Archive | January, 2013

The Right to Bear Arms: Why This Gun Control is a Very Bad Push and has little to do with Safety

10 Jan

I certainly didn’t plan on my 2nd post being about guns, but given the attention the issue has received lately, I think this is a fundamental enough issue to talk about.  I’d suggest everyone read, one Karl Denninger’s Ticker’s (blog) which very explains a lot of the flaws in reasoning better than I do here (and this is just one of many posts on the subject).

Let’s think about the things we allow or there is a push to allow that result in large number of deaths.    According to the CDC 80, 374 people die on average every year from alcohol related deaths (note:  this data is a little old and given population changes is probably actually little low).  Also according to the CDC, there are on average 11,493 deaths from firearm related homicides.  (note:  other numbers people use do include suicides, most of which I don’t think are that relevant here as people would find other ways to do those).  Think about those numbers for a minute.  There is zero push to make alcohol illegal in this day and age.  On the flip side, there is strong support to start legalizing drugs which also contribute to a large number of deaths.  If stronger gun control is to be considered, it should be considered more than for the generality of saving lives.  Obviously saving lives should be at the foundation of further laws if they come, but there must be some explanation for why they can be implemented here and not with alcohol (and potentially other drugs).

Why Is the 2nd Amendment there?

Before we try to judge the benefits vs. drawback of gun control, the first question we must ask ourselves is why are gun rights so high that they are listed as the 2nd Amendment in the Constitution?  The specific wording of the amendment often distracts people from its reason for being there.  “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Simply reading the amendment, many think of military service and the right to arms being tied to that.  Consider the following though: a)  Militias formed up by citizens and opposed English rule (the absolute political authority in the colonies) only years before the Constitution.  b) Why would it be necessary for the government to list in its founding document that it’s military would have the right to be armed? c) Many Europeans were prohibited from owning firearms. d) James Madison, the man who wrote the amendment had this to say while writing in favor of the Constitution’s ratification (Federalist #46):

“Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments,to which the people are attached, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.”

Other similar quotes by Madison and Hamilton can be seen at various spots in the Federalist Papers.  There is mention both of people being armed being a form of check and balance against either the state or federal government (more important than ever given the state checks on the federal government are far less than they once were) and, in the event of an unjust government, “The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource;” (Federalist #28).

Let’s ignore the legal aspect of the 2nd Amendment for this post (the things that would get many gun control laws struck down by courts) and stick strictly to reasons a well armed society is good/bad.

Value of Wide-Scale Legal Ownership of Firearms

As the Founders layed out, the value of a well armed society is that it is a check on the government.  If a politician is going to use a crisis to push themselves too far, they do so with the knowledge that there are millions of armed Americans.  If the government is going to heavily push against a minority group of some kind, it also will do so knowing it can potentially arm itself.  Our nation’s history can often give us a false sense of political security, but when we consider how many countries have had terrible rulers, civil wars, mass genocides, etc over the past 100 years, it is a tremendous leap of faith to simply say we are safe.

Many before of us have thought their countries were safe or nothing terrible could really happen only to discover they were wrong.  Consider a) both Russia and China went from traditional governments and societies of mostly small farmers to industrialized Communist dictatorships which severely limited their people’s rights in short spans of time (the death tolls in both were very large and I’d argue Stalin was even worse for his people than Hitler), b) Germany at the turn of the 20th century was probably one of the last ones you’d guess something like the Holocaust could occur with most of the Jews being well integrated into German life/culture, c) the Soviet Union, one of the two superpowers in the 2nd half of the century collapsed almost overnight and what would come out of that was very unknown at the time.

That list of things in the 20th century could go on, but the point is that even over our short life times, a lot changes in the political climate and the unthinkable quickly becomes reality.  If we expand beyond our lifetimes, the possibilities of cruel governments goes from definitely there to 100%.  It should also be noted, that prior to acts of genocide/repression, it has very often been the case that rules on guns (registration/ownership) have been greatly expanded in attempts to get them out of the system years beforehand, including relatively recently (historically) in Rwanada.  Rather than curtailing violence, these acts instead made it more difficult for people to defend themselves against larger armed groups (including the government).

Individual Rights and Actual Benefits of Gun Control

Beyond the direct benefits of a well armed society, we must consider individual rights and the actual benefits of greater laws on firearm ownership.  Let’s consider the latter first.

There is a lot of talk about limiting firearm ownership, but that’s already been tried directly in cities and in the past in this nation.  Chicago and Washington had about the toughest gun rules in the nation and the rate of violence in both cities was very high relative to others.   If we look at other acts of prohibition we see limited effects on the American people.  Alcohol was eliminated during the Progressive era only to prove a disaster that did little to limit drinking, but a lot to limit the respect of the law.  Many drugs remain illegal, but all the “War on Drugs” has accomplished is help Mexican gangs become very powerful and bring them increasingly to this side of the border (and not just in border states), resulting in a lot of deaths.

This isn’t not to say greater rules on gun ownership wouldn’t have some effect.  They would, but that effect would be limited.   The ones most apt to obey the new laws would be people who are less likely to use them irresponsibly in the first place.  Those who are planning on major crimes (including gangs or drug cartels which already have no issue violating the law and are responsible for a lot of firearm issues) aren’t going to be deterred and while some might find they now can’t get a gun that number will be neutralized somewhat by the people who can no longer defend themselves with firearms.

Beyond the collective gains and loses, the big issue is an individual rights issue.  Taking away someone’s right to property which does not directly infringe on anyone else’s rights must be done only with overwhelming society need.  That need is not there.