I know, I know. I said no more political blog posts until 2016…but in the wake of the Sandy Hook mass murder, I’d feel obligated to comment on the gun control “debate” in the United States.
I could cite data: I could arrange the proofs and figures in columns before me, and make an argument. For example, this Washington Post article has done just that, much better than I ever could, and even resists the temptation to draw (many) conclusions. The article simply lets the data speak for itself—a rhetorical device seldom employed these days. But I won’t do this, in part because so many have already done this, and I don’t have much to add.
I could mention how the 2nd Amendment doesn’t say that citizens have a right to bear arms. It says that citizens have the right to bear arms as part of a well-regulated militia. But this leads to a debate about language, and what the founders intended. And if you read the 2nd Amendment in its entirety, you can only conclude that the founders weren’t good writers. The 2nd Amendment may be the most vague, poorly written sentence in all of jurisprudence. But I don’t want to discuss this, because again this is well-trodden ground.
I simply want to put the discussion in as stark terms as possible. As I see it, the gun control debate is just a debate as to wear to draw the line.
That there should be a line somewhere is indisputable. Suppose someone invented a hand-held device that fired nuclear missiles. Should we ban such a device? In a way, it doesn’t really matter, because if such devices were widely available, civilization would collapse within hours. What about flame throwers? Rocket launchers? I don’t think any reasonable person would be opposed to the (civilian) ban of such things.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are (say) knives. A knife can be used as a weapon; a knife can even be used to commit multiple homicide (case in point: the Simpson case). Does anyone want to ban knives? Probably; but let’s say that most reasonable people are in favor of the right to bear knives. After all, Chopped is such a fun show to watch.
So we have weapons or tools that can be used as weapons, some of which should be banned, some of which should not be. Put all such weapons on a spectrum with knives at one side and flame throwers on the other. There has to be a line somewhere. (This follows, surprisingly, from the Squeeze Theorem of calculus).
Let’s just decide where to put the line.
The rest of this post is personal. I will suggest a reasonable way to draw the line. You may disagree. But wherever you want to draw the line, you must admit that there has to be a line, and I hope you have logical, balanced, well-reasoned criteria for whatever you decide. If you’re not logical, balanced, or well-reasoned, then honestly I don’t really want to talk to you.
So. What line-drawing criteria should we use? I would suggest that people have the right to hunt game animals (there are reasonable arguments against this, I will admit), and the right to reasonably defend themselves. But I would say that any device that makes it easy to rapidly kill many, many people should be off limits to ordinary citizens.
Machine guns? Automatic weapons? Assault rifles? Ban them all. No one hunts with them, and no one needs them for protection. If you need a machine gun to defend your house, then you’re either Tony Montana, or the zombie apocalypse has started.
On the other hand, keep your (non-automatic) pistol. Keep your shotgun. Enjoy that hunting trip. Have fun (trying) to shoot that burglar. (I could argue that an 80-year-old with a gun is more likely to have the gun pulled from his hand and be pistol-whipped with it, rather than use the gun successfully—but I won’t.) I have drawn a line, and the line has a logical basis (the number of people that can easily be killed by the device). You may disagree with my line.
Where would you put it?