- Posted January 25, 2013 by
Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Gun control debate: Background checks
A Response to Sam Harris's Thoughtful Piece on Gun Ownership in America
Below is an excerpt from a longer post, the first of two, in response to Sam Harris on gun control ...
However, it seems to me that there is nothing irrational about judging oneself to be psychologically stable and fully committed to the safe handling and ethical use of firearms—if, indeed, one is.
Well, it seems to me, the folks who are stockpiling weapons after a massacre are not in a position to be judging for themselves whether they are psychologically stable and fully committed to the safe handling and ethical use of firearms -- because running out to buy more guns after a massacre is perhaps the surest sign you are an unstable, ethically challenged, fool.
Again, I feel like a bit of a quibbler, because I think Harris and I arrive at the same conclusion: it makes sense and is in the purview of society to say, "In order to own a gun, you must be registered, you must be trained, and you should lose your right to own a weapon if you are irresponsible with it." We suspend drivers' licenses all the time, irresponsible gun owners should be held to no less stringent a standard. If you're going to start throwing around labels like "fantasist" though, I think you need to be conscious of when you look like one. (And, it goes without saying, if the vast majority of gun owners do take the time and expense to stay trained by qualified instructors and are subject to testing in order to keep their registered weapons, then I need to take my lumps and admit if I'm wrong. But show me, with facts and credible data that I'm wrong, don't just tell me what highly trained marksmen all the gun owners you know are.)
So, now we come to a really thorny ethical question:
Like most gun owners, I understand the ethical importance of guns and cannot honestly wish for a world without them. I suspect that sentiment will shock many readers. Wouldn’t any decent person wish for a world without guns? In my view, only someone who doesn’t understand violence could wish for such a world. A world without guns is one in which the most aggressive men can do more or less anything they want. It is a world in which a man with a knife can rape and murder a woman in the presence of a dozen witnesses, and none will find the courage to intervene.
Did your Straw Man Detector just go off again? Mine did. Again, pro-regulation arguments here are being presented as reducing to "ban all the guns." Even though I personally support a ban on firearm ownership for all civilians, I would be quite happy to just see regulation, registration of all guns, certification of all gun owners, insurance requirements, and accountability for gun owners whose guns are lost or stolen and then used in a crime. I could live with just some, not all of those. We can agree that violence is a fact of life and the "good guys" need a way to stop the "bad guys" from running roughshod over the rest of us, good, bad, and in between, without needing to imagine a world without guns.
Here's the extension of that argument that I have trouble with. I support the manufacture of guns for the military and for law enforcement, but this means I can't raise a militia to oppose my government and the police if I need to overthrow tyrannical rule. You guys have me dead to rights on that one. Here's my answer, take it for what it's worth: that ship has sailed. We ceded the ability to oppose unjust rule by force a long time ago. We could all have houses full of guns and still be defenseless because we can't get the drones, tanks, missiles and all the other weapons the federal government could use against us. Mr. Harris and I are in agreement here, it would seem. He writes:
... the idea that a few pistols and an AR 15 in every home constitutes a necessary bulwark against totalitarianism is fairly ridiculous. If you believe that the armed forces of the United States might one day come for you—and you think your cache of small arms will suffice to defend you if they do—I’ve got a black helicopter to sell you.
Perhaps the more practical concern should be whether we need to be protected from the police. There I'm at a bit more of a disadvantage and I admit it. A corrupt, criminal police force could trample my rights, unjustly persecute, jail, and do all manner of horrible things to me, or to any of us if we couldn't fire back.
So how do we protect ourselves from the tyranny of the federal government and those (minority of) police as bad as the criminals they are supposed to protect us from? We could arm to the teeth and fight it out. Or, we could be responsible citizens and vote in local and national elections based on informed opinions garnered from a free and independent press. I've said it before and I'll say it again, our best defense against tyranny is the rule of law and an open, accountable political class.
At the national, state, county, city and town level, we need to have the information we need to make informed decisions about who to elect to public office to protect our interests. The greatest threats to our liberty are corrupt, beholden elected officials -- and I'll be blunt here, I mean virtually all Republicans and far too many Democrats. Not giving another inch to oligarchs out to bust unions and subsidize profitable industries is where we should be drawing the line. A gun will not protect you from a politician who wants to tax you to subsidize an industry that wants to move jobs overseas. But a vote can do that. Our ability to speak freely and associate freely is only hampered in an armed society -- Tea Partiers threatening to, and actually bringing guns to political events, anybody? Those freedoms, along with a quality secular education and free press are our greatest protections. A gun might, just might, protect you from a burglar, but it is not going to do you a lick of good against an entire political party out to destroy the social safety net or practice willful denial about climate change.