A visitor named “Joe” recently left a comment on my article entitled “5 Reasons to Support Gun Rights and Oppose Gun Control,” disputing the need for and right to gun ownership. My responses to his comments are below:
[In response to my statement that “1. Criminals who want a gun will get them, even if there are strict gun control laws. Only the law abiding, future crime victims, will obey the ban.”]
This is no reason to own a gun, simply because criminals can own them. The deeper meaning behind this reason is that criminals will take from you unless you are equally armed, but there are many fallacies in that statement, the more important being your likelihood of meeting up with a criminal armed with a gun, which is pretty darned low. I’ve lived near DC all my life – gun capital of the world – and have never been a victim of a gun crime.
Although Joe alludes to “many fallacies” in my statement, he mentions to only one alleged fallacy, saying that it is unlikely a citizen will be attacked by an armed criminal. To that I would say a few things:
Firstly, as a factual matter, the risk of being attacked by a criminal is real. Joe didn’t provide any statistics to go along with his statements, so I think we should turn to the FBI’s crime statistics. Those statistics indicate that more than 1 in 300 Americans became a victim of violent crime in 2008. Of those, over 441,000 were robbery victims, and over 89.000 were forcible rape victims. I’m sure those victims don’t take much comfort from Joe’s assurances that the risk of criminal attack is low.
Secondly, even if Joe’s statement that the risk of violent attack by a criminal were low, it doesn’t follow that a law abiding citizens shouldn’t have a gun for self defense against that threat. The risk of a residential fire is rather low, yet I have smoke detectors and a fire extinguisher at my house. The risk that my home furnace or water heater will start emitting dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide is also low, yet I have carbon monoxide detectors at home too. On any given day, the risk of a car accident is also low, yet wear my seat belt. Having a gun for self defense is simply a prudent decision to be prepared for a situation that will hopefully never arise.
Thirdly, Joe qualifies his statement by saying that he has “never been a victim of a gun crime” (emphasis added) as he argues against the carrying of a gun for self defense. The problem with this qualification is that it incorrectly suggests citizens would only need a gun to defend themselves against a criminal who also has a gun. The fact is that criminals who are armed with other weapons (or even unarmed) can be just as deadly of a threat, especially when the victim is physically weaker. As an example, the criminal who murdered Meredith Emerson didn’t have a gun. Nor did the criminal who murdered KATV anchorwoman Anne Pressly.
Armed crime victims, on the other hand, are in the best position possible to defend themselves. An an example, one armed woman was able to shoot the rapist who broke in to her home for a second time. Another armed woman was able to defend herself against a home invading stalker. As a further example, an armed 85 year old woman was able to stop a burglar in her home, while this pregnant woman was able to save herself from two home invaders. I won’t go on with more examples here, but those who are interested can see page after page of examples, or read the statistics which show that armed Americans use guns for self defense about 2.5 million times each year.
[In response to my statement that “2. Banning a constitutionally protected thing because some people will misuse it is wrong, ineffective, and unconstitutional.]
No one will convince me that gun ownership as referred to in the Constitution – A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed – means individuals have a right to keep and bear arms. It’s a militia they were talking about, and a militia is a group of people engaged in the defense of the “free” state. Even if it was “enshrined” in the constitution – and it was not – that does not mean the details of gun ownership should apply to ever Elmer Fudd you meet. The framers did not envision this country’s rural population would turn into a mass of gun-toting fearful white trash.
As I discussed just last week in response to Lara Marlowe’s anti gun article, the Second Amendment has been conclusively interpreted by the Supreme Court in D.C. v. Heller to protect an individual right to gun ownership. As an attorney at law ho has researched the issue extensively, I find myself in full agreement with that conclusion. I also find it amazing that Joe (who doesn’t appear to be an attorney or judge) presumes to to tell the highest court in the United States that it doesn’t know how to interpret the United States Constitution. For those who would like to read the full text of the Supreme Court’s opinion in that case, which does a great job explaining why the 2nd Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms, that opinion can be found here.
[In response to my statement that “3. Most guns are never used in a crime and most gun owners are law abiding citizens; we should not ban guns just because some people choose to misuse them.]
Most atomic bombs have not been used in crimes. Should we allow everyone to make atomic bombs? Or, heroin users, for the most part, are not criminals; we shouldn’t ban heroin just because some people choose to misuse it. The premises and the logic are both irrelevant.
