Gun Control: Where Do We Draw the Line?

I can’t think of an instance where any one citizen would actually need a personal nuclear warhead. For that matter, I can’t think of an instance besides the ol’ ‘mutually-assured destruction’ that a government would want one either, but that’s an entirely different story. There is a spectrum of weapons technology in the world, and I think it’s fair to say that nukes occupy one end. If one’s desire is to arm themselves to match the powers that be, this would be the logical conclusion. While there are many who disagree that they need to exist, most agree that while they do, they should remain only in the province of the Department of Defense, not the citizenry. Nukes are not included in the right to bear arms.

Ultimately, I feel the same way regarding assault weapons, defined as they were in the ten-year 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban approved by President Clinton that President Obama wants to reinstate (along with a 10-round magazine-size limit). There are more detailed specifications in the legislation, but the definition is essentially this: semi-automatic weapons that share certain features with automatic weapons – minus being fully-automatic – that make them easier to aim, fire, or inflict damage, such as a folding or telescoping stock, pistol grip, bayonet mount, flash suppressor, or grenade launcher.

A reasonable place to draw the line is with such assault weapons. These are weapons that, in Obama’s words, are “designed for the theater of war.” Unless you are paranoid that your government is going to suddenly forgo its established checks and balances and begin a literal manhunt of its own citizens, there is no reason you would need an assault weapon over a non-assault weapon for self-defense. I do not believe, between semi-automatic handguns and shotguns, that the extended range of assault weapons is necessary to defend home and family. And even with assault weapons versus such a government-citizen manhunt, you would be hopelessly outmatched – there is no more a semi-automatic rifle is going to do against an armored tank than a semi-automatic pistol.

Desirers of assault weapons would need to rely on either the illegalized guns still in circulation, or international trafficking to acquire one, which is quite an impediment. And these international traffickers would not be coming from Mexico, either – the violent cartels that currently use these kinds of weapons rely on smugglers from the United States, where they are currently manufactured for civilian use in plenty. It is evident that many people that pass background checks are willing to sell their guns to those who cannot. There is also the possibility of theft. Perhaps people losing or forgetting to lock up their assault weapons is more likely than someone perpetrating gun violence. The former further enables the latter, as well.

This issue comes down to a conflict of perceived rights between the individual and collective – the individual right to arm oneself to the extent one desires in pre-emptive defense, and the collective right to address the destructive effects of the mere availability of certain arms in a society.

The law that imposes mandatory seatbelt-wearing is analogous. Some might declare it ridiculous that the State force them to buckle up –  that it should be their personal choice to take that sort of risk with their own body on the road, and be willing to die for it. This was another issue between which individual freedom and collective safety conflicted. Not only do seatbelt-less drivers and passengers drive up insurance costs in an accident, there is the liability of being thrown into other passengers in the same vehicle, or flying through the windshield and injuring someone outside the vehicle. These are valid reasons for the social contract to supersede personal freedom in this case.

I think the same kind of reasoning applies in the case of assault weapons. Their mere legal availability entails more overall risk than allowing responsible owners to keep them.

All of this being said, there are critical loopholes in the aforementioned Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which Obama wishes to reinstate, that need to be addressed. These can be read about in an article that appeared in PolicyMic, which can be found at this link:

By Tyler Jones