Assault Weapons Ban: Opponents Miss the Point When it Comes to Liberty

Over the past month or so, the United States has been sharply divided over how the government should react to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school. The major point of debate is over what kind of gun control legislation the government should pass to help reduce the high level of gun deaths in this country, which has the highest rate of any industrialized democracy.

Unfortunately, like almost any political debate in this country of late, the guns issue has devolved into a non-substance based argument in which logic, persuasion and clearly constructed arguments are brushed off in favor of rhetoric, fear mongering and absurd generalizations.

Perhaps the most basic, yet frequently visited absurdity in the gun control debate is the fact that many people see this debate in black and white, meaning they do not recognize the difference between regulation and prohibition. If you have a Facebook profile, I would venture to guess that your newsfeed has been polluted by all kinds of pictures, memes and posts comparing potential gun control laws in the United States to the de-arming of the Russian, Chinese and German populations by totalitarian dictators Stalin, Mao and Hitler (or some other absurd analogy).

If you obtain all of your news regarding the gun control debate from Fox News, hysteric Facebook posts or right-wing propagandists like Rush Limbaugh or Alex Jones, you would be lead to believe that the Obama administration was looking towards banning guns and completely de-arming the population. As I understand it, the two most important aspects of the Obama administration's recommendations are making background checks universal (a policy supported by the majority of the American people and the majority of gun owners) and re-instituting the assault weapons ban of 1994. These seem like very sensible policies, which have been pursued in reaction to a public demand for action in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook. They don't suggest in any way, shape or form that the government is looking to de-arm the population in order to create a totalitarian state, as some would have you believe. 

I am a supporter of the Second Amendment, in that I believe every person has the right to defend himself or herself and not be dependent upon others for their personal safety. In addition, I have no moral aversion to hunting and I think it's the right of any man to be able to hunt for food, it's certainly more humane that supporting the meat industry. Neither of these rights would be infringed upon in any real sense by proposed gun control legislation. And yes, I know the Second Amendment was not passed for either of these reasons, it was to protect the population from any sort of tyranny that could be imposed on the people by government if the government were to have a monopoly on weapons. 

The second Amendment may have served this purpose when it was written but if you take a short amount of time to think about how that would apply today, you will realize it's delusional to think the Second Amendment still serves this purpose. Think about the quality of weapons that existed 1791 and think about the technological advancements in weaponry the world has witnessed since the Second Amendment was ratified. As Sportswriter Jason Whitlock opined after the Javon Belcher murder suicide, "how many lives have to be ruined before we realize the right to bear arms doesn't protect us from a government equipped with stealth bombers, predator drones, tanks and nuclear weapons?" 

Perhaps we should honor the Founders' intentions and give everyday citizens access to chemical weapons and Predator Drones. Or maybe, if we were really concerned about being able to win a hypothetical war against our own government, we would stop electing presidents and congressmen who continue to increase our military budget to the point that we spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined. Or maybe we would be more alarmed that our last two presidents have been using unmanned drones to target and assassinate suspected terrorists, including American citizens, in countries we are not at war with.

While we do not like to admit it, our government certainly has the means to impose an dictatorship on us, regardless of whether we ban assault weapons or not and the very moderate gun control proposals of the Obama administration are not going to change this reality in any way. The only way to prevent a tyranny of the government or of any other entity is by having a diligent and informed citizenry, which is something we are certainly lacking today. 

While people are all up in arms (pun intended) over moderate gun control proposals, other clauses in our Bill of Rights have been shredded without anywhere close to this kind of uproar. The most troublesome, I would argue, is the fact that we do not have a right to due process anymore. Under the Patriot Act and the NDAA, American citizens can be held indefinitely without trial if they are labeled terrorists by the executive branch, a label so vague and open for interpretation that it should be of more concern to us.  

This gun control debate is but another example of the poor state of political discourse in this country. Instead of having a constructive public discussion, we've allowed the debate to devolve into angry rhetoric and shameless fear mongering. The gun control legislation being pushed by the Obama administration will not de-arm the population and is really an issue of public safety and not a real infringement on our Second Amendment rights. We should be more concerned about our rights that have already been taken away rather than the ones that no one is really threatening to take away.