I figured that I’d put in my two cents about gun control. I’m gonna take certain points of both sides’ arguments and respond to them with my prerogative. Feel free to discuss in the comments when I’m done.
PRO refers to the side of the argument that supports a more laissez-faire attitude on firearms; CON refers to the side that favors heavy gun control.
1. PRO: Firearms are necessary for protecting our individual freedoms of life, liberty, and property.
Me: Against what? This argument almost always is used with tyranny from the top down in mind. At face value this argument seems legit, but there are a lot of gaping holes in it. First of all, where does this tyranny come from? Historically and realistically, it would come from a) an internal hostile takeover of the government, like a military coup d’etat or something similar, b) an external hostile takeover of the government, like Red Dawn or something, or c) a dramatic and disastrous shift in domestic policy that the government on ALL levels of organization just *happens* to unanimously condone. Secondly, when this Amendment was written, the dangers were actually much more plausible: any of these three things COULD happen just because this was a new country and NOBODY had ever tried what we’d tried before and yeah, if you know US history you know all that. So I won’t bore you.
Furthermore, the channels by which we protect our lives, liberty, and property have been long-established in nonviolent channels of communication. There are stories about people getting cheated by the system, blah blah blah, but it’s not so egregiously corrupt, impotent, or malicious that we’re on the brink of rebellion or starvation because of it. (It honestly isn’t.) The fact remains that there ARE things we can do when we feel that our rights are being violated, and IN GENERAL, they are functionally effective. (Notice that that last sentence was chock-full of qualifiers. Pay attention.) To top it off, trying to protect our life, liberty, and property using firearms doesn’t help the situation and actually makes it worse. Do you remember the last time a guy pulled a gun on the bank trying to foreclose on his house and successfully got JP Morgan to cut him some slack? Yeah, I don’t either. For a better representation of what “tyranny” means in the context that it’s really given, though, you would have to shift your eyes elsewhere. Know of any places where people protect themselves with firearms on a daily basis? I can name a few: Somalia, Sudan/Darfur, and (until recently) Chechnya. Do you see a whole lot of rights-protecting going on there? On the contrary, one could actually argue that widespread firearm use to promote freedoms actually undermines them for everyone except for the gunmen packing the most heat.
And before you try to tell me again that firearms help protect democracy, I will point you to Kenya. In the days preceding its March 4 election, analytical blog post after editorial newspaper article after foreign policy analysis asked the same question: Will Kenyans be able to carry through these elections without violence? Answer: No. When the results came out and were perceived to be corrupted, violence flared up, probably perpetrated by more than a few Kenyans who wanted to protect their freedoms. That’s not democracy. Using violence and intimidation to get your way is not democracy, and will never be democracy.
2. CON: The only way to end gun violence is to ban guns altogether.
Me: For the most part, I don’t have to tell you guys why this is bullshit because you already know. Prohibition is a great example of how suddenly cutting of a desired good is going to lead to huge problems. Yes, it was a movement with an entirely different goal than a national gun ban, but firearms are so ubiquitous to America that banning them altogether would be like banning booze all over again. If someone wants something badly enough, they will go to whatever means they can to get it. And there are more than enough black market dealers out there all too willing to provide.
Besides, that’s not the only way to end gun violence. In fact, one could argue that ending gun violence is impossible; even in a peaceful nation like Norway a crazed gunman succeeded in killing at least 30 people two years ago. The key is common-sense regulation. This requires a lot of dialogue on all sides–specifically, on the type of guns that people (think) they need for legal purposes. The goal isn’t to figure out what gun regulations would satisfy everyone: the goal, as in any perfect compromise, is to give every side just enough that they’re not chomping at the bit but leaving them all still a little pissed off at not getting everything they want. However, that’s not my area of expertise so I won’t go there.
3. PRO: The 2nd Amendment allows for a “well-regulated Militia”, which means that constitutionally, every American is entitled to their firearms.
