Today it is commonplace to hear individuals who are not gun owners (or only casual gun owners) advance the argument that it is easier to buy a gun in some neighborhoods than a book. But this point is only a little more than a distraction. For although is all too easy to buy an illegal gun (or a gun for illegal purposes) in some American neighborhoods, the presence of this fact does not prove that draconian gun laws are necessary.
In many of the neighborhoods where books and computers are deplorably scarce, illicit drugs are arguably more common than guns – even though these drugs are almost completely illegal. The reason for this is self-evident: an object’s legal status does not control its availability – the market does. Bearing this truth in mind, it is obvious that the fundamental problem is not the availability of guns, but the demand for them; sellers supply what buyers demand.
Almost a century ago progressive crusaders attempted to fix society’s problems with a supply-oriented prohibition against the manufacture of alcohol; their efforts were a spectacular failure. More recently, policymakers have been waging a war against the sale and consumption of illicit drugs, yet this solution has likewise failed. Now, well-meaning (and idealistic) reformers suggest that gun violence in America can only be solved if peaceful firearm owners (many of whom place cultural importance on individual firearm ownership) acquiesce to a ban on some rifles, and the elimination of popular features on other firearms. These legal changes would be a superficial solution to a complex problem.
As recent events in France have shown, large trucks are almost as dangerous as firearms. The logic is inescapable – heavy, high-capacity assault trucks should be banned. Ordinary peace-loving citizens do not need them. Likewise, modern engines are also unnecessarily powerful. Private citizens do not need to move a vehicle in excess of 70 mph. Assault trucks, SUVs, and large cars should only be available to members of the military, law enforcement officers, and individuals who have the financial wherewithal to purchase an expensive permit. Most folks only need something a little bigger than a Smart car, cleverly equipped with a governor to limit its top speed to 45 mph.
Satire aside, heavy regulations on certain vehicles would save hundreds (if not thousands) of lives each year. Nevertheless, our cultural attachment to fast, pleasant, individualistic, travel has severely thinned the ranks of sane car-ban activists. Culture also lies at the center of the firearms debate: many Americans, including some casual gun owners, find the culture of firearm ownership alien, and are therefore comfortable advocating strict regulations for this strange culture. More cultural tolerance is needed.
Reasonable gun control advocates should reassess their position. It is strikingly heavy-handed to advocate the regulation of all individuals in a given category (lawful gun owners) when more than nine-tenths of the whole group are peaceful, productive members of society. Open-minded progressives would not tolerate this porous logic from conservatives, nor should they be expected to. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were specifically designed protect the “liberty” of “the people” from the well-meaning but ill-conceived whims of the majority.
Gun violence, like alcohol and drug abuse, is a symptom of a larger human problem. If all guns were prohibitively expensive, cheaper hand-held weapons would indubitably proliferate. Politicians and activists should move beyond the world of superficial problems; an illiberal attempt to curtail the constitutional rights of gun enthusiasts will not solve the underlying spiritual, social, and economic problems. Open-minded and thoughtful Americans should enter the uncomfortable realm of ultimate causes. Now is the time to ask the toughest questions.