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Gun Fights

4:30 PM, Jul 26, 2012 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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If gun rights are about nothing more than hunting and target practice ... well, then, the battle is lost, according to people who are absolutists on the Second Amendment to the same degree that Dionne, no doubt, is on the First. Free citizens do not own guns because the government has granted them permission to hunt deer and bust clay pigeons. Or even because the government has conceded that it cannot entirely keep the peace and people may need guns for self-defense. The pro-gun rights position is that gun ownership by free people is a check on the government and a defense against tyranny. It's that simple and was summed up by George Orwell when he wrote,

Even as it stands, the Home Guard could only exist in a country where men feel themselves free. The totalitarian states can do great things, but there is one thing they cannot do: they cannot give the factory-worker a rifle and tell him to take it home and keep it in his bedroom. That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage, is the symbol of democracy.  It is our job to see that it stays there.

The pro-gun, Second Amendment position is that it is not merely possible to have a society where citizens are free to own guns but necessary if that society is, indeed, to be free. And that gun ownership does not necessarily lead to a dangerous unlawful society.  

This last point is crucial and the argument is easy enough to make by citing the examples of Chicago and Vermont (where I live).

Chicago has plenty of guns. Most of them, doubtless, illegal since the city has, on its books, some of the most severe anti-gun legislation in the country. However, people are routinely killed by guns in Chicago and many of the victims are, by the way, "children." Much of the killing is done by gang members who like to arm themselves with "assault rifles," to include AK-47s, some of them converted so they will fire automatically. Illegal, of course, but in a society that is approaching a state of nature, who cares?  

Vermont also has plenty of guns. I do some shooting at an old gravel pit and it is routine to see people shooting AK-47s and other "assault rifles" there. None of them "children," however. No permit is required for concealed carry in Vermont. And the state has a very low crime rate. Second lowest in the nation, according to one of its senators.

Finally, pro-gun rights people wonder just what they could expect in return for compromising on what is, for them, a fundamental issue. What kind of enforcement can we expect if we pass new gun laws? Drugs are illegal and we have a DEA to enforce the laws. We still have lots of drugs and corruption. Illegal immigration is ... well, illegal. We have a big agency of the government that is charged with enforcing immigration laws and securing the border. And we have a lot of illegal aliens. We already have, in fact, an agency of the government that is supposed to deal with violations of federal firearms laws. And the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms engaged in a program by which guns were purchased illegally, shipped across an international border, and used in the commission of crimes to include the murder of a federal law-enforcement officer.

So even a gun-rights supporter who might be wiling to bend a little wonders just what Leviathan would accomplish in the way of reducing crime if it had new authority and new laws to work with. He does not share the faith of Dionne and others in the ability of the government to do much more than make itself larger and more intrusive and, in many cases, exacerbate the very problems it sets out to solve.

Which is tolerable, if barely, in the case of many things the government does ineptly and expensively. Airport security comes to mind. But not when we are dealing with fundamental things.  

Like the Second Amendment.

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