Missing the mark on ‘gun control’
In recent months the debate over gun control has taken center stage. It is an emotionally charged issue, to be sure. After a series of high profile shootings, including those in Aurora, Colo., and Newton, Conn., it is obvious that people are anxious to find a solution to these heartbreaking occurrences, but there is serious disagreement on how this goal should be pursued.
I am sympathetic to the arguments for gun control on an emotional level. It seems to reason that if the government restricts access to guns in any way, there would be fewer guns, and, in turn, less violence. This argument, however, is a logical trap because it assumes several premises that upon closer examination are proven false.
The first incorrect assumption is that gun restrictions would result in fewer guns. To raise suspicion about this contention we need only look at the way gun sales skyrocket every time there is any national discussion on restrictions. Even the perceived potential of a decrease in supply inflates demand in the gun market.
In fact, if you tried to order an assault rifle right now you may face difficulties not because of new restrictions but because manufacturers are struggling to keep up with a backlog of demand. I would go so far as to say that Piers Morgan has been far more effective than any marketer or salesperson the gun industry has ever employed.
There is also an assumption that legal restrictions on gun sales or ownership would diminish the access criminals have to guns, reducing gun-related crimes.
The obvious hurdle this argument fails to clear is that those who reject strict, straightforward laws against shooting people are also unlikely to adhere to any laws regarding gun ownership. Upon even further examination we can see that this theory is more than just false; indeed it accomplishes the exact opposite of its stated goal. It has been proven that the vast majority of felons convicted of gun crimes acquired the gun by means other than legal retail purchase.
Any government restrictions can only affect legal retail sales, which represents a negligible percent of weapons used in crimes. No new regulation or restriction can govern the private unlicensed traffic of guns, as by its very nature the black-market exists outside the reach of the law.
Furthermore, any additional handicap imposed on the legal gun market would push the existing demand towards other means of acquisition.
We can reasonably surmise that by impeding the legal sale of guns in any way, we would only expand the illegal trade utilized by criminals, while simultaneously diminishing the law abiders’ legal access to guns for self-defense, thus exacerbating the problem of gun violence.
This is same phenomenon occurred when Prohibition produced not a sober, alcohol-free America, but instead a thriving black market for alcohol and the violent rise of organized crime.
Practical arguments aside, perhaps the greatest miscalculation held by gun control advocates is that they hold the moral high ground. There is a misconception that the most compassionate, enlightened, and peaceful argument is on the side of gun control. This is not the case.
Consider for a moment that a peaceful law-abiding person owns a gun deemed unsavory by gun control advocates. If restrictions or bans are placed on that weapon, the owner would be forced to relinquish his natural right to his property. If he were to resist he would have to be arrested by men wielding guns.
The irony here is that the guns used to arrest the gun owner were pointed at him by the gun control advocate. Here we can clearly pick out the aggressor in the situation and we can clearly see the moral inconsistency on the part of gun control advocates. There is no fundamental difference between the phrases “Thou shall not steal” and “Thou must respect property rights.”
Even while armed with the most consistent logical arguments and truly holding the moral high ground, advocates of individual liberty seem to be losing battle on gun control. This is because people are missing the mark, so to speak, as to how to approach the issue. Second Amendment advocates seem to understand that gun control is wrong in a free nation but most have not pinpointed the philosophical first principles that most effectively illustrate their argument.
This is not surprising; after all, a billiards master can make incredible shots even without the extensive knowledge in geometry and physics it would take to explain how he did it. People also possess empirical knowledge that alerts them when a liberty is violated, even without a Masters degree in philosophy or political theory.
I often hear Second Amendment proponents offering reasons why guns are necessary, useful, safe, or essential. While they may make sound arguments to these points, this strategy only hurts the cause. Evert time we try to give a reason why we should be allowed to own guns, we grant sanction to the idea that our rights are magnanimously bestowed upon us by our government.
This is dead wrong. Property rights, including the right to own any contemporary means of defense we chose, are natural rights. We possess them by virtue of our humanity rather than as a gift from the government we live under. Any encroachment on these fundamental rights must be met with extreme prejudice in any free society that wishes to remain as such.
Certainly in any area where one side is proposing new liberty-reducing regulations, the burden of proof must lie on the side wishing to impose said regulation.
Every time we fall into the trap of explaining why private ownership of any weapon is necessary or needed, we engage in the pathetic spectacle of offering excuses as to why we deserve ours rights. We must hold these truths to be self-evident and inalienable, as was intended by our founders.