The debate over guns in America has been an ongoing, contentious and propaganda filled affair for some time now. For most of American history, the keeping and bearing of arms has been a relative non-issue. Ironically the earliest concerns regarding weapons of any kind revolved around the concealing of weapons, yet concealed carry is by far the preference today. Of course there are those factions today who would like to severely restrict, if not outright ban, the carrying of weapons altogether.
Many argue for more gun laws, many argue for fewer gun laws and some would simply like to see the laws that we currently have in place effectively enforced. The question is, what is the purpose of a law? What does or what can a gun law actually do? Those who argue for more gun control laws typically argue on the basis of public safety and preventing gun violence. The problem with that argument is that laws do not and cannot accomplish that goal. The purpose of law is to punish not prevent. While punishment may deter the honest among us, it does not deter the acts of those who are not inclined to honesty or goodness in the first place. Much like the old saying that a lock only stops an honest person, a law only stops those who are law-biding.
The first real issue America had with the keeping and bearing of arms came during post-Civil War Reconstruction. After the United States defeated the Confederate States and reassembled the Union, they were faced with two perceived threats, freed slaves with a potential “ax to grind” and former “enemy combatants” in their midst. For the first time in American history a fundamental right, the right to keep and bear arms, was severely infringed in the South. Some states, like Texas, are only just now regaining a small part of that right back as they passed open carry with a permit this year that takes effect Jan. 1, 2016.
Those on the gun rights side of the debate point to the sheer volume of gun laws already in place and either focus on the lack of enforcement or decry the ineffectiveness of what has already been implemented. Often you’ll hear the number of 20,000 gun laws already on the books, though a source for that number has never been found, much less cited by those who use it. A Brookings Institute study in 2002 identified “about 300 major state and federal laws, and an unknown but shrinking number of local laws” as of 1999. Whether it is 300 or 20,000 is irrelevant if those who are to enforce those laws do not have a thorough understanding and comprehension of them as well as the manpower and funding to do so.
The Founders of this great nation understood both the purpose and function of law, something that our modern “enlightened” population has lost.
It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood. – James Madison
So, what is the answer? More laws that cannot be fully understood or properly enforced? While that may provide some false sense of security for the masses, it does not solve any problem and in fact may exacerbate the problems we seek to address. That false sense of security can and does lead to a population that ignores their personal responsibility for their own self-preservation. Those who pay no heed to the law in the first place then have a target-rich environment in which the odds are in their favor that an intended victim will be defenseless.
Should we have no gun laws? We are a nation of both rights and laws, the right to keep and bear arms being among them. Laws that pertain to a right should be limited to the abuse of that right. Like abusing your free speech right by shouting FIRE in a crowded theater should be punishable, so too should abusing your right to keep and bear arms. Use of a firearm to intimidate, coerce, bully, rob, harm or kill another person should most definitely be punishable by law. Owning and carrying a firearm for ones own personal protection or the protection of others should not be denied to any American that is a free member of society. Nor should owning more powerful weapons that could aid in the defense of this nation from enemies foreign or domestic. The right to keep and bear arms is not just a personal protection issue, but an issue of the protection of our nation and way of life.
Only when the false sense of security provided by countless incomprehensible and largely unenforceable laws is removed will Americans once again embrace their personal responsibility. Only when law is once again seen in its proper context as a mechanism of punishment rather than control and prevention will such laws be again enforceable. Only when laws are once again few in number and comprehensible to the common man will they have meaning and value. One of the most dangerous threats to freedom is the persistent mindset that the answer to every problem is “there ought to be a law.”