Much has been said about guns and gun laws in the United States since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The Obama administration is already accelerating its plans for tightening gun laws on a federal level. In addition, private companies such as Walmart, Cheaper Than Dirt, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and KSL.com have made knee-jerk changes to their policies regarding gun sales and classifieds. All of this is to be expected … government agencies and private companies want to be seen as doing something—anything—in the wake of the tragedy that shocked us all.
The fact that none of these policy changes would have prevented Adam Lanza from walking into that school and killing all of those people is inconsequential. Facts don’t matter when emotions are running high.
During times like this, one of the biggest frustrations for “Gun People” is the sheer amount of inaccurate information passed around in the mainstream media, in social media, and in conversations by people who are woefully uninformed about guns, gun issues, gun laws, and the so-called “gun culture.” Sports reporters need specialized knowledge to report on the sports they cover, and entertainment reporters need to know the ins and outs of their own industry to perform their jobs well. But reporters who have never handled a gun—let alone fired one—routinely report on shootings and almost always get the facts wrong. They also badly mischaracterize the positions of the people who believe that our right to self-protection shouldn’t be infringed with measures that simply will not prevent future crimes.
Before the massacre occurred, I had been putting together a set of statements about Gun People and what we believe. I was hoping that a set of statements would help others understand where Second Amendment advocates are coming from when they argue against additional restrictions on firearm ownership. This information is even more important today, as our president officially began new push for new laws that we believe will make America a more dangerous place.
I would love to hear from Gun People and non-gun people alike about this list. Does it accurately convey what you believe? Did I leave off any important statements that help clarify your position on the Second Amendment, on gun control, and on firearms in general? Please let me know in the comments if you have any feedback.
- Gun People take the Second Amendment literally: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Gun people believe that “the right of the people” is a natural right, as opposed to a privilege, and they understand that the Founding Fathers chose the words “arms” instead of “muskets” or “flintlock rifles” because they knew that more advanced weapons would eventually be developed to replace the current state of the art. Gun people take the phrase “shall not be infringed” very seriously. They believe that—absent very specific extenuating circumstances such as certain criminal convictions or psychiatric diagnoses—a citizen should never have to ask any government entity for permission to own (“keep”) and carry (“bear”) a firearm.
- Gun People hold life to be God’s (or Nature’s, if you prefer) most important gift. They believe that protecting innocent lives is a duty of all free men and women, and they see the sacred right to self-protection and self-preservation as sacrosanct. Because of this, Gun People believe that any person or entity that makes a serious, overt attempt to deprive them (or any other innocent party) of life and limb immediately forfeits any benefit of the doubt. Gun People believe that protecting innocent life by taking out a bad guy may be unfortunate and tragic (especially for the person who has to live with the consequences of killing, regardless of exigent circumstances), but is actually a very proper, very moral choice.
- Gun People believe that the only reason deadly force is ever justified is when another person has made a serious, overt attempt to deprive them (or any other innocent party) of life and limb. On the other hand, Gun People understand that no person has the right to take another person’s life solely because of strong emotions (“I’m pissed as hell”) or because of words (“You stupid son of a bitch!”) or because of perceived slights (“You cut me off, you bastard!”) or because of differences of opinion (“The Oakland Raiders rule!” “The Oakland Raiders suck!”). Gun People will condemn anyone who uses any type of weapon to harm or kill because of strong emotions, words, perceived slights or differences of opinion.
- Gun People believe that the Second Amendment affirms the right (not the privilege) of citizens to protect themselves from other people as well as from their government. This right is an individual right, not a collective one. Because it is merely affirmed—and not granted—by the Constitution, it cannot be taken away by any government. The right of self-protection is absolute. Gun People do not see themselves as part of a “collective,” as just another cog in the wheel of society. Rather, they believe each person is a valued, unique individual with a God-given (or Nature-given) right to exist and survive.
- Gun People believe that firearms are inanimate objects and therefore cannot be “evil,” though the people who use them can certainly be evil, or can use them to commit evil acts. Gun People know that guns are not “scary” when they’re in the hands of good people who understand them and follow the appropriate safety rules. Gun People treat firearms with the respect due to any other tool—such as a chainsaw or pneumatic nailer—that could injure or kill someone if handled inappropriately.
- Gun People know that guns are remarkably effective tools with a single use: sending projectiles downrange at high velocity. There are lots of reasons why a Gun Person would want to use one of these tools. They’re useful for defending one’s self, one’s friends and family members, one’s home (see “Castle Doctrine”) and one’s country. They’re also useful for hunting and recreation. Finally, Gun People see guns as a useful deterrent to prevent governments from violating the basic human rights of their citizens. Gun people strongly believe that no government agency should ever require a law-abiding citizen of sound mind to justify or explain his or her reasons for wanting to own a particular gun—or for wanting to own any gun.
- Most Gun People agree with a few truly necessary restrictions on gun ownership. For example, most Gun People would agree with prohibiting felons, people with specific mental illnesses (those that render a person unable to make coherent decisions or determine right from wrong), and certain non-citizens from possessing guns. They believe that stripping a person’s right to self-defense should only be done as a last resort, and must be subject to Due Process. Gun People support law enforcement (local, state and federal) in efforts to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, as long as those efforts don’t deny law-abiding citizens the right to self-defense.
- Gun People believe that restrictions on the type of firearm a person can own almost always turn into a slippery slope. For example, in the past the federal government has promoted bans on weapons because they supposedly had no military use. In more recent years, the government has argued for banning other firearms for the opposite reason: because they resembled those used by the military. Gun People understand that any ban on entire categories of firearms is an attempt to disarm citizens, and is likely to have little effect on criminals. In spite of this, most Gun People begrudgingly accept heightened ownership requirements on a few limited classes of firearms, such as fully automatic or explosive weapons. However, severely restricting or banning entire classes of guns (especially fictional or arbitrary categories) is unacceptable to most Gun People.
- Gun People disagree with any and all restrictions on a citizen’s right to gun ownership based on political views, “thought crimes,” group affinity or affiliation, or unproven accusations. Gun People understand that denying a citizen the right to self-protection absent a criminal conviction or valid psychiatric diagnosis is a violation of the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment, and cannot be tolerated. Gun People understand that government restrictions of this kind almost always lead to the restriction of other God-given (or Nature-given) rights. They also know enough history to recognize that gun registration schemes have almost always been a prelude to confiscation policies, and should not be allowed.
- Gun People understand that every time a tragic, high-profile shooting takes place, a certain element in society will inevitably rush to blame the gun instead of the person who used the gun, and will use the shooting as a pretext to call for new restrictions that most likely would not have prevented the tragic incident in the first place. Gun People understand that bans, waiting periods and buyback programs are ineffective because they serve mainly to disarm law-abiding citizens, and not criminals. They also understand that so-called “gun-free zones” are entirely ineffective at curbing violent behavior, and in fact may serve to encourage violence against our society’s most vulnerable citizens. Gun People get the fact that the only true deterrant against a malicious or insane person with a gun is another person with a gun. Finally, Gun People know that “gun control” is mostly about control, and only peripherally about guns. They also know that a state in which only the police have guns is called a “police state.”