If you’re an libertarian, you’ve been stuck with the formidable task of staring down the barrel of an argument about gun control.
The second that you lean on the Constitution, you get smacked in the face by a barrage of statistics and emotional pleas, perhaps some #BlackLivesMatter case studies and, of course, the popular assortment of mass shootings and multiple situations of toddlers toying with firearms.
One of the many instances of a national tragedy that you’ll be forced to defend in conversation is the untimely passing of those gunned down in the Columbine High School massacre of 1999. In 2002, renowned anti-capitalist Michael Moore cashed in on the shattered public consciousness of a nation in mourning by releasing his critically acclaimed documentary Bowling for Columbine. Although it’s filled with cogent points regarding how music or video games don’t drive a person to run out and kill, the film still has enough pot-holes to the rational mind for the loss of immersion. Moore works well to establish a shaky narrative using cartoon hyperbole, which largely consists of evil white people buying guns to “protect themselves” from innocent black citizens.
Despite Moore’s repeated comparisons to other countries, he neglects that America is uniquely different in the way it’s oriented within the world sphere when contrasted to, for example, Australia. Where Australia is bordered off by waters, making an fluent gun trade difficult, America is not.
Should America ban firearms for everyone, they are easily smuggled in across the border, and can enter the public sphere and eventually fall into the hands of criminals. Should America ban firearms for citizens but not police, the result will be a continuous abuse of police authority, unjust killings and a sect of the world unable to overthrow forces in case of fascism (think of the Wounded Knee Massacre).
When Moore makes comparisons to other countries (most of which are highly different culturally), he makes a faulty attempt at isolating a problem to gun laws and legislation alone. Moore places emphasis on Australia’s lack of gun violence since the ban, although he conveniently leaves out this graph. Among innumerable graphs is a clear display of lessening gun violence (relative to population growth) which existed long before the gun ban was implemented. The Port Arthur Massacre in Australia, which led to the gun bans established by the Liberal Party in 1996, was the central turning point in the overt war on violence.
The ultimate failure of Moore’s central arguments against gun violence are statistical declines themselves, which draw upon the logic that correlation is equal to causation to justify an anti-gun position. The same argument could instead be posed for the pervasive secularism in Australian society which, as detailed in this graph here, shows an upward incline in the millions of non-religious Australians. Pair this data with a strong immigration policy which does discriminate against a notoriously ‘peaceful’ religion and you can just as easily form a conclusion that the deterioration of religion within Australia is just as responsible for the lack of gun violence as banning the guns themselves.
This argument all comes down to the fundamental debate of “Who toasts toast?” Does the person toast the toast or does the toaster toast the toast (try saying that ten times fast)?
The rationalist will, indeed, see each part as a component, with the toaster facilitating the toasting and the human toasting the aforementioned toast as the motivation for the act. What one must consider is whether or not the motivation outweighs the act – can one justify murder? If one can justify murder, does the tool used to carry out the act become excused from its guilt?
The overwhelming argument regarding this is those for gun rights putting an emphasis on a motivation, mens rea, and those against gun rights, putting an emphasis on the act, actus rea. My personal gripe with this is that some crimes only need a guilty act to be proven (speeding, intoxication, etc.) whereas others need to have the motivation and intent proven before they can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law (murder, drug smuggling, etc.). Given that murder requires both the mens rea and the actus rea to be proven, it is important that American citizens put as much emphasis on motivations for gun violence as they do for what facilitated it.
The answer is not to ban firearms, the answer is to open societal dialogue to ascertain what drove a person to pull the trigger.
This post was written by David McManus.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.
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