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News & Editorials

An open letter to the gun banners
Gun ownership: Is it about Power and Violence?

by Marko Cunningham

You hoplophobes say that gun ownership is really about power, implying that you are on a “power trip” if you have an unhealthy desire for lethal devices. Well, you are right in one respect while missing the mark completely otherwise.

Gun ownership is, indeed, about power, but not the kind of power you gun haters describe. It’s not the power to force one’s will on someone else by force of arms that makes gun ownership a priority to us. It’s the power to control your own fate to some extent, and the power to back up a “No!” when someone else thinks they can take our possessions or our lives by force. 

"That right cannot stand without might is obvious even to the most extreme hoplophobe, since all their gun control proposals invariably exclude law enforcement, the King’s Men, from the latest round of proposed restrictions."

We all have the right to life, but the right itself is meaningless unless it’s backed up by might. The fundamental question here, and the main difference in philosophies between us gun owners and you gun banners, is “Who has the authority to wield that might?” That right cannot stand without might is obvious even to the most extreme hoplophobe, since all their gun control proposals invariably exclude law enforcement, the King’s Men, from the latest round of proposed restrictions. They know that someone needs to wield the might to protect the right, they’re just not comfortable when they don’t have direct control over that might. In other words, almost all anti-gunners are not anti-gun at all: they merely don’t like the guns which are not under their supervision. They know that the threat of retaliatory force is the only thing that keeps some people from doing bad things to others. 

Gun banners further assert that gun owners have an unhealthy disposition for violence, and that the gun itself is a violent object since it can be used to inflict death or injury on someone. Here, too, they are correct on one point while completely missing the rest of the equation. The point is that guns can, indeed, be used to inflict violence on someone—but that it is sometimes necessary and morally imperative to do so. Even the most rabid gun hater will, to some degree, fight back when attacked physically; this is a human instinct called self-preservation. Every living thing has the right and the instinct to defend itself. Now, hitting another person is without a doubt a physically violent act, but it is not morally wrong behavior just by virtue of its violent nature if it is done in response to violence initiated by someone else.

"The equation that is not thought out completely by the self-defense prohibitionists is this: Violence is sometimes right and necessary, and their position makes it clear that they, too, believe this."

If gun prohibitionists assert that all guns cause violence and violence is always bad, why don’t they want to remove the guns from the holsters of police officers as well? They, too, believe that violence has its place when executed in self-defense—they just let others defend them. They have no problem with an armed police officer using lethal force to defend a citizen. This lets them step back from all that “deplorable violence”, even if it is done specifically on their behalf and in their protection, and claim a halo for their “peacefulness”. This position is morally repugnant; at least the extremists of the anti-self defense crowd are consistent in their belief that no one at all should ever use force even in self-defense, therefore leaving the survival of our species up to the benevolence of the next predator who happens to come along. The equation that is not thought out completely by the self-defense prohibitionists is this: Violence is sometimes right and necessary, and their position makes it clear that they, too, believe this.

If the gun banner concedes that violence is a good thing when committed by the right people for the right reasons (after all, don’t they still want to see the police armed?), all we are debating is no longer a principle, but a matter of degree. We agree that using force, even lethal force, is sometimes justified. Who, now, is best qualified, best equipped and most responsible when it comes to the use of force in protection of life and property? The anti-gunner claims that only duly franchised agents of the state have the right to use force in defense of themselves and others, yet they fail to adequately document the unique qualifications inherent to a law enforcement officer. 

It’s not proficiency with arms; many serious and competitive shooters can out-shoot their local police department’s best handgunners any day of the week. Many police officers fire their sidearms less than the average serious shooter does. Moreover, civilians who use their sidearms in self-defense have a higher hit percentage and are less likely to hit an innocent bystander than police officers who use their guns. And a citizen defending his or her own life certainly has more at stake in the matter.

It’s not proximity and superior judgment; the victim of a crime is on the scene when the attack happens, whereas the police most likely are not. Moreover, the victim of an attack does not need a court of law or a radio dispatch to establish whether they are being attacked or not, and who the attacker is. They are on the scene, and the police most likely won’t be present for at least a few minutes, even if the nearest police unit got the word of a crime in progress without delay. 

The ready willingness of the gun banner to leave all the tools of force in the hands of agents of the Crown is puzzling to those who can’t think of anything worse to happen to society. Here again, we have to understand that a right does not mean a thing unless it is backed by the might to enforce it. Humans have the right to life; we earned it by clawing our way to the top of the food chain and killing everything that tried to deny us the right to life. 

What happens with your right to life when someone decides to climb into your car as you are parked at the ATM, then takes you out into the woods and shoots you in the back of the head over a few hundred dollars? A predator didn’t respect your right, and it got rendered worthless, because you did not have the might to back it up. 

Consider what would happen if you concentrated all the might in one segment of society: paid agents of the state, badge-wearing enforcers of rights. What would happen if everybody was banned from using force, even in legitimate self-defense—assuming that you could somehow convince the predatory element of the population with your quasi-nonviolent utopia? Whose rights would these agents most adamantly enforce? What would motivate them? How would they treat the rights of those whose views are seen as incorrect and offensive by those who give the orders to the gun carrying men with the badges? Moreover, have such methods been attempted in the past, and what has been their result?

Governments have a poor track record when it comes to treating their own citizens equally as far as human and civil rights are concerned. Every single war in recorded history has been ordered, started and sustained by governments. Wars are not often fought by groups of gun-toting civilians; they are fought by men who are ordered to take a rifle and kill people, in order to achieve a political goal. Governments fight wars. The same men who give the orders to the men with the badges also have the power to send other men to war, and they have frequently done so. The 60,000 dead fathers, brothers, sons and friends whose names are engraved on black marble slabs in Washington did not die because some crazy guy with a gun wasn’t responsible with it; they died because a man in a suit threatened them with imprisonment or death if they didn’t follow government orders. This country is not immune from bad decisions made by those who control the guns: thirty years ago, those same men used the guns under their command to keep black students from entering the universities of their choice. History is rife with other examples of bad judgment on the part of those who have a monopoly on wielding the might. What makes anyone think that we are, by some magical reason, all of a sudden immune to bad decisions and wrong men in high places?

What is most perplexing is how willing you would turn over all the might in the country to those very same people. You would put your fates, your lives and those of your families, in the hands of those who neither have an interest in the protection of life and personal freedom, nor a very good track record when it comes to preserving rights and life. Remember, these are the very same police officers that get criticized for their actions on every turn by the very same people who say that “only police should have guns”. 

Besides, if you truly believed that gun bans work, why would the police need any sidearms? Nobody will have them, so why should the King’s Men carry them? So you are either malicious (by proposing laws they know won’t work, therefore requiring a Law Enforcement exception provision in the law), or ignorant (by not thinking your argument through to its logical conclusion.) There is, of course, always the possibility that you realized that you will need to control men with guns in order to enforce policies on the rest of us. 

Yes, gun ownership is about power and violence. Guns give us the power to determine our own fates, the freedom to take responsibility for our own actions, and the ability to respond to violence with necessary and morally justified violence of our own. Power is not a bad thing if the right people wield it, and violence is not a bad thing if it is used in self-defense and never initiated. Don’t make them four-letter words—if you want to have only a certain group of people to have guns (preferably those under your control), you already believe in the value of power and violence. You just have a problem with them if they don’t get exercised and inflicted on your behalf. 

Molon labe.


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No human rights can exist without property rights. Since material goods are produced by the mind and effort of individual men, and are needed to sustain their lives, if the producer does not own the result of his effort, he does not own his life. -- Ayn Rand

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