If you’re genuinely interested in why many of us gun owners will never compromise on our right to own a gun like an AR-15, I’ll try to explain. However, if you’re like I used to be, it won’t matter. Nothing I say will challenge your confirmation bias.
I’m a proud Life Member of the NRA today, but I used to be an emotional member of Handgun Control Inc., now called the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence. I hated guns, especially military looking weapons, as if those bits of machinery had a will of their own. And no gun was more evil than an AR-15. It’s the swastika of guns. Right? But why?
As it turns out I thought ARs were more dangerous because they looked mean. I assigned personality to them, even though statistically they are used in a fraction of a fraction of one percent of shootings. It took me quite some time to realize they functioned no differently than any other semi-automatic rifle. The more I learned about guns the more my phobia melted and the more I could see how ill-informed I was and the movement I was supporting.
To watch Diana DeGette lecture us that when we outlaw magazines the old ones will be thrown away after they’re used, or to hear Governor Hickenlooper the other day on NPR say we need to do something about a system “where kids can buy automatic weapons,” reminds me how embarrassingly ignorant I was about guns. By the way, magazines, like candy Pez dispensers, are made to be refilled, kids can’t legally buy any firearm, and it’s near impossible for anyone to buy an automatic weapon.
So-called assault weapons like an AR-15 aren’t actual assault weapons because they can’t shoot more than one bullet per pull of the trigger, just like every other gun.
Abortion rights supporters, like NARAL, will never support any “reasonable” abortion limits, no matter how tiny. They understand that even a minuscule restriction on what they call a “fundamental human right” over time only leads to another until, maybe generations from now, abortion rights are crippled. They see the long-term impact, as do their opponents.
Any progressive who understands NARAL’s thought process should at least intellectually appreciate why gun owners recoil every time we hear the siren song of “reasonable” gun restriction. The goal over time is to weaken the fundamental human right of gun ownership.
Yes. I said fundamental human right.
I believe that a human being is sovereign unto him or herself. That’s a powerful statement worth repeating, because if you agree with it, it can lead you to some uncomfortable places. A human is sovereign, having supreme and independent power over her own life.
Thus, we naturally have individual rights of ownership, speech, religion, assembly, due process and defense. Defense not just from criminals acting alone but acting collectively. That is, we have a right to guns not only to stop bad guys bullying us, but to stop bad governments doing the same. Without armed citizens we wouldn’t be a country in the first place.
Yes, I know you’re rolling your eyes now, because it’s ridiculous to think that in this day and age armed people can protect themselves from the state.
What does every country with systematic human rights violations today have in common? Their citizens are unarmed. But don’t those cuddly anti-gun European countries have thriving and safe democracies? Yep, they sure do while their economies aren’t collapsing. It wasn’t that long ago when millions of unarmed people were marched into ovens. Wasn’t that long ago when all Hungarians had to throw at the invading Soviets were rocks.
I’m sure you think me dangerously naive, but those of us fighting to keep every magazine, every type of gun, no matter if it has a friendly wood stock or a mean-looking plastic one, are doing it for future generations. To protect and preserve what we foolishly take for granted today — a system of government that recognizes the individual as the true authority.
Just like I think it’s dangerously naive for those who fear a Trump autocracy to be the same ones working to disarm citizens for him.
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.