In the spirit of Christmas and good cheer, I’d like to take a moment to speak about guns and people killing each other. Obviously this is a difficult topic; the recent events in the USA are abhorrent and have shocked the world, but a little should be said about gun law across the pond and the reaction that has taken place this side of it.
Whenever there is a mass shooting in the States the British public and press responds with overwhelming condemnation of American gun-law. Unlike them, Britain is united in its distaste for gun-ownership. The debate by gun prohibitionists was won in these Isles long ago, so regardless of whether a person leans to the left or the right they are likely to view the idea of owning a semi-automatic rifle as being pretty close to insanity. Because of this, intentionally or not, a faint air of smugness creeps into the commentary, a repetitive assertion that, “Of course we don’t get shootings like that here. We’re not stupid enough to legalise guns.”
But amidst all this mutual back-slapping, I’d like to defend that group that seems most alien to us in Britain, the American pro-gun lobby.
If a debate is to be had about something, it is because that thing is a trade-off. Debate exists when there are pros and cons; if a measure had only pros it would have been universally embraced, if it only had cons it would have been immediately dismissed. In Britain we seem to assume that gun ownership is all cons, but that flies in the face of reason. There must be some upside to keep the debate going, even if that upside has long ago vanished from our own shores.
I would suggest that that upside is dignity. There is a statistic that is often used by anti-gun groups: that those who carry a gun are more likely to get shot than those who don’t. To focus in on this is to ignore the wider implications. The reason why they are more likely to get shot is because they are more likely to fight back. Both types of person are attacked in this comparison, it’s just one meekly hands over their wallet and the other tries their luck. Obviously those who try their luck are more likely to get hurt, but they are also more likely to leave the situation with a higher degree of dignity. They made the choice and were willing to risk the injury for the right to defend themselves.
In Britain this is a difficult concept to wrap our heads around, because we have had such a vast cultural shift away from the right to self-defence and intervention. Undoubtedly many will find the assertion of peacefully handing over a wallet dignified in itself, but this goes to show how greatly we have become conditioned to submit to authorities other than ourselves. Without the means and right to defend ourselves, we have become more reliant on the police and thus ended personal responsibility.
So despite the horrendous atrocities that take place in the USA I can understand why they are reluctant to hand in their weapons. Once given up, a nation begins a slippery slide into passivity and submissiveness that is remarkably difficult to undo. We in the UK have already been through that process, until now we’ve reached the stage where the very notion of self-defence seems abhorrent. I hope the Americans do not fall into the same trap.