This past weekend yet another gunman committed mass murder. This time it was a Sikh temple. Immediately, the pro-gun people started posting items proclaiming their right to have guns. For years, their slogan has been that guns don’t kill people, people do. This catchy slogan sounds simple and is easy to remember, but in reality it’s just one of the many fallacies that the pro-gun lobby uses in their arguments to justify owning devices that are designed to kill as many people as they can as quickly as possible.
Let’s start off with the foundation of every gun-rights activist’s argument. The second amendment reads: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This amendment was ratified in December of 1791 at which time the absolute best firearm on the market was a muzzle-loaded musket. When this amendment was written it was intended for colonists to have muskets with which to join militias to fight the British. It was not intended to let paranoid guys use handguns to shoot black teenagers in hoodies. I think it goes without saying that not one of our founding fathers was thinking of an assault rifle at the time that the amendment was written.
And yet you’ll rarely find the pro-gun person who will tell you about our need to form a militia. Quite often their arguments involve hypothetical situations that are likely never to happen.
“I Need My Gun To Stop Oppressive Governments.”
The closest you get to someone talking about militias are those who say that they need their guns in case the government suddenly becomes horribly oppressive and they have to fight for their safety. This argument may have had some merit in the past. However, in recent years, it’s been made clear that those on the government’s kill list need not worry about men with guns breaking down their door. Instead it will be some guy sitting in a trailer somewhere piloting a radio controlled drone that turns your house and you into a crater. No amount of firearms are going to stop your imminent and fairly anonymous death.
Secondly, when have you heard of the United States government encountering an individual that they simply gave up trying to apprehend because he was too heavily armed? To my knowledge that has never happened because when you get down to it, the US has an Army and you don’t. You can attempt to argue that you need your gun to stop government oppression all you want, if the government wants to get you, they’ll get you if for no other reason than they outnumber you.
“I need my gun for home protection.”
Another popular argument is that they need a gun to protect their home from intruders. The idea being that on the off chance your house is the one they break into, you will be home, awake, and ready with your gun loaded when the intruders arrive is not to different from insisting you need a parachute every time you get on a plane just in case it crashes.
It’s been found that guns were used in defense during a crime incident an average of 64,615 times annually. This equates to two times out of 1,000 incidents (0.2%). In other words, when pro-gun guys talk about their ‘need’ to protect their family, in reality, they are talking about something that happens .2% of the time. When you compare that to the 67% of murders that are committed with a gun, their justification for owning a weapon for protection quickly falls apart.
“No matter what laws you make, criminals can ALWAYS get their hands on guns.”
A common response when someone suggests that maybe we should make certain guns illegal is that criminals have no problem breaking the law and thus will simply get guns illegally if they don’t have legal means to get guns. This is a lot like saying you shouldn’t lock your door because a determined burglar will get into your house anyway. Sure, certain criminals will most definitely continue to get their hands on weapons regardless of which ones we make illegal just as some criminals don’t care about locked doors. But using this sort of logic in other areas becomes a little disturbing. Such logic would also dictate that all drugs should be legal because drugs users will always find a way to get drugs and that we shouldn’t have laws against child sex because pedophiles will always find a way to have sex with children. Such logic ultimately means we should have no laws at all because a certain segment of the population is determined enough to break whatever laws are passed. It’s a classic defeatist attitude that really has no basis in reality.
“Even if you successfully outlawed all guns, murderers would still kill people.”
A similar argument is that a dogged murderer will kill people even without a gun. The recent shooting in Aurora involved 60 people being shot in under 5 minutes. Such a casualty rate would be impossible with a knife or a baseball bat. The only other weapon that could do that sort of damage would be a bomb which is why explosives are illegal and highly regulated. Getting rid of or highly regulating guns isn’t going to eliminate the murder rate. This is true. But it will make the murder rate go down. Proof can be found looking at the murder rate in Great Britain where there were 638 murders in 2011. Fifty-eight of them were by firearm. By comparison the United States has 12,996. Of those 8,775 were by firearm. Even taking into account the population difference, the US still had a per capita firearm murder rate 30 times higher than that of Great Britain. Yes, murderers will still kill people, but less murderers will kill less people.
“Cars kill more people than guns do.”
Another frequent argument is that there are other things such as cars that kill more people than guns do. The concept here is that since no one is outlawing cars, then no one should be outlawing guns. This argument ignores a few things. The main one being that guns are designed with a single purpose in mind: to kill. The same can’t be said of cars.
“If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”
Another catchy phrase is that if guns are outlawed only outlaws will have guns. By definition this is true. It would still be true if you replaced the word ‘gun’ with ‘lollipop’. But it doesn’t really mean much of anything. First off, no one, including me, is advocating that we outlaw ALL firearms. Secondly, even if you’re armed to the teeth 24/7 as an average citizen the odds of you actually encountering an ‘outlaw’ and having to use your gun(s) is minimal at best.
You’re much more likely to shoot yourself than you are anyone else. Statistically, over half of all suicides are committed by firearm in the United States. That’s not even counting the accidental shootings. Neither of these scenarios require outlaws, but they do require guns.
“I need my guns to go hunting.”
Using a gun to go hunting is something that is entirely understandable and definitely something the founding fathers both enjoyed and endorsed. If we limited the firearms that were legal to the weapons that were used for hunting, we could effectively get rid of all handguns, all assault rifles, and a bunch of other weapons that are specifically designed to kill human beings. So anyone making this argument cannot use it to justify the ownership of an AR-15 or a 9mm Pistol.
“I like to go target shooting.”
I go target shooting from time to time. It’s fun to blow off some steam shooting targets at the firing range. I don’t see much wrong with doing so. If you just want to go target shooting, I don’t see why we couldn’t just regulate the firearms so that they’re only available at the range. It would be a relatively easy solution. Either rent the guns you want to target shoot with or purchase the gun and have it kept at your local range. Transporting the gun to another range could be done by courier. If your interest is purely in target shooting, this solution should cause no problem whatsoever.
“I just like guns.”
This last one is rarely said, but it’s usually what pro-gun arguments really boil down to. Some people just like having the power to kill their fellow human beings in their hand. And the vast majority of those people are not the sort who should have the power of life and death over their fellow man. Most people do not actually need a gun for any reason at all. They just want one because it makes them feel safer and more powerful. These are not good justifications for owning a firearm which is why they have so many other excuses.
- Jack Cameron