New Approach To Gun Control: It's A National Security Issue

Steve Helber

When the Second Amendment was first penned, our Founding Fathers weren’t crazy about standing armies. In their experience, standing armies were used to oppress the people, so they wanted no part of it. They figured that if every American had a gun as part of the militia then we could handle ourselves well enough. Doubly so if the government we needed to defend ourselves from was our own.

Back then, the right to keep and bear arms was seen as a national security issue. It even says as much in the opening clause, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state…”

Today, though, some are trying to argue the opposite.

With firearm injuries and deaths at a record high even with most of the country in lockdown all year, it’s time to start treating gun violence like the national security threat and foreign policy issue it is.

Early last year, a uniquely American consensus arose: the silver lining to a pandemic shutting down the country is that at least fewer people will die in mass shootings because children can’t get shot at school. The only thing more disturbingly dystopian than this line of thought surfacing is that it didn’t even end up being true. We saw 610 mass shootings in 2020, nearly 200 more than in 2019. Overall, 2020 was the deadliest gun violence year in the United States in at least two decades, and 2021 is looking worse already.

As America begins to re-open, we can’t allow a shift from one deadly pandemic back to another. Now is the time for a reckoning of the United States’ approach to gun violence. More importantly, now is the time to ask ourselves what “national security” really means.

At a time when the Pentagon is spending record amounts on defense and security—more than China, India, Russia, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, Italy, and Australia combined—we should feel safer than ever. But with a quick glance at headlines, however, we quickly spot symptoms of an unsafe people. Last weekend, eight-year-old Faris Nunn was interviewed after a shooting outside Washington D.C.’s Nationals Park that left three people dead. “It was my 2nd shooting, so I was kind of prepared,” she said, “I’m always expecting something to happen.”

Clearly, America is getting less secure for its people despite steadily rising spending on military and police.  Crossing over into America’s borders makes you one thousand times more likely to get shot than in some other countries, and gun violence directly accounts for at least three of the top fifty-nine causes of death for Americans. Not to mention, gun violence greatly exacerbates issues like suicide, violence against womenright-wing extremist violence, and disproportionately affects Black and Latino men.

Wow. There’s so much wrong with that bit it’s not even funny.

First, it actually ignores the Second Amendment entirely. There’s no justification for ignoring the original purpose for making sure we preserve the right to keep and bear arms at all.

Second, the author needs to look up what a “record high” means when it comes to gun violence. While it might have hit a high point greater than it has been in years, unless it’s the worst ever, it’s not a record high. As someone who apparently communicates for a living, this is kind of an important matter.

But, is she right? Is gun control a national security issue? I suppose if you believe gun control actually works, then maybe. National security includes the protection of the people from any threat, not just foreign. So, along those lines, maybe.

The problem is that those record-high murder rates she ignored? Those happened before Americans started demanding their Second Amendment rights be respected and liberalized gun laws across the nation. Once that happened, murder rates started dropping and continued dropping for decades. It wasn’t until lockdown stripped people of their humanity and their ability to interact with others that we saw similar homicide rates.

Where’s that from the discussion of national security, though?

Frankly, if gun control worked, the trend I described would have been the opposite of what it actually is. It would have been lower before we liberalized gun laws across the nation.

The truth is, so-called gun violence is actually a complex issue and gun control is a simplistic solution. That almost never works out the way people think it will.

Especially when we know that law-abiding citizens with firearms can stop all kinds of horrible things from happening. From actual mass shootings–I’m really sick of people using Gun Violence Archive numbers so uncritically–to more pedestrian forms for violent crime. It’s gun ownership that’s key to national security, not stripping law-abiding citizens of their Second Amendment rights.