Gun Ownership: Right or Privilege?
There is no question that throughout history, authorities have sought to have a monopoly of force. They seek to create a citizenry totally dependent on authority for social control (and unable to do anything beyond accepting controls implemented by authority).
Essentially, authority fears an armed citizenry, either because “lone wolves” or criminals can attack individual security officials or because armed citizens can foment rebellion or counter (and possibly prevent) government repression. And when citizens have had military training and combat experience, government concern rises proportionally.
In these societies, individual gun ownership is intensely controlled. To legally obtain a pistol, for example, one might be required to pass a security legal review; pay substantial fees, regularly renewed; take courses in gun safety that need to be frequently repeated; leave the weapon at a police station or secure it in a strongbox/safe that is locked.
Personal safety is not considered a sufficient explanation for obtaining a weapon. Indeed, the hoops and hurdles for obtaining a weapon are so protracted and detailed that one might conclude only a fanatic would endure them—exactly the type of person that security officials would want to prevent obtaining a weapon of individual destruction.
The attitude in the United States is existentially different. Historically, many believe that armed “Minutemen” defeated the British Army to win the Revolutionary War against Great Britain. Securing and maintaining American liberty was based on the armed citizen. Consequently, the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution not only authorizes a “militia” but, as recently interpreted by the Supreme Court, guarantees the right of individuals to possess firearms.
This constitutional protection for gun ownership has been persistently attacked by those who believe that any gun ownership by private citizens creates an implicit incentive to assault others personally and generates societal instability corporately.
Indeed, it is also clear that President Obama and the current administration, had they their “druthers,” would make individual gun ownership illegal and/or create mechanisms to confiscate such weapons or make it virtually impossible to obtain them legally. As a group that has had no military experience and, one suspects, has never fired a weapon let alone owned one, their appreciation for the rights of gun owners and the culture that fosters their attitudes is minimal to nonexistent.
The current proximate point of attack for gun haters is “assault weapons.” These are characterized as military-style weapons designed essentially for killing people in large numbers, and their critics apparently believe they are automatic weapons that will fire as long as the shooter holds a finger on the trigger. Such, however, is not the case for the weapons under discussion. These are “semi-automatic” weapons where you must squeeze the trigger for each individual shot fired. They are not military weapons.
To be sure, you can kill and injure individuals in significant numbers if you attack an unarmed group. You can have “assault bread knives” in the hands of demented individuals.
- In December 1989, a crazed anti-feminist shot 28 and killed 14 women at École Polytechnique in Montreal, Canada, with a semi-automatic rifle.
- In July 2011 (following a truck bomb that killed 8 and injured over 200), a right-wing Norwegian shooter with a semi-automatic rifle killed 69 children and adults and injured 110 at an island summer camp.
- In December 2012, a shooter entered an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and killed 26 people (including 20 children) with a semi-automatic rifle (previously he had killed his mother).
- In June 2016, a shooter entered a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., armed with a semi-automatic rifle, killed 49 persons and injured 53 before being killed by police.
All of these weapons were legally obtained. Indicators of potential violence are all ex post facto. Nor is obtaining a firearm akin to purchasing a tube of toothpaste. For example, normally, a citizen of Virginia must visit a licensed gun dealer, complete multiple forms that are reviewed by law enforcement authorities, purchase a license, and wait several days for “clearance” prior to obtaining a pistol.
One way to prevent further shootings is to encourage more rather than fewer persons to carry weapons. So-called gun-free zones only advertise the “chickens” are ripe for weasels to slaughter. Had 10 percent of the patrons of the Orlando gay bar held concealed weapons permits, the shooter would have been stopped sooner.
And if Islamic fundamentalism motivates shooters, restricting the rights of non-Islamic citizens to defend themselves is asinine.
David T. Jones is a retired U.S. State Department senior foreign service career officer who has published several hundred books, articles, columns, and reviews on U.S.–Canadian bilateral issues and general foreign policy. During a career that spanned over 30 years, he concentrated on politico-military issues, serving as adviser for two Army chiefs of staff. Among his books is “Alternative North Americas: What Canada and the United States Can Learn From Each Other.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.