defenses, we would be powerless to stop it from occupying all the seats of government and taxing and oppressing us as it wished. Let us consider a different situation, one where there is no government and no military, only the people with guns in their houses (or perhaps militias). The invaders have no government offices to occupy and no tax collectors to send round. They could, conceivably, go door to door collecting taxes, but even this would be exorbitant; and if they are at risk of being shot, they will think a third time.

I do not think a country like the US, or say Yemen, even needs a military. There are so many guns of various types, and knowledge of how to make bombs, that in case of invasion, a united America would fight a successful guerrilla war against the invaders.

One objection to guns I can understand is that guns kill. The NRA’s “guns don’t kill people: people kill people” is fatuous in that a gun without someone holding it is useless. Silly logic designed to appeal to the NRA’s membership. The fact is, a home with a gun in it is a home where you could kill someone. But surely knives, axes, martial arts, ropes and fire could also kill people. Guns do it particularly effectively, but removing guns from the home does not make people unable to kill.

Gangs have access to guns. Yes, and they are just as able to have them in armed societies like the US as in unarmed ones. The difference is, in the US they are paying licensed corporations to buy them, and elsewhere they are paying other black market operators and supporting organised crime. Thus, the people charged with defending us, the police, with a monopoly on gun ownership, could be spending their time and our money chasing an enemy that was created by their very existence. And in places like Japan, where gangs have fewer guns, they still kill with bats and knives. Finally, the 9/11 terrorists, the most successful of all time, had no weapons at all. If you are ruthless, you do not need a gun.

Serial killers and the mentally ill have access to guns. Certainly, but currently it is the government’s job to ensure these people are marked down as serial killers. If they have not killed anyone yet or given reason to think they will, you should not take away their rights. Besides, guns do not produce serial killers, and serial killers could live in any country at any time. They will use whatever weapon they have to do God’s work.

It is nonetheless worth trying to prevent guns from falling into the hands of serial killers. One simple solution might be to demand of the gun market a database of all people who have been sold guns, with gun stores listing the basic information of everyone (though also protecting the information in the same way other companies do), and people would only buy guns from a dealer who contributes to the database. If an undesirable wants a gun, we have his information.

Moreover, people with a propensity for violence will often join the police or the military, thus becoming agents of the government, employing legal violence in its name. Of course, not everyone in those institutions has violent impulses, but you can be sure that many people who love shooting gravitate toward groups where it is encouraged. Perhaps that is not an argument against gun ownership but for stricter controls on police and military power. But since that power exists, we should be allowed to defend ourselves against its unfair and arbitrary use.

It might be better if we could decide not as countries but as communities if we would like guns. If ours is to be a gun free community, we can make everyone who enters it sign something. If we want to give everyone the choice, we can tell them when they arrive that some members of our community have firearms in their houses.

I will probably never buy a gun. I will probably never turn a gun on another living person. But I want the freedom to do so, simply to protect those in need. I can’t if there is too much gun control.

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