I am pleased that the gun debate continues in the United States. I am saddened that it takes the killing of children in school to reignite it from time to time, and wish it would continue without any tragic events. I think we’re making a fundamental mistake in the approach though, much like the mistake many make when talking about curing cancer. There is not one cancer, there are many cancers. An effective treatment for one type of cancer may have no effect on another. Likewise, there are many issues related to gun safety, and what might prevent injury or deaths caused by one of those issues could be quite different from what is needed to prevent harm from another. But when somebody proposes something that might help one cause, it is dismissed because it won’t help all causes, so we end up talking past each other. I think recognizing that is an important step forward.
I, and many others, have been sickened by the calls to ban Muslims from coming to the United States, and I’ve written plenty (here, here, and here) about these fears and how sad the blatant bigotry makes me. In response to calls for civility, and calls to stop being bigoted about Muslims, some gun owners have responded (acting like hated victims, another theme I covered earlier here and here) by trying to draw a similar comparison with gun control advocates.
Although I see their point, and understand where they’re coming from, there are some pretty big flaws in the comparison, with a dash of straw man in the mix.
…In fact, it’s incredibly complicated, at least in the United States. Like it or not, wish it were true or not, we have a history of gun rights in the United States. The Second Amendment of the Constitution does not actually establish that right, but it makes its existence clear, and makes it unconstitutional to infringe that right. “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
This is not unlike the way that other rights were described in the Constitution. The First Amendment, for example: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”