By Michael Baker
This is a retort to Eric Zanzucchi’s July 7 post, The Right to Bear Arms (not to be confused with Larry the Cable Guy’s Right to Bare Arms, with which I refuse to argue). EZ argues that in modern America, the Second Amendment is outdated and in need of a new understanding that would limit gun ownership in order to curb gun violence.
That gun violence is a problem in the United States is undeniable, and that limiting the number of gun owners would be one step towards resolving that problem is near impossible to argue with. The standard pro-Second Amendment rebuttal is that an armed citizenry allows law-abiding gun owners to keep criminals in check, but the statistics don’t give that position much support. The fact is that if you have a gun in your home you are more than 20 times more likely to accidentally kill yourself or a family member than you are to ever use that gun in self-defense.
This is where most gun owners will reply, “Yeah, but I’m responsible with my gun,” as if every other gun toting American is some toothless, three-fingered good ol’ boy, wantonly firing shots into the air to celebrate his sister’s marriage to his cousin. Alright, some of them are, but I don’t think that’s the lion’s share (unfortunately I’ve been unable to find statistics that provide the percentage of the gun-owning population that identifies as an inbred yokel).
So at this point, it might sound like I’m agreeing with Zanzucchi’s argument, but I think that’s where our agreement ends – we both feel that a reduction in gun ownership would be a positive step. The beef that I have is with the proposed means of achieving that end. I simply cannot align with the idea that curbing Second Amendment rights is the best way to solve the problem of gun violence. Not that I don’t think it would work, but it seems unavoidable that by solving one problem you would create others.
The Second Amendment exists for a reason, and it’s a reason beyond individual freedoms or self-defense as we normally think of them. The real sort of freedom and defense that the Second Amendment was created to promote is freedom from and defense against tyranny. That might seem quaint, but name one modern dictatorship that has anything similar to a right to gun ownership for its citizens. Without doing much research on the topic, I feel confident saying that one of the first orders of business for any dictatorial regime is to disarm the general population. And that makes the right to bear arms an important one, even if only for symbolic reasons.
So there’s my grandiose argument in favor of the Second Amendment; it’s an important freedom not because I want people to exercise it, but because I’ll be shaking in my boots if it ever gets taken away. So what’s my solution to the problem of gun violence? I think the real solution is to beef up our police forces and encourage them to go after real threats (i.e. violent crime). I also think that more severe penalties for people who commit gun-related crimes (including possession of an unregistered firearm) would be a smart move. And yes, I also think there’s something to be said for promoting responsible gun ownership.
And while we’re talking about promoting responsible things, let’s also promote the idea that most people just plain don’t need a gun for self-defense. As a country we’re afraid, we’re very afraid. People assume that a group of drugged-up flunkies are about to burst through the front door at any second and ransack the joint, and the cops are too busy taking kickbacks and breaking up some high-school kegger to care. I think that most non-sporting gun ownership stems from that mentality – the mentality that the world is a dangerous place, and you’re on your own. Perhaps I’m a naïve city dweller, but I just don’t feel it. Or maybe I just have a soft spot for drugged-up flunkies.
I really wouldn’t want to own a gun myself. Who needs one more thing in their home that could accidentally kill them? I guess you could say that I’m pro-Second Amendment but I’m not pro-NRA, if that makes sense. Anyway, if you own a gun, please just don’t point it in my direction. And when your sister marries your cousin, fire a shot into the air for me.