Polarization Over Guns

by Jeffry R. Fisher

Fear versus Reason

There are two polar opposite views of weapon ownership. One is emotional, based mostly on fear, and the other is rational, based on observation:

Supporters of the first view commonly assert that the only purpose of guns is to kill people. They fear that anyone with a gun is out to kill them (who's paranoid now?) unless the gun carrier is wearing a uniform and/or a badge, in which case everything is magically okay.

Actually, the chief purpose for guns in conflicts is to persuade others to surrender or flee. Even in war, many more participants surrender or retreat than are injured or killed in combat. Therefore, the purpose of a gun depends on the goals of the person carrying it.

The 2nd view depends heavily on the overwhelming majority of the population having such noble character that they can be trusted to use real power for public good rather than personal enrichment. Is this possible with any realistic amount of widespread education and/or training?

Which society would you rather live in? One in which you trust a few elite members to rule over you with all power, or one in which you might be called to participate in some unsavory but necessary civic duties in order to preserve greater sovereignty for yourself and your property? Is the world big enough that both types of societies can exist in various places so that people who are dissatisfied with what they're born into can migrate to the another?

I prefer the one in which we all participate. Otherwise, we stratify society, placing ourselves at the mercy of the elite classes. I believe that a society of all nobility is the only possible classless society, for being all nobility is the only way all adult citizens can have the same legal status and yet be fit to rule themselves. I believe that the US was the archetype and is still perhaps the closest thing to such a noble, classless society. I believe that the vast majority of US citizens do still uphold the essential laws that keep the peace. Therefore, we who value individualism, including self-defense, must work to preserve it, and we must work here in the US because it's still the best hope we have.

Unfortunately, some citizens born here would rather live otherwise. I submit that those who would live otherwise should do so by living elsewhere. Citizens who would abdicate their nobility should do so individually rather than threatening mine. Many gun-free societies already exist, so it is unnecessary to overthrow the best and perhaps only all-noble society on this planet.


"Only peace dispels violence."

How very Zen. How very false... a feel-good sentiment that can get you killed. Even worse, it's a feel-good sentiment that can get me killed. If you want to be an unarmed pacifist, then by all means go ahead. Just don't insist that I copy you.

Look at it this way: If you do insist, how will you do so? By sending armed government agents to my home to confiscate my guns? Now there's pacifism for you!

Read "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins, especially the chapter on evolutionarily stable strategies. In the midst of a book on evolution and genetics, Dawkins constructs a powerful logical argument about the relative survival values of aggression, retribution, and pacifism. In it, he demonstrates that aggressors thrive only as long as there are pacifists to prey upon. After the pacifists go extinct, the aggressors follow. Retribution (willing to co-operate peacefully, but fighting back when attacked) is the winning strategy in a world that sometimes spawns aggressors.

What About the Children?

Sadly, the "war on drugs" has created a black market that places a premium on child labor because minors are immune to most prosecution. The consequent gang violence is responsible for most of the shooting deaths of and by minors.

Even so, many times as many kids drown as are shot. Why don't we have a national clamor for five gallon bucket locks? How about banning bathtubs and backyard swimming pools? Why don't bathtub drownings get the national TV coverage that accidental shootings get?

If we are going to react to child mortality, then we should address about 100 more common causes first. The attention focused on guns is irrational.

As important as the undue attention focused on tragedy is the silence and blindness to heroism. Why don't network news reports mention the guns that have been used to stop killings?

Also, one must not only bemoan the guns that shot children, but also the absence of guns that could have protected them. In mass murders and schoolyard shootings, one might blame the first death on the criminal's access to guns, but all subsequent deaths should be blamed on victim disarmament.

Gun Safety

Emulate the Swiss. Teach all children from an early age to have a healthy respect for (but not fear of) guns and their power. Train adolescents in how to safely handle guns, even if they don't actually touch any. Offer to train all sane, law-abiding, adult citizens how to shoot, how to wage war, and how and when to fight violent crime (and when not to). Elevate as many citizens as possible to the level of "off-duty cop", then grant them nationwide permits to carry concealed firearms, and then encourage them to do so.

During the transition period, there might be a momentary swell in gun related crimes as stupid punks try to exploit easier access to guns. However, with armed law defenders outnumbering potential law breakers about 50 to 1, the stupid punks wouldn't last long.

There's an analogy to automobiles: Just as access to a gun can end in tragedy, so can access to car keys. Can your children pick up your keys when you aren't looking? Could they kill themselves or others? If so, would they? Why or why not? Are guns any different?

If car keys doesn't work for you, try the same questions with matches. Incidentally, many more children cause more death, injury, and property damage by playing with matches (and lighters) than by playing with guns. Why don't we hear a steady propaganda stream aimed at fire control? Are lighters and matches sold to minors in your state?

Whom Can We Trust?

If you would trust a stranger to stop a car for you when you are crossing the street, then you should trust him or her, given comparable training, to own a gun. When citizens who support law are strengthened, then society becomes safer. It's like having a few million extra off duty police officers in plain clothes watching every street and every shop. What's more, would-be robbers don't know who's who, so they must respect all of us, even those who are too anxious to handle guns.

If one sees one's neighbors as mostly hostile, then one will not want them to have guns. If one sees most of one's friends, family, neighbors and countrymen as likely to come to one's aid, then one does want guns generally available.

In other words, the gun debate turns partly upon how one views the quality of the people who would wield guns rather than just on one's own ability. Consequently, we can deduce that anti-gun people cynically view the rest of society as hostile and evil, or at least grossly incompetent and reckless. This conclusion is supported by gun grabbers' assertions that general gun ownership would cause society to erupt in flames (it hasn't).

Conclusion: Polar Reversal

Because the viewpoint of one pole is irrational, gun control is one issue that yields to steady logical pressure calmly presented. I was all for gun control when I was younger. Over the course of about 15 years, I migrated first to neutrality and then to opposition as I discovered first the futility of gun control and then the concepts of free society nobility. What it took was a few libertarians in each place I lived explaining in careful, non-threatening ways, and a series of news events demonstrating that criminals still acquire guns even when/where they are illegal.

Earlier, I simply tuned out emotional gun defenders as nuts the same way I now tune out shrill, emotional gun grabbers today. When discussing guns and gun control, I try as much as possible to stay calm, knowing that reason and time are both on my side. A few fascists will hold to gun control ideas to their dying breaths, but in the course of each public debate, rational bystanders will move inexorably toward individual liberty and individual responsibility.

Copyright 2003-2008 by Jeffry R. Fisher: Permission is granted to reproduce this article in whole, but only in combination with attribution, the original title, the original URL, and this copyright notice.
Jeffry R. Fisher is the founder and president of Propagate Ltd, which is liberating digital content as LiberateIP.com.