Guns

“We don’t let them have ideas, why would we let them have guns?” – Joseph Stalin, on his subjects in the Soviet Union.

I fired a shotgun a few times when I was a kid. A few years ago, I bought a handgun and shot it just enough to learn how to use it, and then I locked it away in a safe and have barely taken it out since. I’ve never shot at anything other than an empty can. So I wouldn’t call myself a gun “enthusiast.”

But if someone kicks in my door at 2 A.M., I know where to reach and what to grab. Without it, my house would be equal to Paris a few weeks ago or that San Bernardino office last week, or any other place that has suffered a mass shooting incident over the past several years – a gun free zone.

All the world was a gun free zone until China invented gunpowder in the 9 th century. And if you think modern America is a dangerous place, read more on those ancient, pre firearms, times. It was a far nastier, more brutal place and you usually had to fear your own government more than a foreign invader. As guns developed into a practical weapon over the next millennium, tyrannical dictatorships began a sharp decline.

Our Founding Fathers lived closer to this trend in history. The freedom they fought for would have been impossible without the existence of guns. Prior to firearms, trained soldiers would route any citizen militia and only kings and their armies could protect land and property.

A sword is a cumbersome thing requiring years of training before it becomes a deadly fighting weapon. Being able to protect yourself with a gun just takes a few hours target practice.

The experience of the American Revolution led to the Second Amendment and gun rights. The Second seems an oddity among the other more philosophical and less tangible first ten amendments. You have the right to speak, assemble, petition the government, be free from unwarranted searches and seizures and cruel punishment. Oh, and you can own a piece of metal.

But the Second Amendment is no anachronism. The world is just as full of people who would choose to be tyrants as it always was. Every mass shooting seems to underscore the same point, and that is the only way to prevent gun violence is more guns in the hands of the non-violent.

If there were another answer, someone would have already found it. President Obama might have mentioned it in one of his lectures to us all. MSNBC might have slipped us the answer.

The Paris and California shootings highlighted this paradox. Where there are the strictest gun laws in the civilized world there are the easiest targets for terrorists and criminals. No laws proposed in the aftermath of either of those shootings would have had any effect on those events, especially the recent call for banning all people on the no fly list from buying guns.

Republicans were vilified in the press for blocking the “common sense” proposal. Why would we allow people on this suspected terrorist list buy guns? But here’s the problem with the no fly list: There is no due process involved. There is no way to appeal being included on the list. Until last year, you weren’t even allowed to know if you were on it. You’d have to go to the airport and try to get on a plane to find out.

You can google “mistakenly put on the no fly list” and read the stories. Maybe the most humorous involved the famous singer Cat Stevens, who had changed his name to Yusaf Islam, being detained. Then, the next year, Catherine Stevens, the wife of a Congressmen, was held for questioning because her name was similar to Cat Stevens.

Not that we shouldn’t just trust the government to know best, despite the occasional mistake. Our government would never, for instance, target Conservatives for special scrutiny. (I’m looking at you IRS.) Even Progressives can be targeted if they cross the military. Jesselyn Radack, a government employee who argued that the terrorist John Walker Lindh should have an attorney, found herself on the list. It’s a great way to mess up someone’s life who needs to travel.

Regardless, and with perfect hindsight, this proposal would have stopped exactly zero of the shootings that have occurred in this country. But is this the new normal, a mass shooting several times a year? Doesn’t have to be.

Liberty University, which has allowed conceal-carry on campus by permit-holders everywhere but in residence halls now is looking to allow them even there. Because if you were going to attack Liberty, you would attack a dorm. Better to have a few responsible gun owners available. Do you know what university just became the least likely place in America to have a mass shooting?

There doesn’t have to be a shooting every other week, but more people have to get licenses to carry guns in what would otherwise be gun free zones, which is not only places where guns aren’t allowed but also places where no one has a gun. To modify a Chris Rock joke, if gun free zones had a corporate sponsor, it would be Target.

There’s an old episode of The Simpsons where guns are successfully eliminated from the world and then aliens conquer and enslave mankind using boards with nails sticking out of them as weapons. There is always going to be someone willing to use force to impose his will on others, whether with guns or baseball bats. Guns equalize the confrontation and because they do, usually eliminate it. A criminal will rob granny for twenty bucks with a knife if he has nothing to lose. He’ll leave that twenty alone if granny might have a gun.

Guns and the private ownership of them ended mass tyranny and enabled the civilized world. One could hope for their total elimination, but one would also have to hope that every person would be a good person. Unlike any other nation on earth, we were born a nation of citizen gun owners. It’s no coincidence that we were also born free.