Here at Bearing Arms, we put the right to keep and bear arms on center stage. It’s our reason for existing, and we’re damn proud of it, too. One of the reasons why that right is so important is armed self-defense.
There are bad people in the world who want to do bad things. Sometimes, they want to do bad things to you, which means you may well need the right tools with which to defend yourself.
Self-defense is a vital part of being human. I mean, even animals in nature try to defend themselves from attack. It’s just that as a tool-using species, we should be able to have the necessary tools to do so ourselves.
Over at Reason, editor Katherine Mangu-Ward agrees. In fact, she wrote about what kind of a disaster we’d have without that right. But she also goes a step further.
The argument that the existence of a competent police force obviates the self-defense justification for private gun ownership was made laughable twice over last summer, first as citizens marched in protest of police misconduct and second as law enforcement proved wholly inadequate to the task of defending lives and businesses in the corridors of cities where riots broke out.
And rights can and should be applied as equally as possible across the population, with as few exceptions as possible.
This basic rights argument is often laid out at length in part because it deserves the real estate. But it is not the only argument against gun control. And in emphasizing the rights argument, those who seek to protect the practice of armed self-defense risk being unpersuasive to the not-insignificant percentage of Americans who don’t already happen to agree on a list of rights and their scope.
Most, but not all, of that group is concerned instead with harmful consequences. And it’s easy enough to see the harm that guns are involved in every day in America. It’s harder to see the harm that gun prohibition causes.
Of course, we do try to make that argument regularly here as well. After all, how many times can we write, “What part of ‘shall not be infringed’ do you idiots not understand?”
Frankly, that’s also, as noted above, an unpersuasive argument for anyone who doesn’t already agree with you.
So let’s look at one of the things Mangu-Ward is saying we should talk a bit more about.
In “Gun Control Is Just as Racist as Drug Control” (page 18), Senior Editor Jacob Sullum makes this second type of argument, noting that it seems to be much easier for politicians, pundits, and activists on the American left to see how the war on drugs hurts everyone, but especially black people, and to move from there toward strategies for ending or reducing that harm. Yet too many remain stubbornly unconvinced on guns. “Progressive politicians nowadays overwhelmingly oppose marijuana prohibition and criticize the war on drugs,” Sullum writes, “in no small part because of its bigoted origins and racially skewed costs. Yet they overwhelmingly favor tighter restrictions on guns, even though such policies have a strikingly similar history and contemporary impact.”
Now, I don’t know that I agree that “drug control” is racist. I’m not partial to judging motivations exclusively based on outcomes. I’m not saying that disproportional impact is a good thing or even a non-issue, necessarily, but I’m not ready to declare something racist on those grounds alone. (Mangu-Ward also makes this point later in her piece.)
However, the people pushing gun control generally do. As Sullum noted, though, gun laws also have a similarly disproportionate impact on black people, particularly young black men.
If you’re going to argue that drug laws are racist then it naturally follows that gun control laws are just as racist.
Regardless of the accusations of racism, though, the idea that people are being arrested and imprisoned simply because they were trying to protect themselves and their families cannot and will not sit well with me. Nor should it be with anyone else.
Further, there’s the fact that regulations requiring training and licensing often make it harder for the poor to arm themselves. And to think that the people pushing these regulations think of themselves as champions of the poor.
Frankly, the right to self-defense is essential, and I happen to agree with the folks at Reason that we need a multipronged approach to combating gun control.