Me: That’s not what it says at all. A “well-regulated Militia” is just that: a militia. For those unfamiliar with or who abuse the term, a “militia” generally refers to an army or other fighting force that is composed of non-professional fighters [Wikipedia definition]. Basically what that means is that in every town, there’s a local regiment of volunteer fighters that get together every week or so for target practice, and then are called to arms whenever there’s trouble.
“But there’s no such thing in my town!”
There. Are. No. Militias. In America. The police do not count: they are professional law enforcement agencies on the city’s payroll. Militias actually generally ceased to exist in America after the antebellum years. The closest thing to it today is the National Guard, but even the National Guard is today utilized largely for disaster relief and light peacekeeping in severe situations, not general law enforcement. The reason why militias existed in the first place was because they fit the bill of what was needed in early-early America: they provided security and the general welfare for a society that for the most part was very isolated, largely agrarian, surrounded by untamed land, and at constant threat by forces, both internal and external, that the national army couldn’t possibly respond to in an adequate fashion. That’s not the America we live in today. Intricately connected on all levels of life, with a national army that’s probably the largest in the world, militias are obsolete.
The entities that actually do qualify as militias after the Civil War are represented in this extremely abridged list: The Animal Liberation Front, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Knights of the White Camellia. Worldwide, these examples include the Janjaweed in Darfur, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the Taliban in Pakistan, the Irish Republican Army, and al-Shabaab in Somalia.
That should be very telling to you. The point is, nobody who uses this argument is part of a “well-regulated Militia”, never has been and never will be, and there isn’t a single American in this country that needs one.
4. CON/PRO: (Both sides have used this argument.) The most effective way to curb gun violence without harming law-abiding citizens is to register/track the movements of the mentally impaired and perform special background checks on them before selling them firearms of any kind.
Me: It still boggles my mind how often people attribute violent crimes to mental illnesses. Can they be a factor? Of course. But bear in mind that there have been a LOT of horrible people in this world, and still are a LOT of horrible people in this world, who did unspeakable things and yet had perfect mental faculties. But most people with mental illnesses are delightful people who wouldn’t dream of the sort of violence Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris, Adam Lanza, Anders Breivik, and many others committed. I know personally at least three bipolar people. John Nash was a paranoid schizophrenic and a Nobel Prize laureate. Silver Linings Playbook is all about crazy people who carve out good things in the world by doing good things for the world. Mental illness does not = violence.
Instead of shifting the blame onto mental illnesses, or video games, or any other easily-dealt-with “problem”, we should point our fingers at the REAL culprits here: Glorification of killers through sensational media, for example. Neglect of the public school system. A thousand other social ills that would be extremely hard to solve, but would greatly benefit from having some light shone on them.
In short, the notion of mental illness as a cause of violence is not enough to implicate EVERYONE who was born with a less-than-normal noggin. And it should never be. (Check out this article for an analysis of Columbine if you’re interested; it presents a contrast between Harris and Klebold that I think is pretty important. )
Other odds and ends that I didn’t have the time/patience to fit into their own thing:
Universal background checks: I support them. Like any extremely important license/purchase/transaction people make here, gun license registry and gun purchases should be very closely regulated. The questionnaire for getting a gun license in California is a JOKE. “Circle yes or no: Have you ever stalked someone maliciously with a weapon?” This doesn’t compare at ALL to the tests people have to go through to get drivers’ licenses, or the level of identification you have to provide to open up a bank account in America, obtain a credit card, or take out a loan. Guns are a whole different story. Hell yeah, universal background checks should be required. That record had better be damn near spotless before you even lay your hands on a peashooter.
Limitations on clip size: I support those, too. Now, I’m not a gun connoisseur and I don’t plan on being one, but common sense dictates that a man with a 30-round magazine and an AR-15 can do way more damage in way more time than a man with three 10-round magazines and the same gun. And forget shooting sprees for a moment. For hunting, you probably don’t need any more than two or three shots to bring down game if you’re decent. For self-defense, you definitely don’t need 30 rounds to scare off an attacker.
This is a relatively abridged piece on gun control, but that’s just what I think. It’s by no means a perfect argument. But I consider it the best representation of the facts that I have at my disposal. How you choose to treat this argument is totally up to you.