Before I delve into the philosophical particulars of gun ownership in America and the various attitudes toward it, I'd like to first express how heartbroken I am at the recent shooting in Connecticut. As a father and gun owner, I could not be more sickened by this event. The debate on where blame properly belongs is an important one, but I believe neither the Second Amendment nor lawful gun owners are to blame.
The story of why firearms are considered an unalienable right in my country and why this right is still so treasured by so many Americans has its roots in history. In the Colonial era, when the 13 American colonies were under British rule, the King treated the colonists like second class subjects of the British Empire. They were not allowed representation in Parliament, were routinely were forced to quarter English soldiers in their homes, and were taxed heavily to pay for the King's other military adventures and extravagances. The final straw was broken for colonists on 19 April 1775 when British troops were sent to Lexington and Concord to confiscate the firearms of farmers. The only thing standing between the colonists and further subjectivity was their firearms. King George knew this and so did the colonists.
When the Revolution was finally won and the Constitution crafted, the framers decided that a Bill of Rights containing a non-exhaustive list of the most important rights of individuals, including the right to keep and bear arms, was in order. The reasons for this were rooted in the contrast between the new American ideal of individualism and the subjectivity they had hitherto experienced under British rule. It was also important because the States were expected to maintain their own "well regulated" militias in the event of another invasion. These militias were composed of the same common folk who had won the Revolution, basically every man capable of handling a weapon was expected to respond if called upon.
Today, Switzerland has a similar arrangement. In the absence of a standing army, every Swiss household is required to carry a firearm and be trained in its use. Consequently, Switzerland has some of the lowest crime rates, not only in Europe, but in the world.
For those who think the above history lesson and vigilance against tyranny anachronistic or irrelevant in modern times, I suggest studying the examples of the past century where firearms were successfully taken from citizens - countries such as Germany, the Soviet Union, Turkey, China, Uganda, Guatemala and Cambodia to name but a few. Despotic leaders in these countries killed untold millions of their own citizens after depriving them of their rights to bear arms. In these extreme cases, such deprivation clearly did not guarantee security.
In less extreme cases like in Australia, crime rates rose drastically after lawful citizens were deprived of their firearms. Likewise, in cities in the US where guns have been banned and in States where gun control is strictest, crime and murder rates remain well above the national average.
The fallacy in many gun control arguments lies in the assumption that laws magically create the conditions they intend to create. It is far more common that more laws and regulations against something only create an unintended black market for the object of the ban or regulation. Just as criminalization of marijuana or heroin has not stopped their use or proliferation, criminalization of gun ownership will not stop gun use or the proliferation or firearms. The only people it will routinely disarm are the law abiding. This underscores the other main fallacy of anti-gun arguments, which is that criminals, particularly of the type that premeditate mass killings, have any interest in laws.
In my State of Indiana and many other States, law-abiding citizens are allowed to apply for a license to carry a concealed weapon. The application assures that you are not mentally handicapped, unstable, or have a criminal record. I carry such a weapon, not out of fear, but because as a father and husband, I feel a personal responsibility to provide as much security as I can for my family. If we ever had the grave misfortune of finding ourselves in a public place where a shooter decides to attack innocent people, I will have the means to return fire and protect my family and the other innocent people around me. Police cannot be everywhere and they have a poor record of stopping mass shootings by themselves.
It has been a common occurrence in many of the less publicized shooting sprees that common citizens have stopped the killer by returning fire with legal handguns or have managed to disarm the assailant with the mere threat of return fire. In one recent incident, which was not widely publicized, a licensed gun owner thwarted what could have been a much worse incident after training his firearm on a shooter in a shopping mall in Portland, Oregon. The shooter had already killed two people, but after realising he wasn't the only armed person present, turned the gun on himself.
The sensational stories of killings involving high numbers of people have invariably occurred in locations, such as schools, where firearms are strictly prohibited. Efforts are currently underway in some States to require a certain number of school faculty be armed and trained in crisis management, providing at least some security against mass shootings. I applaud these efforts.
In conclusion, while I understand the emotional trauma these mass shootings have on all of us, I have to caution against reacting emotionally with respect to gun control legislation. I would also urge readers outside the US to please consider alternate perspectives, data, and anecdotal evidence in support of the right to bear arms before arriving at your ultimate conclusions on the subject. In an ideal world there would be no need for weapons. There would be no borders. We would love and respect one another as human beings. Unfortunately, in such an imperfect world, imperfect solutions are sometimes necessary to avoid worse results. The historical track record of countries successfully disarming their populations while maintaining civic order and more importantly, freedom from despotism, is not good.
As an American, I am far more concerned about my own government and its propensity for using drone attacks against children in foreign countries than I am of my legally armed friends and neighbors.
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