Tragedy Leeches Suck Again

Column by Emmett Harris.

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Senator Diane Feinstein is once again pimping a ban on so-called assault weapons. The defining characteristic that makes a gun an “assault weapon” is its appearance. To her, a menacing facade makes a gun bad. She should be careful because by that criterion, she would most certainly be classified as among the bad.

Weapons, regardless of appearance, are tools. They are neither good nor bad, just like a piece of granite is neither good nor bad. Tools are useful and, in the case of weapons, they may be used to extend a person’s natural right of self defense. They may also be used for hunting, target practice, or as collectibles. Which potential use takes precedence will depend on the individual and the circumstances in which he finds himself at a given point in time. But, if the circumstance is one of being attacked in person or property, use of a weapon – particularly a gun – is the most effective means of forestalling the threat.

President Barack Obama recognizes only one of the potential uses of guns in non-government-anointed hands: hunting. Hunting with a gun, according to him, is acceptable because it may be “part of your family’s traditions,” yet self-defense with a gun should be verboten. He, and others who share his desire to enact further restrictions on firearms ownership, really wish to supersede an individual’s decision-making by limiting the legal sphere of available options. The legal sphere, of course, will have no sympathy for context and situation, requiring that the application of self-defense be rendered one of simply praying for God or someone from the government (whichever one worships more) to act in time to stave off the threat. The choice of potential savior becomes even more limited if the attackers are wearing uniforms issued by the state.

Gun-control advocates are tragedy leeches, quick to pounce on any event stemming from private instances of murder. They thrust these events into the faces of the populace, with hopes of eliciting an emotional response they can twist into support for their proposals. Rational consideration is their enemy because it may cause some to pause and examine whether the latest gun-grab scheme would have even prevented the tragedy being used as a rallying point. Rational consideration may also cause some to wonder why they remain silent in the aftermath of government instances of murder. To be consistent, gun-ban pushers should be arguing for the elimination of guns from any hands. But to do so would remove the primary tool governments use to extract wealth and enforce dictates upon the people. Governments need guns to operate. Without them, they would become a toothless lion, unable to feast on the citizen gazelles.

Most aligning themselves against Obama’s legislation will cite the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment and its stricture that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Though they are correct in stating the current proposal qualifies as an infringement (as do gun licenses and background checks), the notion that the Constitution will cause Congress, the President, or the Supreme Court to stand down is quaint and faulty. The Constitution ceased to be an effective check on government many years ago, if it ever was at all. Sadly, the whims of public approval are the only arguments that, from time to time, penetrate the political skins of the power brokers in Washington. Any peaceful hope of limiting their zealous pursuits must start there.

The public is mostly a fickle lot, which is why the demagogues go for the emotional jugular whenever they get the chance. Holding back the push to weaken self-defense will require a combination of rational and emotional appeals. The moral high ground is not on the side of those trying to exploit massacres like Newtown and Aurora; it is on the side of self-defense against random, isolated thugs and the historically more brutal collectivized variety.

Guns are merely tools. The appearance of a particular model doesn’t change this fact. They are the most effective tools for self-defense. Let’s not let the tools in Washington prevent an entire class of weapons from assisting this critical function. The life you save may be your own.  

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Emmett Harris's picture
Columns on STR: 14

Emmett Harris lives in New Hampshire, home of the Free State Project.