On Gun Control and Violence

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The terrible violence in Arizona last weekend prompted much national discussion on many issues. All Americans are united in their sympathies for the victims and their families. All wonder what could motivate such a horrible act. However, some have attempted to use this tragedy to discredit philosophical adversaries or score political points. This sort of opportunism is simply despicable.

We are fortunate to live in a society where violence is universally denounced. Not one public official or commentator has attempted to justify this reprehensible act, yet the newspapers, internet, and airwaves are full of people trying to claim it was somehow motivated by someone else’s political rhetoric. Most disturbing are the calls to use government power to censor certain forms of speech, and even outlaw certain types of criticism of public officials. This was the completely apolitical act of a violent and disturbed man. How sad that the attempted murder of the Congresswoman who had just read the First Amendment on the House floor would be used in efforts to chill free speech! Perhaps some would feel safer if the Alien and Sedition Acts were reinstated.

Also troubling are the renewed calls for stricter gun control laws, and for government to “do something” to somehow prevent similar incidents in the future. This always seems to be the knee jerk reaction to any crime committed with a gun. Nonsensical proposals to outlaw guns around federal officials and install bulletproof barriers in the congressional gallery only reinforce the growing perception that politicians view their own lives as far more important than the lives of ordinary citizens. Politicians and a complicit media have conditioned many citizens to view government as our protector, leading to more demands for government action whenever tragedies occur. But this impulse is at odds with the best American traditions of self-reliance and individualism, and it also leads to bad laws and the loss of liberty.

Remember – liberty only has meaning if we still believe in it when terrible things happen and more government security is demanded. Government cannot make us safe by mandating security any more than it can make us prosperous by decreeing an end to poverty.

We need to reaffirm the core American value of individual responsibility. Consider the young man who had the courage to tackle the shooter and prevent further carnage because he himself had a concealed weapon. Without that gun, he could have been yet another sitting duck. When peaceful citizens are armed, they at least have a chance against armed criminals.

Advocates of gun control would urge us to leave our safety to law enforcement, but eyewitness reports indicate it took police as much as 20 minutes to arrive on the scene that day! Since police cannot be everywhere all of the time, a large part of our personal safety depends on our ability to defend ourselves.

Our constitutional right to bear arms does not create a society without risks of violent crime, and neither would the strictest gun control laws. Guns and violence are a fact of life. The question is whether it is preferable to be defenseless while waiting for the police, or to have the option to arm yourself. We certainly know criminals prefer the former.


“If someone admits to a federal official that he’s used illegal drugs, that information should be sent to the FBI so that person can be disqualified from purchasing a gun, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday.”

Resist the authoritarian efforts to use this tragedy to further an agenda of division. There are an overwhelming number of responsible, sane Americans who occassionally smoke marijuana and manage to own guns without violent incident. Don’t fall for the yellow journalism propagated by Chuck Schumer and his ilk.

Republished with addendum and relevant cartoon.

Ron Paul

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  1. Dear Ron,
    As a young British man who chanced upon this article, I find that picture pretty offensive and insulting, and certainly isn’t something an elected representative should be republishing (assuming you are Congressman Ron Paul). I can’t imagine what sort of hurt an American, especially one of the many who had family killed or injured on 9/11, would feel. Your article makes its point; why manipulate a horrific event to mess with peoples’ emotions to get them on side?

    And if you want to consider whether 9/11 would have still happened had other circumstances been different, why not argue security controls on internal flights should have been stronger so that no-one had weapons on the plane rather than everyone having them as the cartoon suggests? Or perhaps a debate about your country’s past military missions, attitudes and rhetoric towards Arabic countries, the effects of these things and whether international activism is worth the risk of the likely increase in attacks against the USA. I’m not being glib or expressing any casual anti-Americanism as many in the UK and other countries appear to do, I’m just suggesting that these may be more responsible, important and less emotionally hurtful to survivors or families of victims than a cartoon jokingly saying things might have been different.

    Some further points. If a person wants to shoot five people, the fact that other people around have guns is not going to stop them. Your point it allows self defence before police have a chance to arrive is an interesting and well made one but I fear misses the wider point. The right to free speech is a given – but of course not everybody can be right (and often no-one is, thinking relatively). But if you encourage people by permitting possession of guns to take the law into their own hands, you advocate people using guns (albeit in exceptional circumstances) to bring about justice or to act to protect others. That’s all very well when an armed gunman taking pot shots at a crowd is taken out by a bystander to prevent more deaths, but it’s important to remember (especially in the land of the free) that many people have different conceptions of justice. Or even if they have the same conception of justice, they may interpret it differently, for example if they have opposing views on whether pre-emptive action is acceptable or not. Where there is a large majority view, it is easy to become utterly convinced that your views are absolutely right. Put this with an encouragement to use your gun to act justly, and the acts you argue guns are there to protect (or limit the damage of) will surely become much more likely. That’s the issue with extreme Islamic terrorism: a belief in their absolute (and divine) correctness, and a belief that it is absolutely right to use violence as a tool to bring about this version of justice. Now I’m sure most decent and upstanding citizens of the USA won’t interpret this so extremely, but you open the door to a significant minority doing so.

    I look forward to your reply as I would be most interested to see what you have to say.
    Simon Harpin