On Guns

by Sophistifunk

A few weeks ago I had a conversation with a mate of mine: podcasting legend, cigar connoisseur and all round nice guy Cameron Reilly for the No Illusions podcast. I’d like to say that I was quoted out of context, unfairly edited, or something along those lines- but Cam’s not that kind of guy, and I really am that much of a rambler. If we were opposing politicians, you’d all be voting for Cam, and I wouldn’t blame you. Torn between trying to think before I speak, and my knowledge of Cameron’s honest editing style in which he likes to leave in all the authentic pauses, mistakes and stammers, I tend to drift between stream-of-consciousness and politician-worthy pauses like I’m trying not to be tricked into saying what I think. Which is a shame, because I am trying to say what I think. This can take a while when dealing with such a touchy subject as gun ownership. And a touchy subject it is, dealing as it does with uncomfortable subjects such as the state’s power over individuals, man’s freedom of self determination and self preservation, and even the value of a human life. I’d like to elaborate on my position here a little, in order to clarify why I believe in private gun ownership. I’m going to talk more about my own position than attempt to rebut Cameron’s, because frankly doing that via the premeditated and composed medium of the written word seems cowardly to me, and doesn’t give him his due.

Nor am I going to attempt to claim that reducing the number of guns won’t reduce gun deaths, as there’s nowhere near the evidence required to make that case one way or another. Anybody who’s done any sort of study of statistics should acknowledge this fact. In the old chestnut “lies, damned lies, and statistics” is more than a grain of truth.

I believe that “defending your castle against a home invader” is a valid reason to own a gun. If I appear to waver in that opinion in the podcast, it is because that’s not the reason I would want to own a gun. I want to own a gun for sport shooting, and as the ultimate, and frankly only reliable insurance against civil unrest, be it local or general, political, environmental, or economic. I don’t believe these events are especially likely, but when it comes to value for money, a firearm is probably the best investment one could have made, should it come to pass. This is why I would happily keep my hypothetical weapons disassembled and locked up. Those who are worried about individual invaders should be free to carry their weapon while on their own property, where it is safely under watch at all times. This may seem ridiculous to you and I, but a lot of people do it in the US in locales requiring un-carried weapons to be thoroughly secured.

If we say that cultural differences between the United States and the more heavily armed European countries account for the vast gap in firearm deaths, then I don’t believe we can in good conscience go on to say that this justifies disarming the populace. I must leave the question begging that this is in fact the case, as I have neither the data nor the training to answer it. It does show that it’s a leap to say that one thing causes the other, and that it could benefit mankind a great deal to investigate what cultural differences there might be that cause the discrepancy, if only to integrate that part of European culture into our own.

I certainly won’t bother addressing people who have and will project onto me the labels and imagined beliefs of American partisanship simply because I believe in private gun ownership. The saying “don’t draw your weapon unless you plan to use it” is not an encouragement to do violence, just the opposite. It is an admonishment not to menace your fellow man with a weapon that could kill him due to accident or poor judgement. A drawn weapon is no longer a deterrent against would-be assailants, but a terrifying, rapidly escalating and very bad situation.

I will address one point specifically though; when I say “most of the gun crimes are criminals killing criminals”, I do not mean to say also “therefore they do not matter.” To imply that I do and then compare the statement to saying “it’s just blacks killing blacks” is disingenuous to say the least. I know Cam, and I don’t think he’s trying to say that I mean “to hell with the blacks” (or bikies), but that is how it could be taken by his listeners, so I want to address it. What I should have said is that most of these deaths are “criminals killing people.” It’s not that these deaths therefore don’t matter, it’s that the way to address this problem isn’t by taking away guns, it’s by taking away criminals. Some people think that should be achieved with harsher sentencing and zero tolerance, I think the answer is to stop prohibition and reduce inequality. Either way, the solution to the deaths is to reduce the number of criminals, rather than citizens’ access to the tools these criminals use. Think of it as prevention versus treatment.

The main thrust of my position is that preservation of liberty must be weighed more heavily against the goals of personal safety on the scales of legislation. True liberty being the freedom to act and accept the consequences of your actions. An example most of us can agree on would be freedom to speak, and risk being sued for libel, is more important than the freedom from libellous allegations. The freedom to drive a car is more important than absolute freedom from being killed as a pedestrian crossing the road. You may believe that this is because “cars have other uses besides killing people”, but this is irrelevant. The dead pedestrian gained no value from the car. As a thought exercise, would you be happy with guns existing only in completely safe sporting arenas, with a guarantee no lives could be lost? To say that a gun’s only purpose is to kill people is no different than saying the purpose of the automobile is to turn hydrocarbons into work. Leaving aside sporting applications, which is a perfectly valid reason to own a gun whether you personally believe it worth the societal risk or not, the potential to kill people is simply the means by which a gun achieves its purpose. It is as a deterrent and, yes, a last line of defence against the violence of others. No sensible gun owner would say on his deathbed “if only I’d had a chance to shoot somebody- this gun has given me no value!” Can the same be said of any other tool, besides insurance?

Whether the threat of violence from third parties is reduced or not, nobody will argue that it will disappear completely with the prohibition of legal firearms. I say that we should therefore strive to retain for the honest citizen that deterrence and final freedom to take the ultimate action in defence of his only true property: his life and the sovereignty of his body.

Americans are fond of the saying “freedom isn’t free”. But the currency in which liberty is paid for is not the blood of young men spilled on the shores of oil-rich nations. It is danger, and the vigilance required to manage that danger. We will never have true safety, and the value of liberty is incalculable- we must not sell it to the state for fear of our fellow man, nor of the machines we have created.