Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why I support the right to bear arms.

Amidst the horrific news from Aurora, Colorado last week, I was reluctant to engage on this issue earlier. My thinking on gun rights is threefold. 1) Guns are important as a preserver of the national ideology of individual freedom that sustains American society. 2) Guns are an important part of individual protection, allowing families to provide safety for themselves. 3) Guns are important as a cultural tool in American society - hunting, sport shooting and in some cases decoration. I currently live in the UK (gun possession is highly restricted here) and while I obviously respect UK laws, I wish more Europeans would respect that the US takes a different view.

1) On the first point, the original intent of the 2nd amendment was to provide for an armed citizenry who could in a timeless sense, provide for the defense of democracy. The founders sought to ensure that however powerful government might become, government would ultimately always find its power in the people via an understanding that the people have the power to "throw off" a tyrannical government and "to provide new Guards for their future security." In a society in which a substantial portion of the citizenry are armed, the opportunities for state oppression are inherently limited. 

2) On the second point, guns provide a physical and mental protection against threat. As a physical tool, firearms can provide a trained individual with the ability to counter threats that would in a purely body-body fight be insurmountable. Example - an elderly citizen living in a high crime neighborhood who is ambushed by three gang members. The positive psychological impact of this capability can be profound. I often tell friends in the UK that they need to analyze the fear that some vulnerable Britons feel living in high crime neighborhoods without any adequate means of protection. It was noticeable that during the London riots last year, many business owners lost everything because in the absence of police resources, those business owners had no means for protecting their property. Anyone who doubts that guns have a serious physical impact on crime should search for "self-defense" on google news every so often.

3) On the third point, many Americans enjoy utilizing the vast outdoors for the purposes of hunting, sport shooting and decoration (go to rural Texas). These events are far more than simple games. Instead, for many Americans, these activities are a celebration of American frontier history and of individual freedom. The freedom to lawfully pursue actions that provide deep, personal satisfaction.

Gun opponents often point to the level of violent crime in the United States as a reason why guns should be further restricted. I disagree. Aside from the above three points, the loosening of gun restrictions over the past thirty years has not lead to an increase in violent crime- the opposite in fact. I believe that violent crime is best countered by aggressive enforcement of existing laws - RICO, felon possession firearm etc. Further, gun opponents often fail to reconcile their anger about events like that last week in Colorado, with the fact that similar situations occur all over the world. Including in states that have highly restrictive gun laws. My personal opinion is that gun laws should largely be local. If New Yorkers want to restrict the right to bear arms to the home, then that is their choice. If Texans want to be able to walk around with AK-47s, that is also their choice. I support the finding of the Supreme Court that there is an incorporated right for all Americans to possess hand guns in their own homes. Beyond this, in my opinion state democracy should triumph.


  1. Please note: The incorporation of the Heller case was decided in McDonald v Chicago


    1) I don't think it's as literal as that
    2) Protection in the simple 'They have guns, so I must have a gun' leads to some very deadly outcomes when, potentially (although not always) had there not been guns, the situation might have ended with less death. The UK has armed police when we need it, but we have fewer shoot outs and seiges…because Joe Public is restricted in the items he can buy.
    3) You can have restrictions whilst still allowing guns for hunting, it's what the UK has pretty much.

    But I concede the point it's not as simple as people on this side of pond think… I'm back in the UK in August. Pub meet/debate/campaign planning?…