I’ve been thinking about the vote in the Senate yesterday, and how a handful of red state Democrats supposedly betrayed the rest of the country, and so forth. The first thoughts that popped into my head were (1) just because a majority of Americans want something does not, by itself, make it a good idea or the right thing to do, and (2) legislation often works best as a formalizing process of a society-wide shift in attitudes. These two somewhat-contradictory ideas apply to gun regulation in the sense that, while most people seem to want background checks and other relatively modest regulations, and while the NRA can’t seem to address these issues without hyperbole and mendacity, the fact is that background check legislation, and similar laws, will be doomed to failure as long as the self-described “law-abiding” gun crowd seems predisposed to fight tooth and nail against them. I have seen no arguments against modest gun regulation that weren’t reduceable to “Regulation, registry, Nazis, oh my!” and quite frankly, I’m tired of trying to argue with people who refuse to address the issue at hand and tend to speak of everything in apocalyptic terms. As long as we tolerate people who have more respect for their guns than for their fellow citizens, none of this is ever going to get better.
The odd thing about all of this is that I’m actually pretty pro-gun rights, but I can’t stand shoddy arguments and uncompromising, extreme rhetoric. So here’s my point:
1. Laws regulating guns may or may not work, and the Constitution allows some individual right to gun ownership–we may disagree on the extent of this right, but unless gun advocates are prepared to advocate for private ownership of nuclear weapons, anyone who claims that the Second Amendment prohibits any and all government restriction on the “right to bear arms” is a liar.
2. Neither I nor anyone else is obligated to like the fact that some people chose to bear arms legally, and none of us are obligated to accept those people socially.
3. Talking about the extent of Second Amendment protections is not the same thing as infringing them, and anyone who says otherwise must not feel very confident in their arguments about the Second Amendment.
4. People who openly carry weapons in public just because they can are assholes, and I have a First Amendment right to say that. My saying that does not in any way infringe on the assholes’ rights. Anyone who says otherwise might be too dumb to be entrusted with a gun.
5. The general rhetoric in opposition to the gun regulations that have been recently proposed–and by this I do mean the ones that have actually been proposed, not the Looney-Tunes-fascist versions that only exist in the fevered imaginations of the NRA leadership–tends to demonstrate that either no non-hyperbolic arguments exist to counter such regulation or that the people making those arguments are not entirely right in the head.
7. If you think you need guns to defend against government tyranny, it’s high time you specified exactly when you think you would be justified in using your guns in that context. I need to know so that I will be able to tell whether you are committing treason against the government for principled purposes or not. Either way, of course, good luck fighting Seal Team Six.Photo credit: “Open Carry of a 9mm Browning Hi Power in Eagle, Colorado” by DrunkDriver (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons; “John Brown Painting” by Utopies (Wikipédia in english) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.