Saturday, December 15, 2012

In response to the massacre in CT

What happened yesterday in CT -- a crazed gunman killing 26 (confirmed as of this point, anyway) people in an elementary school -- was horrible and evil. It wasn't a senseless tragedy. It was an act of evil. I don't know the state of the shooter's soul when he died, but I fear it was not one that was right with God. My prayers go out to the families of the victims.

What has followed this tragedy like clockwork, however -- as always happens after a crazed individual uses a gun to commit violence -- have been calls for stricter gun control laws, and even for repealing the Second Amendment. I get where the people who say these things are coming from. Guns were used to commit these terrible crimes, therefore we should get rid of the guns to get rid of such crimes. It's an understandable reaction, but it is just that: a reaction (and a knee-jerk one, at that).

The right to bear arms is the fundamental safeguard of all other rights in the Constitution. I know many people who say that the First Amendment is that safeguard, but they are assuming a functional government that respects individual rights when they do so. An amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech is meaningless when your rulers can ignore it and just use force to shut you up, and you have no recourse. People who claim that freedom of speech is the basic safeguard of our rights have an implicit belief that tyrannical government "can never happen here." History clearly indicates otherwise. Human nature being what it is, tyrannical government can happen anywhere. And what it's entrenched, it by definition is very difficult to dislodge. And one of the first steps in any tyranny is to enact gun control. (This, of course, does not mean that proponents of strict gun control are also fans of tyrannical government. It does mean that they are unwittingly -- we hope -- enacting laws that make tyrannical government that much easier to form.) History consistently bears this truth out: no tyrant has ever cemented his control until he had disarmed his countrymen. That is why all modern dictatorships have forbidden citizens from keeping and bearing arms. Closer to the Founders' time, though, it was why the English forbade the Irish from keeping and bearing arms. The Founders were students of history, and they knew this to to be a fundamental truth: so long as we are an armed people, we will remain a free republic.

Now, this does not mean that all people use guns responsibly, nor that we are unable to put limited safeguards in place to better ensure that groups of people whom we feel should not have access to firearms (the mentally ill, convicted felons, etc.) don't have access. The motto is cliched, but it is also true: "Guns don't kill people. People do." Another worthy motto is, "People don't stop killers. People with guns do." Having the means to defend themselves helps ensure that people will not be victims.

It may help if we use an analogy. The Second Amendment was designed to allow citizens to be the immune system of America -- the ones who ensure that infections (i.e. criminals) are dealt with quickly, in real-time. (Also consider that our immune system, after dealing with an infection, produces special cells that give us immunity over that infection -- essentially deterring and preventing further infections. In a similar way, the main way that bearing arms prevents crime is through deterrence. Criminals are simply less likely to attack people they think are likely to defend themselves effectively. It's the same reason why a criminal will generally prefer to rob a petite 5'2" woman than a muscular 6'2" man.) Police are like doctors and medicine: they are inherently responsive, and are generally only used after an infection has taken root and caused damage. They are necessary and very useful in this capacity, but they are generally useless for stopping an infection (i.e. a criminal act) in the moment. (As the saying goes, when seconds matter, the police are only minutes away.) In this analogy, illicit, criminal gun violence is like any infection; alternatively, it can be considered to be like lupus -- the body's immune system turning on itself. Neither condition is good (and lupus is a very bad condition). However, gun control is like HIV/AIDS: completely removing the body's ability to fight off infections. Just as the proper response to infections and lupus is not to give yourself HIV, the proper response to some people using guns illegitimately and illegally is not to take guns away from the vast majority of people who use them legitimately and legally.

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