A Few Questions About ‘Gun Control’

December 15, 2012

This is written in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting. Noted here because if you read this a month or two later, things will likely not have changed and you’ll likely have gone about your lives without thinking much about dead children.

These are intended as rhetorical questions because I don’t pretend to have any solutions. Just a few observations in question form…

1. Is the argument in favor of gun control about one person shooting another, or about one person shooting many? Because the former has been happening for decades, while the latter gets big, shocked reactions.

2. Does it matter if the guns used in mass shootings were acquired legally or not? Because it seems that unlawfully acquired guns still exist and would continue to exist in a ‘gun control world’. Beyond the slogans about criminals owning guns, isn’t the only real way to enforce severe gun control a search-and-seizure type of approach towards all citizens? Is that really going to happen in a society that doesn’t require breathalyzers for all cars? (Driving is a privilege, not a right, yet you’ll find very few instances where driving is enforced as stringently as would be suggested for guns.)

3. On the philosophical front, does it matter that the 2nd Amendment was framed as an anti-federal, pro-state militia issue and not an approval of private handgun ownership? In a world where Antonin Scalia says the Constitution is not a living document and is not to be re-interpreted over time, how can you balance the phrase “well regulated” with “the right…shall not be infringed”? Doesn’t the existence of a regulation suggest that a right is being infringed? Doesn’t the very phrasing of the amendment suggest that it really wasn’t a black/white issue for the framers and shouldn’t be for us today?

3a. Does anybody really think that a militia (whether it be state-run, or of the backwoods compound variety) would stand any chance against a modern federal government that truly wanted to take away your freedoms? Can’t a military with smart bombs and chemical weapons pretty much do anything it wants?

4. Do 2nd Amendment absolutists hold the same attitudes towards the 1st Amendment and other civil rights? Wouldn’t an intelligent person be forced to admit that there is no such thing as an absolute freedom? The 1st Amendment doesn’t allow me to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre, or sacrifice children for my religion, yet any new restriction to gun ownership leads to charges of totalitarianism and that notorious slippery slope.

5. In a scenario where a deranged person kills many, many people, are guns a convenient scapegoat?

If the Tucson shooter drove his car into the crowd instead, or if the Aurora shooter brought a gas can and a lighter into the theatre instead, or if the Sandy Hook shooter built pipe bombs instead…would we finally start talking about mental health in a more effective way?

6. Shouldn’t we be taking less of an “Us vs. Them” approach in preventing mass shootings and more of an “Us vs. Us” approach? Will pro-gun activists ever speak out about ways to prevent bad guys from getting guns? Will social services advocates ever speak about their unhinged clients/patients as being potential mass murderers?

Can’t we ever admit that our society is a very fragile construct and that we’re all in this together?