It seems that gun control is one type of action censorship that is constantly upheld by a majority of people. Periodically, after particular events like mass murders, an upsurge of anti-gun rhetoric is heard. But is gun control arguable on rational grounds, or is it the product of emotionalism in the face of homicide ?
First of all, there is considerable puzzlement on my part about why guns are targeted in the first place. Guns are products like any others, and trade for guns is the same as any other form of trade. Guns can be used to kill, but so can bombs or penguns, and both can be easily made by individuals. even knives or one’s bare hands can be used – yet I have never seen anyone argue that knives or pens should be banned, or that hands should be cut. So why do people complain particularily about guns ? Such a behaviour could be more understandable if the sole possible function of guns was murder, but that is far from the case. Guns can be used for hunting, self-defense, and others. The fact that people decide to use them for criminal uses does not make a product any less useful.
Perhaps guns are considered negatively because they are a weapon of choice in violent crimes. But this seems like an arbitrary way of banning items. If another object becomes, for some reason, a favourite weapon, it would then be the targeted product. Banning something because of the choice of criminals seems to me a rather shallow and compromising reasoning. But I think I should respond to gun banning arguments more closely, and subsequently expose the political basis for allowing gun trade.
It seems that people advocate gun banning for one reason – to stop crime. The association is rather simple here : ban guns, less people have guns, less crime. This seems rather disingenuous, to say the least. What would be the consequence of banning guns ? Necessarily, only outlaws would possess guns. Gun banning would prevent lawful people from having guns and letting outlaws monopolize their possession, which is obviously not a desirable result. Who would want to live in a society where only outlaws can defend themselves with guns ? Only one teacher or student with a gun could have stopped Littleton. Can we afford to keep our citizenry defenseless, if we want to save lives ?
There is a lot of empirical evidence that gun ban breeds crime. For example, all the countries with more strict gun control than the US have higher crime rates. Also, the example of Britain, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, where crime is on the rise, and countries like Switzerland, New Zealand, Finland, and Israel which have high gun possession rates and low crime rates.
Gun-control laws have noticeably reduced gun ownership in some states, with the result that for each 1% reduction in gun ownership there was a 3% increase in violent crime. In the 1990s gun ownership has grown at the same time as we have witnessed dramatic reductions in crime. States that allow concealed carry but also allow local officials to decide whether individuals get concealed carry permits have issued relatively few permits and suffer a 30 percent higher murder rate and a 19 percent higher incidence of rape, on average, than states with more liberal laws (from “Suing Gun Manufacturers: Hazardous to Our Health” and “More Gun Controls?” by John R. Lott). National statistics of various countries show that there is no relation between gun control and homicides : Denmark, Sweden and Norway, all socialist countries with high gun control, have wildly varying rates of 5.7, 9.6 and 1.4. The USA has a homicide rate of 10.8, Isreal 1.8 and Switzerland 1.2, despite all these coutries having a low gun control rate. Crime does not happen because we have guns in our hands, but because we are educated in a mindset where crime has become accepted.
Another argument is that “guns kill”. Indeed many anti-gun advocates are victim of what I call the “sentient gun fallacy”. They seem to have knowledge of sentient guns wandering somewhere killing people, because as far as I know, guns don’t have the will necessary to do anything, let alone pull their own trigger. It seems that no one understands that humans, and not guns, are the ones who possess will, and can therefore perform such actions as killing. But if we wanted to adopt the same sloganic approach than anti-gun people, we could say “the absence of guns kills”. One gun at Polytechnique would have prevented dozens of murders. One gun at Littleton would have prevented murders also. Some have even suggested that teachers should have guns in their possession. This seems like a sensible, if idealist, idea.
Finally, the nail in the coffin is the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people directly saved by gun ownership (around 2-2.5 million cases per year in total defend themselves with guns). Despite statist claims that the best way to prevent being injured during a crime is to do nothing, such an action is worse than resisting with a gun. In order of efficiency (with percentage of people injured during a robbery, and during an assault) : resisting with a knife (40.3%, 29.5%), non-violent resistance (35.9%, 25.5%), do nothing (24.7%, 27.3%), and resisting with a gun (17.4%, 12.1%). This last 17.4% may still seem high, but most of these injuries took place before the victim used his gun – the percentage drops to 6% of injuries after active resistance. (Kleck G, “Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control”, 1997).
In the end, it’s pretty obvious that having a gun prevents crime. It’s so simple that statistics only confirm the point. That 11% of victims who are saved from an injury or death thanks to their gun represents hundreds of thousands of people who could be saved. But because of gun-phobia, people are not aware of this, but rather want to lower the self-defense capacities of honest citizens.
Even if guns are completely eradicated from the surface of the Earth, which is highly improbable, it would not abolish crime in the slightest. Thinking that gun possession encourages or entails criminal acts is a complete denial of the idea of free will and personal responsability : it is basically the commonly-held belief that our environment is solely responsible for our actions. This is basically reducing human beings to a state of purely instinctual reaction. I do not believe that humans are in such a state : our use of reason is proof of this. Our actions are not determined solely by our environment. No matter what movies or music I listen to, my type of political allegiance or hero-worship, there is still the fact that I am the one making the decisions – one of these decisions is to let all these things influence me or not in the ethical realm. I do not accept the argument that having a gun in one’s hand makes you go crazy with bloodlust, because it is simply an invalidation of man’s control over his actions.
What I do know is that what our actions boil down to is one’s morality : since our personal morality is what we as individuals decide we should do, and the means by which we find this, our actions inevitably reflect our own morality.
If I adopt an egoist morality, implicitly or explicitly, then I will, depending on my degree of confidence in this morality (the circumstances and degree of this confidence being part of my own personal morality), perform egoist actions. If I am angry at someone or a group of people, I will reason that killing them is not the way out of it and will instead attempt to modify the situation in less radical ways.
If I adopt an emotionalist morality, implicitly or explicitly, then I will, accordingly and in the same way, perform actions based on my emotions. If my emotions are composed mostly of frustration and resentment towards certain people, I will act accordingly – by taking arms and shooting my targets in order to relieve my frustration on my perceived opponents.
If the society in which I live promotes emotionalism, then I will be more likely to see this as the only alternative, or to see this as the most favorable alternative. But in no way does this choice has to be unconscious.
All of these points are purely pragmatic considerations that I wrote in order to answer gun control arguments. I do not consider them as being of prime importance. What I consider being of prime importance is the fundamental rational principles of politics regulating such cases, more precisely, the issue of trade.
I am fundamentally against any form of censorship of actions as well as speech. I don’t think that giving our governments the right to determine that some kinds of trade are illegal is morally justifiable, even trade of guns. Where is the act of force made when one buys or posesses a gun ? No one has ever been able to explain why buying a gun is so “criminal”. I don’t have to use force to buy a gun, but legitimate trade. Only when I commit a crime with it am I using force. In that way it is like any other product.
Any government that wants to control its people with evil ideologies censors other ideas, because evil ideas cannot withstand the light of reason. The same thing is true for the use of force – tyrannies have always seen fit to disarm their people before taking them over. The same thing could be said for abusive police forces.