As a lifelong gun owner I have heard many different arguments both for and against gun control. Most arguments in favor of gun control cite crime/homicide statistics or make emotional pleas, while most arguments against gun control mention the 2nd Amendment and government tyranny.
While using the 2nd Amendment as a part of the argument against gun control is valid, the people who argue for gun control generally either believe (incorrectly) that the 2nd Amendment is about muskets and militias or they deny its legitimacy entirely. I believe there is an argument against gun control that is more simple, logical, and irrefutable.
Before we get to the actual argument, I want to note the difference between the verbs “murder” and “kill.” Both definitions are taken from Google’s reply to “define: word.”
1. cause the death of (a person, animal, or other living thing).
2. put an end to or cause the failure or defeat of (something).
kill (someone) unlawfully and with premeditation.
Since these two words are central to the argument, it is important to point out the distinction: that murder is unlawful (or unjustified) killing. I know everyone who reads this site knows the difference, but if we are debating this topic with anti-gun folks, it helps to make sure they agree on the difference.
To determine if gun control is morally justifiable, we can start by asking a question: “is murder morally wrong?”
If the answer is “No, murder is not morally wrong,” then you have no moral right to take any kind of weapon from anyone. If murder is not morally wrong, how could murdering someone with a particular weapon be morally wrong? End of debate. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. And keep your hands off my guns!
If the answer is “Yes, murder is morally wrong,” then we need to ask a second question: “is murder always morally wrong?” In other words, is there a condition under which it is morally preferred that a person be allowed to murder another individual?
I think everyone would agree that there are numerous ways to stop a murder. I could flee the scene, or I could call for help, and both of those could stop a murderer from succeeding, but let’s assume there is no escape route and no one to call. If all other avenues are unavailable, and the only way to prevent being murdered is to kill the murderer, then that has to be morally justified because it is stopping a murder, right? Are there other limitations? Can I kill the murderer by electrocuting him? Can I push him in front of a train or off the roof of a building? Am I allowed to kill him with a revolver? How about a semi-automatic pistol? Machine gun?
If there are conditions under which murder is morally preferred over a person’s means of defense, the answer must be “no, murder is not always morally wrong.” This leads us back to the negative answer for the first question. If we cannot say murder is always wrong, then we can say only that murder is sometimes wrong and sometimes not wrong, or in other words, sometimes murder is morally good. If some murders are morally good, the tool used to commit those murders is inconsequential and irrelevant. End of debate. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. And keep your hands off my guns!
If, however, the answer is “yes, murder is always morally wrong,” then killing in self-defense to prevent a murder must necessarily be a moral good.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
If we agree that murder is morally wrong and killing in self-defense is morally good, then restrictions on what tool is used to kill a murderer are morally unjustifiable. Restrictions on the tool create conditions under which the murder is morally preferred, leading us back to the negative response to the second question.
All weapons (see note below) must be allowed because murder is either morally wrong or not. Either self-defense is morally good or murder is morally good. In either case there is no moral justification for telling me what gun or accessory I can own (e.g., giggle switches, short barrels, bump stocks, barrel shrouds, suppressors, pistol grips, high-capacity magazine clippy things, or bayonet lugs). End of debate. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. And keep your hands off my guns!
Using the 2nd Amendment as an argument against gun control works only with those who accept its validity, so no matter how many times we try, that argument will never work on the anti-gun crowd. In my opinion, this argument is simpler and does not depend on one’s interpretation or acceptance of the 2nd Amendment.
Note: I believe individual use–notice I said use, not ownership–of bombs and WMD’s as a means of self-defense is a different debate and would not necessarily be covered by this argument. Such weapons cannot discriminate between innocent bystanders and attackers and would likely lead to unlawfully killing–i.e., murdering–innocent people to stop a murder.