Perhaps a more fitting analogy will help reinforce this point: The First Amendment protects the right to free speech, however that does not mean that one may yell “fire” in crowed movie theater. The First Amendment, and other provisions of the constitution, also guarantee the right to privacy that underlies the right to abortion; however the government can certainly prohibit a woman from having an elective abortion the day before she is due to give birth. Under the Second Amendment, as the Supreme Court stated in D.C. v. Heller, there is a right to keep and bear arms for traditional lawful purposes, such as self defense. That means guns designed for such defensive purposes, as well as sporting firearms are protected by the 2nd Amendment. It does not, however, mean that a private citizen can own a nuclear weapon, or other weapon of mass destruction. The attempt to suggest that the Second Amendment is an all or nothing proposition is hyperbole; constitutional scholars and attorneys have understood for quite a while that no right is without limits. Instead, a restriction upon a fundamental right must be narrowly tailored to serve a particular legitimate governmental interest. Keeping atomic bombs out of the hands of your average citizen is certainly constitutional, given the lack of a lawful purpose for a citizen to have an atomic bomb and the great danger of catastrophic destruction. In my humble opinion as an attorney (as well as the opinion of our nation’s highest court), banning guns is unconstitutional.
[In response to my statement that “4. Guns are the great equalizer
One does not need a gun to be strong, and that is the problem with this statement. It also reveals the stated belief that there is a weak/strong dichotomy in society, that the speaker is experiencing it, and fearful of it. It would be just as easy to assert that there are many other people, not gun-owners, who make little of their position in society relative to either the weak or the strong, who repudiate the idea of competition itself, and would indeed be safer simply because there were fewer guns around.
Gun ownership is not about feeling strong or the projection of power. It is about self defense and other lawful activities such as sport shooting.
Turning to the “great equalizer” aspect of gun ownership for self defense, my point was that guns allow the elderly, the disabled, and the physically weaker to defend themselves against violent attackers, rather than being overpowered. Guns also allow a single person to successfully defend themselves against multiple attackers, who would otherwise be able to use their numerical advantage to deadly effect. This article goes into much more detail on that point.
[In response to my statement that “5. Although I live in a good area, which has an effective and professional police department, I feel better at night knowing that if I were left with no other choice, I could use a firearm to defend my family’s lives.]
Closely the author approaches here the very basic, perhaps most cogent reason for desiring a gun, and that is personal feelings and preferences being associated with “freedom.” These preferences generally appear mild as long as they do not other. If anything, this is the version of freedom alluded to in the Constitution, but it does not come about by government’s permissiveness, allowing individuals to carry things that can kill, to make the individual feel “safe.” Government doesn’t grant things, and we are not beholden to government (say, to serve in the armed forces) where we do not believe in the cause. Neither is withdrawing by law a consumption, for example, alcohol, any reason to consider the separation between government and the individual any bigger: the expectation is that as an individual, one does not go along with any law which, by its nature, may infringe on that persons individual precepts. That’s what true freedom in a democracy means to me. It’s the reason I am free to say no to gun ownership.
Although I am not entirely clear as to the point(s) that Joe attempts to convey in the above statement, it seems that he suggests that the freedom guaranteed by the United States Constitution entitles him to “say no to gun ownership.”
If Joe is saying that he, personally, may choose not to own a gun, then I agree. Indeed, no one is suggesting that Joe or anyone else be compelled to own a gun.
However, if Joe is suggesting that he has a right to prevent other law abiding citizens from having a gun, then I wholeheartedly disagree. As discussed above, the right to gun ownership is an individual right enshrined in our Constitution. The government lacks the power to infringe that right, and as such it cannot possibly delegate that power to Joe or any other citizen. Indeed, this is similar to the various states that tried to pass laws restricting a married woman’s right to get an abortion without her husband’s permission. The courts very correctly reasoned that since the government lacked the power to stop the woman from getting an abortion, it couldn’t delegate a power that it lacked to a 3rd party (e.g. her husband). Similarly, Joe and other anti gun individuals don’t have and can’t be granted the power to deny law abiding individuals the right to keep and bear arms.
I would also like to thank Bill Watts for his excellent rebuttal to Joe’s comment as well.