Last weekend I took my conceal carry class required by the state of South Carolina in order to be issued a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Given that gun laws are one area where I most often disagree with my fellow liberals, I thought it pertinent to touch on the topic.
The strongest argument I have for why I feel gun ownership is good among responsible adults goes something like this:
If you’re a liberal (like I am on the vast majority of issues), you’re probably familiar with conservatives trying to get rid of something by banning it. Historically conservatives have taken aim at prostitution, abortion, drug use, alcohol, and gambling, just to name a few.
As liberals, we often point out that these are things that you cannot stop. People have done these things since the dawn of time, and will continue to do them no matter how much you try to stop them. Instead of wasting time and money trying to prevent the inevitable, why not legalize it, regulate it, and tax it to limit the damage and promote the public good?
The same it true for guns.
Just as teenagers have always had sex, just as people will always gamble and use drugs, there are people who will always commit violent crimes. In light of this reality, I feel that the best way to address it is to allow the would be victims the ability to protect themselves if necessary.
Disarming a populace does nothing to stop criminals from committing crimes. If anything, it makes it easier as they do not have to worry about people shooting back.
One friend once made the point that, “Guns only escalate the violence.” I disagree. If a person with malicious intent pulls a gun then the violence level has already been escalated dangerously high. A second person pulling a gun in response does not significantly raise the violence level. The worst case scenario either way is that someone gets shot and dies. I would argue that a second gun provides an incentive to lower the violence level. (Mutually assured destruction)
What are the possible outcomes of a senario where a gun is involved?
Say person A pulls a gun with malicious intent (violence level escalated)
1. Person A shoots person B (or multiple people)
2. Person A is somehow talked down by unarmed person B (or multiple people), however, this is unlikely given the power dynamics introduced by the gun in the scenario. Person A is clearly in control, and if they are unstable enough to pull a gun with malicious intent, the likelihood that they’ll listen to reason is slim.
3. Person A pulls a gun with malicious intent. Person B (possibly including others) pull their gun(s) in response. Person A fires, Person B (and possibly others) fire back.
4. Person A pulls a gun with malicious intent. Person B (possibly including others) pull their gun(s) in response. Person A backs down, others back down in response.
In a perfect world, nobody would be pulling a gun on anybody. In every situation the violence level is escalated by Person A pulling a gun. Situation 1 is arguably the worse, where Person A is able to kill people without fear of immediate reprisal. We’ve seen this at school shootings across the country. People are butchered like fish in a barrel.
Situation 2 is the best outcome, but also the most unlikely.
Situation 3 is terrible, but is better than situation 1 since there is now at least a chance that the damage done by Person A can be limited by Person B stopping him. People often point at school shootings, like the one at Virginia Tech, and ask “What if a responsible adult was carrying a firearm? There would have been at least a chance that they would have been able to stop the shooter from murdering 32 people.”
Situation 4, like situation 2, is one of the better outcomes. (Nobody dies) Here at least there is a strong incentive for person A not to proceed down the path they chose by drawing a gun.
I feel the biggest crux of this issue is responsibility.
I am not in favor of handing the mentally ill firearms. I don’t believe in passing out handguns to children. I believe responsible adults should be able to protect themselves.
The question then becomes “What classifies as a responsible adult?”
I would say that a responsible adult in terms of handling firearms is someone who:
Is trained in their proper use and saftey.
Does not use mind altering substances while carrying the firearm.
Does not boast about or brandish their firearm.
Knows that the firearm is the last resort option to be used in life or death scenarios only.
Attempts to avoid confrontation whenever possible.
The fact of the matter is that some people are always going to commit violent crimes. If someone has decided to commit a violent crime they already have no regard for the law. They are going to get a weapon and commit the crime no matter what the laws say. The only people who obey the law are responsible adults. Disarming law abiding citizens does nothing but make the society a victim rich environment for criminals to prey upon.
If you feel that the outcome in situation 1 is somehow better than situation 3, then there really is nothing I can say to you. Both outcomes are horrible, but I feel situation 3 is the lesser of the two evils given that there at least exists the possibility to stop the attacker.
That’s the personal defense aspect of guns. The second aspect is the political one. At the time the second amendment was written, the colonies were breaking away from their government. Guns were needed to overthrow that government. The second amendment was written partly as insurance should the newly formed government become tyrannical.
Nowadays someone might object to this reasoning and point out that the US military’s weapons are vastly superior to anything a civilian has. True. Back when the 2nd amendment was written, weapons were more of a level playing field. Sure the army had more of them, and more trained people using them, but a musket was a musket and the government could not drop precision air strikes from unmanned drones in the sky.
Again it comes down to giving people a chance. While a civilian’s weapon might not be able to kill as quickly and efficiently as a soldiers, it still kills. French resistance fighters in WWII used cheaply made guns to ambush and kill Nazi soldiers, whereupon they took the better weapons. I am not saying that the American people would be able to overthrow the government with their weapons should the military turn on civilians like they do in Syria (something I just can’t imagine anyone in our military doing), but at least the people would have a chance.
Revolutions never come about from peaceful marches, rhythmic drumming, and being massacred. Revolutions are only successful when the rebels pick up guns and start fighting back. We can only speculate on how rebellions like the Green revolution in Iran would have gone differently if the populace had had the ability to fight fire with fire.
The question of “well how do we know if the rebels are just in their attempts to overthrow the government” is something that ultimately will be left up to the rest of society and the historians.