Gun Control: Weighing In

People like to argue that when we lobby for gun control, we are throwing out the baby with the bath water, that people kill, not guns. Because we are a nation focused on particular individual rights to the exclusion others, we make this argument.

I lived in Europe for quite a few years, and there were times when I felt the government was prying into my business. As an American, I am very protective of my individual rights to privacy or to own essentially whatever I can afford.

But there is a flip side. Don’t I have a right, as the citizen of a developed nation (or just as a human being living wherever), to go to dinner downtown and not worry about getting shot? Or to pump gas in your average neighborhood without getting mugged at gunpoint, or worse? These are the rights I would like to see our government protect. I want to know that wherever my children are, they are safe from the kind of random tragedy we experience and grieve over as a nation over and over again. My right to buy and carry a pistol will not protect my children at school or myself as I pump gas. The easy acquisition of guns in America puts us all at risk and at the mercy of anyone who comes unhinged or who has grown up with so much violence they have no inhibition to use violence to address a perceived problem or injustice.

Just as we are the only developed nation which still at the end of the day does not recognize a certain basic level of medical care as an ethical right (and/or the right of a citizen), we do not see protecting the average person from the misuse of firearms as the government’s job, but we should.

The right to bear arms served its purpose. It made perfect sense at earlier junctures in our history, but we now live with the illusion that we can protect ourselves from others wishing to harm us if we have our own gun. Yet, law enforcement officers will tell you that many gun owners have their own guns used against them or that rape is a crime of domination that is rarely halted by the female successfully protecting herself with a gun. We want to believe that if we had a gun we could protect ourselves, but this is illusory and a belief constructed out of a very reasonable fear of the randomness of violent crime in this country.

While living in European cities, I was exposed to several dangerous situations, because that’s just what it means to be out and about in metropolitan areas (no matter how careful you are), but there was some comfort in knowing that it was highly unlikely that someone was going to draw a gun and blow me, the innocent bystander, away. In contrast, I have been out on the street in NYC, minding my own business, suddenly hearing the surreal sound of gunshots being  fired, and taking in the news the next day that a body was found on the rooftop of my building. I live in a quieter town than the Big Apple, but people get shot at gas stations and atm’s here on a regular basis.

I would like to see us protect the right to be in public and at home without fear of being fired on. Just as piling up nuclear weapons wasn’t the answer to lowering the likelihood of nuclear war but disarmament was, we as a country should limit firearm ownership to professionals who need them and hunters who are willing to earn and renew certifications. The right to bear arms was established to prevent a tyrannical government from gaining control, but the founding fathers did not foresee the veritable wild west that would continue into the 21st century. The right I would like to see protected is the right not  to need a gun in order for me or my loved ones to be safe.

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  1. Jenn says:

    I am not promoting this website, but there is an interesting collection of stats on this subject:

  2. Jenn says:

    By the way, I completely agree with you. Being part Native American, hunting is a way of life for many in my family. But, with hunting for food, for one’s own life, brings respect for life in general, and respect for the life of the animal which will in turn ensure your life. Handguns and assult rifles have no respect for life, their job is to end or destroy life. This is not a quality that bodes well in any civil society. I prefer a society freed from handguns and assult rifles.

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