“Good people will sometimes make bad decisions with guns — and the more widely guns are available, the more likely these bad decisions are to occur”

As a rational human being, you may have wondered exactly what gun control advocates mean when they use the term “common sense” to describe their desire to restrict access to guns for law-abiding citizens of the United States. How can abridging a right that the founding fathers made abridge-proof (for the common good) be common sense? An editorial at baltimoresun.com penned by Firmin DeBrabander [above, bottom] gives us a clue. In fact, the Chairman of the Humanistic Studies Department at the Maryland Institute College of Art provides the clearest explanation I’ve yet encountered of gun control advocates’ Orwellian doublespeak . . .

I have long noticed this kind of Manichean language emanating from the guns rights camp. The world is divided into good and evil; there are bad people in it, and we need to let the good people be armed so they can defend their families, etc.

This is fallacious thinking. The world is typically not black and white but many shades of grey. Good people sometimes do bad things, and bad people sometimes do good things. Good people will sometimes make bad decisions with guns — and the more widely guns are available, the more likely these bad decisions are to occur. This is no vain speculation, just the law of averages.

Common sense tells us this much, but it seems our society increasingly resists common sense on the gun debate. Can we imagine elementary schoolteachers with guns behind their desks? Seriously? What’s wrong with us? No civil society worthy of the name should need armed teachers.

So if we don’t give guns to good people, less bad shit will happen. Makes sense—provided you ignore anything remotely resembling a statistical analysis of the problem. Or close your eyes to the wider context of personal liberty and responsibility that gun ownership entails.

Which reminds me: what is the “problem” in question? I’d like a little more to go on than the term “bad decisions.” And what’s the issue with armed teachers? The fact that they’re armed or the fact that they need to be armed? How is society responsible for the rare occurrence of homicidal psychopaths attacking a school with a gun or, as is sometimes the case, a knife or machete?

But hey, if we’re going to use fuzzy logic—sorry “common sense” to analyze the negative effects of gun ownership, I’d like to point out that the number of “good” people who commit crimes with guns is precisely zero. If an individual commits a crime, they’re not a good person. See how that works?

If DeBrabander is talking about good people with guns creating negligent discharges—which he isn’t but I thought I’d throw it in—you can round down that statistical possibility amongst legal gun owners to zero. Speaking of sacrificing facts on the altar of emotion, it’s interestingly to note that a big chunk of America: armed and dangerous focuses on shame.

With its refusal to even sit at the same table with people who have doubts about broad gun ownership — combined with its push to get guns onto college campuses — the NRA has signaled that it is taking its crusade to a higher level: It aims to remove any shame, awkwardness or modesty associated with gun ownership. Sitting at the same table with gun safety advocates? Well, that might send the message that there is something still potentially abnormal or embarrassing in owning and carrying guns of any caliber.

On the one hand, who can blame the NRA? Any lobby worth its salt should fight to remove shame attached to its object of devotion. But with respect to gun ownership, I’d argue, shame and modesty are still very much in need. If the NRA succeeds in disassociating those qualities entirely from gun ownership, caution will vanish, too, I fear. And clearly, caution is already in too short supply. How is expanded gun toting supposed to reverse that trend?

Did I mention that Mr. DeBrabander’s c.v. indicates that he’s Catholic? As a Jew, I know the central role shame can play in religion. Although intended as a moral compass, it’s all too often used as an instrument of psychological and yes physical repression. There is no shame in protecting your life with a firearm. But it is a shame that Jews and Catholics are often at the forefront of gun control.

Of course, culture’s got something to do with it too.

Many journalists have been awestruck by the civility of Japanese citizens following the devastating earthquake and tsunami this month. Incredibly, there has been no looting or stealing, though many lack shelter, food and water. Instead, journalists report, people form orderly lines when relief services appear.

That is the sign of a truly civil society, and it requires no wide-scale arming of the population. The gun lobby is driving us headlong into an apocalyptic society, by contrast. It is time for reason to reclaim the debate.

Hey, Firmin. I agree. We must view our gun rights through the prism of reason and rational analysis. You first.