I know that the shooting in Arizona has everyone throwing blame around and speculating wildly about all manner of things, actual, imagined and the grey in-between. But I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about guns more broadly.
I’m generally ambivalent about guns in this country. I grew up in a family where people hunt and shoot sporting clays and use guns recreationally in a safe and responsible way. So I have always been sympathetic to that point of view. And generally im pretty sympathetic to arguments that emphasize personal liberty and responsibility. All that being said, I do think it’s a pretty difficult to square constitutional originalism with the kinds of arguments that conservatives and gun enthusiasts generally make regarding the 2nd amendment. And it seems to me to be one of the more blatant ironies -if not outright hypocrisies- of American politics that it is usually originalists, or people who fancy themselves originalist, that make those arguments. Now, I don’t expect people not to disagree with me about this. That’s fine, I’m perfectly willing to have a good faith discussion about it but, having said all that, let’s put the constitutional stuff aside for a minute.
We have an enormous amount of gun violence here in the US. Really, it’s staggering how much more gun violence we have compared to the rest of the world. And there is a tendency on the part of conservatives to gloss over that fact. You here lots of arguments about how the people who perpetrate gun violence have their guns illegally. Or the percentage of people who use guns in a safe responsible way vs. the people who commit crimes and so on. I’m not unsympathetic to those line of reasoning. I think that those are both valid points. But the fact remains, we have easier access to guns, we have more people who use guns, WE HAVE MORE GUNS. A natural consequence of that policy, a natural consequence of that FREEDOM, is that more people who may at some point be inclined to use that weapon -who may be inclined to abuse that freedom- in a violent way are going to have a access to weapon that is designed to take human life, whether through legitimate means or otherwise. That is not an argument for gun control or for having no guns or whatever, it just a simple statement of fact. Until we can all acknowledge the simple reality that more guns in the hands of more people can’t help but lead to more guns in the hands of more violent people then we can’t ever really have a reasonable conversation about gun policy.
Again, I’m not trying to argue that people should not have this freedom. Only that it is irresponsible not to acknowledge the social consequences of that freedom.