This post started off as a response to James Elliot's post In Defense of the Self and the Second Amendment but I rambled so much I decided not to clog up his comments section. I do go a little off topic here but I know you love it (I don't know who you are but I know you love it!!!)
While I liked the post and indeed would feel fairly comfortable about the presence of large numbers of guns in my environment if all gun owners showed the same consideration as James has; gun control is only sought because large numbers of people don't treat firearms with any kind of respect. Freedom, personal and otherwise can and does exist in the absence of the second amendment. While it is certainly true that an individual can use other weapons of their own construction or even their physical body to attack others, guns allow an immediate and wholly disproportionate increase in one individual’s ability to coerce others. Guns are very simple to use, you can argue about their effective use but I suspect most people would not dismiss even an untrained child holding a loaded gun. It is very easy to kill someone with a gun, or even kill lots of people. I haven’t studied the American constitution or its amendments in great depth so correct me if I am wrong here but the amendment only seems to say that the people have the right to “keep and bear arms“. It doesn’t seem to address what kind of arms so it is open to debate in either direction. Presumably at the time it was referring to firearms then available but times have changed. Is it my constitutionally protected right to own a tank or a fighter jet or a nuclear weapon? I am assuming not. We can and must amend our rights in reasonable response to changes in technology or economic realities. I am guessing there is other legislation that prevents an ordinary citizen from owning a nuke. The common sense reason for preventing a private citizen from owning things like tanks and F-22s is that they are too dangerous. The question then becomes one of degree. What kind of “arms” are too dangerous for private citizens to own? Is a pistol ok; what about an M16 or go a little further to an M60? Is a .50 Barrett sniper rifle too much? What about RPGs and Racket launchers?
We must have some restriction on what arms a person has the right to bear. The second amendment seems fairly broad in those terms. It is certainly not unreasonable to suggest that guns in general (particularly modern guns) are too dangerous for general civilian ownership. The matter is certainly worthy of debate. On the point of self defence, a lot of private citizens in the U.S. own guns but the U.S. has the highest rate of gun death of any first world country. It is not unreasonable to assume that more guns will likely lead to more gun deaths, either as a result of accidents or of people simply making use of the greater availability of guns when settling disputes. Given the fact the many democratic nations have managed to remain free despite great restrictions on individual gun ownership and the fact the more guns just don’t make people individually safer, I am not sure either argument really holds much water. In the colonial times of the birth of the U.S. I’m sure it made perfect sense. I am Irish and in Ireland not even the police have guns. While gun related deaths are on the rise and I’m sure that eventually the police will be armed (I think they already should be) I doubt that arming the general public with a wide variety of firearms from pistols to assault rifles would do anything but raise the level of gun death. Despite the fact that I quite like guns personally and would love to own a few, I don’t really consider it a particular violation of my rights that I am not allowed to have one or at least not an unjustified restriction. The truth is that if I am allowed to have one, everyone around me is, at the very least, potentially much less safe; be it through my incompetence or my malice. That might even be considered an impact on the rights of those around me but that might be taking it too far?
In general Americans make a big fuss about liberty on this issue. I consider Ireland to be as free or freer than the U.S. at this point. I can ridicule our prime minister in public if I want to without being confined to a “free speech zone” or being investigated by any number of secret police like organisations. The police in this country seemingly have a harder time invading my private space than they do in the U.S. and the thing I am most thankful for is the notable absence of the huge number of government organisations that exist in the U.S. like the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the N.S.A., the D.I.A, the D.H.S. and many more; all removed from the already present local police and their own special divisions like S.W.A.T.
For a nation that prides itself on liberty and individual self-reliance there seems to be an almost paranoid quality in its approach to defence, national and personal.
Simply being allowed to own guns will never be a safeguard of freedom. In my opinion, the best safeguard of civil liberties and freedoms in a modern democracy is a free and objective press. Fox news and the slow and continuing slide of American press into that mode of highly partisan news reporting is a far greater threat in terms of your government becoming authoritarian than any restrictions placed on your rights to own guns. The G. “dubya” B. administration alone has demonstrated the means by which a democratic government restricts the freedoms of its citizens. It is not with tanks and bullets but with bills and legislation. A slow shifting of the boundaries of civil liberties heavy with terms like patriotism and freedom. America is no longer a land of patriots and it is well on it’s way to becoming a land of sycophantic nationalists. There is no better way to gain control over people than by getting them to think it is a good idea and of benefit to them and their security. That political objection can be effectively defeated by simply calling it “unpatriotic” or “un-American” is truly frightening. That the majority of votes cast on the patriot act were cast without the voter even having read it is not only frightening; it is dumbfounding.
It is such an obvious abuse of the democratic process but it was done in a reactionary “God bless America” moment so it was ok. Any country willing to abandon it’s democratic principles in the face of a relatively minor crisis (as opposed to say large scale invasion) is not really a true democracy at all. It is a democracy of connivance as much as conviction. It is like a man with a gun not interfering with your freedom only because things happen to be going the way he wants. I find it strange that American labels the invasion of a foreign country as an act of ‘defence’. The most powerful military an economic power on the planet invades a country about as geographically removed from it as possible and with absolutely no hope of mounting any kind of military threat to the U.S. and does to keep America safe and free…….WTF???? There is a pervasive idea amongst American soldiers and the America populace in general that a soldier serving in Iraq or Afghanistan is defending the freedom of the U.S. This is complete horseshit. This is complete and utterly obvious horseshit. GWB and his henchmen have made good use of this culture of paranoia and persecution and have actively sought to exaserbate it for their own ends. But I digress !
Getting back a little on topic, the goals and ideals of the founders of the U.S. were in my opinion noble and worthwhile particularly so in the time they were living. I think their ideas were progressive and well intentioned. Modern laws and rights do not have to continuously replicate or maintain old laws and rights to successfully replicate the intent and the ideals and there might well be situations where maintaining obsolete notions is actually counter to those ideals. Whether or not gun ownership falls into that category is definitely debateable. It is absolutely true that as of this moment American citizens have the constitutional right to bear arms. That says absolutely nothing about whether or not they should have that right.