Why should you be allowed to own an AR-15? Usually the question is phrased in an even less informed way by saying, “assault weapon.” I must admit, the question takes me aback. I’d react the same way if somebody demanded I prove the sun exists. My question would be, “who the heck are you to decide what I’m allowed to own?” It’s tempting to see the people making that demand as evil. They are after all attempting to subjugate me to their will. They want me to get their permission to exercise a right given to me by the creator. My natural instinct is to respond the same way I’d respond to somebody who tried to physically restrain me, or to rob me. They are actually trying to take something from me. Either an actual thing, my weapon or my right to own that weapon.
But after controlling the flash of anger, I’m able to realize that most of them really aren’t evil. Shockingly enough, many of them seem to truly believe that people with my mindset are the evil ones. I could try to write them off as idiots or morons. But that’s a pretty simplistic approach, not likely to produce anything useful. Many of these people are clearly not idiots. You can find doctors, lawyers, clergy and even scientists among their ranks. So how then do intelligent people reach such a conclusion?
I’ve seen enough data to know absolutely that gun control doesn’t reduce violence. In many cases it actually seems to make it worse. I’ll include a couple of Internet links to help anybody who really wants to study the issue at the end. This study will not be a five-minute read. Plan of a couple of days to get the basics. More if you insist on independently confirming the references. But that is not the subject of this post. I only mention it to get past the presumption that gun bans save lives. They don’t.
In America, the Constitution is the foundational document that express the relationship between the individual and the government. The principal provision of the Constitution concerning the opening question is the 2nd amendment. Let’s take a quick look at the 2nd Amendment:
“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.”
Those last four words are pretty clear. “shall not be infringed.” There have been millions of words written about the intent of the men who wrote that passage. Considering they had just overthrown an tyrannical government, there can be little legitimate doubt that they darn well intended for individual citizens to rise up against an oppressive government. I’ve heard those who would nonetheless have the government infringe on those right acknowledge this, but insist that it’s impossible for citizens to stand up against a modern government that has tanks and planes. Somebody must have forgotten to get that memo out the the Egyptian and Syrian rebels.
But even that still fails to explain the huge different in thinking between these two camps. The real cause of origin isn’t the words of the 2nd amendment. It’s the moral basis for them. I interpret the founding fathers to have presumed that individuals have the right to do anything that does not hurt somebody else. Rights are not granted by the government, but by the creator. It is incumbent on government to demonstrate an urgent and compelling need to restrict or regulate. Government is an extension of collective individuals and derives it power, and indeed it’s very existence from them.
The very question, “why should you be allowed ….” belies this belief. The question assumes the individuals requirement to demonstrate a “need” to exercise a right, that must then be approved by the government. It’s a moral system in which the citizen is an extension of the government and derives his rights by governmental decree. It’s easy to understand in this system that even an individual’s personal safety is the purview of the government. Gun bans make sense in this system. Unless the citizen demonstrates to the government a compelling reason, they must rely on the authorities for protection. Self protection in this system means hiding and calling the authorities for help. I can see why somebody who subscribes to this moral system would consider a person who insists on arming themselves as dangerous, even evil.
One camp believes that they are responsible for the welfare of themselves and their loved ones. The other camp believes that welfare of the citizen is the responsibility of the government. I obviously belong in the first camp. I don’t believe that those in the other camp are ignorant or evil. But they must certainly have a very different founding moral axiom.
Rational discussion between these two camps will be difficult. Each has arrived at their position through logical, well-reasoned steps, but from two different moral starting points. Small wonder then that to each, the other side must seem so unreasonable. I’m not sure of the exact path we must take back to each other and to again become united, and one nation. But surely it starts by no longer demonizing each other and acknowledging that though our positions are so very far apart, neither was reached as an intentional practice of evil.
－ Guy Wheatley