Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Gun Control: Yes or No?

The recent Aurora shooting has sparked calls for gun control. The logic behind gun control is simple: guns, especially assault weapons, can be used to kill a lot of people efficiently, and makes it easier for people to kill one another. Therefore, in the interest of public safety, powerful guns such as assault weapons should be banned or at least heavily regulated.
One common objection to this, the “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” meme, is overly simplistic. (And I loathe overly simplistic memes with a fiery passion.) People do kill one another with a variety of weapons, but guns make killing people a lot easier. It is a lot easier to pull a gun on oneself or another than to stick a knife in someone’s back.
Catholics are called to be pro-life in all aspects of their lives. Since guns are often used to take lives, the question arises: Should Catholics support responsible gun control in order save lives, protecting the common good?
There are two must better reasons to oppose gun control. The first is the deterrent effect of guns. Criminals deliberately seek to get around laws, while ordinary citizens obey them. Thus, a society which embraces gun control will, in the long run, have widespread gun ownership only in the hands of those willing to break the law.
Further, a disarmed populace is unable to defend itself effectively against shooters. A criminal is far less likely to attack a person who has the possibility of being armed than otherwise. The example of Switzerland is often cited as proof that widespread gun ownership of guns acts as a deterrent – gun crimes are comparatively rare in Switzerland, yet gun ownership is widespread in that country.
The second argument against gun control is more compelling. Guns allow individuals to protect themselves against tyrannical states.
A state in which gun ownership is outlawed is a state where government can oppress its citizens without any effective check on its power. Without gun ownership, citizens cannot effectively band together to defend themselves against the police power of the state.
Thus, widespread, responsible gun ownership acts as a check against tyranny.
The common good is therefore best served by widespread, responsible gun ownership, as both a deterrent against criminals and a check on governmental overreach.
In an ideal world, guns would be completely unnecessary. People would not need to live in fear of one another and of the government. But the world is not ideal, and people are imperfect, so widespread gun ownership, paradoxically, serves as a guarantor of peace and order.


  1. After all, "Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt." (When catapults are outlawed, only outlaws will have catapults."

  2. While you know that I respect your views Paul, both of the arguments you make are ones I have heard before, and neither of them strike as particularly logical.

    1. You say that having an armed population acts as a deterrent and makes people safer. That should mean that, since we literally have the best armed civilian population in the world, we should be the safest country in the world, with the lowest levels of violent crime.

    This is not true. Despite having 890 guns for every 1000 people, our number of gun-related deaths per year are higher than all other 1st world nations put together. Our incarceration rate is one of (if the not the) highest in the industrialized world. Clearly, having guns does not automatically deter crime. In fact, it seems to have the opposite effect.

    This is the exact same mentality that drove the arms race of the Cold War, and it has not made the world safer. In fact, it is the reason our world today is more unstable than ever before.

    2. You claim that an armed population is a defense against tyranny. How, then, did Tunisia, with the LOWEST gun-ownership rate in the world, manage to overthrow a decades-old dictatorship through a non-violent revolution? How did our Civil Rights movement succeed in overturning Jim Crow laws, despite the brutal violence they were met with? How did Ghandi manage to lead India to independence? Why is Myanmar suddenly rolling back its autocratic policies, despite a shot never being fired by a rebellion?

    Violence, or the threat thereof, merely begets violence, and not democracy.


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