Sunday, 16 December 2012

Gun Laws

This might be a long and rambling post which is itself driven by the events of Newtown Conneticut. Before I write anything else I will acknowledge the following:-

  • The shooting was a terrible tragedy by a crazy man
  • The shooting probably wouldn't have happened if there had been gun control (like the UK)
This should put me in with the gun control lobby, but the following quote by Thomas Jefferson puts me on the other side

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government"

One of the differences between the United States and the United Kingdom is that the US has a designed government system. Men like Jefferson sat and worked out what you had to do with government to make it work and implemented it.

So, they have a constitution, which is full of hard-to-change stuff. Some politician can't go trampling all over freedom of speech because of something like tabloid phone hacking. The process to change the constitution is long and requires a considerable majority in support and the time creates cooler minds. They have a court that defends this constitution made up of senior judges. They have a process for how those judges are elected (by politicians).

This was all designed to stop tyranny, but what Jefferson recognized is that no system is perfect and that the final defence of freedom is force. That if somehow the system has a fault, and a tyrant gets elected, the people need guns to deal with him, because that's what he will send at them.

This is described by many as "crazy".

The UK's approach to dealing with a tyrannical government is to have the army reporting to the monarch. Which then isn't a system relying on self-interest but the goodwill of one individual to help others, which is irrational, but understandable considering the bizarre cult-like adoration that people have in a rather average group of aristocrats.

Now, you might say "but there is no tyrant in the Whitehouse, so let's not worry" which ignores the risks of the future. Making policy based on freak events is nearly always a bad idea, and in the case of school shootings this is also the case. If a tyrant took over the Whitehouse, the number of deaths would be far, far more than the total of all school shootings (Pol Pot: 2m, Mao: 40m, Hitler: 66m, Stalin: 20m).

Is it a price worth paying? I'd rather it wasn't but I think it is. Most importantly, I'd like people to understand that there's a serious side to the pro-gun debate. That it isn't just about hunting or gun fetishism, but about protecting the rights of the people, including those of us that don't want to own a gun.

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