Gun control has been in the news quite a bit. In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal signed in what is being called a “pro-gun law,” which allows firearms in bars, schools, and churches among other common areas* (restrictions apply). Meanwhile, Michael Bloomberg is investing $50 million of his own money to push for stricter gun laws. At the same time, Massachusetts is struggling with states rights, gun ownership, and marijuana decriminalization, and Gabby Giffords is rallying sympathy for stricter gun laws. Whew! What do the TOL writers think about all this?
Admittedly, guns scare me. They are powerful weapons that are made to injure or kill. Most of the fear revolves around me being a spazz and doing something stupid by accident — like shooting myself in the leg. I’ve had some practice with various guns, but I’m still not all that confident. Despite that, I know many people who own them, and in the hands of responsible people — I know they aren’t dangerous. I get the fear, I really do, but I think people are a bit hysterical about guns. Guns are much more powerful than knives or any other would-be weapon that your average Joe or Jane would have. That might sound like a good reason to ban them, but people who want to commit a crime will do so regardless of laws. Gun control won’t always stop crimes involving guns either. I hate government bandaids like gun control. Perhaps getting to the root of the actual problem is a better place to start. Georgia, my state, is doing the opposite of places like New York and is taking a more casual approach to gun ownership. Although I’m not excited over it (probably because I’m not a gun owner), I’m always happy when people are not punished for other people’s crimes. And, In the event of another tragic massive shooting, I want there to be people who can fight back and level the playing field against criminals — gun to gun.
There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground, is there? Either guns are the cure-all for everything that ills in society and everyone should have one, or they’re the devil and need to be removed from every self-respecting person’s home. Except for the police, of course. My family owned rifles and shotguns, and we hunted all the time. Guns don’t scare me. To me, they’re tools to be used for certain tasks and not much else. But the extent to which Americans fetishize guns is, I think, sick and disturbing, a hold over from a Wild West era that was never as great as people think, most people didn’t contribute to, and the vast majority of people living today would not want to live in. They are neither the source of all America’s greatness, nor of its ills. Any policy we make—if there is policy to be made, should reflect that attitude, and not the freakish alarmist tendencies of the left or the disturbingly-amorous tendencies of the right. The most important role that firearms should hold in American society is the last, holdout defense against tyranny. And while I fully believe that Americans are too damn lazy to rise up against tyranny, even when they see it, we still should have that option.
The gun control debate that rages on is pretty darn truncated. Amidst the hysteria surrounding mass shootings, we tend to forget the all-too-frequent victims of gun violence: the residents of the high-crime and impoverished ghettoes and barrios of America. But tighter gun restrictions have proven to be futile in preventing more gun-related violence or deaths. Case in point: Chicago, which simultaneously boasts the most strict gun-control laws and among highest murder rates in this country.
If your focus is on limiting illegal gun possession, you are barely striking the problem at its root. And the problem of gun violence in inner-city goes beyond mere possession and use of guns: the Drug War (i.e. inter-gang violence springing from the black-market in prohibited drugs) and licensing requirements and business regulations that hurt the little guy (or gal). Those are just two factors that account for the high-incidence of violence in some of our poorest communities. First, decentralize and deregulate the economy (maximize economic opportunities and self-sufficiency in inner-city communities). Second, put an end to the God-forsaken Drug War (drug dealers would have legal recourse to resolve transactional and/or territorial disputes). At the very least, these moves would strike at the root of the problem instead of merely assuaging our conscience with band-aid solutions that are ultimately ineffective and erode our 2nd Amendment rights.
Gun control is one of those issues where everyone has an opinion and everyone can find statistics or anecdotes to back it up. In my personal experience, I’ve found people on both sides of the debate tend to apply their stance on “rights” inconsistently. Many pro-gun people in the conservative camp say guns aren’t dangerous; it’s the individuals who use them who are, while still supporting bans on certain drugs because “drugs are dangerous.” Likewise, pro-gun control folks in the liberal camp tend to say things like, “you don’t need a semi-automatic weapon,” while advocating for their “rights” to smoke the recreational marijuana they very much don’t “need.” What both of these camps are really telling you is how personally comfortable they are with guns compared to other “vices.”
This is why I’m a Libertarian—I can come at the issue from principle and say that people should be allowed to own (or smoke) anything they choose so long as they don’t use that ownership to agress against others. If a person is either irresponsible or criminal and kills someone with their gun—or if they drive while high and kill someone—they’ve crossed that threshold into aggression and should be held accountable. But owning an arsenal, or a 500 acre marijuana farm, is a morally neutral act.