Gun writer Dan Baum posted a thoughtful comment under last night’s post about the Mayors Against Illegal Guns. My article pointed out that their report, Trace the Guns, is junk science. In response, Mr. Baum raised wondered why gun enthusiasts get their knickers in a twist about “common sense” gun laws. For example, “It doesn’t seem to me that limiting people to one handgun purchase a month is the first step on the road to tyranny.” I used to argue against this idea (recently defeated in Massachusetts) with John “More Stats, Less Crime” Lott’s assertion: if your life was threatened, you might need multiple guns around the house to protect yourself. I now know better . . .
Strategically, wearing a gun is the best way to protect yourself in your own home. While there’s nothing wrong with having a backup gun or two or three placed around the premises, a defensive handgun strapped to your body or in your pocket should be your primary defense. Safest for you (rapid response time), safest for the kids (if it isn’t in a locked safe, it’s on your person).
So what IS wrong with limiting gun buyers to one gun a month? Why NOT restrict sales? In fact, it’s got nothing to do with pragmatism and everything to do with tyranny.
The justification for the “gun a month” law: by limiting the supply of guns to legal buyers, the government limits the possibility that those guns will end up in criminals’ hands. (It can’t be an anti-spree killer law, ’cause then you’d have to limit the number of bullets a person can buy.)
Edged weapons are just as dangerous as guns (some would say more so), but you can buy as many as you like. And it does seem a bit odd to attempt to curtail the supply of guns to criminals when there are already an estimated 300 million firearms in the U.S. And counting. Perhaps limiting the demand—by locking up more criminals or preventing people from becoming criminals—would be a more sane approach.
I digress . . .
For argument’s sake, let’s accept this undocumented (a.k.a. “common sense”) “one-gun-per-month curtails criminal access” premise. The problem is that any such restriction profoundly alters the relationship between the government and the governed. It says “we don’t think you’re responsible enough to buy more than one gun a month.” And (let’s face it) “only gun nuts need more than 12 guns a year.”
It certainly seems to make sense. You know; like a bartender cutting you off when you’ve had enough. It’s for your own good and the good of society in general. C’mon. You don’t need that drink. You just want it because you’re drunk and stupid and don’t know any better. But I do. I know better than you and I’m cutting you off.
See the problem?
Gun owners are not drunks. In the main, they already own multiple guns. They might have—gasp!— bought two at the same time. And yet, for some reason, they still consider themselves responsible people. People who understand that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. You know: adults.
Firearms owners see the gun-a-month law as one giant step towards the Nanny State. You don’t have to live in the U.K. for 18 years to know that the Nanny state—where the government knows what’s best for you—-is a bridge to tyranny. A road to hell paved with good intentions.
If the government can tell you how many guns you can buy, it can tell you that you shouldn’t have more than one car per family (save the environment). That you shouldn’t have cosmetic surgery (save money for people who need essential health care). That you should pay a license fee to subsidize government TV (to encourage “fairness”).
Obviously, the government does stuff like this all the time already; through taxes, subsidies, regulations and legislation. But there is a point at which gun-owning Americans draw the line: guns.
Guns are more than a commodity. They’re a symbol of freedom. In the main, American gun owners believe they should be free to do what they want as long as it doesn’t hurt others. They’re not. But that’s the ideal. And guns represent the ideal. They’re seen as the bulwark of democracy: the last defense against Nanny state tyranny.
Limit guns and you limit Americans right to defend themselves against criminals and their own government’s intrusion. Intrusion they can see, hear and feel in their wallet. Gun owners believe that the freedom to defend themselves should be virtually unlimited; they do not take kindly to non-gun owners deciding what those limitations should be.
The question then becomes: is it true? Would limiting gun purchases to one-a-month put us on a slippery slope towards tyranny? Gun control advocates see this ballistic line in the sand as the deranged byproduct of uneducated, dangerously paranoid minds. Gun owners see it as matter-of-factual. Whatever the truth of the matter, I don’t think we’re going to reconcile these views here. Ever.
Let’s put it to a vote! Oh wait, they already have. And the idea got shot down. Next?