The turn of the year is generally a time when I try to reflect on serious issues of a broad nature. My first one was on my sorry contemporaries the Boomers, who are as much a plague now as they were six years ago. But there have been other topics: the Muslims, the Manhattan Declaration, and the losers. (Well, almost…) This time I’m turning to something I don’t spend a lot of time on but, especially since the Sandy Hook shootings, looks to waste a lot more of Congress’ time: gun control.
Advocates of gun control work under the assumption that, if we had fewer guns in our society, we would have a safer, happier society, free from the threat of mass shootings and other gun crime. As is the custom these days, their response to the opposition is to characterise their opponents as paranoid nutcases, and that’s a topic all its own.
But the truth is that there are good reasons why gun control, especially applied broadly as its staunchest advocates would like to, won’t bring the kind of society its advocates dream of. Let’s look at two good reasons why this is so.
The first is that gun control makes the a priori assumption that, in the absence of people’s ability to defend themselves with firearms, the police or other law enforcement apparatus (such as the “Inland Police” that Barack Obama dreams of) will be able to take up the slack. The sad truth is that, as things now stand, our valiant men and women in blue are too few and too bereft of resources to do such a thing. It’s too easy these days for criminal and terrorist organisations to get, store and train their members to use serious weaponry to expect the police to do the job, and the police are as aware of this problem as anyone is.
The end game of gun-control advocates is to create a universal gun-free zone. But, as my fellow University of Tennessee faculty member Glenn Harlan Reynolds pointed out, gun-free zones like the system we work in don’t always guarantee the safety of those who dwell therein. And that would certainly include a society where gun ownership is strictly limited. The police, even with modern intrusive technology, are not omnipresent enough to make it happen.
Another reason related to this gets past the general (and this country reasonable) assumption that the police will enforce the law impartially. If the police, for whatever reason, decide to be selective in their enforcement of the law, then the groups who have the bad taste to be on the police’s “no enforcement” list are essentially defenceless.
That, in a sense, leads to the second problem: how do we know that, at some point, our military, police, or whatever is in between would not fire on us in peaceful protest? That’s an act that, in many countries, is unthinkable. It’s the act that generally pushes how a regime is perceived from good to bad. But what happens when that country is ours? Who will come to our rescue? Who will defend our human rights? And is the moral climate in this country such that, if something like that happened (think Kent State) there would be an outcry, given the antipathy of much of our media towards such a large part of our population? (There’s that “selective enforcement” again, in another form).
I’m not one of those people who think that widespread gun ownership will lead to the overthrow of the Republic. To do that takes not only weaponry but organisation and effective leadership, and both are lacking in this country. What will bring down the Republic will be a) its bankruptcy, b) a government “inside job” and/or c) external assistance (think that “sealed train” which Lenin took from Germany to Russia during World War I).
It’s unreasonable to think that the current political climate will produce much worthwhile. And there are many other issues to consider: the mental health issue, the video game issue, the violent movie issue, etc. But let’s consider the two paths we could take. If we enact sweeping gun control legislation, we’ll have to have more police to protect an unarmed populace. If we do nothing, we’ll need more police to protect the especially vulnerable such as those who died at Sandy Hook. Either way, the immediate solution is the same.
What we really need first is a government we can trust, and as long as the Boomers are in charge, that isn’t going to happen.