As could be expected, the gun debate reappeared in full force after the tragedy that took place in Orlando. All of the typical arguments from both sides are again being repeated ad nauseum. From “we need to prevent this from ever happening again” on the left, to “from my cold, dead hands” on the right, and everything in between.
In the post-9/11 world, both major political parties are increasingly coming out in support of restrictions on gun ownership. The idea that anyone who is on a government watchlist (such as the no-fly list) should not be able to own a gun is now supported by both Republicans and Democrats. Libertarians beg to differ.
The problem is the way that these watchlists are assembled. One simply must be accused of “potentially” being a terrorist for their individual rights and civil liberties to be severely restricted. There is no presentation of evidence, no opportunity for refutation, little to no recourse for clearing one’s name, and no assumption of innocence until proven guilty.
Watchlists take a significant step toward elimination of the fundamental human freedom of habeas corpus which goes back over 800 years to the Magna Carta. Movement in this direction has accelerated in recent years with Bush’s Patriot Act, and sections 1021 and 1022 of Obama’s 2012 NDAA. It is the acceptance of this type of thinking by too many that is driving freedom in the wrong direction.
Of course, the arguments for restrictions on gun ownership don’t end there. Gun advocates, and libertarians especially, make many worthy arguments for why the right to own firearms must be jealously protected.
Everyone possesses the right to self-defense – the right to protect themselves, their family, and their property from aggression. Gun controllers argue that there is no reason to own guns, that possession of a gun increases the likelihood of violence, and that if one needs protection they should call the police and “let the professionals handle it.”
When looked at honestly, the statistics associated with the “likelihood of violence” argument leads to the exact opposite conclusion, and all responsible gun owners know how to teach proper handling and gun safety to their family and their children. If one is afraid of having guns in their own home, fine, don’t own one; but to restrict the rights of others based on one’s own fears is unjust. To the latter point of calling the police, it has been said that, “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” For many, this has proven true. Further, the people who push for gun control are often the same ones who complain about police brutality. This is a puzzling contradiction.
Another argument made by defenders of gun rights is heard in the common refrain, “a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.” The other side responds with the completely unfounded argument that this rarely, if ever happens. That’s blatantly untrue. It’s happened countless times, and just because such events are not blown up by the media does mean they don’t happen.
Gun rights defenders will also often invoke that private gun ownership is the last defense against a tyrannical government. The response to this is usually audible laughter. That’s impossible, only lunatic conspiracy theorists could believe that tyranny is actually a possibility, they’ll say.
The movement towards tyranny in the US is indisputable. From warrantless wiretapping and massive collection of electronic records, to indefinite detention without charge, to making it a felony to protest wherever Secret Service is present, to executive branch ‘kill lists’, the US government is unquestionably on a tyrannical trajectory.
Aside from the current state of the US government, one simply needs to look around the world and at recent history to see the risk of disarming a people. Every single tyrannical government – past and present – preceded their atrocities with disarmament. Today, the Palestinians’ only form of defense against the IDF are knives and rocks. It’s not too hard to see that their situation would be vastly improved if they were able to effectively defend themselves and their property from the tyrannical atrocities committed against them everyday.
In all fairness, most gun controllers don’t claim to advocate for complete disarmament, but rather for “sensible” regulations that could might maybe prevent “mass shootings” in the future. This is a red herring for two main reasons.
First, “sensible” regulations such as gun registration, background checks, and permit requirements in no way prevent the possibility of violent crimes being committed. Instead, they only serve to make it more difficult for poor people to be able to acquire tools for self defense. All of these regulations directly or indirectly add cost to the purchase of a firearm. Obviously, increased cost doesn’t affect an upper or middle income person to the same extent that it does a low income person.
The second reason is that governmental collection of data on gun purchasers makes it that much easier for them to come for those guns in the future. While it is a stretch to believe that full on gun confiscation will happen any time soon, it’s easy to imagine the government targeting a particular group of people for such an effort. In the age of the “war on terror,” would it be a shock to see a future administration come to power and choose to target America’s Muslim community for disarmament? Precedents exist of this type of action by the US government as is seen by FDR’s internment of hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans during WWII.
Regardless of fear and emotion, liberty must be guarded for all people. The right to self defense is a fundamental liberty, and is the benchmark upon which all other liberties are safeguarded. While it may make some people feel good for the government to “do something” in response to acts of atrocity, the only just way to deal with a murderer is to levy harsh consequences. Preemptively punishing law abiding gun owners by restricting their rights to purchase and possess firearms doesn’t make any sense. Preemptive aggressive intervention against a peaceful person is and always will be unjust.