My wish is to go through life without being shot. Gun advocates want to persuade me that I have a better chance of getting my wish if they’ve got guns, especially in their pockets. Otherwise, they argue, only criminals will have guns and, without fear that someone in the crowd may be prepared to draw, will rule the streets.
For one who lived through the Cold War’s doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, this is not especially comforting. Are we really headed in the right direction? A few thoughts:
Gun advocates’ key point is deterrence. Yes, some criminals may be deterred by the possibility that their victim, or someone in the shop or in the crowd, has a gun and the will to use it. But deterrence assumes the criminal is rational, not always a winning bet. Will those who are rational, as well as determined, simply raise the stakes (witness the drug wars on our doorstep)?
Such an arms race will benefit no one. It will further stimulate an already active market in guns that will become even more difficult to control. With more weapons available, a smaller and smaller percentage will flow through regulated channels into the hands of responsible gun advocates.
For those criminals who carry a gun but would prefer not to use it, actual use of a gun to commit a crime may be less likely the less they fear that their victim, or someone in the crowd, will respond with gunfire.
I am more likely to be shot in a gunfight between the criminal robbing me and the gun-owner coming to my defense than in the holdup itself. Left to my own devices, I will cower and pee my pants, but at least I am in control of my uncontrolled responses and, though not dignified, at least not likely to draw fire.
None of these observations will carry much weight unless criminal possession and use of guns is dealt with forcefully. Even then, there will be obstacles to rational progress as long as:
The Supreme Court continues to rule that keeping and bearing arms is a virtually unrestricted right (whereas a reasonable interpretation of the Second Amendment — A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed — might acknowledge that this right is clearly conditioned upon the existence of a well-regulated militia, a situation which does not currently exist). The Court’s expansive interpretation may be inexplicable, but it is bindingly inexplicable.
Gun advocates remain passionately single-minded. American politics ideally runs on compromise, but dedicated, single-issue advocates can outflank even a majority of pragmatists by credibly threatening to defeat any candidate — regardless of his/her other merits — who doesn’t support the advocates’ view.
Advocacy is backed up by actual people with actual weapons. If I favor gun control at a public forum, is it paranoia to be just the tiniest bit fearful of angering the guy with the From My Cold Dead Hands tattoo on his left bicep and a decided bulge in his pants pocket?
I’m not suggesting defeatism, but, if you want to hedge your bets, you might consider purchasing a few thousand Smith & Wesson shares. I did, and I made a killing.