A friend took the opportunity to help get a guest editorial into the perilously progressive Salt Lake Tribune. They say it might get printed in a few months…which probably means “not at all”. I debated sharing it in advance of any publication in the paper and figured I would go ahead and share rather than let it sit and lose currency. Here it is:
In Federalist #51, James Madison wrote: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”
Madison’s perspective is applicable in today’s debate regarding gun laws. Society clearly needs laws because we are not angels – but we also need to understand that laws function effectively when they are respected – and as crime statistics (including the tragedy of school shootings) indicate, there are those in society who simply will not and do not respect the law.
There can be no argument that once laws are duly passed, they should be respected and followed – of that, few would argue – but what is arguable is when laws are not respected, more laws do not result in more respect for those laws. The evidence is quite to the contrary, the effect is inversely proportional – more laws without a change in enforcement results in less respect and less obedience. As the Roman Senator Tacitus said, “The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the state”.
Of course, nothing excuses the criminal use of firearms – but as a recently uncovered CDC study from a 2015 reported, firearms are successfully used in approximately 2.5 million defensive situations each year. This is a number that greatly overwhelms the total criminal uses of firearms, including those defined as “mass shootings”. No one wants to see innocent people murdered – but gun owners take very seriously the responsibility to protect our families and ourselves. Gun owners see their ability and capability to effectively do so being stripped away by increased regulation.
Regulations are never simply for the criminal, like the law of gravity, they are equally applicable to all. Therefore, any across-the-board restriction of access to firearms to reduce gun crime also necessarily restricts protective use by law-abiding gun owners. In all honesty, gun owners are suspicious of the motives of those who push for increased legislation while ignoring the failures of the current legal regime without honestly considering the statistical facts of gun use, in suicides, in homicides and in defensive usage. The greatest of these facts is new restrictions will impact not only criminals but the 99.997% of gun owners who have never committed a crime.
No book of laws, no matter how thick, will stop every bullet and the “Gun Free Zone” signs prove no words stop a committed offender. As the UK learned, banning guns simply leads to the same ends by different means. The UK is currently experiencing an epidemic of knife crime and is seeking to ban even more types of knives – one must be 18 years old in the UK to even purchase a standard set of kitchen knives. Reasonable minds look upon such situations as absurd and absurdity is what gun-owners see when they hear the cries for more “feel good” legislation and restrictions, absent any attempts to correct the incoherence of current bureaucracy and the lax enforcement of existing laws.
Many note the right to life is the first right identified in the Declaration of Independence – and that positioning must mean it is a “supreme” right, one rising above all others – but if one truly believes in such a supreme right, one must also accept the defense of that right must also be supreme, that it must be defended at all costs and with any means necessary. To do otherwise puts the lie to the idea the right to live is supreme and renders the phrase “right to life” into trite political sloganeering.
In 1850, the noted French economist and philosopher Frédéric Bastiat wrote, “If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”
The calls for more laws from those “made of finer clay” simply do not ring true. Achieving political motives will not reduce firearm deaths. History proves this. If we are to consider more laws, let us first consider an effort to make current laws effective by enforcing them.