Mission statement:

Armed and Safe is a gun rights advocacy blog, with the mission of debunking the "logic" of the enemies of the Constitutionally guaranteed, fundamental human right of the individual to keep and bear arms.

I can be reached at 45superman@gmail.com.You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/45superman.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A nation of toddlers

The practice of tightly controlling small children's access to things with which they could easily hurt themselves or others is, of course, difficult to fault, because young children lack the judgement to be trusted to avoid unsafe actions. What is a great deal less defensible is the concept of legislating the same kind of nanny-like oversight of an entire society.

Restrictive gun laws are implemented with exactly that goal, though. Apparently, the thinking is that a person with a fully automatic firearm cannot be trusted not to unleash a barrage of death on a crowded city sidewalk, hence the National Firearms Act. A person with ready access to a firearm while within 1000 feet of a school cannot be trusted not to suddenly gun down a bunch of children, hence the "Gun Free School Zones Act." A person who can get a firearm through the mail cannot be trusted to...well, I'm not quite sure what he cannot be trusted not to do, but I'm sure it's something awful--hence the Gun Control Act. The list is virtually endless (as endless, in fact, as the list of gun laws).

All such laws are geared not to stopping violent behavior, or even trying to. Instead, they try to render violent impulses less damaging, by forcing the perpetrator of the violence to resort to less efficient means of carrying out his attacks. It's as if we say to those who would commit violence, "If you must attack people, go ahead--there's nothing we can do to stop you. You're going to have to work a bit harder than you'd like to kill, though."

I would hope that it's obvious that such an approach is seriously flawed, even setting aside the fact that the people from whom society faces the most danger are unlikely to be much deterred by the illegality of obtaining the weapons we seek to keep away from them. For the sake of argument, we will accept the idea that the right combination of laws will succeed in keeping guns away from those who would use them for evil. First, though, we must acknowledge that to do that, guns would have to be kept away from everyone. Between thefts and unauthorized private sales, guns will always find their way from the hands of those "approved" for possession, and into the hands of those who are not. Therefore, we must accept that keeping guns away from criminals would require an all out ban (remember, for the purposes of this discussion, we're not worrying about the absolute impossibility of such a ban working, nor the blatant un-Constitutionality of imposing the ban in the first place).

So, what have we accomplished? The good news is that those who prey on others are now limited to such weapons as knives and clubs, or, in a pinch, simply fists and feet. The bad news is that those things can (and do) kill, as well. The worse news is that their intended victims are similarly limited in how they can defend themselves. Perhaps not too terrible a problem for the young, fit and strong, but what about the elderly, the disabled? What about a woman whose weight is less than half her attacker's? What about even a young, superbly fit martial arts expert, who is badly outnumbered by a gang of assailants? These people, whose only real chance of prevailing in the face of aggession has been legislated away from them, are now doomed, by the very laws designed to protect people. Basically, we sacrifice them, in order to save those who would otherwise have been victims of people with guns. This, I argue, we have no right to do.

My largest problem with this kind of thinking, though, is that it allows, perhaps even encourages, abdicating responsibility for one's actions. A sensible approach, of course, with children too young to understand concepts like consequences and responsibility, but an alarming strategy to take with society as a whole. We transfer blame from the individual who commits the violence, to the society that failed to make that violence impossible (or at least less damaging). Would it not make vastly more sense to attempt to address the social problems that lead to violence, than to engage in a futile attempt to deny access to every one of the infinite array of devices that can be used as deadly weapons? Would it not make more sense for us to demand that our society grow up?

Note: I borrowed shamelessly from Jeff Snyder's excellent A Nation of Cowards, the Ethics of Gun Control for this post. Many apologies to Mr. Snyder, and a strong recommendation that anyone who hasn't read his book do so at the first opportunity.