Disarm Criminals, not Law Abiding Citizens
A Mr. Knowitall article, from The Thinker, 12/8/95. Alec Rawls © 1995/1998

Analysis, my friends. Analysis. If you too want to know it all, you must proceed from analysis. The purpose of gun control laws is what? To make us safer. What is the criterion of safety? Something makes us safer when it tends to tilt advantage from criminal aggressors to those who would defend themselves and each other against crime.

Now analyze the provisions of existing and proposed gun control laws in terms of this criterion. The Brady bill imposed a federal waiting period (a "cooling off" period) before a gun can be purchased, and it outlawed high capacity magazines. Who is more impeded by a waiting period to buy guns, an aggressor or a defender? Aggressors pick their time. A waiting period causes them a minor inconvenience. The rare aggressor who still has no criminal record just waits two weeks. Recidivists must buy on the black market anyway, where there is no waiting period. Nearly all perpetrators of violent crime already have criminal records and in this way are unaffected by gun control laws.

Defenders, on the other hand, cannot pick their time. Their need is urgent. Also, since they respect the law, they have neither the willingness nor the necessary knowledge to satisfy their need via black markets. Thus a waiting period tilts advantage towards aggressors. An on-the-spot check for criminal history before gun purchase would make us much safer than a "cooling off" period. Do you know what it means to "cool someone off" in street slang? That's right. That's what a "cooling off" period actually is. A period in which aggressors have the advantage to "cool off" their victims. Analysis shows that to us. See how easy it is?

Gun control advocates think that by nibbling gun rights around the edges they can make the world safer, but the fact is that every piecemeal law against guns (rather than against criminals having guns) works to the advantage of criminal aggressors and against law abiding citizens. Analyze the ban on high capacity ammunition magazines. Aggressors can simply bring along extra magazines when they go to commit their crimes. It is only those who are armed defensively who gain a significant advantage from not having to carry an extra clip all the time. Similarly, the law that requires me to transport my gun locked up and unloaded merely guarantees that a criminal will always be able to get the jump on me. The criminal loads his weapon when he goes to commit his crimes. It is the defender whose position depends on readiness.

The most fundamental infringement of gun rights (not a nibble, but a complete reversal of the right to bear arms) is the conspiracy among bay area Police Chiefs and County Sheriffs to impose a blanket denial of gun carry permit applications. This is the epitome of disarming those who own guns for self-defense and leaving them at the mercy of those who live outside the law. This might not seem important to those who live in safe neighborhoods, but for those who live in one of the many areas where criminal predators are constantly casing for vulnerable persons and property, few things could matter more.

Earlier in our nation's history it was considered not just a universal right, but a universal obligation, for every law abiding citizen to be prepared to defend himself and others. People like to think that we somehow live in a fundamentally different world now, where we can pass this obligation off to Big Brother who can keep us safe. Morally, this could never be true, and in practice, the same percentage of humans have predatory tendencies today as two hundred years ago.

When it comes to the age old problem of how to tilt advantage from agressors to defenders, there is absolutely no doubt about the most advantageous disposition of power. Let those who give every evidence of being on the side of right be armed when they feel the need and do everything in our power to disarm those who have demonstrated their willingness to criminally aggress. I don't think anyone can have any serious doubt about that. Is Worf unarmed? Is Data unarmed? Where did people ever get the idea that modernity should be disarmed? What analysis does this proceed from? None.

When law abiding citizens are free to arm themselves, crime has a natural ceiling. As an area gets more dangerous, more law abiding citizens carry arms, which deters crime, especially when the law does its part by severely punishing armed criminals and armed crime. But in California and many other states now, where decentralized citizen response to crime is impaired by strict limits on the carrying of guns for self-defense, there is no natural ceiling to the level of criminal violence.

The criminals, being the armed party in an unarmed society, have a permanent advantage that continues to make crime tempting to the criminally minded no matter how high the level of crime gets. Then because there are so many predators thriving, the criminals feel the need to be armed against each other. There are many places in this country where the lid has blown completely off. The criminals have taken control and the police can do nothing to protect the citizenry, yet we still do not let the law abiding citizens protect themselves!

Strangely, gun control laws in this country are typically not driven by concern for traditional crime and how to defeat it, but by fear of the exremely rare and, in terms of the number of victims, relatively small problem of criminal insanity: the rampaging madman who shoots up a McDonald's or a schoolyard or a train or a law office. But the analysis in this case is the same. Just like other criminals, these people are willing to break the law. Laws don't stop them! If laws against murder don't stop them, who can imagine that laws against loading guns, or carrying guns, or owning guns, will stop them? All gun control laws do is stop the law abiding people from being able to defend themselves when these madmen pop up.

Look to Israel if you want to see how a country that has a vastly larger problem with murderous rampages deals with it. The government urges citizens to carry arms so that terrorist murderers can be cut down as quickly as possible. That's what analysis says to do. Now guess which country has the lowest murder rate in the world. If you are suprised, you haven't gotten the hang of this analysis business yet.

Even if all guns could be eliminated, that would be a vastly inferior to disarming only the criminals. We don't want parity with criminals, we want advantage over them. If a criminal has a knife, I don't want a knife, I want a gun. Suppose we could go further, and eliminate knives, and even sticks, would that make a safer world for women, when the average man has twice as much upper body strength as woman and can easily strangle her with his hands?

Besides, if people who secretly nurse murderous rage were denied handguns, it is obvious what they would turn to: bombs, which nature has provided about a million ways to make, hundreds of them easy enough for a child to master. A couple of garbage cans full of fertilizer and fuel oil sparked by a timer destroyed the Oklahoma federal building. A gunman on a rampage reveals himself. He can only strike once. It is just a question of how long before he is cut down. But it is pure luck we caught Timothy McVeigh. We should realize when we have it good.

I pick up my shotgun, which I keep loaded with two rounds of birdshot, two rounds of buckshot, and two slugs. It is now what it's predecessors were to my predecessors. It is my advantage, should I be alerted to crime afoot. At such a time, and in readiness for such a time, it is one of my most valued possessions, as valued as paper to write on and hours in a day. Government cannot take my most valued possessions. It can tax me somewhat, and I will give up my least valued expenditures to meet that obligation. But my most valued? That can only be punishment for crime.


Next article in Mr Knowitall series: Political Correctness: the Bastard Child of Female Sexual Leverage

Next article in Liberty volume of Moral Science: The Priority of Liberty

End of Rawls for Sheriff series.

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