I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking about guns, the Second Amendment and gun control, lately. I wish I could say I’ve come to some new, revolutionary conclusions that will settle the debate about guns, gun rights, gun control and violence that will provide answers with which everyone will be happy. Sadly, that is not to be. All I’ve really done is achieve more clarity for myself.
Have you ever had the experience of reading or hearing something many times, thinking you understand it, only to one day, whether because of repetition or some specific event, suddenly come to understand it in a much different and very visceral way? That has been my experience with a not infrequent point made by many pro-gun rights folks. The point goes like this: Many of us have decided we will put ourselves in harm’s way to protect not only ourselves and our families but other people as well, including those who oppose any and all civilian ownership and use of guns. My understanding of that hasn’t changed. Here’s what has changed for me. I’ve come to the realization, as a result of a lot of reading and listening, that there are pro-gun control folks who will not do the same for me or even their own love ones. I’ve found this realization profoundly disturbing. To come to understand there are people, in this case some of my fellow citizens, who (if their words are to be believed) will not use a firearm, if one were to suddenly become available, in defense of themselves and others (including their loved ones) is, well, disturbing. Now, I’m a middle-aged, male, retired US Navy officer from the South who has met a lot of women who would not hesitate to put themselves in harm’s way in defense of others. Still, because of my background, I’m forced to ask, what kind of man could make such a declaration and still look at himself in the mirror? What kind of parents would choose to spend their last few moments of life begging for their lives and the lives of their children if there was any possible way to resist and possibly save, if not their own lives then lives of their kids? This, in some cases, is the sort of person with whom we are dealing when we discuss 2A rights. Barring some event that changes the perception of these folks (and I don’t wish such an event on anyone), there is little hope of reaching any sort of mutually acceptable understanding with them.
If you’re a gun owner, especially if there are any anti-gun rights people who know you are, you’ve probably encountered, heard or been called at least some of the following:
- “Why are you so paranoid?”
- “You know your gun is just a phallic symbol, don’t you?”
- “You must have a tiny penis”
- “Don’t you care about the children?”
- “Why are your guns more important to you than other people?”
- “Don’t you think it’s a good idea to keep terrorists from getting guns?”
There was a time these and similar comments really offended me. Now, I simply find them annoying and tiring because I recognize them for what they are. They’re insults and logical fallacies. Why does that matter? It matters because, in many cases, they are accepted as legitimate arguments against gun ownership by our fellow citizens. When people base their arguments on emotion and fallacy, they tend to be highly resistant to sound, well-reasoned arguments to the contrary. It is very similar to the approach many students (and faculty) are taking to argumentation and persuasion at some of our colleges and universities across America.
Related to many gun control advocates basing their arguments on something other than fact and sound logic, is how strongly they believe things in the absence of those. In addition to the previous list, please consider the following:
- “A ‘good guy with a gun’ almost never stops a ‘bad guy with a gun.’ This sort of thing simply doesn’t happen.”
- “Concealed carry is a threat to public safety.”
- “No one is trying to take your guns.”*
- “The 2A only applies to weapons they had when it was written.”
What is most striking about the two lists, other than their often gross irrelevance and factual inaccuracy, is how strongly many gun control supporters believe them. For a long time this really frustrated me. I wondered how people who could seem so very reasonable in other ways could believe some of this stuff. Here, I believe is the clue. All those things they say about guns and those of us who own them they desperately need to be true. The reason for this is simple. If they are not true (and, of course, they are not), the argument for ever increasing gun control becomes irrelevant. If the typical law abiding gun owner cares about the victims of violence, if she isn’t paranoid, if there really are evil people who might do her harm, if she’s not deriving some sort of fetish related sexual pleasure from a gun, if gun control has no power to deter crime or terrorism, if the specious arguments gun control advocates make truly carry no weight, then those folks are shown for what they are: opportunistic statists, liars, reactionaries as well as moral and physical cowards. Those sorts of realities are just too much for most people to face. It’s far easier to focus on an inanimate object and those who own them. So, those things gun control advocates say have to be true. They must be true, because the alternative is simply unthinkable. Therefore, they are true.
Here’s something else. Recently, President Obama, in his speech from the Oval Office, declared gun control to be a matter of national security. This, I submit, is patently false. If it were true, there’s a far simpler answer than anything he proposed. He could instruct the DOJ to aggressively prosecute those people who violate federal gun laws, especially if they do so during the commission of another crime. This would help remove from the streets those who violate gun laws and it would do so without punishing law abiding gun owners. However, it would also, I submit, make obvious the specious nature of the arguments put forth for more gun control.
It amazes me that we still hear about the need for a “national conversation” about guns and violence. We’re told this most recent “Black Friday” set the one day record for background checks (and presumably for gun sales). Further, it is being reported November set the one month record for background checks (as had each of the 6 preceding months before it). Still further, it looks like this year may be the all time annual record for background checks. How does this relate to our “national coversation?” A huge number of Americans have expressed their opinion regarding guns and gun control. They expressed it over the last 7 months, on Black Friday and over the last year. They expressed it with cash and credit cards, every time they purchased a firearm. I submit we have had the conversation. The answer from Americans is clear. They do not believe gun control is the answer. On the contrary, Americans, in ever increasing numbers, are saying gun ownership by everyday, normal and law abiding Americans, is a reasonable response to threats from both terrorists and more mundane criminals. We’ve had the conversation. Whether the other side is listening is what’s in doubt.
*NOTE: “No one is trying to take your guns” is probably my favorite argument to hear. You’d think the anti-gun folks would abandon it, given the long history they have of trying to do just that, even back before Senator Feinstein’s infamous remark. As evidence of that lack of change, I submit the following: First, there is the New York Times front page editorial. Then, we have this from the Huffington Post. Finally, from today, we have this gem from The New Republic.