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We Don't Have to Show Need

Stop Explaining Yourself and Start Demanding Answers

by Sean Oberle (dischord)

[Author's note: This is a few months old, but I thought KABA members would enjoy it, or at least re-reading it.]

If you debate gun issues, you come across variations of this question: "Why do you need that type of gun" or "that many guns" or "a gun that fast?" The assumption is that there are no grounds to oppose a proposal without proving it hinders your needs, or more broadly, that your rights depend on your needs.

Such a question strikes me as an imperious conceit it turns on its head our American tradition of making government answer to us. In fact, the proper question always has been, "Does the government need to stop me?" In other words, I am free to possess any property, gun or otherwise, or partake in any activity unless government proves need (and power) to forbid it. 

That assertion, of course, brings up the question of just what the "need" behind gun control could be. Citations of murder rates are not automatic evidence of a need for gun control, but of crime control. Gun control is but one proposed means to crime control. 

Means should come with some evidence and consideration that they will work. Is it too much to ask not only that the government demonstrate its proposals can work, but that it back off if those proposals are proven ineffective regardless of my rights and its powers?

In fact, show me that a proposal both respects rights (including limited powers) and truly works to meet a real need, and I probably won't complain. Fail on either count, and I'll oppose it.

For example, I don't get to a question of rights in opposing waiting periods because proponents have failed to prove that "cooling off" periods are needed, much less work. [Editor's Note: this is the foundation upon which Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws stands. Read their definition of "sensible gun laws" for clarification of this point.]  In fact, the opposite has been shown: waiting periods don't measurably help crime. Thus, the defense of waiting periods rests in that morally bankrupt hypothetical, "if it saves just one life." It is morally bankrupt for two reasons. 

First, nearly any proposal say painting all guns pink to make them unattractive to uptight men will conceivably save at least one life. However, society has limited time, workforce and monetary resources. Enacting a bunch of proposals that save one life here and two lives there undermines truly effective proposals by pulling resources from them.

Second, if saving one life causes worth, then the corollary is true causing one lost life counters that worth. For every "just one passion crime" stopped by a waiting period, I can point to a "just one woman" who died waiting for a gun she decided to buy when the police couldn't offer enough help with an estranged boyfriend ignoring a restraining order. So, who is more valuable: just one person dead due to the existence of waiting periods or just one person due to their lack?

Why don't gun controllers stop to think about such dilemmas? It's because we've flipped to answering the "why do you need" question rather than asking it. Never questioned, they never consider the waste and negative results of their proposals. Never challenged, they fall easily into equating intent with outcome. 

Intent and actual result become interchangeable in their minds. The moral imperative becomes trying, not succeeding, and they fall into a misunderstanding that we who oppose their proposals also oppose the intent behind them. "Kids are dying! Why do you need those guns?" they shout in the belief that our side is selfish and callous, standing in the way of a societal need.

We aren't. We're standing in the way of ineffective and risky proposals for fulfilling the true societal need crime control. In fact, we are trying to force society to effectively address the problem, not a boogeyman. 

We are the ones insisting that the saving of lives be maximized by eliminating a bunch of piddly, feel-good proposals that divert resources. We are the are the ones insisting on a net sum of lives saved rather that a shifting of death from one innocent person to another. 

We are the ethical ones, because we consider results in the context of reality not in the contexts of wishful thinking and good intentions.

We must remind them: "I don't have to explain why I need a gun. You have to explain why you need to take it away." And keep questioning every step: "Is gun control the actual need or a proposed means to something else?" and "Will this scheme work or make things worse?"

Remember, it's not about controlling guns. It's not even about protecting guns. It's about kids and family and society.

You see, kids are dying, and those selfish, callous gun control brutes are standing in the way of saving them by diverting needed resources and energy to their ill-thought fantasies about gun control. For the children, let's start making them answer our questions and bring them back to reality. Let's take back the "saving lives" high ground from those who would sacrifice our children at the altar of politics and social experimentation.

Do it for your kids.

Sean Oberle is a featured writer with whose archive is kept here:  Distribution permitted and encouraged. Please say you saw it first on