Dear Gun Rights Advocates,
In general, you tend to emphasize personal freedom and liberty and whatnot in your defense of gun ownership–gun ownership is as much a God-given right as breathing or the profit motive. However, you generally have a keen understanding of the principle that individual liberty must be tempered when the human consequences of that liberty are great, so when you are confronted with the negative consequences of large-scale and generally unregulated gun ownership, it becomes necessary to either tone down the gun-ownership rhetoric or show that gun ownership has benefits that outweigh the negative side effects. Of course, the first option is out of the question so your answers, at least in my Facebook feed, to the dangerousness of gun ownership seem to fall into these categories:
- There aren’t any real downsides to large-scale societal gun ownership
- I need my guns for self-defense against criminals (related: Gun ownership deters crime)
- Guns are our defense against tyrrany and loss of constitutional freedom [this one is my focus, here]
- Looks like we got ourselves a librul gun control nut on our hands… maybe you need a little time at the business end of my .357 to clear your head, if ya knowuttamean.
This probably isn’t a good, full list, but #1 , #2, and #3 are serious issues. I have generally been (and still am, to the extent allowed by what feels like increasingly-restrictive data) sympathetic to #2 and #3, and open to #1. But the data don’t look good for those. I’ll focus on #3 in a minute (the point of this post), but #1 and #2 need at least a little attention.
#1: There aren’t any real downsides to large-scale societal gun ownership. Yes, there are.
#2: I need my guns for self-defense against criminals. I think this issue is harder to resolve–it’s a thorny research issue. The arguments on both sides are about causation, but there’s little or no real-world experimentation to go on (there are plenty of lab experiments…), so we’re left with clever correlational and longitudinal studies to tease out causation. Well, as of December 2012 it seems there’s a new salvo in that battle, and it looks (for now, at least) pretty solid, at least as far as it goes: no evidence that “stand your ground” or “castle doctrine” laws in the US deter crime, but serious evidence that they raise the murder rate. Other evidence is less conclusive at this point, but it’s pretty hard, in light of all the data, to maintain a position that guns simply deter crime. There’s more to be said about that, but it’s not my focus.
#3. Guns are our defense against tyrrany and loss of constitutional freedom. I don’t actually know how much individual weapon ownership has done to prevent tyranny in the past. I suspect it’s been important in many historical situations. However, I think these situations are less frequent than you might imagine because, to paraphrase others, tyrranies don’t usually come marching jack-booted down the street; more often, they get voted into office with huge amounts of public support. So I have some questions for my right-wing gun-rights-or-nothing friends (though I’m being a coward and asking them here, essentially an anonymous venue, because I’m sick of arguments masquerading as discussions that end with appeals to authority, ad hominem attacks, and stars-and-stripes tearjerking):
American Gun Owners: When was the last time you used your gun to defend American constitutional freedoms?
- Did you use it to prevent the erosion of habeas corpus under Bush and Obama?
- Did you use it to prevent the growth of unreasonable search and seizure in the last decade at the local (e.g., local PDs, Sheriffs, etc.) or the national (Border Patrol, TSA, FBI) level?
- Did you use your firearm to defend against the sweeping losses of freedom in the PATRIOT act? Or its renewal(s)?
- Did you use your gun to stop the government from declaring that it now has power to lock citizens up for life, without trial, based on nothing but accusations? Did you use that gun to stop Obama or your local congressperson from signing the NDAA into law?
- Did you use your gun to stop Obama from arrogating to himself the unilateral and unregulated power to assassinate both foreigners and US citizens?
- Did you use your gun to stop the last president and this one from waging undeclared wars, with little or no oversight by Congress, on the sovereign soil of other nations?
- Did you use your gun to stop the erosion of government whistleblower protection? To stem the increase in journalist prosecution and the consequent increase in the potential for tyranny?
- Did your gun ownership deter the former president from authorizing massive-scale illegal spying on Americans or the current president from unilaterally pardoning the criminals in our security agencies?
- Was your gun an important deterrent keeping police agencies and the FBI from collaborating with corporations to spy on and harass peaceful, law-abiding organizations who threatened to expose corporate and government corruption?
- Did you use your gun to stop the police from arresting or abusing journalists or regular citizens for the crime of attempting to participate lawfully in public political forums like Town Hall meetings and national conventions?
- Did you use your gun to steer the NYPD away from “stop and frisk” and other unconstitutional policing policies? What about the Chicago PD? LAPD?
- Has your gun helped put the brakes on our current administration’s drone war targeting civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia (in addition to actual terrorists as far as we know, because the President has decided we don’t even need to know who the victims are before we assassinate them and their families)?
Now, I know maybe you don’t care about those parts of the constitution–you know, the Bill of Rights and whatnot. Maybe you just haven’t noticed our constitution being chewed away… you’ve been distracted by all those John McNaughton paintings depicting Obama pooping on it or whatever. Maybe the things I see you post on Facebook are a better indication of the threats you see as valid. So, working directly from the concerns posted in Facebook posts over the past half-year:
- Have you used your gun to stop the “unconstitutional” implementation of the ACA?
- Has your gun ownership somehow stopped women from entering the workforce?
- Has your gun stopped abortion? (This is thorny, because there are some people who murder abortion workers… just nobody on my Friend feed)
- Have you used it to stop gay people from marrying? (See my previous comment; I am relieved that, apparently, the answer to this is no)…
- Has your gun ownership stopped or even slowed the growth of the federal government?
- Has your gun reduced your taxes?
Yes, I know not all of those are actual constitutional threats. I know that, but some people don’t seem to. In any case, the answer, as far as I can tell, to all of the questions above is somewhere between “I dunno, maybe a little” and “OK, not really.” Beyond the very important (to me) question of whether you care about all of the constitution or only a few self-serving paragraphs, I have another concern: