Montreal, October 14, 2007 No 237




Gennady Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist and philosophical essayist, and is Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator. He lives in Chicago.




by Gennady Stolyarov II


          When it comes to restricting private individuals' Second Amendment rights, it seems that the world must turn upside down to justify gun control. Criminals need to obey the law, limited human beings need to be present everywhere and respond to anything, inanimate objects need to assume a volition of their own, and parents all of a sudden need to become totally oblivious to what their children are doing. Yes, all of these astounding assumptions are behind the common case for gun control. And, as logic dictates, either the assumptions themselves must be true, or the arguments made on their basis must be discarded as illegitimate.


          Will restricting private gun ownership reduce gun-related crimes? Gun control advocates think it will. They presume that it is possible to simply legislate away an undesirable behavior if the electorate or the politicians wish it. If the law says that no private citizen may obtain certain firearms, then no private citizen will obtain these firearms. True? No; it is absurd.

          To be fair, laws against private gun ownership will reduce said ownership among the people who respect the law and do not wish to violate it. But among people who are already outside the law or who hold no scruples about evading it, prohibiting gun ownership will have no effect. Indeed, some of these people are already thieves and murderers. It is astonishing that anyone thinks that such criminals will balk at committing a far more minor offense such as possession of an illegal weapon.

          Hence, gun control would in reality shift the balance of power greatly in favor of the criminal elements of society. Good people who obey the law will have disarmed themselves; evil people who ignore the law will continue to obtain weapons. Evil people will thus have more of an opportunity to conduct effective aggression, while good people will have a reduced ability to retaliate. Can anything but increased crime be the outcome?

          In response, those who advocate gun control might assert that guns are a form of mind control. This is indeed behind the presumption that good people, by the sheer fact of owning a gun, will suddenly transform into evil people with a maniacal, uncontrollable desire to shoot everybody and everything. By extension, we need to watch all of our society's kitchen chefs in training. After all, each of them is a budding Jack the Ripper since he has such extensive exposure to and practice in the use of knives!

          If this particular argument goes nowhere in the discussion, gun control proponents will shift to another claim. Private citizens do not need guns, they argue, because protecting the public from crime is the job of the police and other government law enforcement agencies. This theory has several necessary corollaries: 1) that crime does not happen at all, because the work of the police and other government agencies suffices to protect the public against it, and 2) that it is possible to instantaneously notify the proper authorities and receive an instantaneous response from them whenever a crime is attempted. The truth or falsity of both of the above predictions can be easily verified empirically.

"If the law says that no private citizen may obtain certain firearms, then no private citizen will obtain these firearms. True? No; it is absurd."

          But, seriously, the police forces no matter how well equipped or competent are comprised of limited human beings with limited abilities. They cannot, contrary to gun control advocates' fancy, be everywhere, see everything, and act immediately to prevent any criminal conduct. But if the police cannot successfully address all crime, then something else needs to supplement their work. Indeed, private gun ownership has prevented many a crime before the police could get to the would-be criminal. In many cases of obvious aggression, the retaliatory use of guns by private citizens sufficed to prevent a tragedy and to enable police resources to be directed toward dealing with still other crimes.

          Digging deeper into their repertoire of justifications, gun control advocates will pull out a favorite claim that guns are responsible for a vast number of deaths from domestic violence. Indeed, some might even cite dubious statistics claiming that there exist more gun-related killings within families than instances in which private gun use repelled a criminal. But this argument, too, has its assumptions. One such assumption is that, aside from guns, there exist no deadly objects within anybody's home such that if one member of a family wanted to kill another, he or she would simply be out of luck for a lack of means. This, of course, implies that the five drowned children of Andrea Yates are still alive and well, that all food is eaten solely using spoons and spatulas, and that human beings are all limbless torsos who have no arms or legs to deliver deadly punches or kicks.

          Finally, we come to yet another interpretation of the way the world works from the perspective of a gun control proponent. Namely, guns are responsible for thousands of accidental child deaths because children find them, experiment with them, and kill or maim themselves in the process. Note that, under this view, gun safety locks do not exist, most parents keep their guns loaded all the time, and virtually no parents look out for what their kids are doing. Indeed, it requires an appalling degree of negligence on the part of a parent to fail to prevent a child from getting to a gun. Gun control advocates must be assuming that all parents are chronically drunk or have the IQ of a gun.

          But if a parent lacks the care to protect his or her child from the possibility of accidentally abusing a firearm, then much more is wrong with that parent than the fact that he or she owns a gun. That is, unless gun control advocates also want to claim that owning a gun makes people negligent, just as it makes them inclined to go out and indiscriminately shoot things. It is as if guns have more volition than people. No matter how much parents love their children or how hard they work for their safety, if their gun decides it, the child will find it loaded and easy to abuse. People's prudence and foresight have absolutely no input in the matter!

          Indeed, the theory underlying gun control is truly a theory of gun control: guns control people, and only government officials (who, strangely enough, must not be people under this view) can effectively control guns. Forget hypnotism and demagoguery: this is the way to truly reach into people's minds either turning them into serial killers by giving them weapons or making them angels by simply saying that they may not have those weapons.

          Meanwhile, back in the real world, gun control has always and everywhere resulted in increased crime and suffering for the most innocent among people.


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