Are Guns The Problem

The news coming out of Las Vegas are truly disturbing. On Sunday night, a 64 old, local man, fired multiple rounds of machine gun fire into a big crowd of a country music festival. As I write this, at least 59 are dead, and 527 have been wounded. Most baffling of all, it seems difficult to attribute a clear motive for this senseless massacre. Right now, the best explanation we have is the disturbing, and unsatisfying, inside that there are some truly crazy people out there. People for whom even the best attempts to try to understand their motivation will fail.

The fact that the world is not a save place, certainly is a scary truth. Terrifying as that inside is, there are a lot of people who simply won’t accept it. In their view, the world could be an almost completely save place. The only reason why it is not is the lack of enough rules and regulations. Once we have those, eventually, the state will be able to save us all.

This idiotic idea, which goes against the empirical historic evidence, is difficult to fight. The utopia seems too attractive to let it go. In case of mass shootings, the solution of the more regulations crowd is, to simply ban the tools used, that is guns. It always amazes me how many people believe that this is a no brainer solution. It simply is assumed to be a truism that gun control, enforced by the state will make us all save.

A little bit of critical thinking however is all it takes to realize that this solution is far from being a no brainer. There are several problems with it.

The first one is that any kind of gun control has to be enforced with guns. That means, clearly we are not getting rid of guns all together. A technology can not be un-invented. We will continue to live in a world with guns in it. The only question is, who is going to be allowed to have those guns, and who is not. The answer of gun control advocates is that only people working for the state should have them.

This is not very convincing. Worst, it is in itself dangerous. The first thing to note is that it is an entirely unrealistic goal. Criminals are the people who we potentially most would like to see unarmed. State regulations, however, are not necessarily something the bad guys care too much about. This city, London, is a good example. For all practical purposes, private gun ownership is essentially outlawed. That means that no law abiding person will have a gun. But, what this clearly does not mean is that no one other than the police and the army has guns. There are literally hundreds of shootings in London every year. All of them committed by criminals.

It is difficult for gun control advocates to not admit this. But they will object that without gun control, there would almost certainly be much more shootings than that, as guns would be more readily available. That is probably true, and a fair point. However, I am more worried about the fact that currently all of the guns are in the hands of the bad guys, and none in the hands of their victims. This is not a very comfortable situation to be in. It feels more like sacrificing certain people for the sake of some nebulous greater good.

But even if we could get guns off the streets, a bigger worry of mine would still prevail. The state is on record to be the biggest weapon of mass destruction ever invented. And I am not exaggerating. In the 20th century alone, tens of millions of people have be murdered by their own government. This does not even count the people murdered in wars. A big factor of why these governments were able to commit these murders was, because they had a monopoly on violence. To me that means that the solution of exclusively giving Leviathan all the guns is at best not obvious.

It is precisely this problem that motivated the founding fathers of the US to put the second amendment into the constitution. Maybe, Europeans in particular, would be well advised to tone down the arrogance towards criticizing the lack of gun control in the US. Yes, there is clearly a lot of violence in the US, but overall, if we are actually counting accurately, and include murders committed by the state, the US does not have a bad track record at all. In fact, in the US too, the biggest mass murders were committed by the state.

But of course we are not counting accurately. This is politics, and as always in politics, we are told to only look at one side of the balance sheet. People are quick to point out that we now live in a democracy, and we can therefore trust the government. This completely ignores that the Weimar Republic, which brought the Nazis into power, also was a western democracy, with full human rights guaranteed in the constitution. This also ignores that we are currently seeing democracies in many places turning totalitarian. Turkey, Venezuela, Hungary, the Philippines, and Poland come to mind.

But it even ignores the tyrannic history of the US government. Let us not forget that in 1993 for example, the Clinton administration stormed the compound of the, completely peaceful Branch Davidians in Waco Taxas. This resulted in the brutal murder of 76 US Citizens, many of which were children. The government, till this day, has not admitted any real wrong doing. It also ignores the fact that the current President got, to some degree, into the White House by campaigning to take away rights of minorities. Finally it does not take into account that the US already has a big problem with police brutality.

But it is not just the government’s victims that we don’t count. We also often forget about those who were able to save their lives by being armed. There are a lot of criminals out there, and in many cases, those bad guys could be stopped by an armed victim. Advocating gun control is to advocate the disarmament of victims.

I said earlier that we cannot un-invent a technology. But when it comes to guns would we really want to? There are certainly some type of guns that we could really live without, but not all of them. Guns are equalizers. A world without guns would throw us back into a world, in which physical body strength is king. Sure, if you are a young 6’5” healthy guy, this might not sound as such a bad idea. But what if you are a 5′ woman, or old, or disabled etc.? Without guns, these people, to a significant degree, would be at the mercy of the good will of the people around them.

It seems to me that advocates of gun control are very short sighted in their argumentation. Their arguments appear to be more driven by wishful thinking rather than facts. Given what happened historically, I don’t feel comfortable to give all guns to the government. And I find it outright cruel to take away tools from weak people, which could help them to defends themselves.

