The Case Against Gun Control
April 21, 2013 § Leave a comment
Due to the recent uptick in the number of mass shootings over the past few months, the call for gun control has once again reached a fervent pitch. People like Piers Morgan insist that the right to bear arms has severe limitations in the modern age. That seems to be the major case made by proponents of gun control; times have changed, they claim. The guns are more deadly, society has deteriorated, and human life is more valuable than the arbitrary “rights” codified by a piece of paper hundreds of years ago.
Of course, all of this is rubbish. Approaching the topic from two points of view, it can be shown that any form of gun control would inevitably be both ineffective and a regressive policy for civil liberties across the board. First, it will be shown that government enforced gun control is immoral and a recipe for further government diminishment of rights. Secondly, it will be shown that government gun control will never accomplish its stated goal.
Before we get there, do yourself a favor and go through some of the common myths associated with mass murderers (and by proxy, most murderers). Most of these supposed “facts” are pushed by the media and other outlets as proof that “something” needs to be done about gun ownership in the United States. To give the short version of the responses to these myths: no, mass shooting are not on the rise, background checks will not prevent murderers from purchasing weapons (more on this later), and most mass shooters do not use “assault” weapons.
Now let’s get down to business. In an effort to avoid mischaracterizing the arguments in favor of gun control, I will consider the more “sober” suggestions provided by its proponents. That is to say, most (sane) gun control advocates are not calling for completely outlawing the private ownership of firearms. Rather, they merely want to outlaw what they consider to be the most dangerous weapons. Presumably, they believe that these measures will deter violent crime associate with guns. Thus, if it can be proven that these measures will not deter gun violence then the argument falls flat on its face. Just to cover every angle, I will also discuss the argument for complete prohibition of guns.
First of all, it should be emphasized that “the right to bear arms” goes much deeper than the American constitution. There are certain individual rights which we all should hold paramount. It’s particularly interesting that many leftists are (correctly) against prosecuting “victimless” crimes, yet somehow make a completely inconsistent break in logic on the topic of guns. Is it not “victimless” to purchase a firearm? Of course, gun control advocates will reply that guns are different because there is a possibility that they may be used to harm others. But couldn’t the same be said for other victimless crimes which many leftists defend? For instance, alcohol, when consumed in copious amounts can cause humans to inflict pain on others. Gambling can become an addiction and the actions of one family member can bankrupt an entire household. If gun control advocates were being consistent they would be in favor of outlawing all of the above “crimes” as well. The free will of the individual should never be sacrificed in favor of the supposed “safety” of the whole.
The case of complete prohibition of private gun ownership is particularly interesting. In this situation, guns would be “outlawed” and we would supposedly have a “gun free” society. This line of thought is particularly dangerous. In the first place, guns would not be “outlawed” from society. To the contrary, guns would still be in full use by government officials. Of course, some may not have a problem with this. The government is the servant of the people. There is no reason for civilians to fear their government. Unfortunately, this is a highly naïve way of approaching the state machinery. The state itself is not some giant, monolithic entity with one motive—to serve its citizens. The state, like any other human institution, is an imperfect entity directed by the decisions of individuals. The officialdom is not composed of superhuman beings incapable of error. Although the thought of the United States government turning its guns against the citizenry may seem outrageous, it is absolutely within the realm of possibility. It’s apparent that only a fool would trust the state with a monopoly on gun ownership. Favoring such measures would require a level of state worship which rivals the fervor of any hardline religious group.
But more importantly, the complete outlaw of private gun ownership would fail. Put simply, state decree cannot prevent human action. Even if the state declares a voluntary action illegal, it will still take place in the black market. The evidence for this is staggering. Alcohol prohibition is seen as one of the most glaring examples of a policy which led to disaster. By outlawing alcohol because of its alleged moral and safety risks (sound familiar?), the state created a giant black market in which alcohol was sold at a premium in thousands of “speakeasies” across the country. A similar situation has occurred since the 20th century. The so called “War on Drugs” has been an unmitigated disaster. Millions of dollars have been spent in an effort to stamp out the black market for illegal drugs. Without question, the drug market has thrived and the “War on Drugs” has been a complete failure. Most gun control proponents agree with all of the above, but somehow have failed to learn anything from the examples they provide. Common sense tells us that even if the purchase of firearms is allowed, they will still be purchased. Thus, the total outlaw of private gun ownership would result in taking guns from the hands of law abiding citizens and placing them in the hands of criminals and government officials. Given the history of those two groups, that should instill fear into the hearts of any thinking human being.
The same argument can be applied to any less extreme calls for gun control. Let’s assume that certain guns are prohibited from being bought. In that case, criminals looking to buy a gun for violent purposes will simply go to the black market for weapons. Thus, not only does the gun restriction put guns into the hands of criminals while disarming law abiding citizens, it also creates a dangerous underground network of crime and violence. Multiple surveys conducted have shown that only an extremely small fraction of convicted criminals actually went to licensed gun dealers to buy their crime weapon. This reinforces the common sense truism that criminals don’t follow laws.
Another group of individuals aren’t in favor of gun control, yet favor actions to increase background checks for any gun purchase. It should be emphasized that first of all, criminals with a background simply will utilize the black market to obtain guns. Furthermore, almost all mass shooters had no prior criminal record before they committed their crime. Thus, increased scrutiny of their background would not have prevented them from obtaining a firearm.
Lastly, a word on statistics. The statistics used by both sides of the gun control debate are hard to gauge and impossible to apply universally. For instance, the city of Chicago has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, yet has one of the highest crime rates in the western world. Similarly, there is likely some European nations with much stricter gun laws accompanied by a low crime rate. It’s important to recognize that in both cases, correlation is not causation. There are a number of cultural, economic, and historical reasons for disparities in crime rates. Thus, for every statistical example in favor of gun control, there is likely another statistical example which favors gun freedom. Put simply, human action is much too complex to gain any serious understanding from statistical methods.
Finally, some might accept all of the above and simply respond by claiming that if gun control can save one life, it’s worth it. To which I respond: at what cost? The elimination of liberties is a slippery slope which can lead to the further erosion of other rights. Remember, the income tax was sold to the public as a tax which would only affect those in the very highest income classes. Furthermore, it’s already been shown that increased gun laws expand the dangerous black market and remove guns from the hands of law abiding citizens, all while completely failing to seriously address the issue of gun violence. Perhaps it might save “one life”. Similar logic would suggest that the government should install cameras into every household, because such a measure would forever prevent the possibility of child abuse.
Alas, let us not give these fools any ideas. Like every other issue, the answer to the gun debate is more liberty, not less.