As the debates over the shooting in Orlando continue to evolve, there are several arguments that are being revived in favor of wide-spread gun control in America that are passing through newsfeeds like wildfire. Though they are themselves old hat, they are being pushed with a level of righteous anger and at a volume we haven’t encountered before. So what about the claim that “No one is talking about banning guns–just common sense gun control.” While that may be true in the short run, in the long view of things, we’ll find that they’re one and the same.
Let’s take a look at the argument in all of it’s glory. To its credit, it is a generally accurate depiction of what most mainstream Americans in favor of gun control currently want. Most of the bills that have a realistic chance of passing Congress deal with various restrictions on who can purchase firearms and on how long it takes to complete the purchase. Given that currently most of the people who would be banned from owning guns are felons, abusers, and people on something like a terrorism watch list*, I can see how, if you don’t have a good grasp of the larger picture and the issues at stake (dealt with in my previous post), you could be horrified that anyone would hesitate to pass such legislation. The people involved must be misinformed at best, willfully and dangerously idiotic at worst. “No one is talking about taking away all your guns,” the argument goes, “why can’t you understand that?!”
Of course, anyone who has spent any time on the internet knows that there is at least a little justice in this response. I have indeed seen far more responses than I would like from people in this debate who argue for gun rights from complete ignorance. (Then again, I’ve seen an equal or greater number of low-information people on the side of gun control too…hence my felt need to write posts like this!) But the truth or falsehood of any idea (thankfully) isn’t dependent on whether or not you can find stupid people defending it. We must look to the facts–to which we will now turn. Those facts point to the reality that, once we start down the path of gun regulation on the terms currently stated by gun control advocates, a complete ban is the logical and unavoidable conclusion.
Whoa there! Am I claiming to know the future? Not so much that as I am claiming to know something about history and human nature. Regulating guns (or any other type of weapon, for that matter) to prevent all of even one type of violence is the pursuit of an impossible goal by an impractical method, and anyone even half awake during these debates has the information needed to draw this conclusion. If the guns are going to exist at all, it is inevitable that some of them will fall into the hands of people who will use them for evil. Consider the Orlando shooter. If he had not purchased his guns legally, are we really to believe he wouldn’t have stolen them or received them directly from ISIS? What about an innocent private purchase? It is simply not practical to expect the government to be able to monitor every civilian transaction to know where every gun is, all of the time. If he wanted them, any reasonable person must concede that he would have gotten them. And even if not, what then? He could still purchase a “hunting weapon”, which is essentially the same thing, just with a brown wooden stock instead of a black polymer one. What if we ban “high capacity” magazines? 3d printing is a very versatile thing these days. The regulatory efforts outlined by gun control advocates are doomed to failure from the beginning.
The point is, as long as there are people willing to commit mass shootings, a partial ban and increased background checks will not stop them. Such measures may not even slow them down substantially. As a result, when the new regulations come through, everyone in favor of them can expect to be bitterly disappointed. What then? Well, if these regulations aren’t enough, then we need more. Suddenly the standard for “common sense” changes and we’re told we must pass more legislation. You can see where this is going. If the regulations we have in place aren’t stopping the violence (and we’re ignoring the real, root cause for whatever reason), the answer is to ban more and more until there is nothing left to ban. Given that we know they won’t be, it isn’t at all unreasonable to follow this train of thought through to the most likely conclusion: If we start down the path of allowing the government to monopolize weapons for the reasons given, a complete (or near complete) ban is practically assured.
This whole process suits the real anti-gun activists perfectly. Another historical precedent is “start small, go big.” If you want to instigate radical change, it is rarely a good idea to start radically. You begin small and, as opinion slowly shifts, you push further and further. The people who really disagree with you but want to be “reasonable” serve as your patsies. You push them as far as they’ll “reasonably” go, and before they realize it, they’ve agreed to things they would never have considered before. One example of this from American history is the Federal Income Tax. In the 1800s, the idea of the federal government reaching directly into your pocket and taking your money would be scandalous. Then World War I happened, and it was “reasonable” to ask everyone to pitch in 1% of their income to help out. The Sixteenth Amendment passed and a “reasonable” tax was imposed. Now, the average American taxpayer spends more on their income tax than they do on food each year and no one blinks. Some people paid almost 40% of the their earnings to the government in 2015 for this tax alone. You can expect anti-gun advocates to follow the same principles here. They begin with “reasonable” bans and, when they fail (as we know they will), they push for more until a total ban is achieved. “Go big” indeed.
But there are other examples of that dynamic in American history that didn’t work out so well for the radicals. In 1765, George Grenville tried to “start small” in his bid to destroy American’s rights for “no taxation without representation” through the Stamp Act. He failed because American Patriots saw where this was going and they stood firm. Americans today need to think outside of their comfort zone and do the same–that begins with following the “reasonable” gun regulations through to their most likely end.
*Of course, as many have pointed out, this assumes that a terrorism watch list is a reliable indicator of who should and should not have a gun. If all it takes to put Group B on the watchlist without due process is for it to disagree with Group A, then it is, in fact, an arbitrary, political tool. That particular argument has been dealt with by others more thoroughly.