Making Guns Taboo Won’t Reduce Violence

Published by the LearnAboutGuns.com Author on May 19, 2008 at 11:02 am
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In the US and the UK, there are attempts by anti gun groups to make the ownership of guns seen as taboo, from both a legal and moral perspective. These attempts at eliminating “gun culture” are doomed to backfire, as history and human nature teach use. Allow me to explain:

A cursory look at recent and distant human history shows us that demonizing a physical object will cause many people to desire the object more. This can take the form of wanting an advantage over others who lack the object, or just a fascination with forbidden fruit. Organized crime also becomes involved in supplying the forbidden yet popular items, with often deadly results. Perhaps a few examples will illustrate the point why we do not want to go down this same path and make guns taboo:

1. Alcohol

In the US, and some other western countries, alcohol bans were enacted then repealed during the previous century. Such prohibition laws caused almost no reduction in the consumption of alcohol, but did glamorize it. Instead of going to an ordinary bar for a drink, people would sneak into a speakeasy, where the thrill of violating the law was enough in their minds to justify the high prices and low quality. And instead of having the profits of these alcohol sales taxed by the government, organized crime kept all of the unprecedented profits, which is what lead to the huge rise of organized crime and related violence during that period of time.
A similar taboo approach to alcohol for minors can currently be seen in the US and other countries, where those under a legal minimum age (often 21 years old) are prohibited from consuming any quantity of alcohol. While the goal of preventing teenage drunk driving and other similar problems is a noble one, telling minors that they must not drink is ineffective, and only fosters a desire on their part to do so anyway. It becomes “cool” to drink, and a measure of a minor’s social status to brag about having acquired alcohol and to have become intoxicated while drinking same. Instead of obeying the law, minors steal alcohol from their parents, find someone who is of age to purchase it for them, or get a fake ID. When these teenagers get into trouble while drinking, they are afraid to call the police or their parents because they fear being punished for drinking, and this can lead to drunk driving car crashes, or even greater harms.
Contrast this with various European countries, where alcohol (wine in particular) is considered an ordinary part of dinner for everyone, including teenagers. These European teenagers learn that alcohol is something to be enjoyed in moderation, just like any other food item. They don’t generally tend to go overboard on wine, any more than they go overboard on cheese or pasta. Since they are not prohibited from drinking, they do not fear calling their parents or the police while intoxicated.

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Note that I am not advocating the consumption of alcohol, or calling for a repeal of our current alcohol laws, but rather showing the downsides of making an object taboo.

2. Illegal Drugs

Illegal drugs have been banned in most western countries for decades or centuries, yet there is still rampant drug use. Most people who try and become addicted to drugs are teenagers, and part of the appeal of the drugs is their illegality. Since drugs are illegal and taboo, many who become addicted and want to quit fear turning to family or the authorities. The illegality also means that there is not regulation of illegal drug potency and content, leading to deaths from overdoses and poisonings. All the profits from these drug sales go to organized crime and street gangs, which accounts for much of the inner city violence.

Again, note that I am not advocating illegal drug use, but rather showing the drawbacks of making an object taboo.

3. Human Sexuality

Lately in the US, there has been a trend of supporting abstinence only sexual education. The problem with this approach is that such programs fail to provide adequate information to protect the health of the young people. This is because teenagers, being teenagers, will generally engage in sexual activity. Those who know about contraception and effective disease prevention are more likely to do so more safely, while those who experience abstinence only sexual education are more likely to do so unsafely.

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Once again, note that I am not arguing that teenagers should engage in sexual intercourse, but rather showing the drawbacks of making such a topic, and information on the topic, taboo.

Applied to Guns

The above example show the negative effects of making an object or entire subject taboo. Should the anti gun groups succeed in their goal of demonizing guns, I doubt we will see a reduction in crime, since criminals will still get guns by smuggling them in or stealing them.

The portion of the population that is attracted to forbidden fruit will also want guns, simply because they are banned. The law abiding citizens who keep themselves and the rest of us safer by legally carrying a concealed gun would be the ones disarmed and left unable to defend themselves against the criminals.

Almost as bad is the fact that the people who retained guns would be unable to lawfully practice using them, or have them maintained and serviced by a competent gunsmith. Instead, the people with guns would be bad shots, who would hit unintended victims. Their poorly maintained or crudely constructed guns would explode, maiming or killing the shooter and innocent bystanders.

There would also be a lack of competent gun safety training, leading to an increase in unintentional shootings. This would include a failure to safely and responsibly store guns to prevent children from gaining access to them.

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For these, and other reasons, I believe that it is simply not in society’s best interest to make guns taboo.

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