I'll tell you how I feel about the problem with guns. As I start writing this page I see it's a complicated topic, but bear with me -- you'll see I'm not an extreme whacko on either side of the argument. Instead you'll see a sensible logical argument that leads to the inescapable conclusion that the middle ground is the worst possible solution to the Gun Problem.
|Before you read this article, you might like to read a review of it,
from Steven, who clearly enjoyed it, but not quite enough to leave me a
real email address so I could thank him:
Date: April 28, 2006
I agree that it's a good thing, in principle, for Good Guys to own guns so they can defend themselves against Bad Guys. If there were some way to ensure that only Good Guys would have guns, then there would be no problem. However, conflicts do arise, as I'm sure we all recognize. These problems are conflicts between the right of the Good Guy to defend himself with a gun and his right to be free from getting killed by a Bad Guy with a gun.
The first source of this conflict is the difficulty telling the Good Guys from the Bad Guys. It can be argued there's no such thing -- no one is all Good (or all Bad, for that matter). The attempt to sort out the Good and the Bad causes its own set of conflicts: a background check is at best bureaucratic delaying tactic and at worst an invasion of privacy. And there's no way to ensure that a Good Guy will stay Good. Even a mandatory training class in the proper use and handling of guns (which is good common sense but not required as far as I know) won't guarantee that a Good Guy will stay Good for the rest of his life.
The next source of conflict is that the Good Guy has no way to guarantee his gun won't fall into the wrong hands. It might be taken from him by a Bad Guy and used against him or in the commission of some other crime in the future. It might be found by people who haven't been properly trained and who might have a fatal accident. Think about this: all guns are manufactured by upstanding manufacturing companies and initially sold only to Good Guys. So where are the Bad Guys getting their guns? From the Good Guys -- either the Good Guys turn bad, and sell their guns, or the Good Gun Dealers turn bad and don't follow their mandate to sell guns only to other Good Guys -- you get the idea: every single gun in the hands of a Bad Guy passed through the hands of a Good Guy at some point in the past. If that's not proof the Good Guys can't control their guns I don't know what is.
OK, now I've made the case that the Good Guys' right to own a gun conflicts with the Good Guys' right not to be killed (by Bad Guys) with that very same gun. (If you disagree that I've made that case, explain to me how Bad Guys get guns without any help from Good Guys who have manufactured or owned those guns.) To get on with this, let's stipulate that it's true.
Even though the Good Guys' right to own a gun conflicts with their right not to be killed by that gun, you might pick gun ownership by Good Guys as a right that should be upheld. That would be the position of the NRA. Guns should be available as freely as possible to Good Guys, and without infringing that right, guns should be restricted somewhat from the Bad Guys. That way, more guns will go to the Good Guys, keeping the Bad Guys in check. This is a "wild west" scenario that puts a lot of responsibility on the Good Guys to have their weapons loaded and ready at all times -- 'cause in the ideal NRA world there will be almost as many Bad Guys as Good Guys and they're out to get the Good Guys. This is a responsibility that the NRA members are willing to take on, although they might neglect to think that many Good Guys would rather not worry that each and every person they run into might be a gun-totin' Bad Guy who needs to be blown away at the least provocation. Despite this shortcoming, the "wild west" world of the NRA is one has a certain logic to it.
Another -- and I'll argue the only other -- logical position a person can take is "maximum gun control": that gun ownership (and manufacture, importing, etc.) should be banned altogether (except by a small number of highly trained government agents charged with enforcing the ban). That way, the Bad Guys would find it much more difficult to get guns. Sure, some Bad Guys will still have guns ("If guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns") but two things mitigate this problem. First, the Bad Guys will generally not need to use their guns because they can be fairly sure the Good Guy they're robbing doesn't have a gun, so the gun isn't needed. (Ironically, you might recognize this as the same logical argument the NRA uses to defend "wild west" gun ownership.) Second, the police will not need to try to figure out whether the gun owner is Good or Bad -- he's a Bad Guy by definition -- so the cop doesn't need to wait for the Bad Guy to do something else wrong -- like a robbery or murder. The cop would be able to take the Bad Guy off the streets merely for having a gun. This world in which only Bad Guys have guns has a certain logic to it as well -- the Good Guys will be a little safer from guns, whether they feel that way or not.
Each of these two positions -- the "wild west" and the "maximum gun control" -- can be defended by a logical argument (although I'm sure you're swayed more by one than the other). Caught between these arguments are the leaders who try to appease both sides by taking a middle ground. In the middle ground, some Good Guys can have guns, but they labor under severe restrictions. The curious thing about this middle ground there is that there is no logical argument to defend it. Gun-control restrictions take away the only benefit of the "wild west" scenario -- that widespread gun ownership among Good Guys would serve as a deterrent. Under weak gun-control restrictions, the Good Guys' guns can't be too automatic and they can't be carried around, which weakens the threat against the Bad Guys who do carry automatic guns around. On the other hand, what little gun controls exist in this middle ground do not prevent -- or even reduce -- gun ownership by Bad Guys. This middle ground has all of the drawbacks of both extremes, and none of the benefits.
In my opinion, either extreme is preferable to the middle ground.
A law was passed recently in Connecticut that allows authorities to seize guns belonging to any Good Guy who is suspected to be a threat to himself or others. This law is a step toward "maximum gun control". This is fine with me as long as we're prepared to go the rest of the way. What would that take? For one thing, a constitutional amendment repealing the 2nd amendment (the right to bare -- I mean bear -- arms). For another, new exceptions to the 4th amendment (search and seizure) would be needed to find and eliminate the guns owned by Good Guys. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Americans are ready to throw out the Bill of Rights just yet. We can't get to the "maximum gun control" world from this one. We're not ready for total gun control. That makes the Connecticut law just one more step into the vast illogical middle ground.
Let me explore the other direction -- the "wild west" scenario. In this world, owning a gun would be a right as common and widespread as owning a car is today. Kids would look forward to their sixteenth birthday with great anticipation as they near the age when they will bring their own automatic weapon to school and show it off to their friends. High-tech guns as light as beepers would be worn by executives who would pass construction sites on their way to work where the laborers have guns next to the screw drivers in their tool belts. What if a kid goes nuts and starts shooting? Less of a problem than today -- before he gets off even a hundred rounds from his machine gun his classmates and teachers will kill him dead. The incident might make the local paper, but not the headlines it gets today -- no more than a deadly traffic accident does today. In fact, the more you think about it, the more you realize the "gun" in the "wild west" world is just like the car of today's world. Unlike the "total gun control" scenario, "wild west" doesn't need the repeal of any constitutional amendments. We can get to that world from this one.
Oh! I've gotta stop writing now, I'm late for work, let's see -- cell phone, wallet, keys... Here it is! Gun. I'm ready to go!
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