Answering Two Common Arguments For Gun Control

In the past month the issue of gun control has come up in two different Atheist RSS feeds I track.  The first being in the post, “Bang bang shoot shoot!” on the Athest Experience Blog.  The second is “Pastor Urges His Flock to Bring Guns to Church” over on RichardDawkins.net. Why gun control is coming up in relation to Atheism is troublesome.  I certainly don’t see a tie between the two.

In both conversations the same two arguments in favor of gun control (bans) came up.  In their most basic form the are this:

1: I don’t want people around be to be able to shoot me because they’re having a bad day.

2: The UK, which outlawed guns, has a lower instance of gun related deaths than the US!

These are so common I’ve decided to address them here and henceforth any time someone brings them up I can save time by just offering up these rebuttals they should already be aware of.  So here goes.

1: I don’t want people around be to be able to shoot me because they’re having a bad day.

This one is easy to destroy as an argument for or against anything.  It is an appeal to emotion.  The person who presents this argument is afraid of what other people might do.  Not what they will do.  While I’m sure people can present cases  where such curtailing of what someone might do is valid (though I am hard pressed to think of one at the moment) this is one case where it is not only invalid but immoral.

Fact of the matter is that in a civilized society a great many people own firearms and don’t go off killing those people around them on a whim.  This is evident on the proliferation of firearms not only in the US but other nations as well.  The vast majority of people who are perfectly safe to be around if they don’t own or have access to a firearm are perfectly safe to be around if they do own or have access to firearms.  Of course for the cases were a person might not be safe to be around if they own a firearm I believe the inverse is also true; those are people that are probably not safe to be around even if they aren’t in possession of or have access to a firearm.  One presumes they would have access to a carving knife, cleaver, chainsaw, car, baseball bats, barbed wire, knowledge to wrap the barbed wire around a baseball bat, etc.

Where it becomes immoral, however, is that such a ban deprives people of their basic right to defend not only themselves, but others, up to and including the person who puts forth the above argument.  This is indeed something that they know but won’t admit because they often will concede that the local police should have access to firearms to defend themselves and the general populace.  It is my opinion that if someone is advocating that someone else cannot have the right to defend themselves or others that someone has to have a far stronger argument than their own fear.  Fear often based in ignorance of firearms in general and of the people with whom they share space.

2: The UK, which outlawed guns, has a lower instance of gun related deaths than the US!

This is true.  I will not deny that the UK has a lower instance of gun related deaths than the US.  However, this argument is not the complete story.  Notice this is focused on gun related deaths as opposed to, say, all crimes.  This is because the rate of crime drastically increased in the wake of the gun ban enacted in the UK.  It also doesn’t touch the fact that crime rates in some nations with mandatory gun ownership (Switzerland) are far lower than those in the UK.

Basically it is narrowly defining the results to exclude other negative consequences and calling it a success.  Of course the narrow definition ties in neatly with argument #1 presented above.  People don’t have the right to defend themselves, their property or to defend others.  Is it any wonder then that with that mindset the fact that property theft skyrockets after a gun ban is simply ignored?  Pointing out the supposed positives of an immoral policy while brushing aside both the negative effects of said policy as well as positive examples of the opposition of that policy is disingenuous at best, immoral and unethical at worst.

Even though I an a Libertarian I am far from a gun nut.  I live in a city famed for its drinking and gambling which is in a shall issue state.  Yet the only firearm I own hasn’t been cleaned, much less fired, in the past 20 years and for which no ammunition for it is in my home.  I am as defenseless, firearms wise, as the fearful anti-gun crowd would like me to be yet I do not live in fear in the very environment they fear the most in a civilized society.  A place where people can be drunk, can be desperate because of gambling losses and can be carrying a concealed weapon.  In fact, they could be in all three states at once!  A drunk, down-on-his-luck guy packin’ heat! The Horror!!!

Yet I feel safe because I both fear and respect people.  I fear the person who would do me harm regardless of by which method he chooses.  I respect the people who would defend themselves and others (which is a catagory that includes myself and my wife).  I would not want to impede the latter person in a futile attempt to hobble the former.  If murder and theft laws aren’t stopping them I sincerely doubt a “please don’t murder and steal with a gun” law will stop them, either.

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