On the other hand, I accept that freedom does not work in every single case. We will never have a perfect world. There are cases, in which a police state might have prevented a crime. Maybe, the shooting in Las Vegas is such a case. Looking at the bigger picture though, there are far more cases, in which the reverse seems to be true. Overall, advocating liberty is not just the most moral position, it is also the one that works better than anything else. Therefore, advocating gun control, on the basis of single bad events, seems irresponsible.


  1. Japan managed to cut itself off from the rest of the world and make firearms the monopoly of the Shoguns and a few other clans. But by methods that were tyrannical – we tend to have romantic ideas about peaceful Japan in the 17th and 18th centuries but the truth is not so nice.

    Certainly London has failed – there are more murders now than there were when firearms were legal (and indeed very common) .

    As for this murderer in Nevada – if was using a automatic weapon he was breaking Federal law. But then mass murder did not bother him – so why should breaking these firearm regulations bother him?

    Let us remember that the Federal Government has been waging a war on drugs for many years – with MILLIONS of people put in prison over this century or so of conflict. Drugs are more available, and more ABUSED, in American cities and towns (even small rural towns) than at any time in history, the “War On Drugs” has utterly failed. Does America want a “War On Guns” that would have to entail killing the tens of millions of people who presently own firearms and will not give them up without a fight?



  2. I always smile when I hear somebody say “I’m anti-gun” because that is never quite true. What they really mean is that they want to hand all the guns over to the government.

    Yes, the mass shooting in Las Vegas was a tragedy, but contrary to what anti-gun people think. There really are no lessons to be learnt here. We already know that deranged individuals with firearms are dangerous. To say that “we should use this incident to evaluate our laws” gives far too much credit to these lunatics.

    Despite having one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world. The USA does not have an especially high gun-related homicide rate. Taken as a whole the UK has a higher violent crime rate than America.

    What really irks me about these incidents is that people here in Britain clamour to condemn American gun culture. They get an incredible rush of superiority by proclaiming how ‘civilised’ this country is compared to the barbarous Yankees.

    If the USA changed it’s gun laws I think many people here in Britain would be secretly devastated. They would have to find something else to satisfy their need for superiority.



  3. This is a tricky one for me, since the US Bill of Rights is, of all legal documents, the one I most admire. And, as a British person, it is the one that I am most jealous of, being the best guarantor of limits on governmental power that exists anywhere. So I am reluctant to call for the reform of the second most important right that Americans have.

    That said, I do believe that some ‘tailoring’ of the ABSOLUTE freedom of private American citizens to have almost un-limited firepower at their disposal would not, if done sensibly, necessarily neuter the basic principle of the ‘right to bear arms’. The Founding Fathers were a pretty wise bunch – extraordinarily so, in fact – and Americans can count themselves lucky to have had them. Their foresight was unprecedented, but even they could not have foreseen the firepower of today’s weaponry. I am reminded of a brilliant cartoon I once saw depicting the Founding Fathers drawing up The Bill of Rights. The illustrator had them all mopping their brows and rolling their sleeves up because of a fierce sun beating down, whilst they were putting the finishing touches to The Second Amendment, which concluded with the words “The Right to Bare Arms”. Washington was asking the others “Well, that’s pretty clear, isn’t it?”

    Of course, I’m being flippant, but the Second Amendment was designed to allow for an armed populace in case the British returned or the new US government became a tyranny. It was quite obviously NOT designed to allow deranged individuals to slaughter dozens of people in a single sitting. But tampering with the 2nd will be fiendishly difficult because of it’s wording. “The right of the people ………….. to bear arms, shall NOT BE INFRINGED”. So ANY change, WILL be seen by some, as an infringement. And that, of course is the pro-gun lobby’s greatest advantage. However, it would be difficult, as I say, but not impossible. Because the wording of the 2nd also allows for a different interpretation that doesn’t negate the basic principle. “The right of the people, AS PART OF A WELL-REGULATED MILITIA, to bear arms shall not be infringed.” There is the opportunity. Nobody, not even the NRA, can realistically argue that the perpetrators of Columbine and Sandy Hook and San Bernadino or Las Vegas, were in any way, shape or form part of ‘well-regulated militia”.

    I have followed quite a bit of the discussion on US gun control and I can’t say that I have heard anyone make this point. It COULD be argued that adherence to the ‘well regulated militia’ part is respecting the 2nd at least as much as the ‘shall not be infringed’ part.

    For my part, I believe that having a firearm to protect one’s home and family is not an unreasonable position to take, so in that way I would feel comfortable in a limited restriction on the number and the type of guns available. And I would also feel that the letter – and more importantly, the spirit – of the 2nd had not been undermined.

    But that, of course, would require that both sides calm down. And good luck with that.



    1. Americans do not have , legally, “almost unlimited firepower” – there are lots of regulations.

      And the American murder rate has been going DOWN for decades – although there has been an uptick recently in some cities (coinciding with Barack Obama’s Frankfurt School style racial politics and war-on-the-police).

