If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; may your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our Countrymen. - Samuel Adams
It should come as no surprise that in the debate over gun control in America that there is a clear cut partisan divide. The interesting numbers emerge when polling delves into details of specific policy proposals: expanded background checks and bans on both “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines enjoy public support by a pretty healthy margin, even though the party seen to be more protective of gun owners enjoys current legislative majorities both nationally and in a large number of state legislatures. The case for why the Second Amendment is important (made eloquently here) is not some arcane legal argument impossible to understand in flyover country. So why would a not insignificant number of voters view the right to keep and bear arms as an important Constitutionally protected right but also be open to government limits being placed on that right? What happened to “shall not be infringed”?
The first reason can be called the End of History fallacy: the belief that fear of what in the above link Mr. Williamson calls “tyrannical domestic government, something that weighed heavily on the minds of the Founders” is ridiculous in the 21st century. This idea, that the American citizenry couldn’t possibly ever need to take up arms against their government, is seen as reasonable by many who are generally gun rights supporters because...well, it just doesn’t seem possible, does it? We fight our battles with lawyers now, not guns. We’re civilized people. We vote, pay our taxes, and the federal government is just something that makes us yell at the television. Obviously it doesn’t take much general knowledge of history or even current world affairs to recognize how thin the veneer of civilization tends to be in actuality.
The End of History fallacy has a second component which can only be applied to people who favor restrictions on gun ownership if one is a little less charitable about their motives. These people, generally leftists and often favoring outright gun confiscation, can’t imagine ever taking up arms against government because they like government control. They may complain about particular politicians or policies but they never criticize government as an institution, mainly because the larger and more intrusive it is the more of their preferred policies become law. Of course armed resistance will never be required against the government if it’s only kicking in the doors of those crazy gun owners.
The second reason Second Amendment supporters favor some “common sense” restrictions on gun ownership is, in light of recent events in Las Vegas, a touchier subject. In short, it is the willingness to trade liberty for security (or rather what is really just the illusion of security): making “automatic” weapons illegal for the vast majority of people and banning things like high-capacity magazines and bump stocks makes people feel better. The mere suggestion that the federal government has no business regulating any gun (the Second Amendment doesn’t say “shall not be infringed...except for the really scarily lethal stuff”) will get you labeled as kooky by a lot of people who say they support Second Amendment rights. But the fact remains that if the federal government can regulate one class of weapon for being “automatic” it becomes much more difficult to make a logically consistent argument against equally strict regulations on “semi-automatic” weapons just because they fire at a slower rate. The fox is in the henhouse, and the distinction between rates of fire may not be enough to keep it from eating the hens.
This desire for safety, and the concomitant relinquishing of rights, isn’t going anywhere. Most Americans are willing to allow government intrusion into their lives if the government just convinces them it will keep their kids safe, and the anti-gun crowd is very good at convincing people their kids aren’t safe. The thinking that laws can prevent bad things from happening has pervaded not just gun laws but every aspect of our system; Bernie Sanders seems to believe that if only the government were in charge of everything we would all die in our sleep at 90. Innocent people being gunned down is horrific and tragic, there’s no one arguing otherwise. But eventually innocent Americans will be killed by car bombs or a gas attack. Which rights will they ask you to relinquish in exchange for your safety then?
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.