In America, there always seems to be a problem with discussing gun control. So much so that terrible events like school shootings don’t generally generate a discussion about the need to limit access to guns and rifles. Why is this? There are many tactics used by gun-lovers, and I will go through them one by one below.
1. “This is not the time to be talking about gun control”
Whenever a terrible act of gun violence occurs, we will always hear the same response: This is not the time to be talking about gun control. However, the reason that people say this is because this is exactly the time to be talking about gun control: this is the time when people are paying attention to this issue. Why is this a problem? On a smaller scale this doesn’t make sense. If I punch you in the face while walking down the street near a police officer and the officer does nothing, aren’t you going to ask the officer, “Why don’t you do something?” Is it fair for me to then retort: “This is no time to discuss police inaction”? On a larger scale this doesn’t make sense. If suddenly the glaciers covering Greenland sheath off into the sea and someone says, “We need to reduce our carbon emissions!” is it fair to respond: “This is hardly the time to discuss carbon emissions”?
Of course it is better to discuss issues before they become a problem, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot discuss issues after a problem has occurred. This is just not logical.
2. “It’s our second amendment right to bear arms. If we don’t have weapons, we will be allowing tyranny to take over our country!”
Two problems here. First, at the time of the second amendment, concealable automatic weapons did not exist, assault weapons did not exist and even handguns did not exist. The fact that the word amendment is part of this argument should demonstrate something. The Constitution is a remarkable document, and it admits that it cannot foresee societal and technological developments that might change how society must be structured — amendments allow this document to be updated. The second amendment is a modification to the Constitution. Likewise, it can be amended again when new developments occur. Few people use muskets anymore and I doubt any spree killer has ever, would ever or could ever try to use this technology to kill multiple people. Spree killing was simply not possible when the second amendment was written. Accordingly, there is nothing wrong with making another amendment to update the second amendment to prevent spree killers from killing many people.
Second, although it’s nice to imagine a group of well-intentioned and well-armed civilians taking back the American government from a tyrannical leadership, it’s simply not feasible and, unfortunately, this dream must be abandoned. Consider what this scenario would actually look like. Let’s say this hypothetical rebel group is deciding to attack the White House. First, the group would need to be sufficiently large to begin with — something difficult to achieve because you’d need some charismatic leader to inspire people to go to battle and probably give up their lives. I say probably because there are many levels of government protection that this rebel group would be facing. If the rebels attacked the White House, the first groups to respond would be the Secret Service and the Washington Metropolitan police force. Combined, a somewhat formidable force, employing handguns, kevlar vests, helicopters and some assault weapons. Fine, let’s say the rebels take down the secret service and the local police and take over the White House. Now what? The president is either held hostage or dead. Is this the end of America? No. The government will not suddenly collapse. The remaining government will react quickly to this insurrection with full scale military force. Now you have the US Army, Air Force, and Marines attacking you from all sides. Unless you can convince a massive number of Americans that this insurrection is a good idea (with little or no media access, by the way), you’re doomed. Fine. Let’s assume that you convince millions of Americans that this is a good idea. What about the other Americans? Now you have a civil war. You don’t need a degree in mathematics to realise that the probability of overcoming all of these problems is infinitesimally small. Sorry, you and your brother Bobby aren’t going to topple the American government, regardless of how many AK-47s you’ve stockpiled.
Am I saying that you should just give up if your government slips into tyranny? No. However, with modern weaponry, such as jet aircraft, drones, and nuclear technology, it’s no longer as simple as gathering a group and attacking the government. It requires a much more well thought-out campaign using various media (old and new) as best you can to sway public opinion, holding mass demonstrations (non-violent and violent, depending on the need), and possibly, guerrilla warfare.
3. “This was the act of a crazy person and this couldn’t have been prevented.” (AKA “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”)
On the same day as the Newtown massacre, a crazed man in China attacked a school with a knife and stabbed over 20 people. None died. Is this not a clear enough comparison? Although we cannot stop people from having mental breakdowns perfectly, we can limit their ability to kill people.
4. “I don’t want the government getting into my business and controlling my life.”
The government does this all the time and we accept it. Now, I will admit, there is a line, and I do consider myself to be a bit of a libertarian in many respects; however, government interference is not always tyranny. Most government interference in the States is done for the safety of Americans. I know this will irk many libertarians, but think deeply about it. There may be many things that you don’t want the government controlling (drug use, prostitution, marriage, etc), but there are many that you do want them to control. Any law is an example of government getting into your business and controlling your life. Organizations like the FDA ensure that the foods and drinks we consume are not poisonous or dangerous: this is also a form of controlling your life. So, unless you want to live in a state of anarchy where anyone can kill you at any moment, you can’t actually believe this statement genuinely.
5. “Banning guns will only take guns away from law-abiding citizens. Criminals will be the only ones left with guns.”
First, this argument assumes that there are certain people considered “criminals” and certain people considered “law-abiding citizens.” This is not true. We are all capable of being either criminals or law-abiding citizens given the right circumstances. Just because you have never committed a crime before doesn’t mean you will never do so in the future. So how can you be justified in having a gun? Just because someone has committed a crime, doesn’t negate the possibility that they only want a gun for self-protection.
Of course, there are life-long criminals in society. This leads to my second point: banning guns does not empower criminals over law-abiding citizens. If criminals need a gun on a regular basis, they will be more subject to being arrested and more concerned about hiding their weapons. In countries where handguns or automatic weapons are illegal, it is quite shocking for people to see one of these weapons lying around a house. A society that does not accept the prevalence of guns is a society that is more likely to talk about people who do own these guns and therefore, more pressure is placed on these people to not carry or to hide these weapons very well.
What is the overall solution? That is where individual beliefs come into play and I think that there is a lot of reasonable sway here. I can accept the right to protect your family, if you think that owning a handgun will do that. I can accept even stockpiling short clip rifles if you’re worried about doomsday or something like that. I cannot accept owning an assault weapon for any reason. There’s no purpose other than killing people and/or feeling cool. Not good enough for me. I would be fine with simply a ban on automatic weapon sales, but I would prefer that the government went a little further because concealing handguns can cause many deaths as well. So, while there may be a gray area as to how much the government controls guns, America is definitely in the black extreme right now and needs to shift towards the white.