Why fear is a terrible justification for gun control

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

“I shouldn’t have to be afraid to go out of my house,” someone will say, usually while trying to voice their opposition to some aspect of gun rights. Gun control advocates often make similar claims, citing their own fear as a reason why they oppose or support some measure or another.

And their fear may certainly feel very real to them.

However, fear is a terrible justification for gun control.

Now, being scared is a powerful motivator. It’s why people do all kinds of things, even if they don’t want to do it otherwise. It’s why scary horror stories of what happens when you don’t do something are such great motivators.

But it’s still an emotion.

When fear is used as an argument to justify some bit of legislation, one should remember that it can also be used to oppose that same bill. After all, one person’s fear may be quite different from another. While some feared armed gunmen in the wake of a mass shooting, others fear being unarmed in the face of a violent criminal.

So now what you’re looking at are warring fears.

I fear being unable to defend my family from an attacker. Is my fear somehow less than the fear that drives many to call for gun control?

“But your fear is irrational. You’re not likely to be attacked,” some might argue, and they’re not wrong. Statistically, I’ll never have to draw my weapon in self-defense at any point in the future. But if that’s the deciding factor, then their fear of being attacked is equally irrational, isn’t it?

And that’s kind of my point.

You see, fear is usually used as a justification for gun control because it’s powerful. Advocates for Second Amendment restrictions want people to be terrified because it’s irrational.

They understand that if you simply use the probability of being the victim of a violent crime is actually pretty high. For example, the probability of being the victim of being robbed is one in 667. Your odds of being the victim of other crimes are also pretty low.

If we’re rational about it, then the debate becomes a different matter. People who are thinking rationally look at this low probability and the fact that criminals obtain firearms through non-lawful means and recognize that gun control isn’t a viable solution to the problem. Some have differing opinions, of course, but as we’ve seen, when there’s little reason for people to be afraid, they tend to support gun rights to a greater degree.

Which is why fear is so well-used.

That doesn’t make it a great idea. That fear pushing some for gun control can and should be used to push for gun rights. We need to propel stories of those who were disarmed when they needed their guns the most at the same time as holding up stories like the Greenwood Park Mall.

Again, it’s because fear is a two-way street.

Yes, it’s a terrible way to promote anything, but that’s because it can be used against that thing. It’s well past time we showed gun control advocates just why it’s a bad idea.