      As for your misunderstanding of the 2nd Amendment – the words “well regulated militia” are an EXAMPLE of the use of the right, they are NOT a statement of “you can not own arms if you are not a member of a militia” (say you were over 50 – as I am). There is a large literature on the 2nd Amendment – I have read a lot (although not all) of it over the decades.

      Mexico has had strict “gun control” since the 1960s (in violation of its own 1917 Constitution) – its murder rate is vastly higher than that of the United States. Including in border towns (hispanic on both sides of town) – the evil American side of town always has a vastly LOWER murder rate than the noble Gun Control Mexican side of town.


      Britain had a lower (not a higher) murder rate before the gun control laws were passed.

      Yes I am old man – I get dizzy even when I try and stand up, and I do not have long left in this world. But I DO KNOW THIS STUFF.

      By the way – let us leave the 2nd Amendment be for the moment. You say you admire the Bill of Rights – does that include the Ninth and the Tenth Amendments?

      The Tenth would bar Federal “Gun Control” (of course the Tenth Amendment would stop most of what the Federal Government spends and regulates – IF it was enforced, if the judges were not so often scumbags), and the Ninth Amendment would ban State and Local “Gun Control” as well.

      There are also the 50 State Constitution Bill of Rights documents – in the State Constitutions.



      1. Paul,
        I thank you for your comments and I, of course, defer to anyone with superior knowledge to myself. I am not a scholar of, well, of anything really, not least US constitutional law. No, I am merely someone who has worked extensively with Americans and am interested in how Columbine, Sandy Hook, Las Vegas and all the others too numerous to mention can occur in what is otherwise a noble and civilised society.

        You make the point that Americans do not, legally, have almost unlimited firepower and I’ll take your word for that. I am aware that there is a world of difference between the gun laws of, shall we say, Illinois and those of Idaho. But the fact remains that a lone individual was able to slaughter more than fifty people, and injure hundreds more (many of whom will be maimed for life) with IMPUNITY. At the time, his actions and his arsenal WERE almost unlimited. The default position in the US is that high-powered firearms are available. This is not a situation that exists elsewhere, at least not in The West.

        As I say, I am not advocating stringent gun control measures, but surely the issue needs to be looked at, at the very least? Maybe, once all the hysteria – from both sides – has died down, a conclusion to the question of “Is it worth it?” might very well be “Yes, it is”. As far as my ‘misunderstanding’ of the Second Amendment goes, I suppose that that is to be expected, since many volumes of ink have been spilled over the meaning of a clause that is precisely twenty-seven words long. Part of the reason, I imagine, for the Bill of Rights’ brevity is so that the common man could understand it. And I am nothing if not that.

        Mexico’s entire existence, for good or ill, is distorted by it’s proximity to it’s northern neighbour. Mexico and the US are not comparable, since Mexico, a relatively poor country sits right next door to the world’s richest, with an insatiable appetite for illegal narcotics. The vast rewards available for satisfying this demand mean that it is usually worth ignoring Mexico’s gun laws in order to ensure continued supply.

        As far as Britain is concerned, I believe that our gun control laws are way too strict. Although, up until recently, it wasn’t something that especially bothered me. Until I came up against the asymmetry inherent in our relationship to the state, when five heavily-armed policemen came into the café where I was having my lunch – in rural Lincolnshire, of all places! It concentrated the mind somewhat.

        So, I’m going stand by my admiration of the Bill of Rights, since any line in the sand, any legal limit to the power of the state has got be worth having, no matter how deeply flawed it may be.


      2. I am well aware that no one in the crowd fired back – and so the shooter was able to aim his shots.

        No proposed “Gun Control” measure would have made any difference to his position – a background check would have turned up nothing, and the shooter was in his hotel room, not a public street.

        If you would address your attention to the question of WHY no one in the crowd fired back you might learn something.


      3. Yes I am upset – and I am right to be upset.

        Freedom is seldom lost all at once – it is lost in stages, by people making utility calculations (or what they think are utility calculations).


      4. Well, I can’t argue with that Paul, since I agree wholeheartedly. Indeed, it is usually me who is accusing others of being on the ‘slippery slope’ and introducing ‘the thin end of the wedge’ – in fact, it’s usually the fat end and it irritates me that they don’t seem to be able to see far enough down the road to where we are heading.

        It is an unfamiliar feeling for me to be cast as the one who is ‘anti-liberty’, so I AM aware of making ‘utility calculations’. It’s just in this case, I feel that the sheer power of the weapons available and the huge amount of them makes the reality so far out of whack that the original principle is almost meaningless. The British won’t be coming back and the ability of private citizens to have semi-automatic weapons has not hindered or even inconvenienced the Constitution-shredding US government(s) one iota. The Right to Bear Arms has become nothing more than a fig leaf for Americans to believe that they are standing up against a tyrannical government. They would be better employed in demanding the NSA abides by the rules.


  4. If you believe that the Right to Bear Arms “has become nothing more than a fig leaf for Americans to believe that they are standing up against a tyrannical government” then this conversation is at an end Sir.



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