Ken white wrote a great guide to being less wrong about guns. I encourage y’all to read it:
Last night the President of the United States — the President of the United States — suggested that people should be deprived of Second Amendment rights if the government, using secret criteria, in a secret process using secret facts, puts them onto a list that is almost entirely free of due process or judicial review. Because we’re afraid, because they could be dangerous was his only justification; he didn’t engage the due process issue at all. But he was merely sauntering down a smooth, comfortable, well-lit road paved by most Republicans and Democrats before him since the rise of “tough on crime” rhetoric and especially since 9/11. The President — and other Democrats — may hope that Americans will trust progressives not to overreach in restricting rights. [Emphasis in original omitted- again: Read the whole thing.]
The number of guns I own is precisely one. Here’s a picture:
For those unable to load or see the image- it’s a Nerf gun.
My interest in guns is mostly limited to an admiration of all things clockwork and mechanical. And let’s be honest here: Explosives are fun, as Mythbusters have demonstrated time and time again. They are often beautifully engineered, and even the pieces of crap like derringers are interesting to think about from an engineering perspective. You know what though? So are nuclear weapons, and I’m personally of the position that if we’re going to have them, the people who wield them should meet a level of responsibility that exceeds that of most. So my fascination with guns (or nukes) is not enough to compel me to own one.
That leads me to the next cogent idea: The idea that responsibilities are part of life, and with regards to this discussion, part of owning a firearm. Just because I find guns kind of interesting, it doesn’t mean that I’m in hurry to get one and go through the rigmarole of licensing, storage, and practice. I have no use for one and likely never will. I take a dim view of people trying to evade any kind of consequential imposition on their ability to own guns. Impositions that often amount to the codification of responsibilities.
That being said, I also understand that the ability to own a gun (whether we restrict it to muskets or allow people to own a fucking tank) is a function of liberty. It’s easy to say that guns are solely for killing people, but the number of gun owners who haven’t killed and will never kill anyone is a sign that this is less true than people think it is. For most, guns aren’t necessary. But, I think it’s important to acknowledge that life is so much more than what is necessary. That often what we consider most intrusive is the arm of the state reaching into our lives to divert not our needs, but our wants. There is the altogether noble and difficult to dismiss belief that individual rights cannot never be fully indulged, but should be maximized when and where possible.
Then comes the entirely reasonable question: Where and when is this possible with weapons? We don’t let people own armed-and-ready battleships for instance. We acknowledge that there are limits, and that these limits are founded on society’s interests as a whole. Simply crying out that a liberty is being taken from you is meaningless when you already acknowledge that not all liberties are permitted. If it was for no reason, then sure, having liberties taken is unjustifiable. But every now and then a credible reason comes along that is more than a whimsical overreach. People who like guns very much often convince themselves that the people who seek greater restrictions are somehow always acting out of whim and emotion, but history has shown that they often react to concrete cases of gun violence. Do more people die in traffic? Sure, but there’s a balance between what we need as a functioning commercial society, the liberty interests at stake, and the number of fatalities. We license drivers, we demand insurance, we police the roads, and we take precautions as a society to mitigate the damage. We don’t throw our hands up in the air, helpless, and pretend that nothing can ever be done to at least reduce road deaths based on the premise that there will always be bad drivers.
Then again when I listen to the rhetoric from the left, I often find that they are all too ready to dismiss my right to be treated like everyone else. Claiming to respect the equality of all is well and good, but meaningless if you only respect equality and justice when it doesn’t clash too harshly with other beliefs. The rush to a consensus on the left ban people on the watchlist from having guns is understandable, but betrays an abandonment of principle. We all know that these lists aren’t open, subject to real examination or audit, that they target minorities disproportionately. they were born out a fear of the other. I may not be Muslim, but I sure as fuck have a Muslim name, and I sure as fuck share the color scheme. I am the other. I’ve also been mentally ill, the new favorite sacrificial lamb of the right.
So have a lot of Americans. Mental illness does not a murderer make. It simply doesn’t. There is no criteria in the DSM-V that has “murderer” as a symptom of a mental disorder or disease. Sometimes the mentally ill can be a danger to themselves or others, but so can people who have no mental illness whatsoever. If someone is a danger in this way, they shouldn’t be in possession of a weapon regardless of mental status. Is Brock Turner mentally ill? Did it “force” him to rape someone? No. We acknowledge that he’s a piece of shit who’s the sole owner of his actions. We don’t minimize it by pretending some non-existent mental illness made him less culpable. We don’t need to be restigmatizing mental illness to create a shitty and unreliable criteria for who can own a gun.
It’s not okay to throw vulnerable populations under the bus because they’re losing a right you personally don’t want to see anyone have. Seeing minorities lose their rights selectively should not be a consolation prize. I don’t want a gun, but I do want to be equal under the law. It should not be a big ask, especially on the left, to demand that we treat everyone equally and demand equal access to due process as a basic condition for legislation. This tendency of the left to quickly forget the vulnerable in the short term is beyond disturbing, and I have no interest in letting it slide by.
Do I have solutions and thoughts and ideas about how gun ownership in this country should work? Sure I do. But I’m one person. I can’t make the discussion functional just by injecting my ideas into it. If the discussion doesn’t work on a basic level (where people can at least acknowledge the points they disagree with), then I’m not interested in having it. This is more than some nihilistic attempt to call everyone out as irrational. I think this is an important issue, and I think the way we talk about it makes much-needed progress impossible.